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Author Topic: Does free will exist?  (Read 11113 times)

another_someone

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Does free will exist?
« on: 27/12/2005 09:11:19 »
Not sure if this should be under general science, or chat, because it come under same sort of umbrella as some of the religion questions in that it pertains to the philosophy of science, but not the application of science.

Do people believe free will is a reality or an illusion?

Science seems to innately preclude the possibility of free will since, like the concept of God, it undermines the notion of causality.  Does this mean it does not exist, or is science wrong to exclude it (i.e. are we wrong to believe that all things have a physical cause), or are there multiple realities (a little like the wave particle duality – each true, even though they philosophically contradict each other)?


 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #1 on: 27/12/2005 10:54:29 »
I believe very few of us actually have free will. Most of we do or think is conditioned by our upbringing & environment, or dictated by laws and/or social norms.
If you take the instance of religion. Many people are brainwashed (& I use the word deliberately) by religious teachings in their early years. Even though as they mature they may query some of that indoctrination, it is normally still there nagging at the back of the mind. The quote "There are no atheists in a lifeboat" sums it up nicely. Even a great thinker such as Einstein was hindered by his religious teachings... "I cannot believe God plays dice with the universe".
Politics is another example. In many cases people will vote for a particular party because "My family have always voted <insert as appropriate>".
However, I feel I should point out that there is a difference between free will to think and free will to act. We can use our free will to think it would be nice to go shopping naked (weather permitting, of course) but the constraints of the law & social norms would prevent most people from actually doing it.
Another constraint is the way we wish ourselves to be perceived by others. For instance, although going to the pub on a Saturday evening and getting drunk is something that is both legal & socially acceptable (within reason), can you imagine the outcry if someone like Tony Blair did that?
As long as there are legal & moral restraints on our actions, totally free will is almost impossible to achieve.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #2 on: 27/12/2005 10:59:07 »
quote:
or are there multiple realities (a little like the wave particle duality – each true, even though they philosophically contradict each other)?


I don't really see that this has anything to do with free will. Although the expression of free will could, according to some theories, cause the creation of a parallel reality, such creations could be caused by totally different occurrences. An effect can have more than 1 cause.
 

Offline neilep

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #3 on: 27/12/2005 15:02:53 »
I think the only place you are truly really free is in your own mind..
In addition to religious doctrination (and any other type of cultural edification) I think for the most part your family plays a key role in your belief system and decision making process affecting free will, it is  a consequence of your upbringing the decisions you make. But that's not to say this form of conditioning is a bad thing. It's more of a moral/ethical foundation to base your free will decisions.

I think that you do have free will within the constraints of cultural boundaries. If one uses their free will to cross those boundaries then one must be prepared to deal with the consequences.

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another_someone

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #4 on: 27/12/2005 15:07:04 »
quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver

quote:
or are there multiple realities (a little like the wave particle duality – each true, even though they philosophically contradict each other)?


I don't really see that this has anything to do with free will. Although the expression of free will could, according to some theories, cause the creation of a parallel reality, such creations could be caused by totally different occurrences. An effect can have more than 1 cause.



I think I should clarify what I meant.

I used the term multiple realities, I did not mean parallel universes.  That is why I used the comparison to wave particle duality – both states exist in the same universe, but each seems real depending upon ones perception of that universe, and changing ones perception will alter the reality.

Then I have to ask what you mean by 'more than 1 cause'?  If by that you mean that it can have more than one cause in the same reality, then it doesn't get around the problem, since if free will is one of those causes, then one still has the problem of what caused the free will, and in answering that question you inevitably undermine the primacy of free will.  On the other hand, it is possible that you meant 'more than 1 cause' to infer that which I meant by the phrase 'multiple realities', that the particular cause is a matter of perception, and that the causes are alternatives to each other and not to be thought of as multiple causes in the same perceived reality.
 

another_someone

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #5 on: 27/12/2005 15:24:41 »
quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver

I believe very few of us actually have free will. Most of we do or think is conditioned by our upbringing & environment, or dictated by laws and/or social norms.
If you take the instance of religion. Many people are brainwashed (& I use the word deliberately) by religious teachings in their early years. Even though as they mature they may query some of that indoctrination, it is normally still there nagging at the back of the mind. The quote "There are no atheists in a lifeboat" sums it up nicely. Even a great thinker such as Einstein was hindered by his religious teachings... "I cannot believe God plays dice with the universe".
Politics is another example. In many cases people will vote for a particular party because "My family have always voted <insert as appropriate>".
However, I feel I should point out that there is a difference between free will to think and free will to act. We can use our free will to think it would be nice to go shopping naked (weather permitting, of course) but the constraints of the law & social norms would prevent most people from actually doing it.
Another constraint is the way we wish ourselves to be perceived by others. For instance, although going to the pub on a Saturday evening and getting drunk is something that is both legal & socially acceptable (within reason), can you imagine the outcry if someone like Tony Blair did that?
As long as there are legal & moral restraints on our actions, totally free will is almost impossible to achieve.



I think one has to be careful about interpreting Einstein's words here.  While it is true that he was religious, and it is true that the statement "I cannot believe God plays dice with the universe” is a statement of belief, I don't necessarily believe that the invocation of God is necessarily an indication that this particular belief derived from religious principles, any more than if I say “good bye” to someone it would necessarily imply its religious meaning in its usage (even though it does, in a corrupted form, invoke a reference to God)..

But that aside, you are merely referring to constraints upon action, and not really addressing the more fundamental contradiction between deterministic causality and free will.

The contradiction lies with the issue of whether we regard thought as merely an illusion brought about by inert chemical and electrical reactions within the brain, and no more meaningful than if carried out in a test tube (excepting that their complexity makes them more difficult to predict); or do we regard thought and will as primarily separate from the rest of the world, and thus an independent causative agent.

Since science deals exclusively with causality, and science includes the science of the brain, thus it follows that the science of the brain must assume that the functioning of the brain is a consequence of other causes, and is not itself a primary cause.  In doing this, science must deny the possibility of free will.
« Last Edit: 27/12/2005 15:26:59 by another_someone »
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #6 on: 27/12/2005 17:26:55 »
quote:
I think one has to be careful about interpreting Einstein's words here. While it is true that he was religious, and it is true that the statement "I cannot believe God plays dice with the universe” is a statement of belief, I don't necessarily believe that the invocation of God is necessarily an indication that this particular belief derived from religious principles


I do. Einstein spent endless hours wrestling with his universal constant because he couldn't believe his own predictions about an expanding universe. I believe it was his religious tendencies which caused that doubt.

 
quote:
But that aside, you are merely referring to constraints upon action, and not really addressing the more fundamental contradiction between deterministic causality and free will.


No. I was referring to constraints on thinking as well as on actions. Those constraints come in the form of stopping people from thinking in a free way. Ideas that go against innate beliefs are very often dismissed out of hand.

 
quote:
The contradiction lies with the issue of whether we regard thought as merely an illusion brought about by inert chemical and electrical reactions within the brain, and no more meaningful than if carried out in a test tube (excepting that their complexity makes them more difficult to predict); or do we regard thought and will as primarily separate from the rest of the world, and thus an independent causative agent.


What is thought? Interesting question. There are 2 stages to thought. There is the basic concept and also the manifestation of a coherent thought; the 2 are separate issues and are very much to do with self-awareness. That, then, raises the question of separation of brain and mind. It's well established that the functioning of the brain depends on the "inert chemical and electrical reactions" that you mention. But is it those which cause self-awareness?
Self-awareness, as the term implies, is an awareness of self; an awareness of oneself as an individual entity.  If that is merely a function of chemical & electrical reactions, how far down the creature scale does it go? Are dolphins self-aware? What about dogs? Gorillas? Chimpanzees? They certainly display attributes of self-awareness at times. But what about hedgehogs or mice? The same reactions go on in their brains as in humans.
 

Offline neilep

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #7 on: 27/12/2005 17:33:54 »
See ?..free will does exist !!...like the free will used to ignore my post...like this one too. :D:D

It's ok...I'm smiling here...I love reading the Doctoebeaver/another_someone threads. They are the Academic Jacks Beanstalk of this site and always make good reading. :)


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Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #8 on: 27/12/2005 19:36:20 »
Neil - was it free will that made you use that goddam awful colour!? [xx(]
 

another_someone

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #9 on: 27/12/2005 21:42:45 »
quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver
No. I was referring to constraints on thinking as well as on actions. Those constraints come in the form of stopping people from thinking in a free way. Ideas that go against innate beliefs are very often dismissed out of hand.



I do not question that for a moment, and that would then lead to questions regarding whether thought can exist outside of a social context (i.e. thought is derived from language, and language is derived from social interaction, therefore it follows that no thought can exist except that it be derived from social context).  But that is, as a said, while an interesting avenue, a separate one from the biology of thought.

quote:

What is thought? Interesting question. There are 2 stages to thought. There is the basic concept and also the manifestation of a coherent thought; the 2 are separate issues and are very much to do with self-awareness. That, then, raises the question of separation of brain and mind. It's well established that the functioning of the brain depends on the "inert chemical and electrical reactions" that you mention. But is it those which cause self-awareness?
Self-awareness, as the term implies, is an awareness of self; an awareness of oneself as an individual entity.  If that is merely a function of chemical & electrical reactions, how far down the creature scale does it go? Are dolphins self-aware? What about dogs? Gorillas? Chimpanzees? They certainly display attributes of self-awareness at times. But what about hedgehogs or mice? The same reactions go on in their brains as in humans.



I have heard experiments that demonstrate that Chimpanzees can learn to identify their own image in a mirror, which is taken as an indication of self-awareness.  I have also heard evidence that Chimpanzees have been shown to apply strategies that imply empathy (i.e. an understanding of the perceptions of others as if they were your own perceptions).

Alternatively, I believe chickens are unable to identify themselves in a mirror, and consistently believe they are seeing another bird.

Unfortunately, I do not presently have any references to any of the above, so I hope I am not misleading you with false recollections.

My own belief is that self awareness is merely (as is all concious thought) an attribute of language; that it simply amounts to being a by-product of tokenizing the world around us, and one of those tokens is one that we apply to self.  We know that Chimpanzees are capable of manipulating abstract tokens (albeit, we cannot be sure if they can do so to the same extent as an adult human, but we know they can certainly do as well as a human child).

If self-awareness is simply a by-product of tokenization, then it follows that it should be possible to make a computer self-aware.
 

another_someone

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #10 on: 27/12/2005 21:46:15 »
quote:
Originally posted by neilep

It's ok...I'm smiling here...I love reading the Doctoebeaver/another_someone threads. They are the Academic Jacks Beanstalk of this site and always make good reading. :)




Should we be insulted by the comparison to a pantomime character?[:o)]
 

another_someone

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #11 on: 27/12/2005 22:17:17 »
quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver
Even a great thinker such as Einstein was hindered by his religious teachings... "I cannot believe God plays dice with the universe".



To which Niels Bohr "Einstein, stop telling God what to do".

More recently, Steven Hawkins is reported to have said: "God not only plays dice. He also sometimes throws the dice where they cannot be seen".

It seems to me that at least some (and in my opinion probably all) of these statements use the notion of God meant either ironically or figuratively rather than literally.

My own view is that Einstein was a Jew, and there is nothing inherent in Judaism that I am aware of that would prevent him from accepting the Copenhagen interpretation.  Yes, in a sense, I believe Einstein was protecting a religious view, but not in the sense of a view derived from his understanding of Judaism, but a view derived from his own interpretation of what science was.  He was brought up with a view that science would always deliver a unique answer to a properly formulated question, and so a bunch of guys who claimed that science could do no more than provide fuzzy answers to a clearly formulated question seemed to him like scientific heresy.  To me, his invocation of God was a figure of speech, not an indication that there was a theological conflict between Judaism and the Copenhagen interpretation.

quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver
 Einstein spent endless hours wrestling with his universal constant because he couldn't believe his own predictions about an expanding universe. I believe it was his religious tendencies which caused that doubt.



I believe this was what Einstein later regarded as his biggest mistake.  The nature of religious faith makes it difficult to accept mistakes, thus leaving me to think it was more an error of judgement rather than an act of faith.  A stable universe was the accepted doctrine of the day, and Einstein simply did not have the self confidence to challenge something that had been so widely accepted by his peers, and that he himself had simply not questioned.
« Last Edit: 28/12/2005 01:48:17 by another_someone »
 

another_someone

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #12 on: 28/12/2005 04:15:54 »
OK, here are some reference sites for the issue of mirror self recognition I spoke of earlier:

http://www.animalbehavioronline.com/senseofself.html
quote:

A fundamental feature of cognition is the ability to separate self from others, or to recognize oneself as an entity, separate from the environment. This issue of the internal nature of self-representation is difficult to get at experimentally, and really one one approach has been used successfully. This approach uses a mirror and markings.
When your dog or cat walks past a mirror, it may respond to the image in the mirror, but the it does not recognize the image as itself. This can lead to a humorous escalation in play or aggression, depending on the predisposition of your animal. If you put a piece of pet clothing on the dog or cat--a collar, a hat, or a sweater--your pet's perception of the image in the mirror does not change. This clearly differentiates self-awareness in dogs or cats from human self-awareness.
But what about other animals? In chimpanzees, perhaps a few other primates, killer whales, and bottlnose dophins, changing the image in the mirror causes the animal to behave in a way that suggests self-recognition. In chimpanzees, marking the chimp with a spot of paint or dye will cause the chimp to, when viewing the image, touch the marked spot. This suggests that the chimp sees the image in the mirror as itself, and that it can recognize the change in itself by exploring that change. Marine mammals, of course, lack appendages for self-exploration, but at least a few marine mammals show behavioral responses to changed mirror images that suggest self-recognition.
Seyfarth and Cheney (2000) argue that monkeys which fail the mirror test (for example, vervets, baboons, or macaques) still have a sense of "social self" defined by their ability to recognize other members of their social group as individuals, to remember the gender and dominance status of those other animals, and to define their place in the social order accordingly.



http://www.pri.kyoto-u.ac.jp/ai/essay/6_mirror.htm

http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/93/14/7405
quote:

The reactions of chimpanzees to regular mirrors and the results of the standard Gallup mark test have been well documented. In addition to using the mark test to demonstrate self-recognition in a regular mirror, we exposed six female chimpanzees to mirrors that produced distorted or multiplied self-images. Their reactions to their self-images, in terms of mirror-guided self-referenced behaviors, indicated that correct assessment of the source of the mirror image was made by each subject in each of the mirrors. Recognition of a distorted self-image implies an ability for abstraction in the subjects in that the distortion must be rationalized before self-recognition occurs. The implications of these results in terms of illuminating the relative importance of feature and contingency of movement cues to self-recognition are discussed.



I have also looked for sites regarding empathy in Chimpanzees, but it seems that that topic is still somewhat controversial, and the most recent studies seem to conclude against it.
 

Offline Andrew K Fletcher

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #13 on: 28/12/2005 09:54:44 »
I can see the moderators removing this thread :)

"The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct."
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Offline realmswalker

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #14 on: 28/12/2005 10:15:01 »
Well what is a "will"? A will is the choices that your brain (and your body acordingly) chose to make. "Free will" would imply that your choices are completely up to you, and that there is no such thing as "destiny". Destiny means that the outcome of every situation is already determined. That would mean that right now you are the destiny of the moments before you (if destiny exists). For destiny to exist, freewill cannot, because if free will existed then there would not be a set outcome.

Certain physical rules govern the universe and all particles inside of it. There is no randomness there. And, given the exact same starting conditions, science has proven (in every controlled expirement) that is simply the outcome of certain chemical reactions, obeying certian pyhsical laws, in your brain.

So , by the same virtue that given the same starting conditions chemical reactions have the same outcome, it would seem that if you rewound time, and caused the same starting conditions, you would make the same descisions, and that the future is determinable. Even if you go back as far as the big bang, and restarted the big bang, the universe would play out exactly the same as it is now, no matter how many times you restarted the big bang, because the big bang came from one, ultra dense, completely homogeneous source. The starting conditions are the same, and thus the outcome (everything) will be the same to.

The only way free will is possible, is if there is a sort of "Randomness" in the universe. According to chaos theory 1 small small small alteration in starting conditions can cause HUGE reprocussions. Im not versed in all the quantum mechanics aspects of randomness in the universe (such as random location, random velocity, etc) so if anyone here knows of such a thing, please tell me.

**Note** a randomness aspect in the universe might allow for destiny to have several outcomes, but it will not nescesarily allow for free will.
« Last Edit: 28/12/2005 10:17:24 by realmswalker »
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #15 on: 28/12/2005 11:21:13 »
I'm aware of Seyfarth's & Cheney's work. They have been involved in animal behaviourism for about 25 years & are among the finest in their field. However, having said that, I do have to disagree with some of their conclusions.
They refer to awareness of social self in monkeys that fail the mirror test; citing their ability to recognise others in the group, their status within the group, etc.. This behaviour extends far beyond primates. Dogs, lions and hyenas, among others, also possess this ability. And so do chickens; whence comes the expression "pecking order". Even ants & bees are "aware" of others of their species that are not members of their colony and will attack them.
I am also not entirely convinced that the mirror test is a valid test of self-awareness. Sufferers of prosopagnosia (face blindness) also fail the mirror test; yet would anyone doubt that they are self-aware? I would argue that, at most, the mirror test indicates self-recognition, which is a very different thing - and even that is not 100% certain.
One must be careful not to anthropomorphise when studying animal behaviour - especially in animals such as chimpanzees, which so-closely resemble humans. In my opinion, Seyfarth & Cheney may be guilty of so-doing at times.
I would also like to add this - although please don't infer that I am using it as empiric evidence of anything. If I find it necessary to tell off 1 of my dogs, the others take no notice. However, I have, on occasions, found it necessary to berate the whole pack (for instance when they all decided to play tag in my lounge - and, believe me, "havoc" is too mild a word to describe 7 English mastiffs and 2 Rhodesian ridgebacks playing tag indoors!) and, most certainly, they all knew they were in trouble. This, to me, would indicate an ability to differentiate between self and pack which, in turn, infers a type of self-awareness.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #16 on: 28/12/2005 11:35:17 »
quote:
When your dog or cat walks past a mirror, it may respond to the image in the mirror, but the it does not recognize the image as itself. This can lead to a humorous escalation in play or aggression, depending on the predisposition of your animal. If you put a piece of pet clothing on the dog or cat--a collar, a hat, or a sweater--your pet's perception of the image in the mirror does not change. This clearly differentiates self-awareness in dogs or cats from human self-awareness.


I'm not entirely sure what this is meant to signify. If you give a dog a picture of a juicy bone, it won't try to eat it.
A dog's most important sense is smell - and to a dog, smell is much more important than it is to a chimp. The image in the mirror doesn't smell "doggy" and that could, in turn, induce confusion in the animal; it sees a dog but doesn't smell a dog. That could produce exactly the type of behaviour indicated above - shall I play with it or attack it?
In any case, all the above indicates is that the animal does not possess self-recognition. It does not prove non-self-awareness.
« Last Edit: 28/12/2005 11:37:50 by DoctorBeaver »
 

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #17 on: 28/12/2005 11:40:42 »
quote:
I have also heard evidence that Chimpanzees have been shown to apply strategies that imply empathy (i.e. an understanding of the perceptions of others as if they were your own perceptions).



Returning to my dogs. 1 of them in particular (now sadly departed) could always tell if I was upset. He'd come over and rest his chin on my knee rather than indulging in play with the others.
 

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #18 on: 28/12/2005 11:46:45 »
Realmswalker - I'm not sure I agree that if another big bang occurred, the outcome would be the same. Maybe that is the case for non-self-replicating structures such as stars, planets etc. But apply chaos theory to evolution and things could have turned out very differently indeed in the animal kingdom. It would only have taken 1 tiny difference in a genetic mutation millions of years ago and maybe human beings would not even have evolved.

I am also not convinced that destiny totally precludes free will. As an example :-  drive from a given address in London to a given address in Bristol. Where you leave from is preset, where you end up is preset. You could even specify the time at which you must arrive. But the route you take is entirely down to your free will. However, the closer you get to your destination, the more constrained your options become. In this instance, although your will is constrained by certain parameters, you are still at liberty to exercise a degree of freedom.
« Last Edit: 28/12/2005 11:56:22 by DoctorBeaver »
 

another_someone

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #19 on: 28/12/2005 12:53:16 »
quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver
They refer to awareness of social self in monkeys that fail the mirror test; citing their ability to recognise others in the group, their status within the group, etc.. This behaviour extends far beyond primates. Dogs, lions and hyenas, among others, also possess this ability. And so do chickens; whence comes the expression "pecking order". Even ants & bees are "aware" of others of their species that are not members of their colony and will attack them.
I am also not entirely convinced that the mirror test is a valid test of self-awareness. Sufferers of prosopagnosia (face blindness) also fail the mirror test; yet would anyone doubt that they are self-aware?



Which seems to say that failure to pass the mirror test would not preclude self awareness, but that is different from saying that passing the mirror test does not demonstrate self awareness.

In the case of chickens, given the inevitable rigidity of the mouth parts of birds, it seems not unreasonable to suggest that facial recognition may not mean much to them, and it may well be that an auditory or olfactory equivalent of the mirror test might be more appropriate to them.

With regard to social insects, the matter is very different.  You suggest that social insects can recognise individuals from other social groups as different to themselves, but this is very different from suggesting that they can recognise other individuals within their own social group as uniquely different to themselves.  The only caveat that might be given is that, since all the members of a colony of social insects share a common genetic code, and act with common purpose, I believe some have suggested that the entire colony should be treated as an individual, rather than treating each animal as an individual.

quote:

 I would argue that, at most, the mirror test indicates self-recognition, which is a very different thing - and even that is not 100% certain.



Whether it demonstrates self-recognition is another matter (I don't know enough about the technical implementation of the experiment to say whether it proves that, or merely leaves that as one of a number of possible interpretations of its results), but I would say that I find it difficult to contemplate recognising something one is not aware of, and thus if it does demonstrate self-recognition, then I think one can infer self-awareness (at least at some level – one may ask if self-awareness can exist at different levels, but that is a further matter).

quote:

One must be careful not to anthropomorphise when studying animal behaviour - especially in animals such as chimpanzees, which so-closely resemble humans. In my opinion, Seyfarth & Cheney may be guilty of so-doing at times.



While this is a valid caution, I would also say one should be careful about going too far in regarding humans as a species apart from other species.  It is natural that we should view humans as different, insofar as our ability to understand humans is different, but one has to be careful to recognise that much of this is a limitation of our ability to see things as non-human animals see them, as it might be of real differences in substance between ourselves and other animals.

I do think there are times humans like to, in my view unreasonably, put themselves on a pedestal above other animals.

quote:

I would also like to add this - although please don't infer that I am using it as empiric evidence of anything. If I find it necessary to tell off 1 of my dogs, the others take no notice. However, I have, on occasions, found it necessary to berate the whole pack (for instance when they all decided to play tag in my lounge - and, believe me, "havoc" is too mild a word to describe 7 English mastiffs and 2 Rhodesian ridgebacks playing tag indoors!) and, most certainly, they all knew they were in trouble. This, to me, would indicate an ability to differentiate between self and pack which, in turn, infers a type of self-awareness.



I would not disagree with your conclusion, but I'm not sure how I can not interpret as empirical evidence – it seems to be just that.
 

another_someone

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #20 on: 28/12/2005 13:05:58 »
quote:
Originally posted by realmswalker

Well what is a "will"? A will is the choices that your brain (and your body acordingly) chose to make. "Free will" would imply that your choices are completely up to you, and that there is no such thing as "destiny". Destiny means that the outcome of every situation is already determined. That would mean that right now you are the destiny of the moments before you (if destiny exists). For destiny to exist, freewill cannot, because if free will existed then there would not be a set outcome.

Certain physical rules govern the universe and all particles inside of it. There is no randomness there. And, given the exact same starting conditions, science has proven (in every controlled expirement) that is simply the outcome of certain chemical reactions, obeying certian pyhsical laws, in your brain.

So , by the same virtue that given the same starting conditions chemical reactions have the same outcome, it would seem that if you rewound time, and caused the same starting conditions, you would make the same descisions, and that the future is determinable. Even if you go back as far as the big bang, and restarted the big bang, the universe would play out exactly the same as it is now, no matter how many times you restarted the big bang, because the big bang came from one, ultra dense, completely homogeneous source. The starting conditions are the same, and thus the outcome (everything) will be the same to.

The only way free will is possible, is if there is a sort of "Randomness" in the universe. According to chaos theory 1 small small small alteration in starting conditions can cause HUGE reprocussions. Im not versed in all the quantum mechanics aspects of randomness in the universe (such as random location, random velocity, etc) so if anyone here knows of such a thing, please tell me.

**Note** a randomness aspect in the universe might allow for destiny to have several outcomes, but it will not nescesarily allow for free will.



This was precisely the point I was making regarding scientific theory denying the possibility of free will.

On the other hand, the caveat is that scientific investigation presumes free will, at least insofar as it presumes an observer that is separate from the system he is observing, and capable of making independent rational judgements about his observations.  If one does not have free will, then how can one be an independent observer, and make independent judgements regarding one's observations?

 

Offline Searcher

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #21 on: 28/12/2005 13:43:41 »
Hi all, this is my first post on this excellent web site and here is something to ponder on.;)

Free will is an illusion.

Time controls the universe and when it came into existence at the big bang all three parts were formed together. Past, Present and Future are all there. We are moving through time at the rate of 1 second every second and leaving the past at the same rate and moving into a future that is already there, so no matter what you do you will land up at the same point. Therefore if the future exists then the answers to all our questions exist, all knowledge is there for the taking. If it’s not then how do we learn new things.
Can anyone doubt, for instance, that a cure for cancer lies in the future, we just have to wait for our passage in time to reach it.  Who knows it could be tomorrow!:)  
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #22 on: 28/12/2005 14:05:13 »
quote:
In the case of chickens, given the inevitable rigidity of the mouth parts of birds, it seems not unreasonable to suggest that facial recognition may not mean much to them, and it may well be that an auditory or olfactory equivalent of the mirror test might be more appropriate to them.


I agree. I was merely trying to show that behavioural characteristics can have more than 1 cause and therefore cannot be taken as proof of 1 thing or another.

 
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Whether it demonstrates self-recognition is another matter (I don't know enough about the technical implementation of the experiment to say whether it proves that, or merely leaves that as one of a number of possible interpretations of its results), but I would say that I find it difficult to contemplate recognising something one is not aware of, and thus if it does demonstrate self-recognition, then I think one can infer self-awareness (at least at some level – one may ask if self-awareness can exist at different levels, but that is a further matter).


I agree, but my point was that failing the test does not mean that self-awareness is not present, which is what Seyfarth & Cheney claim.

 
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While this is a valid caution, I would also say one should be careful about going too far in regarding humans as a species apart from other species. It is natural that we should view humans as different, insofar as our ability to understand humans is different, but one has to be careful to recognise that much of this is a limitation of our ability to see things as non-human animals see them, as it might be of real differences in substance between ourselves and other animals.


Absolutely. We certainly do share behavioural characteristics with other animals. Just take the banal case of a wife picking cotton off of her husband's suit before he leaves for work. That's just grooming.

 
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I would not disagree with your conclusion, but I'm not sure how I can not interpret as empirical evidence – it seems to be just that.


You cannot draw empiric conclusions from just 1 animal. While it is true in Shaman's case, that empathy is far less pronounced in my other dogs. Indeed, in some it appears to be totally absent.



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Offline Andrew K Fletcher

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #23 on: 28/12/2005 14:07:57 »
Hi Searcher, welcome to the nakedscientists haunt

A cure for cancer might be found in omitting things from our daily intake rather than finding a magic bullet.
As time progresses more and more additives in the myriad of products and food manipulations take place adding to the burden imposed on our fragility, further compounding the vast increases in cancer related deaths. we need to have a free will rethink on where we are heading and take control of our lives, instead of being murdered along in the illusion of free will.

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #24 on: 28/12/2005 14:12:24 »
Searcher - welcome to the site. I hope you enjoy your visits.

If time is accepted as merely another dimension, then there is no reason why what you say can't be reality. The other 3 dimensions are, to all intents and purposes, fixed and we can move freely in them.
However, time does seem to differ rather drastically from the other 3 insofar as entropy is concerned. There appears to be a definite "arrow" involved with time that always points to the future.
Also, if time were a dimension that is already fixed, unfettered time-travel would seem to be an inevitability. However, there are some very strong arguments as to why going back in time could not happen.
 

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Re: Does free will exist?
« Reply #24 on: 28/12/2005 14:12:24 »

 

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