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Author Topic: Do humans have free will?  (Read 29820 times)

Andre Wissler

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Do humans have free will?
« on: 15/11/2010 08:30:03 »
Andre Wissler asked the Naked Scientists:
   
Hi Chris,
 
I try and catch you as often as possible on Rudi's show on 702 Talk Radio in Jhb. Great show and love your answers to the questions.
 
I was wondering if you ever touched on the subject of "free will" i.e. do we have "free will" in the actions that we do as human beings or are our actions / day to day activities all governed by our environment or perhaps even "pre-programmed"?
 
I suppose it is a bit of the Nature vs. Nurture argument.
 
If you have a podcast around this topic I would be interested to listen to it, please can you send me the link. Else perhaps you can discuss it this Friday with Rudi.
 
Please let me know.
 
Thanks and kind regards
Andre

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 15/11/2010 08:30:03 by _system »


 

Online Bored chemist

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Do humans have free will?
« Reply #1 on: 15/11/2010 19:17:14 »
We are predestined to think we do.
It depends on the definition of freewill you choose.
 

Offline Don_1

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Do humans have free will?
« Reply #2 on: 16/11/2010 11:25:19 »
Yes, we do have free will, but only within certain constraints can we come to realise it.

As far as nature goes, our free will may be impossible to realise. For example, the will to fly like a bird cannot be realised due to the constraints of nature.

Our free will to chose our own destiny may be contrained by our own abilities or by outside forces. Nurture may not subdue our free will, as can be seen in Burma, China and other totalitarian regimes. But such regimes can, and do, suppress free will.

As for those in the 'free' world, even our free will is suppressed by the constraints of acceptability, economics and whole host of other factors.

So, yes, you can have free will, but acting it out is a different matter altogether.
 

Offline Bill S

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« Reply #3 on: 16/11/2010 19:10:47 »
Interesting how even the scientifically minded can resort to dogmatic statements when the subject is right. 
I doubt that anyone would deny (is that the only 4-letter English word ending in "eny"?) that our free will, if we have it, is subject to constraints, but what about some evidence as to whether or not we actually have it; or should this thread be in something other than science?  :P
 

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« Reply #4 on: 16/11/2010 19:36:34 »
" Since I don't have a clue about the original question I will answer this one instead.
(is that the only 4-letter English word ending in "eny"?)
I will choose randomly from a number of alternatives.
Eeny, meeny, miney, mo....
 

SteveFish

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Do humans have free will?
« Reply #5 on: 17/11/2010 01:29:01 »
Do humans have free will? If you ask the strongest advocate of free will to define what he/she is talking about it is easy to explain their example as deterministic. So, the answer to the question is yes, but free will is determined, and free will versus determinism is not a dichotomy. This is one of those questions that is fun to argue about, but has little effect on daily life. If you don't agree, please define free will.
 

Offline Bill S

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« Reply #6 on: 17/11/2010 12:41:30 »
Quote from: B C
Eeny, meeny, miney, mo....
Some of your 4-letter words betray a sad disregard for basic arithmetic.
Back off - this could get very silly. ::)
 

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« Reply #7 on: 17/11/2010 19:04:07 »
Work is a four letter word.
The important point is that "eeny" is too, and so demonstrates the falsehood of the hypothesis.
If you look closely, you will see that most of the words in my  post don't have 4 letters.

Do you know the nursery rhyme that starts "Eeny, meeny, miney, mo"?
 

Offline Pikaia

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« Reply #8 on: 21/11/2010 19:42:22 »
It seems like a meaningless question to me. Suppose you had two identical Earths, but on one people had free will, on the other they didn't. What differences would you expect to see?
 

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« Reply #9 on: 21/11/2010 21:05:35 »
On one earth when you asked people if they had free will they would say they did and they would be right.
On the other earth they would still say they had free will, but they would be wrong.
I'm not sure how you could tell which was which.

I think you have essentially nailed this debate.
Well done!
 

Offline Bill S

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« Reply #10 on: 30/11/2010 00:34:04 »
Quote
Do you know the nursery rhyme that starts "Eeny, meeny, miney, mo"?

Yes, and it is as dubious politically as your reasoning seems to be, logically. ;D
 

Offline Bill S

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« Reply #11 on: 30/11/2010 00:37:58 »
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On the other earth they would still say they had free will, but they would be wrong.

Unless, of course, they knew they did not have free will, in which case they might say no.
 

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« Reply #12 on: 30/11/2010 11:42:30 »
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On the other earth they would still say they had free will, but they would be wrong.

Unless, of course, they knew they did not have free will, in which case they might say no.
Then they wouldn't be people.
 

Offline CliffordK

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« Reply #13 on: 03/12/2010 04:19:40 »
There is always a balance between "Nature", "Nurture", and "Free Will".

There are certainly aspects of a personality that are genetic, or a genetic predisposition.  They are hard to explain, but at least there is growing evidence for  genetic aspects such as addictive behavior. 

Likewise, if you think of Autistic Spectrum, at some levels it leads to very dysfunctional people.  At other levels it can lead to some extremely bright scientists, and musicians.  I'm convinced that it is more than a "disorder", but many scientists and engineers have a "scientific mind".

Many parents would love to have no "free will", and everything based on "Nurture"...  if their children would only do what they were TOLD!!!!  But, at the same time, one certainly doesn't want puppets. 

A lot can be learned though.  Some things not entirely intentional.  For example my mother makes her dog sit in the back seat of the car.  He gets a treat if he sits back on his own seat...  so what did he learn?  Well, the first thing when he gets into the car is to get his two front feet up onto the center console...  so Mom will command him "back"...  and then he gets his treat.

In the end, there may be some desires and compulsions.  We may learn to control some, and not others, and perhaps even develop more that we've learned.

But...  we don't just puppet back what is in our genes, or what someone has taught us, but we add a little something unique to each of us, and unique to each situation.  And this is our "Free Will".
 

Offline CPT ArkAngel

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« Reply #14 on: 03/12/2010 04:48:23 »
If you agree with the Theory of conservation of the information that says that all information of our material Universe cannot be lost in any way, Free Will would imply that we generate new information all the time... If we are generator of information, does it mean that our consciousness is not only in the material Universe but in other dimensions that are interacting with the material Universe? New information has to come from somewhere else... The material Universe could be perfected eternally by being modified by our free will and consciousness...
« Last Edit: 03/12/2010 05:08:30 by CPT ArkAngel »
 

Offline Geezer

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« Reply #15 on: 03/12/2010 05:30:25 »
If you agree with the Law of Conservation of Information, you will probably also agree with the "theory" of Intelligent Design and disagree with the Theory of Evolution.
 

Offline CPT ArkAngel

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« Reply #16 on: 03/12/2010 06:34:07 »
The Theory of evolution may be true but the creation of evolution would be caused by the interactions of consciousness through the material world... Both Theory could be true... Everybody would be happy... [:o)]
 

Offline CPT ArkAngel

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« Reply #17 on: 04/12/2010 17:11:36 »
When you choose to have a baby with your girlfriend or boyfriend, you make a decision that will change evolution. I have no doubt about the Theory of Evolution. It is not complete but there is enough science to prove it...
 

Offline tbarron

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« Reply #18 on: 04/12/2010 19:35:14 »
Quote
On the other earth they would still say they had free will, but they would be wrong.

Unless, of course, they knew they did not have free will, in which case they might say no.
Then they wouldn't be people.
My guess is that on both planets, the majority of the respondents would say "Yes" while a minority would say "No". On Planet Free Will, the majority would be right and the minority wrong. On Planet Determinism, the majority would be wrong and the (smart) minority would be right. You still wouldn't be able to tell which planet is which.

(Reality held a gun to my head while I wrote this post. I had no choice.)
 

Offline yor_on

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« Reply #19 on: 06/12/2010 17:19:24 »
Of course we all have a will, but if it's a free one? As so many pointed out here it's constricted by circumstances, and when taken to its limit pointless. What would you call being give a choice of how to die, it's 'free will' but for a healthy, reasonably happy human, not a especially engaging spectrum of choices.

But as a theory I would say, sure we all have a 'free will'. We even surprise ourselves with it sometimes :)
 

Offline Bill S

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« Reply #20 on: 07/12/2010 21:34:57 »
Quote from: ArkAngel
Free Will would imply that we generate new information all the time...

The information we generate may be new to us, but can we be sure it is new to the Universe.  Might we not just be recycling information?
 

Offline CliffordK

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« Reply #21 on: 08/12/2010 01:50:04 »
Quote from: ArkAngel
Free Will would imply that we generate new information all the time...

The information we generate may be new to us, but can we be sure it is new to the Universe.  Might we not just be recycling information?
I would have to say that we are taking old information and combining it in new ways...  and thus creating new information, or successive generations of new information.

Modern computers wouldn't exist without the Eniac, and the Apple II and the TRS-80's and the Commodore PETS, and CPM.

But, had all the information to build today's microcomputers existed in the 1940's...  wouldn't people have just stared with a 2010 laptop rather than the Eniac?

Certainly humanity has forgotten many things.  We're still trying to figure out whether the Ancient Egyptians had access to technology that has been forgotten for thousands of years.  But, if we discover the secrets behind an ancient Druid anti-gravity device...  it still might be a "new" discovery.
 

Offline CPT ArkAngel

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« Reply #22 on: 08/12/2010 03:50:05 »
The way i see it, no, unless we have no free will. Free will imply that we are a source of information that violates the Entropy Principle and the Information Principle. For Life, it seems to be the case regarding the Entropy Principle. If your will depend entirely on information of the material universe, it is not free. It may be the case, but i hope not because we would be like puppets in a strange freak show...

What about the Information Principle if the universe is infinite?
« Last Edit: 08/12/2010 03:55:27 by CPT ArkAngel »
 

Offline Ellingtonlong

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Do humans have free will?
« Reply #23 on: 11/12/2010 06:40:18 »
Yes is the simple answer it does. However, I like the fact that it does. We do have free will, but what the whole Hell and Heaven thing is to teach us that in the long run, if you do something bad to someone, something will be bad to you. Basically it's the same as karma.

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« Last Edit: 11/12/2010 07:01:24 by Geezer »
 

Offline Bill S

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« Reply #24 on: 11/12/2010 14:40:17 »
Quote from: ArkAngel
What about the Information Principle if the universe is infinite?

An infinite cosmos does, at first glance seem to militate against free will, but this may not be the case if free will is relative. 
Here is an extract from some notes I made while I was trying to sort out my ideas about infinity.

Consider the following possibility.  The cosmos is infinite; therefore every part of the cosmos is the cosmos.  Everything, including our apparently finite Universe, is infinite.  The birth of the Universe and perhaps its ultimate death exist together in infinity, along with all the things that “happen” between those two points.  It is all there, in eternity, in an all-embracing now.  We perceive spatial differences, and the passage of time, because our minds need to make sense of the partial image to which we are restricted.  This sounds like a recipe for predestination, but I am not suggesting that we should abdicate all responsibility for our actions; far from it.  In eternity, things are as they are, permanently.  However, we cannot entirely rule out the possibility that they are as they are, to some extent, because of the choices we seem to be making now.

I think that what I was trying to get at here is that we have free will within our frame of reference, and, in this instance, that F of R is our Universe.
 

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