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Author Topic: Proof for the absence of free will in humans  (Read 9952 times)

Offline siochi

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Proof for the absence of free will in humans
« on: 27/01/2011 14:37:20 »
I am working on my psychology project for the google science fair, and one of the shortcomings of my project was that it was based on a very controversial topic of "free will in humans"

Here's my effort to prove that the free will doesn't exist in humans.


Firstly, I would like to state one of the essential laws of the universe- The law of Causality. According to the law of causality, every effect has a cause and every cause has an effect.

It is impossible for a cause to appear in the universe without an effect, and it is equally impossible for an effect to appear in the universe without a cause.

Let's come back to the topic of free will.

Every cause(external stimulation) leads to some effect (thoughts and actions). The effect cannot take place without the cause. Thus, it is impossible for the thoughts and actions to exist independently.

If the effect (thought) exists without the cause(action), then the essential law of the universe would be broken.

If the effect (thought) precedes the cause(action), then the essential law of the universe would be broken.


was it satisfactory?


 

Offline imatfaal

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« Reply #1 on: 27/01/2011 16:58:52 »
Taking your axiom of cause and effect to be true; why must every cause be an external action?  Could we not postulate that random chemical interactions in the brain can act as an impetus?  Are there patterns of brain activity that in combination create other set of patterns?  I suppose these could be classified as external stimulation - but that then muddies the nice internal/external dichotomy you want to build.  How far back are you willing to regress to prove that the cause was external?  This is very interesting philosophy and logic that you are writing about - but for a science fair, you have to be able to make verifiable empirical predictions.  What you are writing is a superb essay on cognition, philosophy, and logic - it's not at the moment something I can see being realisable in a experimental situation. 

There is a long discussion of free will on the general science board - it always comes down to definitions and line-drawing.  It would be very hard to initiate a true scientific investigation on a philosophical premise such as there is no such thing as free will. 
 

Offline siochi

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« Reply #2 on: 27/01/2011 17:20:02 »
Taking your axiom of cause and effect to be true; why must every cause be an external action?  Could we not postulate that random chemical interactions in the brain can act as an impetus?  Are there patterns of brain activity that in combination create other set of patterns?  I suppose these could be classified as external stimulation - but that then muddies the nice internal/external dichotomy you want to build.  How far back are you willing to regress to prove that the cause was external?  This is very interesting philosophy and logic that you are writing about - but for a science fair, you have to be able to make verifiable empirical predictions.  What you are writing is a superb essay on cognition, philosophy, and logic - it's not at the moment something I can see being realisable in a experimental situation. 

There is a long discussion of free will on the general science board - it always comes down to definitions and line-drawing.  It would be very hard to initiate a true scientific investigation on a philosophical premise such as there is no such thing as free will. 


Thank you for the comment.

 

Offline CliffordK

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Proof for the absence of free will in humans
« Reply #3 on: 27/01/2011 18:53:15 »
Siochi,

Many of your questions are more philosophy and theology than psychology.

You won't be able to come up with a testable hypothesis to prove or disprove free will, or a soul, or similar conclusions.

You can point to Pavlov and Skinner and Classical Conditioning.  But, a person is much more than a set of conditioned responses. 

You can look at it many ways.  People build upon what they've inherited, plus what they've learned. But, they expand beyond those to create something new and unique.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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« Reply #4 on: 28/01/2011 06:52:17 »
This assertion
" every effect has a cause "
is at odds with the statistical nature of quantum mechanics
 

Offline siochi

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Proof for the absence of free will in humans
« Reply #5 on: 28/01/2011 11:03:14 »
This assertion
" every effect has a cause "
is at odds with the statistical nature of quantum mechanics


We cannot correctly assume without any evidence that the brain can operate on quantum levels, or effect activities on quantum level.
 

Offline imatfaal

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« Reply #6 on: 28/01/2011 12:14:40 »
Siochi - the brain works by build up of charged chemicals (ok massively simplified) and these processes can be approximated using classical models (sometimes very accurately) but the individual reactions interactions cannot be removed from the quantum mechanical nature of all interactions.

The last podcast (which I hope you listened to) had a description of a paper that has just been published by professional researchers in this area (perception of passing time) - whilst it is very interesting, you will also note the smallness of scale and focussed ambition.  The more exact and tight your applied energies the more likely you can show something useful - and the fewer potentially dangerous assumptions you have to make.  Perhaps once a generation an idea comes along that revolutionizes its field - but most gains are tiny and incremental.

 
 

Offline JP

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« Reply #7 on: 28/01/2011 15:38:39 »
This assertion
" every effect has a cause "
is at odds with the statistical nature of quantum mechanics


We cannot correctly assume without any evidence that the brain can operate on quantum levels, or effect activities on quantum level.


Fortunately, quantum mechanics has plenty of evidence!

But BC's statement needs to be interpreted in light of quantum theory.  Even in QM, outcomes have causes.  It's just that a single cause could give rise to several outcomes simultaneously, and which one actually happens when you look at it is a matter of probability.  It is fair to say that even in QM if you have causes acting on your brain, you should be able in principle to fully determine the state of your brain as a result.   This state might consist of billions of possibilities, though, whose probabilities are fully determined by quantum mechanics. 

I don't think this tells us anything about free will, however, since we don't know how to scientifically define it.
 

Offline CliffordK

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« Reply #8 on: 28/01/2011 19:44:03 »
Your brain neurons would essentially be a probabilistic model.

Say a neuron has 1000 connections to its dendrites, but requires activation of about 100 to fire.  So, there would be a chance it would fire with 99, and not fire with 101 synapses.  Or, perhaps the synapses would not all come in simultaneously, so a slight delay might allow the neuron to recover before integrating all the inputs, and likewise not meet the threshold.

Can an "accident" truly occur?  For example, what might be called "getting your wires crossed" and turning on the wrong stove burner?

In fact, there is a field of psychology called "Human Factors" which deals with this type of accidents and the prevention. 

With the stove, it wouldn't necessarily be "free will, or lack thereof" that caused you to turn on the wrong burner.  After all, you did truly want your food heated up.

What about opening your car's hood when you meant to release the emergency brake?  Again a Human Factors nightmare.

If you can conclude that an "accident" can happen, then you must conclude that the system is not 100% deterministic.  Likewise, with the 100 billion neurons in the brain, and a thousand or so connections per neuron, ion balances, ion channels, synaptic junction gaps, etc.  The brain's state is not 100% deterministic.

Thus you have that random element that could lead to free will.
 

Offline siochi

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« Reply #9 on: 29/01/2011 04:16:31 »
Your brain neurons would essentially be a probabilistic model.

Say a neuron has 1000 connections to its dendrites, but requires activation of about 100 to fire.  So, there would be a chance it would fire with 99, and not fire with 101 synapses.  Or, perhaps the synapses would not all come in simultaneously, so a slight delay might allow the neuron to recover before integrating all the inputs, and likewise not meet the threshold.

Can an "accident" truly occur?  For example, what might be called "getting your wires crossed" and turning on the wrong stove burner?

In fact, there is a field of psychology called "Human Factors" which deals with this type of accidents and the prevention. 

With the stove, it wouldn't necessarily be "free will, or lack thereof" that caused you to turn on the wrong burner.  After all, you did truly want your food heated up.

What about opening your car's hood when you meant to release the emergency brake?  Again a Human Factors nightmare.

If you can conclude that an "accident" can happen, then you must conclude that the system is not 100% deterministic.  Likewise, with the 100 billion neurons in the brain, and a thousand or so connections per neuron, ion balances, ion channels, synaptic junction gaps, etc.  The brain's state is not 100% deterministic.

Thus you have that random element that could lead to free will.


Firstly, if accidents do take place, then it does  not in any sense proves that free will exists. Accidents, as we all know, are uncontrolled activities or events, and there existence in no way proves the existence of free will.

Secondly, all accidents have a cause. The law of causality works pretty fine in the larger dimension (I am not sure about the smaller dimensions).
 

Offline Geezer

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« Reply #10 on: 29/01/2011 07:51:20 »
Siochi,

If you have no free will, why don't you just crawl into a hole and wait for the inevitable? Obviously, anything you do is utterly futile.

There's really no point in fighting it.
 

Offline siochi

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« Reply #11 on: 29/01/2011 09:41:18 »
haha.. as i said, I have no free will. External circumstances control me, and if such circumstances arise then and only then would i crawn into a hole, and wait for the inevitable. As for now, I am destined to fight and do what I find pleasurable.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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« Reply #12 on: 29/01/2011 13:41:05 »
This assertion
" every effect has a cause "
is at odds with the statistical nature of quantum mechanics


We cannot correctly assume without any evidence that the brain can operate on quantum levels, or effect activities on quantum level.

Nobody did.
I was just pointing out that one of your assumptions is wrong.

"Even in QM, outcomes have causes. "

OK, I just watched an atom of uranium decay. What caused it to do that at the particular moment I saw it?

 

Offline siochi

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Proof for the absence of free will in humans
« Reply #13 on: 29/01/2011 15:58:53 »
This assertion
" every effect has a cause "
is at odds with the statistical nature of quantum mechanics


We cannot correctly assume without any evidence that the brain can operate on quantum levels, or effect activities on quantum level.

Nobody did.
I was just pointing out that one of your assumptions is wrong.

"Even in QM, outcomes have causes. "

OK, I just watched an atom of uranium decay. What caused it to do that at the particular moment I saw it?



The physical laws of the universe, of course !
 

Offline Bored chemist

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« Reply #14 on: 29/01/2011 17:17:14 »
That is just restating the problem unless you can tell me what those laws are.
 

Offline siochi

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« Reply #15 on: 29/01/2011 17:45:38 »
If we compare the universe to a mathematical model, then the laws of the universe are the +,-,etc operations.
« Last Edit: 29/01/2011 17:47:13 by siochi »
 

Offline Bored chemist

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« Reply #16 on: 30/01/2011 14:42:16 »
You still are not answering the question.
What caused that atom to decay?
 

Offline siochi

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« Reply #17 on: 30/01/2011 17:07:42 »
what kind of an answer are you expecting?
 

Offline Bored chemist

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« Reply #18 on: 30/01/2011 19:23:48 »
You could say that plants grow because it's "one of the laws of plant life" but, at a deeper level, it's due to complicated biochemistry and such.
Saying that atoms decay because it's one of the laws of physics is a bit shallow.
What is the underlying cause (and how can you be certain that it exists)?
 

Offline Geezer

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« Reply #19 on: 30/01/2011 21:17:39 »
What is the underlying cause (and how can you be certain that it exists)?


.....and, if you can figure out how to anticipate when the next atomic decay event will happen, I'll buy you a ticket to Las Vegas because we are going to make a bundle  :)
 

Offline CPT ArkAngel

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« Reply #20 on: 31/01/2011 02:02:32 »
Material world seem to follow basic logical laws. What would be the logical goal of all this if everything is deterministic including all living things?
 

Offline Bored chemist

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« Reply #21 on: 31/01/2011 06:55:53 »
Why should there be a "goal"?
Who set it?
 

Offline CPT ArkAngel

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« Reply #22 on: 01/02/2011 06:01:41 »
It is a pure speculation but physics laws seem to follow the logical goal of evolution and adaptation. The Universe seems to be made for evolution... Unfortunately, we need problems to evolve... [B)]
 

Offline CliffordK

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« Reply #23 on: 01/02/2011 14:06:54 »
I suppose you could say that the current state of your body and brain will determine how you perceive and respond to an event or stimulus. 

So, in a sense, you are predisposed to a reaction based on your brain's state.

However, there are enough "random" things that happen that it would be impossible to determine everything that would lead from birth to the current state.  Presumably some randomness in the formation of synapses.

And, even if you can predict everything else...  spontaneously some of your Carbon atoms will change into Nitrogen atoms.  Which ones, and when, you can not pre-determine.  And then what happens next depends on what that molecule was part of (as well as what happens to the ejected proton).

Once you've added the "random" events.  Then the state is no longer predictable. 
 

Offline keith sheraw

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« Reply #24 on: 03/02/2011 05:05:48 »
yes fantastic i thought of this awhile back and was wondering if anyone eles had i thought of it a little different i came up with it when thinking about of the begining of mass and energy. and my thought was that if all the data from the begining was collected then every thing could be predicted
 

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