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Hi, just wanted to ask, are you forum users theistic, meaning you believe there is a god of some sort? Or agnostic, meaning you or perhaps your dad once believed, but you think you now are unsure? Or are you atheistic, meaning you never believed in a god?

Theistic
5 (23.8%)
Agonstic
2 (9.5%)
Atheistic
14 (66.7%)
Prognostic
0 (0%)

Total Members Voted: 20

Author Topic: Theist, Agnostic or Atheist?  (Read 16224 times)

Offline David Cooper

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Re: Theist, Agnostic or Atheist?
« Reply #50 on: 01/02/2012 19:44:58 »
We make decisions about everything we do based on one rule: we always try to do the best thing.

Really? Where is your data to support that comment?

It is all that people ever do (unless they can find a way to do random). People don't like or dislike things out of free will - their likes and dislikes are out of their control and drive their behaviour (and that forces them conform with the rule which I stated - don't make the mistake of thinking the rule is the driver, because it's really more of a consequence).

It isn't free will that makes me refuse to eat tomatoes - the slightest taste of tomato makes me feel sick, no matter how much I'd like to be able to eat them. The same applies to jam.

I listen to music from groups like Inti Illimani, Rumillajta and K'Jarkas because I happen to like it, but I didn't choose to like it. I avoid most pop music because I hate it, but again it was never my choice to hate it - life would be much easier if I didn't hate it and I'd have a much wider choice of music to listen to. I used to like classical music, but I went off it after being pushed into study it at school - a mentally-ill music teacher created such a bad atmosphere in her room (the most dismal room in the school - no wonder she was depressed) that I now associate classical music with that atmosphere and can't stand it any more. None of that was my choice.

If you offer me a little cake off a plate with two cakes on it of different sizes and I know that you're intending to eat the one I leave behind, I will take the inferior one because I don't want to appear greedy and because I value your friendship.

If I have a choice to make about where to go on holiday and narrow things down to just two options, one of which looks as if it's both less expensive and more fun, should I try to demonstrate that I have free will by choosing the more expensive holiday? No - I always do the best thing for me. I may choose the more expensive holiday and lesser amount of fun if the cheaper one is environmentally destructive or rips off the poor locals in some way, but that's because I would not feel happy about being selfish and doing wrong.

So, if you believe in free will or disagree with my rule for some other reason, it's your job to provide a counterexample. The data that supports my comment is everything that people do (other than making purely random decisions). You would be able to blow that out of the water with a single counterexample, but you won't be able to find one - no one ever has.
 

Offline Titanscape

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Re: Theist, Agnostic or Atheist?
« Reply #51 on: 03/02/2012 06:11:50 »
I think of the transition from parent arranged marriages for wealth to marrying for love.

I find I choose good, but have weaknesses and inner conflicts.
 

Offline Gordian Knot

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Re: Theist, Agnostic or Atheist?
« Reply #52 on: 03/02/2012 17:51:41 »
David, I do believe that free will is largely an illusion. The part I was questioning was that we always try to do the best thing.

You made a significant change in your rule in the second post. In the first you said "We always try to do the best thing". In the second you said ".....I always do the best thing for me."

I think the latter statement is much more accurate one.

On another tangent to this discussion, it concerns me to take this philosophical concept of a lack of free will too far. Likes and dislikes are not completely out of our control. We can make choices on an individual basis, even if the big picture is that free will is largely an illusion.

After all, if we really had no free will at all, then it would be wrong to hold people accountable who, say, murder another person. How can we fault them if they had no choice in the matter.
 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: Theist, Agnostic or Atheist?
« Reply #53 on: 03/02/2012 20:41:22 »
I think of the transition from parent arranged marriages for wealth to marrying for love.

Which is driven by people's experiences of being forced to marry the wrong person - they don't want the same for their own children. If it was down to free will, why would there be a drive for change in any specific direction?

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I find I choose good, but have weaknesses and inner conflicts.

That's because you're often having to go against some of the things that are trying to drive you in different directions - you have to make a choice, and you always go for the one you reckon is most likely to be the best or least worst option.
 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: Theist, Agnostic or Atheist?
« Reply #54 on: 03/02/2012 21:03:17 »
David, I do believe that free will is largely an illusion. The part I was questioning was that we always try to do the best thing.

I would put "entirely" in front of the "an".

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You made a significant change in your rule in the second post. In the first you said "We always try to do the best thing". In the second you said ".....I always do the best thing for me."

Well, I'm not entirely sure which wording is best, and it isn't hugely important as the rule itself is derived from something more precise relating to actual drives. My earlier wording was influenced by the idea of altruism and covers situations where a parent might die to save their child, though that parent would be so upset if the child died instead that the rest of their life could be hellish. In a situation where someone is driven to leap into the icy sea to try to rescue a stranger and it is likely they will die in the attempt, they probably would be better off not doing it as it's less likely to haunt them for the rest of their life, but they make a rapid decision based on the way their brain's been set up to respond to events.

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On another tangent to this discussion, it concerns me to take this philosophical concept of a lack of free will too far. Likes and dislikes are not completely out of our control. We can make choices on an individual basis, even if the big picture is that free will is largely an illusion.

So are you saying I could make myself like tomatoes? I have wondered if I might be able to do that just by forcing myself to eat little bits of them, but why would I bother when it's easier not to? They're a very healthy kind of food, so maybe there would be something to gain from it - that could drive me to try it, but again it isn't free will because it's just a matter of competing drives fighting it out for supremacy.

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After all, if we really had no free will at all, then it would be wrong to hold people accountable who, say, murder another person. How can we fault them if they had no choice in the matter.

It's a matter of pragmatics. No one is to blame for anything they do, but some people are dangerous and need to be kept apart from society for the protection of others. The risk of punishment is also a driver which helps control people's behaviour, so there is plenty of justification for holding people to account. I used to hate a lot of people that I considered to be really nasty, but I don't hate anyone any more and I no longer see them as nasty - I just see them as being unfortunate in the way their brains are constructed or the way they've been programmed, and I feel sorry for them if they can't get away from being what they are. They can't help it.
 

Offline Titanscape

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Re: Theist, Agnostic or Atheist?
« Reply #55 on: 05/02/2012 09:28:50 »
We have choices. Good or evil... careers. It can be predictable but sometimes we don't even know ourselves. We have a choice. Yet no one does only good, we are bound, but depending on how much we want it, we can resist, strongly and wisely.

Computers and robots do not have free will.
 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: Theist, Agnostic or Atheist?
« Reply #56 on: 06/02/2012 00:07:22 »
Computers and robots have choices too. Some of those choices will in the future be between good and evil, and hopefully they'll all be programmed in such a way that they can only do the former. They certainly won't be driven by selfishness as they have no self to favour. People do, and that is what leads to many of them doing bad things - they're doing what they think is the best thing for themselves and it doesn't bother them if other people get hurt. Other people have more difficulty doing wrong because they feel unhappy if they hurt others, and that's why it isn't to their credit that they are good - being bad or even just the idea of it feels unpleasant to them. Those who do evil probably assume that everyone else is like them and that the way to get your fair share of the good things in life is just to grab everything you can get and never mind how you do it because it'll all balance out. When it comes to a career, you will either go for something that you want to do because you like it (or dislike it less than the alternatives), or because it's well paid. It's all down to simple calculations as to what is the best for you - no room for free will.
 

Offline Gordian Knot

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Re: Theist, Agnostic or Atheist?
« Reply #57 on: 06/02/2012 03:43:36 »
David a question. If someone has a rough day and is in a crappy mood, does that person have to remain in that bad mood because of the events in that day, or can they choose to not be in a bad mood despite the bad events of that day.
 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: Theist, Agnostic or Atheist?
« Reply #58 on: 06/02/2012 23:25:33 »
Does anyone choose to be in a bad mood? Bad moods evolved to train you to avoid things that aren't good for you - they motivate you to try doing something else. If you're stuck in a situation where you have to put up with a less than ideal life for extended periods and have no way out, you're probably going to be stuck with the bad mood. But you do want to get out of a bad mood because it isn't pleasant, and there are some tricks that can be used, such as alcohol. You appear to be suggesting that you can use free will to escape from the bad mood by simply deciding not to be in a bad mood, but if you have the ability to get out of a bad mood that easily, it isn't a demonstration of free will - the bad mood drives you to try to get out of the bad mood, so if there is such an easy way for you to get out of it, clearly you will take it. For most people there is no such easy route - the bad mood persists unless they do something substantial to distract their thoughts away from its cause.
 

Offline Gordian Knot

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Re: Theist, Agnostic or Atheist?
« Reply #59 on: 07/02/2012 00:41:51 »
You appear to be suggesting that you can use free will to escape from the bad mood by simply deciding not to be in a bad mood....

I'm not suggesting it. I am stating it. One can choose to not be in a bad mood simply by deciding it.
 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: Theist, Agnostic or Atheist?
« Reply #60 on: 07/02/2012 21:31:18 »
Well, if you can get rid of a bad mood that easily, that's great, but what's it got to do with free will? If you don't like being in a bad mood and you have an easy way to get out of it, you'll be driven to take that route. Of you like being in a bad mood, you'll be driven to stay in it, but you might decide to get out of it because you realise you're not showing your most attractive side to the people around you, so again you're driven to lighten your mood. So, ask yourself what your motive is for deciding to switch out of your bad mood, then come back and explain how that demonstrates your free will.
 

Offline Gordian Knot

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Re: Theist, Agnostic or Atheist?
« Reply #61 on: 08/02/2012 03:49:55 »
So, ask yourself what your motive is for deciding to switch out of your bad mood, then come back and explain how that demonstrates your free will.

My choice to change my mood despite my situation is not an example of free will? My motive is obvious. Despite a bad situation, I do not want to be in a bad mood over it. Why have a bad moment ruin an entire day? So now I have explained my motive and shown a demonstration of free will. By making a choice.

Our motives help us define our choices. Being capable of making choices are examples of free will in action. You seem to be suggesting that no matter what choice we make, it's the only choice we could make and therefor it isn't free will.

Choices are not set in stone; not predefined, not predestined. Pick a situation, and one has multiple options on how to react to that situation.

If one is capable of picking from a range of  options, that means one is choosing, being capable of choosing is a demonstration of free will.
 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: Theist, Agnostic or Atheist?
« Reply #62 on: 08/02/2012 20:24:34 »
So, ask yourself what your motive is for deciding to switch out of your bad mood, then come back and explain how that demonstrates your free will.

My choice to change my mood despite my situation is not an example of free will? My motive is obvious. Despite a bad situation, I do not want to be in a bad mood over it. Why have a bad moment ruin an entire day? So now I have explained my motive and shown a demonstration of free will. By making a choice.

What you've done is identify what drives you to make your decision to get out of your bad mood - it would ruin an entire day if you didn't. So, in what way does it make sense to say that this demonstrates your free will when the decision has been made for you by this drive? You might, of course decide to stay in the bad mood in an attempt to show that you have free will, but then all you'd be doing is responding to a drive to back up your belief in free will.

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Our motives help us define our choices. Being capable of making choices are examples of free will in action. You seem to be suggesting that no matter what choice we make, it's the only choice we could make and therefore it isn't free will.

Our motives compete against each other and our decisions are then made according to the stronger total weight of desire to do one thing rather than the alternatives - the only times we go against that are when an error occurs somewhere (usually due to rushing a decision and not measuring the weights properly) and we find ourselves doing something we really shouldn't have chosen to do.

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Choices are not set in stone; not predefined, not predestined. Pick a situation, and one has multiple options on how to react to that situation.

One has multiple options, but one always goes for the one which appears to be the best one. Often it may not be the best one, but you can't be bothered thinking it through and just go for the first one that looks as if it will do - in such a case the drive that wins out may be tiredness or laziness, so it is the best option on that front and you've made the judgement that that's the most important consideration.

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If one is capable of picking from a range of  options, that means one is choosing, being capable of choosing is a demonstration of free will.

Computers can pick from a range of options, but there's no free will about it. A multitasking operating system, for example, may have hundreds of threads waiting in a queue to be run, so it has to work out which to run first. It will look to see if they are high or low priority, and may go for the first high priority thread in the queue. Now, you could say it doesn't have a real choice because it has no option other than to run the first high priority thread in the queue, but you're just the same when you're working out which task you should carry out first - the highest priority one is the one that you should do first. The rules you operate by are more complex though, so if it's a task you dislike you may put it off and do something of low priority instead, but there you're just being driven to avoid starting on a task by your dislike of it. Ultimately you have no more choice than a computer - a computer could be given rules written for it which make it put off doing the high priority tasks too. The big difference is that the machine wouldn't actually like or dislike anything whereas you do, but that would make no difference to the way decisions are forced by the setup of the system.

Edit: the free will discussion now jumps into its own thread:-

http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=43037.0
« Last Edit: 10/02/2012 18:11:53 by David Cooper »
 

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Re: Theist, Agnostic or Atheist?
« Reply #62 on: 08/02/2012 20:24:34 »

 

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