97 thoughts on “General debate, September 9, 2012

  1. It turns out that all those Kowhai trees cut down around the country (play centers etc) was just a knee jerk reaction based on ignorance.

    There has never been a single case of a person or an animal being poisoned by Kowhai seeds in NZs history.

    You would have to go to extraordinary measures to be poisoned by a Kowhai tree.

    On a more positive note, the Kowhai are flowering magnificently on the West Coast this year, lots of tui and bellbirds about, (the Tui bullying anything that moves of course!) so it will be a great year for seed collection and growing new Kowhai!.

    A lot of people don’t realise how depleted Kowhai are in NZ, there are actually whole areas where they have become locally extinct and this can have serious effects on the ecology of the local area.

    Because their seeds are not bird dispersed, they rely on gravity and water for their spread, this is why they have disappeared from many areas as it is difficult for them to naturally reintroduce.

    Kowhai once lined large tracts of river banks and other water bodies, but even though they were often spared in initial land clearance, any remnants became very vulnerable to river erosion and storm damage. Once these trees are removed, the seed source is also gone or the river bank simply becomes part of a grass paddock.

    So if you love Kowhai, grow a few and plant them upstream on a stable part of a river or stream bank and reintroduce them to the catchment, floods will do the rest over time by disbursing seed downstream.

  2. Nice post Shunda – if you are ever up in the far North, a lovely walk to do is the Golden Staircase at the Whangape Harbour. About now, all the kowhai lining the track are in full bloom.

  3. They seem pretty easy to grow too. I’ve got a big old one and a few planted a couple of years back that are racing along. There were five kereru perching in the old one the other week!

  4. There is a Wellington Regional Council Transport survey that ends this Friday. It is on fare structure and payment methods.

    They ask whether people support a discount for all those under 20 and separately all full-time (tertiary) students.

    It should be all those under 18 and as well as those studying full-time.

    Those working age 18 to 20 do not need to be covered.

  5. Interesting post from Sam Harris:

    It’s a shame that Paul the Apostle wrote an almost identical piece on free will several thousand years ago.

    All Sam has discovered is the tension between the doctrine of free will and predestination.

    If Sam were a Christian, he would likely be a ‘hyper Calvinist’.

    Sam said:

    While it’s conceivable that someone, somewhere, might be made worse off by dispensing with the illusion of free will, I think that on balance, it could only produce a more compassionate, equitable, and sane society.

    I think he is tragically deluded.

    He seems to misunderstand the fact that his own intellectual assessment could be the only reason this ‘works’ for him, I would suggest that the majority of people would simply not think about this subject long enough to gain anything but a superficial ‘enablement’ complex.
    So far from producing “a more compassionate, equitable, and sane society” I think it would produce a more selfish, self orientated irrational society.

    Quite frankly, Jesus still trumps Sam Harris by an astonishing degree, because unlike Sam, Jesus spoke a message that everybody can grasp form intellectual power house to complete dullard.
    Treating others as you yourself want to be treated would achieve a more compassionate, equitable, and sane society much more efficiently.

  6. Free-will vs Pre-destination has been tied in the 4th quarter since the invention of language… and is as relevant to our lives as the dark side of Pluto. Why on Earth I would care is somewhat difficult to imagine… because it is entirely irrelevant to ME whether I have one or the other in control of my life.

    However, since this has been brought up, I suspect that while there is not “free” will, there is a dollop of randomness. Which means that even I don’t know for certain what I am going to do or say in any given circumstance.

    I think Shunda has the right of it here. Not that I am going all religious about it, but most people lack the fortitude to get all the way down and dirty with this sort of philosophy, and the result WOULD be as Shunda says “a more selfish, self orientated irrational society.”

    … and that “Do unto others…” bit is one of the most important and disregarded principles promoted by ANY religion or philosophy.

    respectfully
    BJ

  7. I tend to diss pre-destination as a poor combination of theism and pagan (god of nature) fatalism – and side with the concept of humans having dominion. Having dominion in an environment does not mean having total control – but it means awareness of the need to maintain that environment and an understanding that society involves co-existence. As we are not God, our free will has finite limits.

  8. I don’t understand either of you on this. Sam is asking, giving that science is making it clearer every day that we really don’t have free will at all (and it’s not about randomness either), what does that knowledge mean for us, how should we deal with it. One response is to ignore it or even pretend it doesn’t exist, I suppose, but I can’t see that this makes any sense unless it were shown that this knowledge were truly fatal and had to be buried, which you also both seem to think is the case and again, I don’t know why that is. It seems no different than those that argue that we’d have no morals without religion, when it seems obvious that our morals often exist separate to religion; in come cases despite religion.

    And how can it be irrelevant? Sam uses the example of the justice system, where if we acknowledge no free will in criminal actions, our motivations in approach to corrections just have to be different than they are now and should be more effective as they’re acting with critical new knowledge.

    As for the golden rule, Sam would have no argument. But simply stating it as a rule and not being interested in the facts of our being that affect whether we are able to carry it out is at best self-defeating. Unless of course you believe we do have choice, which is a very different argument.

    Of course when Sam gets compared to a Calvinist, I have to wonder if we’re even reading the same thing.

  9. To be clear, SPC, the science is saying we have infinite limits on our free will; i.e. there isn’t any. Further, Sam does not think determinism equates to pre-destination. And while I’m sure we’ll get on to there subjects, I’m hoping to focus on the items above for now (and I need sleep).

  10. Is it so incomprehensible that Sam hasn’t actually discovered anything at all?

    I can’t see anything in that article that hasn’t been widely discussed before, it’s even covered in the bible.

  11. Valis, pre-destination is much like determinism – it dehumanises us. Pre-destination just placed one God in place of the nature god human sacrifice appeasement fatalism – but even so, if the one God wanted people dead there was a flood or earthquake progressing onto God choosing who is saved and who is not – some sort of division of the Gentile world between chosen converts and those not wanted.

    Determinism is just a scientific version of this.

    So Greens should just give up on arguing for responsible human choice – on environment protection and for social justice because we have no real free will on this, cannot choose this option – because society will somehow go to the selfish impulses of our nature?

    We change the environment people are raised up in, by building healthy homes and feeding the children – we can decide to make changes impacting on the lives of others. We can consider the gains we can make together across generations – by our free will.

  12. OK, so Shunda’s always believed we have no free will and has apparently already incorporated this into his thinking. I’m sure that Sam also being an atheist and a neuroscientist means his argument is just a bit different to Saint Paul’s, but can’t really be bothered to argue the point. But Shunda is certainly ahead of most religious people who believe people should be held morally responsible for their actions, presumably because they believe they could have chosen differently.

    SPC out right rejects the premise. Can you point me at the science that argues for free will? I’ve read Sam’s book and some others, which I believe are considered pretty mainstream, but am not aware of who might have done a scientific critique of the notion, and particularly of Sam’s work. Most of the published reviews of his book I’ve seen that seek to disagree are really just railing against the idea, which they don’t like, offering little as to how they know it isn’t true.

    Whether you think the notion dehumanises us is immaterial to whether it is true or not. Again, many erroneously think the idea there is no god dehumanises us.

    Even without free will, we make choices based on the info we receive and the state of our brains at the time. There is no reason not to continue saying and arguing for what we think is right. It matters that other people hear it.

    I’m not arguing we have no free will because I like the idea; in fact it has caused me sleepless nights coming to grips with it. But I read the science and can’t fault the logic in the experiments, so what should I do?

  13. Even without free will, we make choices based on the info we receive and the state of our brains at the time.

    This is the main issue I have with Harris.

    You either have choices (free will) or you are a biological automaton (determinist).
    You can’t have it both ways – unless you go down the rabbit hole that is soft determinism.

    In the end I don’t think it really matters.

  14. It doesn’t matter because:

    1. If predestination is implicit then you can’t change anything – your life is out of your control from conception to death

    2. If free will is implicit then, as time is linear (and can neither be turned back nor fast forwarded), there can only ever be one outcome for any given action. So by the act of acting, all alternate possibilities are extinguished effectively being indistinguishable in a rational sense from pre-destination.

    In effect, the only sphere in which free will really occurs is via thought experiment in the imagination as a series of ‘what if’ scenarios.

    I think the whole debate is essentially redundant. While I accept the inevitable logic of determinism, purely as a physical extension of the Big Bang and the irrefutable laws of Newtonian physics, to reduce the human experience to a linear progression is simplistic. The rules of this determination are so vastly complex – originating from the dawn of time and extending to the end of the universe – as to be effectively indistinguishable from free will and as a result, it defies meaningful analysis.

  15. A: “There is no difference between life and death”

    B: “Why then, do you not die?”

    A: “Because there is no difference”

    :-)

  16. 1. If predestination is implicit then you can’t change anything – your life is out of your control from conception to death

    I don’t equate determinism with predestination, if for no other reason that in front of us lie chaotic systems that are not predictable. Even the weather affects our course.

    2. If free will is implicit then, as time is linear (and can neither be turned back nor fast forwarded), there can only ever be one outcome for any given action. So by the act of acting, all alternate possibilities are extinguished effectively being indistinguishable in a rational sense from pre-destination.

    If you can choose, you can choose. Can’t have it both ways as you said.

    In effect, the only sphere in which free will really occurs is via thought experiment in the imagination as a series of ‘what if’ scenarios.

    Can’t see why thinking is any different than any other action.

    I think the whole debate is essentially redundant.

    Knowing the facts are important and can change how we do things, the approach to corrections again as an obvious example. No one has explained why this is unmeaningful or redundant.

  17. OK, so Shunda’s always believed we have no free will and has apparently already incorporated this into his thinking.

    No not really. I was introduced to this concept (from a theological perspective) when I still attended church.

    I’m sure that Sam also being an atheist and a neuroscientist means his argument is just a bit different to Saint Paul’s, but can’t really be bothered to argue the point.

    I still see no difference in the basic argument, as Saint Paul was dealing with exactly the same issue.

    But Shunda is certainly ahead of most religious people who believe people should be held morally responsible for their actions, presumably because they believe they could have chosen differently.

    I don’t think that is quite accurate, however, I do take a middle ground on this issue, as in my ‘wrestling’ with it I determined that the truth is found in the tension between the two extreme positions on free will.

    I will say this though, no other issue in my time within organised religion caused such a strong negative reaction toward me as this one. Some people actually tried to condemn me to hell over it as “not fearing God” and “destroying the point of evangelistic endeavor”. The funny thing was, all I ever did was bring the subject up for discussion, I never even got the chance to state my full opinion! :)

    I’m not arguing we have no free will because I like the idea; in fact it has caused me sleepless nights coming to grips with it. But I read the science and can’t fault the logic in the experiments, so what should I do?

    This is one of the most fascinating statements I have ever read from you Valis, I can recall vividly the anxiety and laying awake that I experienced pondering this issue.

    For me, I resolved it from a more ‘religious’ perspective, which I guess is not much use to you, but some of the same ideas could still be relevant.

    I haven’t read Sams book so I’m not really sure how qualified I am to understand his full perspective on it, but reading through his blog is interesting enough.

    Personally, I think human consciousness exists on several levels and in this regard, there is in effect a “sliding scale” of responsibility for ones actions, but I say that very cautiously. I think we also have to consider the environment that Sam Harris has come from, a country that has a fairly unique and extreme approach to crime and punishment (for a modern civilized country any way) and I can’t see how his own consciousness hasn’t been skewed by his own environmental circumstance.

  18. That there are those who would pose our civilisation as progressing from worshipping nature gods onto either a supernatural God that organises what happens everywhere all the time (pre-destination) or otherwise a scientific knowledge of determinism in our universe for all of us is unsurprising.

    Free will is scary at an individual level (and collective in a democracy), the idea of standing up to (overcoming) upbringing conditioning, peers, society order (including at some times quite brutal tyranny) requires what can be called either an act of faith or self-confidence. Such as rebellion of the American colonies against over-rule or becoming a republic here.

    Easy exercise of free will also requires some acceptance in society that individuals should have opportunity to overcome adversity (the hand up) and they are not limited by circumstance (such as competing at the paraolympics rather than the earlier event). Determinism that reduces the place for the human spirit leaves us empty shells – bio-determinism subjects of a Randian materialism.

    Like the various philosophy schools that form, then face challenge, and are left with just a place in the history of academic thought, I would confidently predict this scientific conclusion will too be placed in its context, where it simply places free will within limits – limits we can impact. Hopefully before it used as a rationale to profile society by background and DNA – so the self-preservation of the haves is not imposed on the underclass more firmly than in the current global capitalist order.

  19. @ Valis

    I don’t equate determinism with predestination, if for no other reason that in front of us lie chaotic systems that are not predictable. Even the weather affects our course.

    I should have been clearer. I take the non-theological view of predestination.

    “that any outcome is finally determined by the complex interaction of multiple, possibly immanent, possibly impersonal, possibly equal forces, rather than the issue of a Creator’s conscious choice.”

    Can’t see why thinking is any different than any other action.

    It’s quite obviously different. I can daydream about growing wings or winning Lotto and how it might change the course of my life. But merely imagining these things does not generate their reality or affect my existence in any way.

  20. Photo has still to answer what I said in the last general debate, except accusing us of idealogy. A bit rich from the person who advocates the equivalent of a builder selling his van and tools to give his millionaire daughter a holiday, and, conclusively failed education initiatives from overseas. Note how Sweden’s formerly high rated education system has gone down the rankings since charter schools .

    Show that NACT has not cut front line funding, after inflation, per head to State schools.
    Note: Money spent on ideological crap like NACT standards, consultants, and on bailing out private schools, is NOT an increase in State education funding.

  21. It’s quite obviously different. I can daydream about growing wings or winning Lotto and how it might change the course of my life. But merely imagining these things does not generate their reality or affect my existence in any way.

    That’s not free will though. If you haven’t got free will, you’re not consciously choosing what to fantasise about either.

  22. That there are those who would pose our civilisation as progressing from worshipping nature gods onto either a supernatural God that organises what happens everywhere all the time (pre-destination) or otherwise a scientific knowledge of determinism in our universe for all of us is unsurprising.

    Didn’t say the notion was surprising. That the scientific evidence has become very strong is rather notable though. So long as we aren’t sure, we don’t really have to deal with it. Once it becomes the likely truth, we do, or should.

    Free will is scary at an individual level….

    But free will is still the dominant paradigm in western society at least. (Religious people don’t really believe in pre-destiny, or they wouldn’t hold each other morally responsible for their actions.) It seems that this paradigm is now doomed to change. I can’t help but find that pretty interesting.

    Easy exercise of free will also requires some acceptance in society that individuals should have opportunity to overcome adversity (the hand up) and they are not limited by circumstance (such as competing at the paraolympics rather than the earlier event). Determinism that reduces the place for the human spirit leaves us empty shells – bio-determinism subjects of a Randian materialism.

    Those are opinions. Harris for one clearly doesn’t think we’re suddenly empty shells. But all missing the point. If it’s true there’s no free will, then it’s just true and you have to cope one way or another. Talking about what it takes to exercise free will becomes a meaningless exercise.

    Like the various philosophy schools that form, then face challenge, and are left with just a place in the history of academic thought, I would confidently predict this scientific conclusion will too be placed in its context, where it simply places free will within limits – limits we can impact.

    I’ve asked, but you’ve provided no scientific critique for why Sam is wrong, so I have no reason to accept your confidence that he is.

    Hopefully before it used as a rationale to profile society by background and DNA – so the self-preservation of the haves is not imposed on the underclass more firmly than in the current global capitalist order.

    Some people rebel against natural selection because it has been used by the unscrupulous to oppress via social Darwinism. But they can’t make false what is true and we have to find other ways to combat misuse of a theory. Lack of free will is no different.

  23. I still see no difference in the basic argument, as Saint Paul was dealing with exactly the same issue.

    So? No one had any reason to believe him, as he had no evidence. It was no different than any other bible myth. Science is now presenting us with pretty strong evidence, like that they can detect choices made in the brain before the test subject is conscious of having chosen.

    If someone actually presented some scientific evidence for a god, you can be sure we wouldn’t be saying, gee what’s the big deal, humans have been saying that forever!

    I don’t think that is quite accurate, however, I do take a middle ground on this issue, as in my ‘wrestling’ with it I determined that the truth is found in the tension between the two extreme positions on free will.

    Shunda, you raise being in the middle of the road almost to the level of, well, a religion. Do you straddle the yellow line when you drive, too? :-)


    I’m not arguing we have no free will because I like the idea; in fact it has caused me sleepless nights coming to grips with it. But I read the science and can’t fault the logic in the experiments, so what should I do?

    This is one of the most fascinating statements I have ever read from you Valis, I can recall vividly the anxiety and laying awake that I experienced pondering this issue.

    Hey, I’m human, despite the moniker.

    For me, I resolved it from a more ‘religious’ perspective, which I guess is not much use to you, but some of the same ideas could still be relevant.

    Have to say I doubt it, but have a go if you’d like.

    I haven’t read Sams book so I’m not really sure how qualified I am to understand his full perspective on it, but reading through his blog is interesting enough.

    The book is only a long essay at 66 pages. Have a go.

    Personally, I think human consciousness exists on several levels and in this regard, there is in effect a “sliding scale” of responsibility for ones actions, but I say that very cautiously. I think we also have to consider the environment that Sam Harris has come from, a country that has a fairly unique and extreme approach to crime and punishment (for a modern civilized country any way) and I can’t see how his own consciousness hasn’t been skewed by his own environmental circumstance.

    It is one of the fundamentals of his argument that one’s environment is critical to determining one’s actions, but that doesn’t change any of the evidence being presented. The experimental results rely on the technology and can be duplicated easily now anywhere. They don’t depend on the state of mind of the experimenter.

  24. Kerry loses the plot and goes off on some tangent “A bit rich from the person who advocates the equivalent of a builder selling his van and tools to give his millionaire daughter a holiday,”

    When have I even talked about builders selling vans?

    Kerry – You’re on some other planet.

  25. Kerrys asks “Show that NACT has not cut front line funding, after inflation, per head to State schools.”

    Easy, from treasury figures.

    Primary Schools

    2007 – $2141 million spent on 479,230 children = $4468 ea
    2012 – $2817 million spent on 479,882 children = $5870 ea (31% increase)

    Secondary Schools

    2007- $1682 million spent on 277,619 children = $6059 ea
    2012- $2113 million spent on 279,579 children = $7557 ea (25% increase)

    Even when you take off 14.5% inflation over the 5 years, that’s still a significant increase in spending, particularly when the recesion and GFC is taken into account.

    I expect your cultish brainwashing will never allow your brain to accept that spending has increased.

    Not because it hasn’t increased, but solely because the wrong flavour of government made the increase.

  26. Shunda, you raise being in the middle of the road almost to the level of, well, a religion. Do you straddle the yellow line when you drive, too?

    You can mock all you like, but there is no conclusive evidence (yet) to suggest a middle road approach isn’t actually the truth of the matter.In any case, I suspect that this is actually the only workable application of this research to society regardless of what is actually proven.

    It is one of the fundamentals of his argument that one’s environment is critical to determining one’s actions, but that doesn’t change any of the evidence being presented. The experimental results rely on the technology and can be duplicated easily now anywhere. They don’t depend on the state of mind of the experimenter.

    They are also very simple experiments that lack the complexity of even an average days events. The complexity of human emotion, memory, prior experience and how it all works together provide some pretty huge variables.

    The reality could be far more complicated than Sam is allowing for, for example, it is entirely possible that some people exercise free will very frequently and others very little at all.

    Could it be that it is our connection to reality that enables or disables an efficient use of free will?, perhaps some people are creatures of habit and impulse, others actions are more considered and planned.

    As far as crime/punishment goes, it could be that we simply determine a level of responsibility based on a reasonable expectation of what one should have been capable of, ie, if you have a drivers license you shouldn’t run red lights or plow through cyclists. There are default responsibilities to living in a civilized society that require people to engage to a certain intellectual level, so holding people accountable is essential to maintaining overall collective freedom.

    Ignorance is not always an acceptable excuse.

    But in saying all this, I fail to see how a practical application of what Sam Harris is saying would (or should) change much at all, we are effectively engaging in this sort of ‘rational justice’ as much as our biology enables us to anyway.

    If he is suggesting letting murderers walk free, I think Sam Harris could be a very dangerous individual indeed.

    It is also possible that he could unwittingly open a ‘Pandora’s box’ and bring about some extremely destructive philosophy. The effect this issue had on me was profound and lasting, it permanently changed my perspective on life, but it can also cause mental illness (or at least extreme anxiety) and it is knowledge that must be respected and treated with extreme caution. This stuff screwed me up for months and I wanted to understand it, if it was forced upon people in some form or philosophy I believe it has real potential for extreme harm to individuals and society.

  27. Photo. State school spending you dipshit.

    You can keep quoting total spending until you are blue in the face. Your figures include NACT standards, private school bailouts, funding for private schools, consultants and other misappropriation of funds by the Government.
    Also your figures always seem to come from some parallel universe anyway.
    It still does not equate to an increase, after inflation, for State schools.

    STATE SCHOOL PER HEAD SPEND AND HELP FOR KIDS AT STATE SCHOOLS HAS BEEN CUT.

    As anyone who teaches in a State school can tell you.

  28. There is no such thing as God. Get over it and enjoy life.

    Some believers do a lot for their fellows. Those people I have a lot of time for. Though I suspect genuinely good people would be like that, whether religious or not.
    Others use their God to absolve themselves of responsibility for dealing with reality. Sort of a reluctance to let go of childhood where daddy/mummy knows best. A characteristic of those who support the simplistic, dumbed down, authoritarian and dictatorial.

  29. Photo. Asset sales have been likened to a builder selling his tools to pay the grocery bill. Not a bad analogy.
    However New Zealands asset sales, to give millionaires tax cuts, are more akin to the same builder selling his house, van and tools to give some more money to the daughter with the millionaire husband, when he cannot afford the groceries.

  30. What happens when an atheist declares the certainty of his convictions?

    We either find there is another in whom we can trust to know what we mere mortal humans usually cannot, or less newsworthy, simply that atheism has a new self declared chosen prophet.

  31. Few atheists declare absolute certainty. One who does is Victor Stenger who disagrees that absence of evidence is never evidence of absence. An example is if an elephant just walked through your house, it would not be possible you wouldn’t be able to tell; it would leave evidence in the form of damage to the house. Therefore you can declare with certainty that no elephant just walked through your house if there is no damage. Stenger argues it is not credible to say that a god that intervenes in our daily lives would leave no physical evidence of his existence. It’s an interesting argument, but not necessary to declare one an atheist.

    Even Dawkins says that on a scale of certainty, he can technically only call himself agnostic. The problem is that many equate agnosticism as saying either proposal, god or no god, could be equally true. This isn’t the case, because the lack of any physical evidence makes the likelihood of a god at least vanishingly small. Like Russell’s teapot, that we can’t be 100% certain that there isn’t one orbiting between Mars and Jupiter in no way means the likelihood of such existing could equally go either way. We are not really wrong to claim it doesn’t exist. This is what most atheists mean when they claim certainty regarding the non-existence of god. But it is sloppy language because it gives believers a sense there is logical room to manoeuvre where there is actually none.

    On the other hand, there’s Hitchens’ very simple approach. “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” Hard to argue with that logic.

  32. So atheism has evangelists and apologists too.

    I have made reference to no apologists, though I expect some exist. Is there a sphere of human activity that doesn’t have such people?

    These are big questions of fact and philosophy. You don’t seem to want to deal with any of the issues, just cast doubt on the value of whole conversation.

  33. You can mock all you like, but there is no conclusive evidence (yet) to suggest a middle road approach isn’t actually the truth of the matter.

    Didn’t mean to mock. But the evidence is pretty conclusive. What do you know of that suggests it’s wrong?

    In any case, I suspect that this is actually the only workable application of this research to society regardless of what is actually proven.

    What does that mean?

    They are also very simple experiments that lack the complexity of even an average days events. The complexity of human emotion, memory, prior experience and how it all works together provide some pretty huge variables.

    You’re in effect saying that with very simple decisions, we don’t have free will, but when they’re complex, the complexity itself means we may do. This is a pretty weak argument.

    The reality could be far more complicated than Sam is allowing for, for example, it is entirely possible that some people exercise free will very frequently and others very little at all.

    Why is it entirely possible? You’re just making unsupported claims.

    Could it be that it is our connection to reality that enables or disables an efficient use of free will?, perhaps some people are creatures of habit and impulse, others actions are more considered and planned.

    More conjecture. Unless you can cite some evidence?

    As far as crime/punishment goes, it could be that we simply determine a level of responsibility based on a reasonable expectation of what one should have been capable of, ie, if you have a drivers license you shouldn’t run red lights or plow through cyclists. There are default responsibilities to living in a civilized society that require people to engage to a certain intellectual level, so holding people accountable is essential to maintaining overall collective freedom.

    Sam agrees we often need to hold people physically responsible for actions – as it’s them that did it, but not morally responsible, because with no free will they could not have chosen to do different than they did.

    Ignorance is not always an acceptable excuse.

    But has nothing to do with the implications of not having free will.

    But in saying all this, I fail to see how a practical application of what Sam Harris is saying would (or should) change much at all, we are effectively engaging in this sort of ‘rational justice’ as much as our biology enables us to anyway.

    Our justice system is hugely punitive and in the States even more so, and much of the tough on crime talk is revenge driven. There is huge scope for change.

    If he is suggesting letting murderers walk free, I think Sam Harris could be a very dangerous individual indeed.

    Not at all. You need to read his book.

    It is also possible that he could unwittingly open a ‘Pandora’s box’ and bring about some extremely destructive philosophy. The effect this issue had on me was profound and lasting, it permanently changed my perspective on life, but it can also cause mental illness (or at least extreme anxiety) and it is knowledge that must be respected and treated with extreme caution. This stuff screwed me up for months and I wanted to understand it, if it was forced upon people in some form or philosophy I believe it has real potential for extreme harm to individuals and society.

    Facts are facts and unless you ban neuroscience to maintain our ignorance, we’re going to learn the truth. Much better to put our efforts into dealing with reality constructively, which is what Sam is doing.

  34. I don’t take the unvalidated certainties of others seriously – not theists or atheists, whether it is called the word of God, or the product of someones rationalism.

    What facts?

    Schools of philosophy have debated these issues for centuries, there is only the shunda position – it’s nuanced. More recent psychology has focused on the drug or therapy debate, are we simply the product of our chemical makeup or not?

    So someone has done some research that gives a set of results, the method will be reviewed and challenged. More complex work will be done that will likely quantify and limit the result.

    One suspects our understanding of the brain, will be like going deeper into the atom to newer inner levels of minuteness, – like peeling an onion. Those who pre-emptively hitch their horses to a superficial result are little more than flat earthers.

  35. Does the truth offend someone? Being convinced by the latest research is either because it is what one is pre-disposed to believe (determinism for the vulnerable, but not all), or because some are more easily influenced by what they read last.

    It’s interesting why people attach themselves so devotedly to any cause, whether academic or religious.

    Recently a Bank of England official admitted that economists had been wrong about their certainties, not that the devoted ones even now will concede this point.

    Of course a lot is motive driven, for example an apologist for pre-destination (Paul), was really extending beyond the Jews (of the Abraham seed) the idea that all converts were also a chosen people (by reference to others not chosen). This to cultivate a certain nationalism or chauvinism – about God belonging to them. We can note today how many American evangelists claim that their nation was chosen to evangelise the world. Or why some Christians believe they are living in the end time – apparently a delusion common amongst those chosen (believing in pre-destination).

  36. Of course i cannot say with absolute certainty there is no God. I leave certainty to “believers”.

    However I do require evidence of anyone’s assertions.

    The probability of there being a God, given the total lack of evidence, is so vanishingly unlikely as to be several orders of magnitude less likely than me winning lotto.

    About the same likelihood as a giant teapot orbiting Jupiter.

    So. From that point of view we can say with a reasonable degree of certainty. There is no God. And if there was such a thing it is even less likely to resemble the depictions in religious tracts.
    I find it comical when someone who asserts there is a man in the sky, looking out for them personally, calls someone who believes in ghosts, the Hindu pantheon or Friday the 13th, superstitious.

  37. Maybe. Some people pose as one with God and some pose as more rational than others, but opinion is still just opinion. And the latest unchallenged sicentific work is just that. The last word, is never the last word in science or academia.

  38. The latest research does not determine an outcome in scientifc method. It has to to be corroborated by other research and the parameters of the research are examined, the limits or extent of the validity of any research conclusion is something that is to be determined.

    Citing the latest research, as demonstrating a now known “fact”, is erroneous. You would have to want to believe in it to be swayed – has something led to this point being beyond your free will capacity to appreciate?

  39. It is a necessary thing if the Maori are to assert properly the rights that Waitangi so vaguely bestowed. They have to find a way to govern themselves so as to speak with one voice. They have always needed SOME governing organization that unites the tribes and hides the differences between them from the Crown. Which then speaks as equal to the Crown.

    Which is what Waitangi needs but does not create or encourage.

    Which is what any Constitution for them needs in order to give them their proper voice in the governing of this country under the PRINCIPLES of the treaty, even if said Constitution supersedes the treaty.

  40. The latest research does not determine an outcome in scientifc method.

    That’s a straw man, as I’ve never said anything to suggest otherwise. Certainly there is much more to be learned on this topic. But it is not just a recent claim either. My reading of it, as I said above is that “science is making it clearer every day that we really don’t have free will at all”. While I’m more than happy to have this challenged and even asked for info that does, Shunda’s response was to rubbish it as no different than when Saint Paul made a similar claim, so I took him to task. And your own early contributions were to claim the idea was essentially paganism and attack me for the negatives you percieve such a reality would mean for Green policy.

    As far as I can tell this is not just some hot off the press research, but the growing scientific consensus over the past few decades. Doesn’t make it the last word, but doesn’t deserve the derision heaped on it here with not even a single counter factual. I asked for info that challenged it on a scientific basis. Instead of taking the opportunity to offer some, you came pretty close to saying all science is just opinion, while now lecturing me on how science works.

    Sheesh.

  41. That must have been brewing for a while. Campbell’s was a mere comment at the end of his blog post.

    I’ve found Edwards’ transition into a MSM commentator pretty astounding. His blog used to be a constant polemic against all he perceived as counter to his brand of left-wing idealism. In particular, he seemed to have an actual hatred of the Greens and I don’t choose that term lightly. Readers will remember his favourite meme was to point out how obvious it was that the Greens are really a right wing party in disguise just waiting to screw the left, but that, hey, it is just inevitable that a growing political movement will sell out every principle in it’s attempt to become popular. So it’s deeply ironic that Bryce has so easily softened his rhetoric to further his own career at the Herald and on TV.

    Another irony in Armstrong’s diatribe is that if Bryce is an echo chamber for anyone, it’s Farrar way more than Campbell.

  42. Valis, the thing I find most disturbing about this ‘free will’ topic is the blatant appeal to authority too many people seem to make toward Sam Harris.

    Quite frankly, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins (among others) are so frequently ‘off the reservation’ that you have to wonder whether they really spend much time ‘on it’ at all.

  43. science is making it clearer every day that we really don’t have free will at all

    Nonsense, the research I have seen so far is about as convincing as discovering the shutter lag on my digital camera. What I have seen is people like Sam Harris putting a certain spin on things to push his blatant anti religion agenda.

    If people want to hold Sam Harris as some sort of philosophical guru, then fine, just don’t pretend that it is any different to any other religion.

  44. Valis, the thing I find most disturbing about this ‘free will’ topic is the blatant appeal to authority too many people seem to make toward Sam Harris.

    Too many people? Who? You can’t even pin that on me let alone anyone else here, so why raise such a straw man.

    Quite frankly, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins (among others) are so frequently ‘off the reservation’ that you have to wonder whether they really spend much time ‘on it’ at all.

    You’ve said bullshit like this before, but can never quote any evidence for it. It’s just shameful character assassination.

    Nonsense, the research I have seen so far is about as convincing as discovering the shutter lag on my digital camera.

    I don’t think you can name ANY research on the topic. If you could, you’d have done so when asked for it.

    What I have seen is people like Sam Harris putting a certain spin on things to push his blatant anti religion agenda.

    The real motivation revealed. Shunda doesn’t like that Sam is an atheist, so even unrelated science must be suspect. No evidence required.

    If people want to hold Sam Harris as some sort of philosophical guru, then fine, just don’t pretend that it is any different to any other religion.

    The ultimate goal is to equate science with religion because if you can trick people into accepting that, it’s so much easier to push you’re own brand of irrationality.

  45. The ultimate goal is to equate science with religion because if you can trick people into accepting that, it’s so much easier to push you’re own brand of irrationality.

    Was Christopher Hitchens a rational person Valis? be careful.

    Sam Harris seems to miss him dearly.

    The problem you seem to have is the inability to accept that all human beings are capable of A. irrationality and B. understanding the human mind because we all have one

    I don’t need Sam Harris to tell me how to think, just like I don’t need a theologian to tell me how to feel.

    The more reading I do on this topic the more I realise how wrong your statement: “science is making it clearer every day that we really don’t have free will at all” really is, ‘science’ is not saying any such thing.

    I have spent much of the last day vetoing impulsive actions to prove the point!, a spider owes its life to you Valis! :)

  46. I’m not sure I understand Valis? Bryce Edwards has softened his stance against the Greens in order to further his career working for what is generally regarded as a right leaning mainstream newspaper… That’s a contradiction in terms.

  47. I did say it was deeply ironic, but it’s not a contradiction. I meant though, that he’s softened his stance generally, not just against Greens. His is a hard left critique, remember. The MSM would not be interested in providing a platform for what they’d consider such extreme left views.

  48. Was Christopher Hitchens a rational person Valis? be careful.

    I think so on most things, except for his support of Bush’s wars in the middle east. Never understood that.

    Sam Harris seems to miss him dearly.

    Is there some reason atheists shouldn’t miss friends and colleagues when they die?

    The problem you seem to have is the inability to accept that all human beings are capable of A. irrationality

    I’ve never said any such thing.

    and B. understanding the human mind because we all have one

    That we have one doesn’t mean we all understand it. In fact even those who study it understand very little about it.

    I don’t need Sam Harris to tell me how to think, just like I don’t need a theologian to tell me how to feel.

    Me too. Yay for us. The problem is you’re avoiding the issue by attacking the messenger. What excuse would you use if it were another neuroscientist? Sam didn’t dream this up by himself you know.

    The more reading I do on this topic the more I realise how wrong your statement: “science is making it clearer every day that we really don’t have free will at all” really is, ‘science’ is not saying any such thing.

    You haven’t done any reading on this topic, or you wouldn’t be refusing to tell me what you’ve read so I can read it too.

    I have spent much of the last day vetoing impulsive actions to prove the point!, a spider owes its life to you Valis!

    I’m happy for the spider. For the advancement of science not so much.

  49. Further, that we’re all capable of being irrational doesn’t mean we should exalt in it. If someone argues illogically or otherwise against known facts (creationists, for example) we shouldn’t make excuses for them, but point out the fallacy.

  50. Was Christopher Hitchens a rational person Valis? be careful.

    I think so on most things, except for his support of Bush’s wars in the middle east. Never understood that.

    Tell me, how rational is it to drink and smoke yourself into an early grave? it seems particularly irrational considering he spent most of his life ridiculing the possibility of an afterlife and those who believe there might be.

    So which “Hitch” is the more rational? Peter or Christopher? Peter will likely exceed (by a long shot) the accomplishments of his brother, yet Peter is supposed to be the more ‘irrational’ of the two. I think this is a fantastic and damning example of why being an atheist has no bearing on rationality at all, it simply may make people more angry and potentially more dangerous. Christopher Hitchens wanted to annihilate Islam through George Bush, enough said.

    Sam Harris seems to miss him dearly.

    Is there some reason atheists shouldn’t miss friends and colleagues when they die?

    Well here’s the thing about that, perhaps Sam Harris has another motivation on this free will stuff, perhaps if Sam is right about the non existence of free will, his good friend ‘Hitch’ had to drink himself to an early death, perhaps Hitch was right when he said we have to annihilate Islam.

    And what do you know?, Sam Harris has said exactly the same thing, that in certain circumstances torture and death are justified because of what people believe.

    Quite frankly, no one should take any philosophical musings from these people seriously, they are off the reservation, it really is as simple as that.

    Sam Harris has a deeply biased view on this and has a definite philosophical agenda to push, both for personal reasons (defending the irrational life and early death of his friend Christopher Hitchens) and his hatred of religion.

    These people are dangerous in my opinion, the simply seek to replace those they claim they want to displace.

  51. Shunda barunda

    Tell me, how rational is it to drink and smoke yourself into an early grave?

    Entirely rational, especially back in Christopher Hitchens’ era… You’re discounting the pleasure gained and the addictive qualities of many human foibles. Mankind acts mainly for short term gratification… It’s rationally built into our DNA. He stopped smoking when diagnosed btw. As with many writers, Christopher Hitchens puts much of his success down to imbibing. Perhaps you should try it?

    As for the debate on free will, I think it exists although is constrained by the world we live in. Therefore there is no explicit free will because every choice is learnt behaviour, there is only deterministic free will. As far as I’m aware science has in no way discredited the philosophy of deterministic free will.

  52. As with many writers, Christopher Hitchens puts much of his success down to imbibing. Perhaps you should try it?

    Ahhh yes, the old apologist for drunken writing bit.

    Well, quite frankly, if you think drinking yourself to death is what it takes to be “successful” then you can keep your success.

    I would rather learn to develop my ‘consciousness’ independently of substance abuse, which is actually entirely possible if you aren’t lazy.

    You have to wonder what ‘Hitch’ was trying to escape.

    Oh, and you completely missed the point, Hitch has a brother called ‘Peter’, he’s a conservative and he is just as successful and he isn’t an angry drunk.

    In the words of Paul Holmes “he who lasts, wins”.

    Not a truer word spoken.

  53. Tell me, how rational is it to drink and smoke yourself into an early grave?

    Not very in my opinion.

    it seems particularly irrational considering he spent most of his life ridiculing the possibility of an afterlife and those who believe there might be.

    Nonsense. He would have recognised his flaw. He made a choice to enjoy himself. He well knew the trade off.

    So which “Hitch” is the more rational? Peter or Christopher?

    I don’t know Peter well enough to say. I can’t see that it matters to this debate. This is another one of your distractions.

    Peter will likely exceed (by a long shot) the accomplishments of his brother, yet Peter is supposed to be the more ‘irrational’ of the two.

    Says who?

    I think this is a fantastic and damning example of why being an atheist has no bearing on rationality at all,

    Why? No person considered sane is ever completely rational or irrational. It is well understood that a person can act rationally in some contexts and irrationally in others. I’m sure there are creationists who don’t smoke or drink as well as those who do.

    it simply may make people more angry and potentially more dangerous.

    Some, perhaps, but it’s a stupid generalisation.

    Christopher Hitchens wanted to annihilate Islam through George Bush, enough said.

    Absolutely nonsensical to say that if a person is wrong about one thing they are wrong about everything. I don’t even say that about you. (Pretty tempted tonight.)

    Well here’s the thing about that, perhaps Sam Harris has another motivation on this free will stuff, perhaps if Sam is right about the non existence of free will, his good friend ‘Hitch’ had to drink himself to an early death, perhaps Hitch was right when he said we have to annihilate Islam.

    You are becoming incoherent.

    And what do you know?, Sam Harris has said exactly the same thing, that in certain circumstances torture and death are justified because of what people believe.

    You KNOW he didn’t say exactly the same thing. We had that argument last year and you lost it then. Want me to find the thread?

    Quite frankly, no one should take any philosophical musings from these people seriously, they are off the reservation, it really is as simple as that.

    More shameful character assassination from someone who hasn’t demonstrated he knows where the reservation is, let alone who’s on and off it.

    Sam Harris has a deeply biased view on this and has a definite philosophical agenda to push, both for personal reasons (defending the irrational life and early death of his friend Christopher Hitchens) and his hatred of religion.

    You can’t argue the science, having read nothing about it, so can only use your prejudice to make up psudo arguments against straw men.

    These people are dangerous in my opinion, the simply seek to replace those they claim they want to displace.

    You’ve totally lost it, Shunda. Time for bed and I hope you’re feeling better in the morning.

  54. The reason I suggested you might like to try imbibing Shunda is because I clicked through to your blog for the first time today… I’m sorry to say that I just cannot see the argument for expanding ones conscience soberly from your lazy blogging.

  55. Shunda, given that the large majority of scientists are agnostic at least, particularly when it comes to a personal god, an Abrahamic god, shouldn’t we distrust all of their science as evil too? Why pick only on Sam just because he had the temerity to speak up?

  56. As for the debate on free will, I think it exists although is constrained by the world we live in. Therefore there is no explicit free will because every choice is learnt behaviour, there is only deterministic free will. As far as I’m aware science has in no way discredited the philosophy of deterministic free will.

    Well, my reading is that compatibilism is discredited, though by no means has everyone abandoned it. Maybe that’s too strong a way to put it; perhaps better to say the incompatibilists are winning the argument. They point out that the constraints that compatibilists recognise must exist for determinism to be true preclude the kind of free will that matters and that we’ve been talking about, which is the ability to have chosen differently than than we did. In other words, the compatibilists have re-defined free will to be something other than what people usually mean by the concept.

    (Most incompatibilists think free will doesn’t exist even with this alternate definition, but that’s beside the point here.)

    I have not read a terribly convincing compatibilist argument, particularly that deals with this objection, but if you know of one, please let me know. Even Dan Dennett, who I have huge respect for and is a compatibilist, doesn’t do it for me. (Come to think, Dan is an atheist who believes in a form of free will; how will Shunda cope with that since atheists have twisted motives?)

  57. Why pick only on Sam just because he had the temerity to speak up?

    Because Valis, all those scientists aren’t going to promote that we start letting murderers off the hook because they are running on auto pilot, they aren’t going to say rapists were bound by their biology to rape, they aren’t ever going to say the only way to bring peace is to kill others.

    Because that is exactly what Hitch and Sam Harris are saying.

    You can ridicule me all you like, and I confess, I am no scientist, but I can tell an evil philosophy when I see it and this Sam Harris chap reeks of it (as did his dead drunk friend).

    Are you seriously going to causally dismiss Christopher Hitchens desire for world war 3 as a small flaw in his rationality? seriously? Drinking too much is forgivable as a flaw, but committed, vocal and repeated calls for the annihilation of Islam through conquest? you have got to be friggin kidding me.
    This guy was promoting genocide, plain and simple, he shouldn’t be celebrated as one of the greatest thinkers of our time, he should be viewed as a major contributor to the next great global tyranny, HE WAS ROOTING FOR GEORGE BUSH FFS!!

    But he does have Sam Harris (your prophet) to carry on with his work.

    May God help us all if this philosophy ever takes hold.

  58. I’m sorry to say that I just cannot see the argument for expanding ones conscience soberly from your lazy blogging.

    And yet back in the real world I have achieved more in the last 18 months than at any time in my life. (You should try getting off ‘the turps’ and getting off your keyboard and doing something productive for a change, it’s amazing the things a sober mind can accomplish).

    I would also say my prolonged relative absence from Frogblog had something to do with that.
    And clearly I have started wasting too much time again.

  59. Because Valis, all those scientists aren’t going to promote that we start letting murderers off the hook because they are running on auto pilot,

    Sam explicitly says the opposite, which I’ve already pointed out. Is it rational to keep ignoring this?

    they aren’t going to say rapists were bound by their biology to rape,

    Another stupid gross generalisation, as plenty do.

    they aren’t ever going to say the only way to bring peace is to kill others.

    Unfortunately some will, though no where near as many as those motivated by religion, like in the US and Middle East.

    Because that is exactly what Hitch and Sam Harris are saying.

    I am at least impressed with your ability to be called out for a bold-faced falsehood and still carry on saying the same thing.

    You can ridicule me all you like, and I confess, I am no scientist,

    That is not a sin. But acting like you know things you don’t regardless is bad.

    but I can tell an evil philosophy when I see it and this Sam Harris chap reeks of it (as did his dead drunk friend).

    You’re just offended by atheism to the point of not being able to think straight.

    Are you seriously going to causally dismiss Christopher Hitchens desire for world war 3 as a small flaw in his rationality?

    No, I think it is a huge problem. I’ve said so before.

    seriously? Drinking too much is forgivable as a flaw, but committed, vocal and repeated calls for the annihilation of Islam through conquest? you have got to be friggin kidding me.

    Shall we have a party to celebrate that we agree?

    This guy was promoting genocide, plain and simple, he shouldn’t be celebrated as one of the greatest thinkers of our time, he should be viewed as a major contributor to the next great global tyranny, HE WAS ROOTING FOR GEORGE BUSH FFS!!

    I’ve screamed at him too, Shunda. Hitchens despised Henry Kissinger more than any other person for what he did in SE Asia and for other crimes, and I just can’t understand the logic that says Bush and his ilk are in any way different.

    But he does have Sam Harris (your prophet) to carry on with his work.

    If you knew what you were talking about, you’d know that Sam didn’t support the wars. And I don’t have any prophets.

    May God help us all if this philosophy ever takes hold.

    Agree with that, but it’s generally not the atheists you need to worry about.

  60. Tell me Valis, did they do these experiments at gun point? Because unless they did, I fail to see how they dispel free will.

    Lets take the “move the hand” experiment as an example. The shear act of agreeing to participate in an experiment like this is a potential act of free will in the first instance. Once agreement to participate has happened, the next act is submission to the will of the experimenter, is it any wonder that they get the results they do? The only way to test free will is when the subject is not in submission to the will of another, as once the decision to be tested has been made, the gig is up, the subjects consciousness is contaminated by simply communicating with the tester.

    Like I said earlier, free will is probably not uniform across all people, it is basically there for people that want (or choose) to use it.

    A new born baby has no free will, it is helpless, it just has an interaction with the senses and basic survival desires. As the human mind develops, the consciousness of an individual clearly develops too, this is where I think things start to become interesting. I know adults that have very predictable behavior, usually because they have problems with shallow emotional responses to issues, or life in general. I suspect that these people have a very undeveloped free will component to their consciousness. Then there are other people that choose to venture beyond the shallows, these people generally end up creating more options for the future and effectively manufacture ‘choice’. Now if the conscious mind is capable of vetoing those choices and engaging in planning surely this is evidence of functioning free will.

    The fact that we are having this conversation is possibly strong evidence for the existence of free will in in itself. We are choosing to communicate based on prior experience, perceptions and knowledge (even if incomplete) that we have all gained and all from a desire to develop our consciousness beyond the shallows of ‘average’ human existence.

    We are more alike than we are probably comfortable with, because we exercise free will, so even though you occasionally p!ss me off, I would still prefer a conversation with you than listen to a pentecostal Christian pray for me speaking in tongues.

    The reason people continue to communicate with those they disagree with is because there is a default recognition of a developed consciousness, or perhaps evidence of an individual with a developed free will component to their personality.

    All I know, is that the more I develop my own consciousness the more content I become, the more options I have for the future, and the more I plan ahead. If one plans ahead for a certain outcome, free will is the only way one can get there, as planning is not necessarily bound by physical circumstance, it is bound by a desire to change the future.

  61. Valis

    Well, my reading is that compatibilism is discredited.

    Really! Perhaps because you don’t favour that side of the argument. You also have another contradiction in terms… If you believe there is no compatibilism, you’re saying there is a preordained future and we’re unable to change our fates through free will. You’re saying there is a metaphysical god like presence that guides people through the multifaceted choices available because science has not explained free will. As an atheist, this should concern you.

    Science shows that there’s infinite possibilities depending on variable combinations within the metaphysical world. Free will within the bounds of physics is therefore inherent within the universe because every decision changes the quantum indeterminacies of any given situation. People have the will to change their futures if they choose to.

    Every choice we make leads onto a different future. Ones future can be entirely different depending on the way we turn our heads on any given day. In a functioning society, a persons future is determined through their free will and everybody has freedom to act in ways that aren’t preditermined by god or science.

    Shunda

    You should try getting off ‘the turps’ and getting off your keyboard and doing something productive for a change, it’s amazing the things a sober mind can accomplish.

    Interesting that you believe I’m unproductive and drink turps… What exactly have you based this assumption on? If you spent half the time on your own blog instead of Frogblog, perhaps there would be something worthwhile to read there. Personally I think the choice to be a teetotaler for religious reasons just makes you boring!

  62. Tell me Valis, did they do these experiments at gun point? Because unless they did, I fail to see how they dispel free will.

    If a sensor can register a choice you’ve just made to press the left button instead of the right button before you are aware of your choice, it would seem that the conscious part of your mind did not drive the choice, but was informed of it afterwards. In what sense can you claim to have free will if this is the case? In fact, there may be several senses and these are argued over, but the conscious ability to choose is what matters to most people, as without it, you can’t say you could have chosen differently.

    Note though that while the experiments are pretty interesting, the argument for determinism doesn’t rely on them. As I said above, both major schools of thought are deterministic.

  63. Well, my reading is that compatibilism is discredited.

    Really!

    Why did you quote only that? I took it back as soon as I said it.

    Perhaps because you don’t favour that side of the argument.

    Is that helpful? I could say the same about you. I’m actually trying to navigate my way through what I find to be difficult concepts in good faith here.

    You also have another contradiction in terms… If you believe there is no compatibilism, you’re saying there is a preordained future and we’re unable to change our fates through free will.

    Determinists reject predestination, if for no other reason that some chance is involved.

    You’re saying there is a metaphysical god like presence that guides people through the multifaceted choices available because science has not explained free will. As an atheist, this should concern you.

    I have certainly not said that, nor have atheists actually involved in this topic professionally.

    Science shows that there’s infinite possibilities depending on variable combinations within the metaphysical world. Free will within the bounds of physics is therefore inherent within the universe because every decision changes the quantum indeterminacies of any given situation. People have the will to change their futures if they choose to.

    You seem to be talking about chance again, or perhaps reading a lot of Chopra.

    There are various definitions of free will. The one that matters in practical terms, like when deciding what the goals and tactics of the corrections system should be, is whether we could have chosen differently than we did. It doesn’t seem to me that the compatibilists are arguing that this is the case.

  64. There are various definitions of free will. The one that matters in practical terms, like when deciding what the goals and tactics of the corrections system should be, is whether we could have chosen differently than we did.

    Of course we could have chosen differently, unless you are a lower animal that lacks an evolved consciousness. You also just admitted Sam’s argument is more philosophical by suggesting “the argument for determinism doesn’t rely on them”, so what does it rely on? it relies primarily on the world view of Sam Harris and nothing more.

    Which is why Sam Harris is dangerous, he is not promoting this idea because he is a scientist, he is pushing this philosophy because he believes it is the silver bullet against religion, he said so himself!!

    I am extremely bothered by this emerging philosophy and the determination of certain ‘thinkers’ to push it so aggressively.

    I think we are staring in the face of the beginnings of the next great global tyranny.

  65. There are various definitions of free will. The one that matters in practical terms, like when deciding what the goals and tactics of the corrections system should be, is whether we could have chosen differently than we did.

    Of course we could have chosen differently, unless you are a lower animal that lacks an evolved consciousness.

    Why “of course”? You offer nothing other than a huge desire that it be true.

    You also just admitted Sam’s argument is more philosophical by suggesting “the argument for determinism doesn’t rely on them”, so what does it rely on?

    Just meant that the idea didn’t originate with such experiments, though they certainly support it.

    it relies primarily on the world view of Sam Harris and nothing more.

    Which is why Sam Harris is dangerous, he is not promoting this idea because he is a scientist, he is pushing this philosophy because he believes it is the silver bullet against religion,

    He didn’t invent the field. He didn’t even do the experiments, others did. If Sam Harris had never lived, it would change nothing. We’d be having the same debate, and you’d have to invent some other way to play the man instead of the ball. It is childish behaviour.

    he said so himself!!

    Certainly supports the notion, doesn’t it? I guess that’s why you can’t consider the possibility. I haven’t seen the quote though. Where did he said it?

    I think we are staring in the face of the beginnings of the next great global tyranny.

    FFS, the next great global tyranny is already underway and being led by christians in the USA!

  66. Valis

    You seem to be talking about chance again, or perhaps reading a lot of Chopra.

    Ah no! Chance is largely random, free will is a conscious (or arguably subconscious) decision. It’s free will to be in a place and time where what you chance upon can change your life. It’s chance and free will that changes peoples fate… Not some airy faery predetermined destiny fixed in suado scientific stone.

    Determinists reject predestination, if for no other reason that some chance is involved.

    Not necessarily… Some determinists accept predestination while also accepting free will. Some things are predestined to happen no matter what, some things are able to be changed through free will. In this way both sides of the argument are correct and therefore generalising about what a determinist believes isn’t helpful.

    I have certainly not said that, nor have atheists actually involved in this topic professionally.

    That’s because without free will you have a choice between god and science. As humorous as you find the concept of god to explain destiny, I find science equally inadequate… Therefore we’re left with combatibalism ie freedom to act of your own free will in situations for reasons that have nothing to do with metaphysics or godly power.

    To be clear, SPC, the science is saying we have infinite limits on our free will; i.e. there isn’t any.

    Not any science I’ve ever read. The limitation of free will is only within the confines of the metaphysical situation. In fact the more enlightened someone is as to the possibilites inherent within any given place in time, the more free will they have to choose what destiny they take.

    You could argue that choice is all devised from learnt behaviour and therefore predetermined… But scientists are yet to fully explain any neurobiological basis for individual variability in decision making. Without any conclusive scientific argument, you offer nothing more than a huge desire that there is no deterministic free will Valis… A desire that is built on your belief that science has explained away god.

    I don’t recall ever reading Chopra btw. I certainly don’t believe “Chaos serves evolution” and “We are recycled consciousness”. WTF does that even mean?

  67. Not any science I’ve ever read. The limitation of free will is only within the confines of the metaphysical situation.

    Must be reading different books. What exactly is the nature of this limitation then? What is it we can’t do because of it?

    Without any conclusive scientific argument, you offer nothing more than a huge desire that there is no deterministic free will Valis…

    I only related what I’ve read that sounds convincing and really do want to know more. I don’t know why you compare me to Shunda, when I’m quite happy to discuss the actual issues. And it’s crap to claim my desire is for no deterministic free will. I would much prefer it, but have not yet heard a convincing argument and having erroneous motives pinned on me isn’t helping.

    A desire that is built on your belief that science has explained away god.

    I don’t have such a desire as I don’t need to believe there is no free will to reject the notion of a personal god. You’re making too many assumptions.

    I don’t recall ever reading Chopra btw. I certainly don’t believe “Chaos serves evolution” and “We are recycled consciousness”. WTF does that even mean?

    Beats me.

  68. Certainly supports the notion, doesn’t it? I guess that’s why you can’t consider the possibility.

    No, it does no such thing, well not for Christianity anyway.
    If Sam Harris actually bothered to research the faiths he has such utter contempt for, he would never have come to such a foolish conclusion. Like I said before, the Apostle Paul covered the whole issue in great detail and from several perspectives.

    If anything, the research Sam Harris cites as proof for his position can just as easily be used as proof for the Christian concept of a soul and or spirit.
    Not that many will pick up on this fact, but it is true none the less.

    I haven’t seen the quote though. Where did he said it?

    At about 47:30 into this clip:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCofmZlC72g&list=FLRiqjcO6FHBhgjpL3s8kuQg&index=1&feature=plpp_video

    FFS, the next great global tyranny is already underway and being led by christians in the USA!

    What utter crap. The problems from the USA are due to “the legend of America”, that some of them try to splice Jesus into the mix is absolutely irrelevant.

    So the “American experiment” took a few hundred years to fail, big deal, blaming it on Jesus is absurd.

  69. Certainly supports the notion, doesn’t it? I guess that’s why you can’t consider the possibility.

    No, it does no such thing, well not for Christianity anyway.

    I genuinely don’t understand. Sam is saying that concepts like original sin (or any moral responsibility for sin) can only logically apply if we have free will. Would you please explain how a person with no free will can sin.

    If anything, the research Sam Harris cites as proof for his position can just as easily be used as proof for the Christian concept of a soul and or spirit.
    Not that many will pick up on this fact, but it is true none the less.

    Why would it be true?

    What utter crap. The problems from the USA are due to “the legend of America”, that some of them try to splice Jesus into the mix is absolutely irrelevant.

    So the “American experiment” took a few hundred years to fail, big deal, blaming it on Jesus is absurd.

    I certainly realise that there’s more driving America’s foreign policy than religion. But it’s also true that the vast majority of those responsible are christians. If it is absurd to say their christianity has something to do with it, trying to blame a few atheists is multiple orders of magnitude more absurd.

  70. I genuinely don’t understand. Sam is saying that concepts like original sin (or any moral responsibility for sin) can only logically apply if we have free will. Would you please explain how a person with no free will can sin.

    Sighhhhh!

    If you want the religious explanation, then here’s how I think it goes.

    What does the bible say about Adam and Eve? does it say they were like us, or does it say they existed with a higher consciousness? What happened to humanity when they sinned? think about what the story actually reflects regarding human consciousness, then, the failure of ‘the Law’ as a solution and the necessity for a savior to restore a higher consciousness back to humanity.
    Look at what the Apostle Paul describes in the book of Romans, it reads exactly like someone who is deeply aware of an inner subconscious driving conscious actions, the solution is claimed to be the requirement of a spiritual “rebirth” and the resultant “renewing of the mind” with the promise of peace for those that attain it.

    There is nothing in Christianity that is expressly “dispelled” by anything Sam Harris has said, and the remarkable thing (to me) is how similar his (claimed) objectives are to true Christianity – creating inner peace and a higher consciousness.

    If you take the whole religion in correct context, it is remarkable how compatible it is with what we think we know of reality, (assuming God exists for arguments sake)

    In saying all this, I think Sam Harris is up to much, much, more than you realise, I can see a brilliant potential strategy emerging here.
    I think he has done his homework to a certain degree, and I am almost certain he is going to inflict a mighty blow against organised religion through his ‘project reason’ group.

    But anyone that thinks this will result in a more peaceful society is tragically mistaken in my opinion, the collateral damage will produce something far worse.

    I really hope I am wrong.

  71. I am not an active Christian any longer Valis, I simply tried to explain why Harris doesn’t have the ability to “remove the keystone” from this particular faith as much as he seems to think he does.

  72. Valis, you really should read my posts again, if you are under the misconceptions about what they said.

    In what way did I call determinism paganism? I actually related pre-destination as a development from polythestic paganism/to a creator God direction of human life – a new religious fatalism/theism. I did note the parallel to an absolute form of determinism where all life was subordinate to its DNA (bio-determinism) and the lack of infinity of the universe (having a beginning and end).

    As for the extension of the strawman – you claim you were attacked for perceived negatives for Green policy. How is any raising concern, about where scientific thought could lead for best environment practice, a personal attack?

    As for claiming that my position – that the scientific debate will go on for some time on this topic (because that is the process of peer review) – was heaping “undeserved derision” on the latest work and conclusion – really? You were the one claiming to have problems coming to terms with it, I was just trying to put it in some perspective.

    You say that’s lecturing you on how science works, – that’s my point. You have been effectively saying that the latest piece of work may decide the matter of a longstanding issue. We cannot respond with facts or a new work that those peer reviewiung it will make, because this has yet to be done.

    Some of us are saying we don’t feel ready to accept the conclusion and one suspects some fellow scientists will not either. Brain scan technology research and DNA work have some way to go.

    Maybe the expression of a reluctance to have human life dictated to by theists or by any science that might restrain free will, is of itself a sign that determinism is finite.

  73. Maybe the expression of a reluctance to have human life dictated to by theists or by any science that might restrain free will, is of itself a sign that determinism is finite.

    Research also shows that people become more aggressive and selfish as they are introduced to the idea that there is no free will. This could also be evidence that it does in fact exist after all. I maintain that Sam Harris is pushing an extremely dangerous philosophy.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19141628?dopt=Abstract

  74. On the issue of “whether original sin or any moral responsibility for sin can only logically apply if we have free will”.

    You would think that those holding to the pre-destination line would have already covered this ground. But this is dangerous territory for them – if there was no free will to avoid “original sin”, then no atonement for this was required. Then there goes the necessary sacrifice on the Cross (really the necessary sacrifice of the covenant nation limitation of God, if the Jewish cult was to go global).

    First, the obvious distinction between above and below, heavans and earth, God and creation. We humanity are less than perfect and no one of us makes perfect choices all the time – thus we are fallible and mortal. This differentiates us from the perfect and the eternal.

    Second, as Shunda somewhat reasonably notes, this is simply explaining our reality – mortal creation being bound by the fall into existence of its kind (what some would call existential determinism, where we are a product of our genetics and nurture). This leads to either the ground for the concept of either a higher consciousness (where connected to God we can somehow overcome this limit and in the east, the concept without God, of the way of buddha) or otherwise some reliance on our capacity to both reason and empathise (beyond the temporal limitations of our existence). The ethical strand of humanity. That the latter clearly exists, should lead those of religion to be less judgmental of fellow humanity.

    Third, despite not being fully capable of acting beyond our nurture and nurture, we still have to abide by the terms of the social contract to live in communities with others. This is called law and order. It’s no surprise that the bible relates the beginning of law as a learning required to prepare the way for community life – with this new world occuring with the end to hunter gathering (in the world garden) and the emergence of cultivation of crops (Cain) and domestication of flocks (Abel). These two developments in human civilisation enabled residence in fixed locations – where there were rules being enforced (maybe excluding those who failed to keep them).

    Fourth, we like the idea of justice (the idea of God catching those with the power to get away with oppression appeals to this). At our peer level, the prospect of punishment and the likelihood of getting caught, deter wrongdoing to others. The arrival of DNA testing (and DNA records) certainly appears to be behind crime reduction – keeping the people protected from harm.

    Five, there is still a clear difference between legal and moral responsibility. One is a (legal) behaviour code in a community, people are free to (morally) exceed it as much as they want.

    Six, while people are (legally) accountable for their actions, society has some (moral) responsibility to ensure that we have a fair go and that some are not so burdened by their circumstance that they do not have an appreciable sense of (free will) capacity to feel resonably included in their community/our society.

  75. You have covered a lot of ground there SPC, I had to re-read your post several times to keep up! (and I may yet re-read it tomorrow :) )

    I find it fascinating that the ancient world had such a good grasp on certain aspects of human nature and on reality in general (if expressed in terms familiar to their times).

    For me personally, the reasons I left organised religion weren’t really because I had a problem with Jesus or even the main themes of the faith, it was because modern Christianity so poorly reflects them.
    Often the established church has more to do with extreme forms of capitalism and a neo-conservative agenda than it does with ‘the sermon on the mount’, there is absolutely no reason Christianity should be attached at the hip to neo-conservatism.

    I obviously hold conservative values, but the more I understand about neo-conservatism, the more repelled by it I feel.

    The whole idea of Christians supporting the death penalty seems bizarre to me.

Comments are closed.