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  #1  
Old 07-02-2011, 12:17 AM
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Default Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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Old 07-02-2011, 03:14 AM
JonIrenicus JonIrenicus is offline
 
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Default degrees of freedom...

reminds me of chaos, really complex, maybe so complex that we cannot ever determine how x input will ultimately effect y output, and yet, does anyone doubt that this output is deterministic?

the mechanism may be too complicated for most exaggerated primates to understand, but it's still a cause and effect model, whether human beings are able to decipher those mechanisms or not.
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Old 07-02-2011, 08:26 AM
testostyrannical testostyrannical is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

Causality is an epistemological phenomenon popularly confused for an ontological one. We do not understand how complex 'causal' (say physical) systems scale up (when we say 'complex,' we mean 'too much shit happening a once for us to keep track of everything), more or less by definition. Because we lack the tools to follow every variable operating in something even as simple as a paramecium, we can have no empirical basis for claiming that fully deterministic physical systems exclude the possibility of something like Horgan's degrees of freedom. Our tendency to assume determinism and free will are incompatible is an artifact of theology, not science.
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Old 07-02-2011, 08:34 AM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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Originally Posted by testostyrannical View Post
Causality is an epistemological phenomenon popularly confused for an ontological one. We do not understand how complex 'causal' (say physical) systems scale up (when we say 'complex,' we mean 'too much shit happening a once for us to keep track of everything), more or less by definition. Because we lack the tools to follow every variable operating in something even as simple as a paramecium, we can have no empirical basis for claiming that fully deterministic physical systems exclude the possibility of something like Horgan's degrees of freedom. Our tendency to assume determinism and free will are incompatible is an artifact of theology, not science.
I haven't listened to this diavlog yet, but your comment seems right on target. The duality between determinism and free will comes from a narrow definition of both that makes them mutually exclusive. However, there are ways of making both concepts compatible. Eeeeeeeli started a thread on the topic a couple of months ago.

I'd better go listen to the diavlog now.
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Old 07-02-2011, 10:31 AM
Ken Davis Ken Davis is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

Here's Mike Gazzaniga, director of the Law and Neuroscience Project, giving a Gifford Lecture on free will, in which he discusses the idea that conscious states are emergent from physical states, but can influence subsequent physical states and thus subsequent conscious states. The catch is that conscious states are emergent not only from physical states, but also from social conditions. This process is not well understood, but the idea of top-down causation of this sort seems to be gaining credibility. If this is the actual process by which decisions are made, the fact that the process is constrained remains. Please forgive my clumsy synopsis.

Free Yet Determined and Constrained
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  #6  
Old 07-02-2011, 01:52 PM
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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Originally Posted by Ken Davis View Post
Here's Mike Gazzaniga, director of the Law and Neuroscience Project, giving a Gifford Lecture on free will, in which he discusses the idea that conscious states are emergent from physical states, but can influence subsequent physical states and thus subsequent conscious states. The catch is that conscious states are emergent not only from physical states, but also from social conditions. This process is not well understood, but the idea of top-down causation of this sort seems to be gaining credibility. If this is the actual process by which decisions are made, the fact that the process is constrained remains. Please forgive my clumsy synopsis.

Free Yet Determined and Constrained
Isn't that along the lines of what John was trying to explain about Dennett's ideas?

I was very disappointed on Bob's attitude towards John when he brought up Dennett's book. I just read the reviews on the book, and for what I could gather, I find it not only interesting but actually pretty much on target. I ordered the book right after reading the reviews. I wonder whether Bob's reaction to Dennett's ideas was determined (no pun intended) by Dennett's lack of agreement with Bob's views on "purpose".

Both testostyrannical and Ken Davis bring up relevant aspects of the topic. From a scientific perspective, determinism seems to be the only possible concept (like Bob said). But current non-religious proponents of free will aren't saying that there's some external agent that gets added to the natural world and it is out of this agency that free will emanates. Rather, within the boundaries of determinism and the natural world, there might be an emergent function, which is the product of complex interactions between biologically determined qualities, environmentally determined (culture, learning, conditioning, etc) qualities, and the dynamic interactions occurring at the moment in time when "free will" takes place.

The executive function of the brain is able to handle multiple pre-existent mandates of behavior while assessing their applicability to the current situation. The complexity of this process may be such that while multiple options are being explored, there is a sense of "freedom". The freer the mind of preexistent ties and limitations the more vast that range of freedom will be. Perhaps there lies an aspect of so many of the Eastern meditative practices, to free the mind from its conditioning.

Bob and John discussed a good example of a narrower range of freedom. They talked about scientists who are too attached to their hypothesis and are biased towards continuing that path instead of being more open to explore alternative options. In this case there's a good example of limitation of freedom due to attachment to one's previous ideas. By the way, I didn't think that scientists (or others) remain attached to their ideas only because they will be famous or make money. I think we have a tendency to continue a line of thought, an interpretation of the world which makes sense to us. Challenging that view can fragment, at least momentarily, that continuity and be unconsciously perceived as a threat. There lies another issue relevant to those in my trade, about attempts to dig too deep in those pre-existent structures of the mind, while unprepared to stand the momentary fragmentation.

Wow, I've been all over the place with this comment. I apologize for that.
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Old 07-02-2011, 02:03 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
Isn't that along the lines of what John was trying to explain about Dennett's ideas?

I was very disappointed on Bob's attitude towards John when he brought up Dennett's book. I just read the reviews on the book, and for what I could gather, I find it not only interesting but actually pretty much on target. I ordered the book right after reading the reviews. I wonder whether Bob's reaction to Dennett's ideas was determined (no pun intended) by Dennett's lack of agreement with Bob's views on "purpose".

Both testostyrannical and Ken Davis bring up relevant aspects of the topic. From a scientific perspective, determinism seems to be the only possible concept (like Bob said). But current non-religious proponents of free will aren't saying that there's some external agent that gets added to the natural world and it is out of this agency that free will emanates. Rather, within the boundaries of determinism and the natural world, there might be an emergent function, which is the product of complex interactions between biologically determined qualities, environmentally determined (culture, learning, conditioning, etc) qualities, and the dynamic interactions occurring at the moment in time when "free will" takes place.

The executive function of the brain is able to handle multiple pre-existent mandates of behavior while assessing their applicability to the current situation. The complexity of this process may be such that while multiple options are being explored, there is a sense of "freedom". The freer the mind of preexistent ties and limitations the more vast that range of freedom will be. Perhaps there lies an aspect of so many of the Eastern meditative practices, to free the mind from its conditioning.

Bob and John discussed a good example of a narrower range of freedom. They talked about scientists who are too attached to their hypothesis and are biased towards continuing that path instead of being more open to explore alternative options. In this case there's a good example of limitation of freedom due to attachment to one's previous ideas. By the way, I didn't think that scientists (or others) remain attached to their ideas only because they will be famous or make money. I think we have a tendency to continue a line of thought, an interpretation of the world which makes sense to us. Challenging that view can fragment, at least momentarily, that continuity and be unconsciously perceived as a threat. There lies another issue relevant to those in my trade, about attempts to dig too deep in those pre-existent structures of the mind, while unprepared to stand the momentary fragmentation.

Wow, I've been all over the place with this comment. I apologize for that.
Interesting points, I think. I don't have an opinion about Dennett's book, but I was on Bob's side for most of his criticisms of John's point of view on the topic - which I found (as it seems Bob did) much too assertive. Ironically, considering the good conversation they had about confirmation bias, I think John seems to be a little too attached to a particular point of view. I do think John was right that it's quite possible we'll never have a definitive answer on the topic of free will.

I'm interested in whether you have any reaction to John and Bob's shared assertion regarding the "corruption" of the field of psychiatry by pharma.
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Old 07-02-2011, 02:48 PM
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
Interesting points, I think. I don't have an opinion about Dennett's book, but I was on Bob's side for most of his criticisms of John's point of view on the topic, which I found (as it seems Bob did) much too assertive. Ironically, considering the good conversation they had about confirmation bias, I think John seems to be a little too attached to a particular point of view. I do think John was right that it's quite possible we'll never have a definitive answer on the topic of free will.
I also agree with Bob in many of his comments and objections to John's assertions. John seemed to be mostly concerned with one aspect of determinism: its consequences when it's interpreted narrowly as lack of ability to shape one's future or take responsibility for one's behavior. Bob kept saying that the potential consequences wouldn't invalidate its scientific accuracy. But he didn't address what concerned John. So, in fact, they were talking past each other.

The interesting part of the discussion would have been the area that overlaps both of their positions. Determinism is in fact most likely to be correct, but it either allows or mimics freedom, which has been called "free will". The bottom line being that we are not powerless creatures unable to influence our own destinies. We just have different degrees of freedom.

Quote:
I'm interested in whether you have any reaction to John and Bob's shared assertion regarding the "corruption" of the field of psychiatry by pharma.
John has gone against psychiatry so many times, either the medication or the psychotherapy part, that I don't really pay attention to it any more. Yes, I tune out like kids do to a nagging parent.

Whenever I hear "corruption" as applied to Psychiatry or psychiatrists, I do have a negative reaction. It sounds like there is a conspiracy by corrupt people to create and carry a fraud for some selfish purpose. And, of course, I know for certain that neither I nor most of my colleagues are so lacking in ethical standards. The psychiatrists that I know and interact with are dedicated to their patients, to their research and teaching and they are far from being corrupt.

So, why are Bob and John talking in those terms? I assume that what they refer to is something that applies, not just to psychiatry, but to other fields in medicine. We know that pharmaceutical companies have been manipulating, to some degree, their studies to show that the drugs they promote are effective to the required standards. For years they have hidden negative results. In addition, there are other ways that they can be viewed negatively, for example in the way they submit their requests for FDA approval or their marketing strategies.

A lot of these studies have limitations. Placebo effect is an amazing topic that I rarely see discussed to the depth that it should. However, in clinical practice, we see patients that come in with their symptoms and after taking medications their symptoms improve or go away. Is that true for 100% of patients? No. But most do well with medications. If anybody reading this has taken antidepressants, which wouldn't be unusual, they probably can tell how they responded.

Medications are extremely expensive. If there were studies that showed that medications don't work and that the results are due to the magical placebo effect it would be great to know. We could save a lot of money that could be used for other healthcare needs by giving people a little sugar pill. However, when I see a patient who is having auditory hallucinations and doesn't respond to medication A or B but after trying a few, we find that he does well with medication C and the "voices" go away, it's hard to think that there's some misunderstanding about whether the medication is effective or not.

There's another topic related to corruption or possible prescribing bias pushed by pharmaceutical companies, but I don't think that's what Bob and John were talking about since it would be far removed from their topics today.


You asked.
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Old 07-02-2011, 03:22 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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Whenever I hear "corruption" as applied to Psychiatry or psychiatrists, I do have a negative reaction. It sounds like there is a conspiracy by corrupt people to create and carry a fraud for some selfish purpose. And, of course, I know for certain that neither I nor most of my colleagues are so lacking in ethical standards. The psychiatrists that I know and interact with are dedicated to their patients, to their research and teaching and they are far from being corrupt.
No argument there. Psychiatrists are healers (i.e, indispensable health care providers) and should not be casually disrespected.

There are a couple of things going on in John's over-the-top critique of shrinks. One is that he believes anti-depressants are largely useless and grossly over-prescribed. Second, he probably is suspicious of the shift in the profession from psychotherapy (largely talk therapy) in which a psychiatrist saw one patient per hour to practices where a psychiatrist often has a career of strictly quicky appts. for medication management:

Quote:
Psychiatrists are talking less and prescribing more. Many of the nation’s 48,000 psychiatrists no longer provide talk therapy, the form of psychiatry popularized by Freud that has been a mainstay of psychiatry for decades, writes Gardiner Harris in Sunday’s New York Times. Instead, they typically prescribe medication, usually after a brief consultation with each patient.

The switch from talk therapy to medications has swept psychiatric practices and hospitals, leaving many older psychiatrists feeling unhappy and inadequate. A 2005 government survey found that just 11 percent of psychiatrists provided talk therapy to all patients, a share that had been falling for years and has most likely fallen more since. Psychiatric hospitals that once offered patients months of talk therapy now discharge them within days with only pills.
Pharma makes for an easy villain, but like with most things, it's more complicated. Psychiatric medications do save countless lives; talk therapy is probably better reserved for therapists who are NOT physicians; and a lot of psychotropic meds are being handed out by physicians who are NOT psychiatrists (not a good idea, in my view).

I have family members and friends who probably would not be alive today without proper psychiatric interventions. It's hard to sit in a psychiatrist's waiting room, however, and not despise the pharmaceutical companies. Their logos are everywhere; their ad displays are blatantly offensive and misleading; their trinkets are ubiquitous (note pads, pens, calendars, etc.) and their hot chick models (sales reps) are frequently on patrol with free samples (at least for the male practitioners). It's like being in a Bud Lite advertisement.

But this is true throughout medicine in the USA. My daughter works at a low-income clinic, which also has a county fair atmosphere of drug and medical supply hucksters touting their wares.

Bottom line: John has tried to debunk psychiatric medications as One Big Scam, but he's jumped too quickly to dubious conclusions.
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Old 07-02-2011, 06:43 PM
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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No argument there. Psychiatrists are healers (i.e, indispensable health care providers) and should not be casually disrespected.

There are a couple of things going on in John's over-the-top critique of shrinks. One is that he believes anti-depressants are largely useless and grossly over-prescribed. Second, he probably is suspicious of the shift in the profession from psychotherapy (largely talk therapy) in which a psychiatrist saw one patient per hour to practices where a psychiatrist often has a career of strictly quicky appts. for medication management:

Medication management only has become the rule since managed care became popular. The magic of free markets is that managed care will pay the lowest possible fee for a particular service. So if a service can be provided by a social worker, a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but the social worker's fees will be half those of the psychiatrist, managed care will go with the social worker. Unfortunately, as a result psychiatrists aren't being trained for psychotherapy as thoroughly as they used to be. There's no motivation. Also there are more MDs that enter this specialty with the only interest of prescribing medications since they know that psychotherapy isn't an option.

The only way of continuing to provide some form of psychotherapy is to rely on patients paying out of pocket or working for free.


Quote:
Pharma makes for an easy villain, but like with most things, it's more complicated. Psychiatric medications do save countless lives; talk therapy is probably better reserved for therapists who are NOT physicians; and a lot of psychotropic meds are being handed out by physicians who are NOT psychiatrists (not a good idea, in my view).
There are many wonderful therapists who are not physicians, and nowadays many or most psychiatrists wouldn't be qualified to provide formal psychotherapy. However, there was a time, not so long ago, when that wasn't the case.

It is accurate that most psychotropic medications aren't prescribed by psychiatrists but rather by primary care physicians.


Quote:
I have family members and friends who probably would not be alive today without proper psychiatric interventions. It's hard to sit in a psychiatrist's waiting room, however, and not despise the pharmaceutical companies. Their logos are everywhere; their ad displays are blatantly offensive and misleading; their trinkets are ubiquitous (note pads, pens, calendars, etc.) and their hot chick models (sales reps) are frequently on patrol with free samples (at least for the male practitioners). It's like being in a Bud Lite advertisement.
Those goodies from pharmaceutical companies are gone. In most places they are no longer allowed and reps don't even carry them anymore. I always found it interesting though, because I don't think that those supplies affect prescribing practices all that much. But I may be wrong since pharmaceutical companies have been offering them for some good reason. And there's always the unconscious operating behind the scenes, the experts say.

In terms of the hot chicks, those don't affect me in the least. Not sure about the really handsome guys. (just kidding)

Quote:
But this is true throughout medicine in the USA. My daughter works at a low-income clinic, which also has a county fair atmosphere of drug and medical supply hucksters touting their wares.

Bottom line: John has tried to debunk psychiatric medications as One Big Scam, but he's jumped too quickly to dubious conclusions.
I've come to the conclusion that John has an uncontrollable contrarian reflex. It can serve him well at times but not in others. Bob said it.
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Old 07-02-2011, 07:33 PM
miceelf miceelf is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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Originally Posted by Wonderment View Post
No argument there. Psychiatrists are healers (i.e, indispensable health care providers) and should not be casually disrespected.

There are a couple of things going on in John's over-the-top critique of shrinks. One is that he believes anti-depressants are largely useless and grossly over-prescribed.
I think a wrinkle that John probably downplays in his view of psychiatrists/psychiatry is that this overprescription, to the extent it happens, is more likely to be done by primary care than psychiatrists (just as overprescription of ADHD meds, which I think is even more common) is more likely to be done by pediatricians than by psychiatrists. You noted this, but I think understated the extent of the problem.

Agree with you on the complex benefits offered by pharma. I think some simple reforms would get rid of a lot of the bad without doing much damage to the good.
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Old 07-02-2011, 04:44 PM
sapeye sapeye is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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We know that pharmaceutical companies have been manipulating, to some degree, their studies to show that the drugs they promote are effective to the required standards. For years they have hidden negative results. In addition, there are other ways that they can be viewed negatively, for example in the way they submit their requests for FDA approval or their marketing strategies.
This is not directly related to the diavlog or to psychiatry, but your comments re the FDA brought to mind this documentary about the new cancer treatment developed by Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski and his on going battle the FDA and big pharma. It can be watched for free now, but I'm not sure how much longer it will be available. It spends too much time portraying the human interest aspect for my taste, but it's still very interesting and troubling.
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Old 07-03-2011, 11:34 AM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
John seemed to be mostly concerned with one aspect of determinism: its consequences when it's interpreted narrowly as lack of ability to shape one's future or take responsibility for one's behavior. Bob kept saying that the potential consequences wouldn't invalidate its scientific accuracy. But he didn't address what concerned John. So, in fact, they were talking past each other.
I think this is right. To defend John, I think John probably believes that we can't really know (certainly, we don't currently know) whether we have real choice/freedom or not. Yet we perceive that we do, and it seems that our believe that we do or perception of choice (or the lack thereof) acts as an influence on how we behave. If we don't really know either way and believing that we have a choice helps us exercise that choice -- act in ways we think we should vs. ways we are inclined to against our better judgment -- isn't it better to assume that the perception is correct and we do have actual choice?

If we were saying "pretend like we do" or "don't tell people we don't" that would be different, but I don't think Bob knows any better than I do whether or not I have real choice, so I'm more on John's side when it comes to his insisting that we don't.

Quote:
The interesting part of the discussion would have been the area that overlaps both of their positions. Determinism is in fact most likely to be correct, but it either allows or mimics freedom, which has been called "free will". The bottom line being that we are not powerless creatures unable to influence our own destinies. We just have different degrees of freedom.
I guess I'm not following this, because I don't understand "determinism" to mean that we have limited freedom. I'm sure John would agree that we have limited freedom. I think it typically means, and as Bob was using it seemed to mean, that we have no freedom at all, only an illusion thereof. In other words, that how we are going to behave is already set based on the existing stimula and our own biological make-up and natural reaction to that stimula. One problem with this is randomness, but clearly that wouldn't be the same thing as choice. The question is whether our consciousness somehow gives us an ability to actually choose at all beyond what is dictated by simple response to stimula, and I would agree that I can't see how this would work, but I'm also not convinced that it doesn't. And, sure, the kinds of unconvincing arguments John makes -- that we perceive this, that it's important to how we function, that our basic systems of morality and justice are based on this assumption -- do influence me. That and the fact that I don't see "we don't know how that could work" a good enough reason to chuck all this and decide that we are basically just computers. And that's what the determinism argument seems to say.

Now, maybe I'm not understanding what determinism really is, but this is based on what I understand people who claim "no free will" and hold themselves out as determinists generally believe based on discussion with them. If there's some other form of this Bob was talking about, then I do think there was a failure to communicate.

On John being a natural contrarian, I think you are right. I think an occupational hazard for journalists is they like to see themselves as contrarians even when they aren't, though, so to the extent it's just natural to John and real -- and it seems to me it probably is -- I give him something of a pass. At least he's usually pretty open about why he believes stuff, even when the reasons aren't ones he'd put forward as a basis on which to convince others. Since I tend to think most of us have these kinds of reasons to guess that one position or another is correct and then minds that work well to convince us why this is true -- Bob's quote from Moral Animal fits here -- I think John being open about the kinds of things that bias him is more interesting than him pretending his views are more purely objective in their inception.

Granted, if he was going on about my profession and matters on which I had a more objective and educated opinion, I'd find it more annoying, probably.
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Old 07-03-2011, 12:57 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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I think this is right. To defend John, I think John probably believes that we can't really know (certainly, we don't currently know) whether we have real choice/freedom or not. Yet we perceive that we do, and it seems that our believe that we do or perception of choice (or the lack thereof) acts as an influence on how we behave. If we don't really know either way and believing that we have a choice helps us exercise that choice -- act in ways we think we should vs. ways we are inclined to against our better judgment -- isn't it better to assume that the perception is correct and we do have actual choice?
Yes, I think that's at the core of John's argument.

Quote:
I guess I'm not following this, because I don't understand "determinism" to mean that we have limited freedom. I'm sure John would agree that we have limited freedom. I think it typically means, and as Bob was using it seemed to mean, that we have no freedom at all, only an illusion thereof. In other words, that how we are going to behave is already set based on the existing stimula and our own biological make-up and natural reaction to that stimula. One problem with this is randomness, but clearly that wouldn't be the same thing as choice. The question is whether our consciousness somehow gives us an ability to actually choose at all beyond what is dictated by simple response to stimula, and I would agree that I can't see how this would work, but I'm also not convinced that it doesn't.
You're describing determinism well. Your last sentence is the key to this discussion. If we follow causality, it seems like determinism in unavoidable, so any perception of free will (as it is traditionally understood) must be an illusion. If we were able to account for every possible factor (the incredible complexity of the university taken into account) influencing our behavior, internal and external to the individual, it seems like we should be able to state that there's only one possible course of action and that it's determined by all those factors. That's a dead end. It doesn't really lead anywhere.

It seems to me that if we want to get something useful out of the conversation, we have to move on from the assumption of determinism. In a way, we can acknowledge it, but still want to know more about how it really works considering that it creates such an "illusion" (I'll call it that for now) of free will.

The first problem seems to be definitional. No surprises there. What is free will? We have to abandon all premises about free will being some external, or supernatural entity endowed with the ability to decide. I would suggest that this definition be kept modest and circumscribed or we'll end up in the same knot.

Perhaps the general idea that we can to a certain degree, through a deliberative process balance different possible courses of action and make a conscious decision on one, should, for practical purposes be considered free will. Consciousness is part of that process, but most likely not all there is to it. There are unconscious desires and impulses that weigh in our decisions, and of course we're not aware of them. But, our unconscious mind is still us. It doesn't belong to someone else. The more aware we become of our unconscious motivations, the more freedom we experience because we can manipulate factors that we are aware of much better than those that remain unconscious. Consciousness gives us another important piece which is the ability to manipulate time: remember the past and anticipate the future. Anticipating the result of our actions is an important aspect of decision making.

I have always had the impression that our ability to develop an evolving culture must be tied to this general idea of free will. It is our ability to create new concepts, new behaviors, new structures, that suggests that there's an emergent quality in our species that allows us to scape the circle of stimuli-response. But, again, I only have a faint grasp of that idea.

The talk by Gazzaniga that Ken Davis linked to, emphasizes emerging functions mediated by consciousness and through interactions with others.

Again, the conversation that would be most fruitful is the one that refers to practical implications. What aspect of the idea of free will can help us understand how we operate creatively, morally in the world?

Quote:
And, sure, the kinds of unconvincing arguments John makes -- that we perceive this, that it's important to how we function, that our basic systems of morality and justice are based on this assumption -- do influence me. That and the fact that I don't see "we don't know how that could work" a good enough reason to chuck all this and decide that we are basically just computers. And that's what the determinism argument seems to say.
Exactly, same idea as above.

Quote:
Now, maybe I'm not understanding what determinism really is, but this is based on what I understand people who claim "no free will" and hold themselves out as determinists generally believe based on discussion with them. If there's some other form of this Bob was talking about, then I do think there was a failure to communicate.
Yes, there was a failure to communicate.

Quote:
On John being a natural contrarian, I think you are right. I think an occupational hazard for journalists is they like to see themselves as contrarians even when they aren't, though, so to the extent it's just natural to John and real -- and it seems to me it probably is -- I give him something of a pass. At least he's usually pretty open about why he believes stuff, even when the reasons aren't ones he'd put forward as a basis on which to convince others. Since I tend to think most of us have these kinds of reasons to guess that one position or another is correct and then minds that work well to convince us why this is true -- Bob's quote from Moral Animal fits here -- I think John being open about the kinds of things that bias him is more interesting than him pretending his views are more purely objective in their inception.

Granted, if he was going on about my profession and matters on which I had a more objective and educated opinion, I'd find it more annoying, probably.
I more or less agree with your statements. I would only add that John doesn't just share the trait of contrarianism that all journalists have. In his case a lot of his success (perfect example is the book "The End of Science"), has to do with presenting an aggressively contrarian view. I think he felt comfortable in that role and being reinforced by glory fixed it on him. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with that, but it is something to keep in mind in order to put his arguments in perspective.
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Old 07-03-2011, 01:09 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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If we follow causality, it seems like determinism in unavoidable, so any perception of free will (as it is traditionally understood) must be an illusion.
This is where I (and John?) disagree. It seems to me quite possible that our minds operate to create some actual ability to choose -- which would be caused yet also more than an illusion -- but that we simply don't currently understand how this would work. I haven't seen evidence that we understand how the mind works sufficiently to exclude this possibility or make it extremely remote. Obviously, I acknowledge you know more about it than I do.

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If we were able to account for every possible factor (the incredible complexity of the university taken into account) influencing our behavior, internal and external to the individual, it seems like we should be able to state that there's only one possible course of action and that it's determined by all those factors. That's a dead end. It doesn't really lead anywhere.
This too.

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The first problem seems to be definitional. No surprises there. What is free will? We have to abandon all premises about free will being some external, or supernatural entity endowed with the ability to decide. I would suggest that this definition be kept modest and circumscribed or we'll end up in the same knot.
Yeah -- I don't know if John and Bob would have been able to reach this step given their competing views, but this would have been a more interesting and productive place for them to try to go.

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Perhaps the general idea that we can to a certain degree, through a deliberative process balance different possible courses of action and make a conscious decision on one, should, for practical purposes be considered free will. Consciousness is part of that process, but most likely not all there is to it. There are unconscious desires and impulses that weigh in our decisions, and of course we're not aware of them. But, our unconscious mind is still us. It doesn't belong to someone else. The more aware we become of our unconscious motivations, the more freedom we experience because we can manipulate factors that we are aware of much better than those that remain unconscious. Consciousness gives us another important piece which is the ability to manipulate time: remember the past and anticipate the future. Anticipating the result of our actions is an important aspect of decision making.
I actually don't have any problem with any of this even coming from what I'd call a non-determinative POV. I don't think we should consider our consciousness or choice as something other than us or than part of our body and a product thereof. I'm just not so convinced that the product thereof can't have some real although limited ability to choose in the sense that John seems to be talking about, that what feels like a choice to us is really basically predetermined. Speaking of a healthy human, since obviously I see how brain injuries and all sorts of things interfere with even the limited choice I think we have. But to get back to John's point, I know feeling like I can choose helps me to do so, whereas assuming I cannot tends to be self-fulfilling. So I'm not comfortable with assuming it's just illusion without a need to conclude that. And, yeah, I'm probably slipping back into the unproductive part of the debate.

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The talk by Gazzaniga that Ken Davis linked to, emphasizes emerging functions mediated by consciousness and through interactions with others.

Again, the conversation that would be most fruitful is the one that refers to practical implications. What aspect of the idea of free will can help us understand how we operate creatively, morally in the world?
Interesting, and I agree about the direction the conversation could have taken. I'll check out the link.

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Old 07-03-2011, 01:22 PM
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It seems to me quite possible that our minds operate to create some actual ability to choose -- which would be caused yet also more than an illusion -- but that we simply don't currently understand how this would work. I haven't seen evidence that we understand how the mind works sufficiently to exclude this possibility or make it extremely remote.
I agree with that possibility. I just think it doesn't necessarily defy determinism.
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Old 07-03-2011, 01:42 PM
Ken Davis Ken Davis is offline
 
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To defend John, I think John probably believes that we can't really know (certainly, we don't currently know) whether we have real choice/freedom or not. Yet we perceive that we do, and it seems that our believe that we do or perception of choice (or the lack thereof) acts as an influence on how we behave. If we don't really know either way and believing that we have a choice helps us exercise that choice -- act in ways we think we should vs. ways we are inclined to against our better judgment -- isn't it better to assume that the perception is correct and we do have actual choice?
As it stands, the science points to a body of evidence that free will is an illusion, and the skeptics, even those such as John who believe in a causal universe, point, well, to their hunches. I don't think it is certain that we don't currently know. To me, the insistence on the reality of free will is ultimately to insist on the reality of miracles, the miracle being that human beings are capable of rising above their individual limitations to perform feats that are superhuman.

As to whether or not the belief in free will should be cultivated in society irrespective of evidence for its existence, as John maintains, one has only to look at what tragedy the belief in free will has wrought during the epoch of its ascendancy in human thought. At the societal recriminations and punishments heaped on those whose behavior has not met expectations which are impossible for them to meet. As the neuroscientist Rodolfo Llinás points out, what we gain from our new knowledge of human behavior is understanding.

No one is suggesting that those who can't abide by basic societal rules should be free to wreak havoc in society. No one is suggesting that we shouldn't be held responsible for our actions. What is being suggested by research such as that being done by the Law & Neuroscience Project, for example, is that we should not punish our fellows for not doing what they are incapable of doing. Our penal system, for example, is immoral. It is immoral to treat children who have committed offenses legally as adults. The concept of free will pollutes human relations in countless ways.

It's time to reexamine our fixation, our fetish, with Good and Evil, with Heroism and Villany and let understanding lead to compassion. It's time to stop saying "I did it, why can't you?" We can condemn antisocial, destructive behavior without demonizing those who, through no fault of their own, are warped by debilitating experience and biological factors.

So I don't get what John is talking about when he expresses attachment to the concept of free will. Let's get rid of it. Let's start caring for those who may still be salvageable, and separate those who aren't from society. But let's understand the realities of life and show compassion to everyone, even those who are incapable of compassion.

Whew!

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Old 07-03-2011, 01:57 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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As it stands, the science points to a body of evidence that free will is an illusion, and the skeptics, even those such as John who believe in a causal universe, point, well, to their hunches. I don't think it is certain that we don't currently know. To me, the insistence on the reality of free will is ultimately to insist on the reality of miracles, the miracle being that human beings are capable of rising above their natural, individual limitations to perform feats that are superhuman.

As to whether or not the belief in free will should be cultivated in society irrespective of evidence for its existence, as John maintains, one has only to look at what tragedy the belief in free will has wrought during the epoch of its ascendancy in human thought. At the societal recriminations and punishments heaped on those whose behavior has not met expectations which are impossible for some to meet. As the neuroscientist Rodolfo Llinás points out, what we gain from our new knowledge of human behavior is understanding.

No one is suggesting that those who can't abide by basic societal rules should be free to wreak havoc in society. No one is suggesting that we shouldn't be held responsible for our actions. What is being suggested by research such as that being done by the Law & Neuroscience Project, for example, is that we should not punish our fellows for not doing what they are incapable of doing. Our penal system, for example, is immoral. It is immoral to treat children who have committed offenses legally as adults. The concept of free will pollutes human relations in countless ways.

It's time to reexamine our fixation, our fetish, with Good and Evil, with Heroism and Villany and let understanding lead to compassion. It's time to stop saying "I did it, why can't you?" We can condemn antisocial, destructive behavior without demonizing those who, through no fault of their own, are warped by debilitating experience and biological factors.

So I don't get what John is talking about when he expresses attachment to the concept of free will. Let's get rid of it. Let's start caring for those who may still be salvageable, and separate those who aren't from society. But let's understand the realities of life and show compassion to everyone, even those who are incapable of compassion.

Whew!
What evidence? Evidence of what? We don't even have a way to frame the question of free will meaningfully. It's a philosophical question based on a notion of what it means to be conscious or sentient that has, so far as I can tell, no empirical basis. It could quite easily turn out to a completely incoherent notion. We simply don't have the necessary knowledge, or even a useful nomenclature to ask it properly.

To put it another way, I imagine what we know about consciousness and "free will" are (very roughly) analogous to what Democritus know about atomic theory.
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Old 07-03-2011, 02:53 PM
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We don't even have a way to frame the question of free will meaningfully. It's a philosophical question based on a notion of what it means to be conscious or sentient that has, so far as I can tell, no empirical basis. It could quite easily turn out to a completely incoherent notion. We simply don't have the necessary knowledge, or even a useful nomenclature to ask it properly.

To put it another way, I imagine what we know about consciousness and "free will" are (very roughly) analogous to what Democritus know about atomic theory.
I guess we could start asking some basic questions and see if we can get ahead. But if we remain stuck in an imaginary tension between determinism (not in the philosophical sense but in the scientific sense) and free will, we won't advance.

Your comparison with Democritus. Our ability to conceptualize the very large and the very small is very limited. Our brains are made to conceptualize what's visible to the naked eye. The same applies when we talk about concepts that are counterintuitive, or that belong to a very high level of abstraction. Suprastructural processes can only be grasped globally but not in their detail. That's why starting with simpler questions may be a better approach. But we seem stuck on the determinism (non-philosophical) vs free will fallacy.

The best I can explain it is that as long as we keep arguing about whether something is black or white, we won't be able to learn that it's actually grey.
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Old 07-03-2011, 03:28 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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I guess we could start asking some basic questions and see if we can get ahead. But if we remain stuck in an imaginary tension between determinism (not in the philosophical sense but in the scientific sense) and free will, we won't advance.

Your comparison with Democritus. Our ability to conceptualize the very large and the very small is very limited. Our brains are made to conceptualize what's visible to the naked eye. The same applies when we talk about concepts that are counterintuitive, or that belong to a very high level of abstraction. Suprastructural processes can only be grasped globally but not in their detail. That's why starting with simpler questions may be a better approach. But we seem stuck on the determinism (non-philosophical) vs free will fallacy.

The best I can explain it is that as long as we keep arguing about whether something is black or white, we won't be able to learn that it's actually grey.
I was mainly objecting to the idea that there's something that could qualify as meaningful evidence regarding the existence of free will. I don't think we even know how to ask the right questions, let alone understand how some data might qualify as answers. But I agree with what you wrote here. The hard part is figuring out which questions to ask.
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Old 07-04-2011, 10:28 AM
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I was mainly objecting to the idea that there's something that could qualify as meaningful evidence regarding the existence of free will.
Yep.
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Old 07-03-2011, 03:09 PM
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What evidence? Evidence of what? We don't even have a way to frame the question of free will meaningfully. It's a philosophical question based on a notion of what it means to be conscious or sentient that has, so far as I can tell, no empirical basis. It could quite easily turn out to a completely incoherent notion. We simply don't have the necessary knowledge, or even a useful nomenclature to ask it properly.

To put it another way, I imagine what we know about consciousness and "free will" are (very roughly) analogous to what Democritus know about atomic theory.
Underlying the question of consciousness is the question of causality.

What evidence? How to frame the question? Let your mouse finger do the walking.
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Old 07-03-2011, 03:37 PM
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Underlying the question of consciousness is the question of causality.

What evidence? How to frame the question? Let your mouse finger do the walking.
Causality is a difficult to pin down idea, if you look closely enough. "Consciousness" doesn't exactly have a well defined meaning - I mean, I know it when I see it... Before you can frame a useful question, you have to have somewhere to stand. I think there are a huge number of questions to ask before anyone could possibly make any sort of useful claims in regard to free will.
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Old 07-03-2011, 04:21 PM
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Causality is a difficult to pin down idea, if you look closely enough. "Consciousness" doesn't exactly have a well defined meaning - I mean, I know it when I see it... Before you can frame a useful question, you have to have somewhere to stand. I think there are a huge number of questions to ask before anyone could possibly make any sort of useful claims in regard to free will.
Rodolfo Llinás describes, in a interview on the Science Network, subjecting himself to a test in which a certain part of his brain would be (at 36:35 or so) stimulated to cause a certain movement. He decided he would make a different movement when stimulated. He made the same movement as before. When asked why, he said "I changed my mind". It's a fascinating interview. To Llinás, free will is simply knowing what you're going to do. It has nothing to do with choosing what you are going to do.
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Old 07-03-2011, 08:09 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Rodolfo Llinás describes, in a interview on the Science Network, subjecting himself to a test in which a certain part of his brain would be (at 36:35 or so) stimulated to cause a certain movement. He decided he would make a different movement when stimulated. He made the same movement as before. When asked why, he said "I changed my mind". It's a fascinating interview. To Llinás, free will is simply knowing what you're going to do. It has nothing to do with choosing what you are going to do.
I think that's interesting and provocative. It also serves to illustrate my point of view, I think. What do we really know about the sort of signals used in your illustration? What other signals are important in the context and what relationships exist between them? What's the relationship between intentionality and some measurable signal? What processes are at work generating them? What aren't we measuring?
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Old 07-03-2011, 10:09 PM
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What do we really know about the sort of signals used in your illustration? What other signals are important in the context and what relationships exist between them? What's the relationship between intentionality and some measurable signal? What processes are at work generating them? What aren't we measuring?
All important questions. I think another important question is where is the seat of our psychological being? Is it the brain, in which case it is material and deterministic, or is it somewhere else? Any way you look at it, you're faced with either a monistic or a dualistic explanation. In my view, free will requires a dualistic view.
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Old 07-03-2011, 11:04 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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All important questions. I think another important question is where is the seat of our psychological being? Is it the brain, in which case it is material and deterministic, or is it somewhere else? Any way you look at it, you're faced with either a monistic or a dualistic explanation. In my view, free will requires a dualistic view.
Is a running computer program a material thing? If I use atomic decay, for instance, to generate random numbers and feed them to a program as input, is it deterministic? Asking where consciousness (or any other process) resides seems like a category error to me. These things happen in time, as sequences of states in material things. You can't point to a place in space and say "there it is," because at any particular point in time, there's only a single state to to point to. (Let's just ignore quantum uncertainty for a moment!) If that's a dualist point of view, then I'm a dualist; but I don't think that's really what the folks who like to use words like "dualism" really have in mind.
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Old 07-03-2011, 11:31 PM
Ken Davis Ken Davis is offline
 
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Is a running computer program a material thing? If I use atomic decay, for instance, to generate random numbers and feed them to a program as input, is it deterministic? Asking where consciousness (or any other process) resides seems like a category error to me. These things happen in time, as sequences of states in material things. You can't point to a place in space and say "there it is," because at any particular point in time, there's only a single state to to point to. (Let's just ignore quantum uncertainty for a moment!) If that's a dualist point of view, then I'm a dualist; but I don't think that's really what the folks who like to use words like "dualism" really have in mind.
I can't answer your query about computer programs, and I don't expect there is a specific location of consciousness. Perhaps I shouldn't have used the term "seat". But I feel reasonably certain that our psychological process has a mechanism. We haven't found it yet but we will. Plumbing the brain's secrets will answer the question of consciousness. What other mechanisms can there be but physical ones? How far can our concept of what constitutes a physical process be extended? Fun stuff.

Here's another short video interview of Llinas in which he talks about different parts of the brain having differing opinions on a question. He doesn't say how the brain makes a decision before the conscious mind is aware of it. I don't know if his elaboration has bearing on your questions or not. Here.
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Old 07-03-2011, 02:40 PM
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As it stands, the science points to a body of evidence that free will is an illusion, and the skeptics, even those such as John who believe in a causal universe, point, well, to their hunches. I don't think it is certain that we don't currently know. To me, the insistence on the reality of free will is ultimately to insist on the reality of miracles, the miracle being that human beings are capable of rising above their individual limitations to perform feats that are superhuman.

As to whether or not the belief in free will should be cultivated in society irrespective of evidence for its existence, as John maintains, one has only to look at what tragedy the belief in free will has wrought during the epoch of its ascendancy in human thought. At the societal recriminations and punishments heaped on those whose behavior has not met expectations which are impossible for them to meet. As the neuroscientist Rodolfo Llinás points out, what we gain from our new knowledge of human behavior is understanding.

No one is suggesting that those who can't abide by basic societal rules should be free to wreak havoc in society. No one is suggesting that we shouldn't be held responsible for our actions. What is being suggested by research such as that being done by the Law & Neuroscience Project, for example, is that we should not punish our fellows for not doing what they are incapable of doing. Our penal system, for example, is immoral. It is immoral to treat children who have committed offenses legally as adults. The concept of free will pollutes human relations in countless ways.

It's time to reexamine our fixation, our fetish, with Good and Evil, with Heroism and Villany and let understanding lead to compassion. It's time to stop saying "I did it, why can't you?" We can condemn antisocial, destructive behavior without demonizing those who, through no fault of their own, are warped by debilitating experience and biological factors.

So I don't get what John is talking about when he expresses attachment to the concept of free will. Let's get rid of it. Let's start caring for those who may still be salvageable, and separate those who aren't from society. But let's understand the realities of life and show compassion to everyone, even those who are incapable of compassion.

Whew!
I like your comment, but I don't know what you propose to do to understand the illusion of free will. How do we define that property of our psyche? Do we have any kind of choice? Are we capable of changing our own programming? Is it relevant to our present or how we shape our future?

You did a good job pointing out the problems associated with the traditional definition of free will. But are there any problems associated with eliminating that concept entirely?

That's the discussion I'd like to hear. We don't need to keep putting determinism against free will. They belong to different categories.
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Old 07-03-2011, 04:02 PM
Ken Davis Ken Davis is offline
 
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I like your comment, but I don't know what you propose to do to understand the illusion of free will. How do we define that property of our psyche? Do we have any kind of choice? Are we capable of changing our own programming? Is it relevant to our present or how we shape our future?

You did a good job pointing out the problems associated with the traditional definition of free will. But are there any problems associated with eliminating that concept entirely?

That's the discussion I'd like to hear. We don't need to keep putting determinism against free will. They belong to different categories.
I have no prescription. I'm not schooled in philosophy or psychiatry. I do try to pay attention, as the days go by.

How do we understand the illusion of a lake on the desert horizon? The first thing we do is walk toward it and find nothing but sand. The idea of acting outside of that which makes us who we are doesn't make any sense to me. It is a mirage, I think.

It suddenly made sense to me one day, as I was yet again confronted with the inscrutable behavior of our species, that we do no more or less than that of which we are capable at any given time. Then I began to read about it and found that I wasn't alone in that idea. It also was clear to me that we can enhance our capabilities, short of being in a vegetative state.

Now I view the free will idea as a vanity, a way to elevate one's self above and separate one's self from others. I don't know what else to call it but an egoic lie (ego in common usage). It enables us to justify vengeful lust and sadism.

How are determinism and free will in different categories? It seems to me that the question comes down whether the universe is causal or not.
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Old 07-03-2011, 05:53 PM
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I have no prescription. I'm not schooled in philosophy or psychiatry. I do try to pay attention, as the days go by.

How do we understand the illusion of a lake on the desert horizon? The first thing we do is walk toward it and find nothing but sand. The idea of acting outside of that which makes us who we are doesn't make any sense to me. It is a mirage, I think.

It suddenly made sense to me one day, as I was yet again confronted with the inscrutable behavior of our species, that we do no more or less than that of which we are capable at any given time. Then I began to read about it and found that I wasn't alone in that idea. It also was clear to me that we can enhance our capabilities, short of being in a vegetative state.

Now I view the free will idea as a vanity, a way to elevate one's self above and separate one's self from others. I don't know what else to call it but an egoic lie (ego in common usage). It enables us to justify vengeful lust and sadism.

How are determinism and free will in different categories? It seems to me that the question comes down whether the universe is causal or not.
Interesting. It's always illuminating to know how people came to the conclusions they reach.

My position on this was more or less the opposite. I started off by coming to terms with determinism, probably around my teenage years. And I pretty much left it untouched over the years, since everything that I've learned via neuroscience, psychoanalytic theory, culture, etc. points at determinism. I left "free will" in a different category. It's the way philosophers refer to our volition, the final product of our decisions, whether they are determined by multiple factors or not.

However, it's been in recent times that I've tried to give free will another look. Not because there's any vanity or ego driven need. As a matter of fact, I disagree with your point about "it" being a way to justify vengeful lust and sadism, because usually it is determinism that ends up in practice being used to justify actions, since people can't help it but be what they've been determined to be. I do understand that you used the phrase about vengeful sadism in reference to punishment (don't know why you used lust, though).

Going back to my point about revisiting free will more recently, it came about from reflections about our creative actions. I used the term "creative" in the most general way. It refers to the fact that we have developed a new realm of existence, our consciousness, where we can experiment and manipulate our representations.

The experiments that are cited everywhere about responses to stimuli are interesting but far from the processes that I would think of when we talk about free will. Gazzaniga's example about the experiment when someone had an electrode in an olfactory area, and depending on the content of his consciousness at the time he would perceive different smells. So in the example he gave, the subject was told to remember some pleasant memory of a place that he found relaxing. In the midst of that recollection stimulation with the electrode made him smell roses. However, with the electrode in the same place and same intensity, when he was asked to think of an unpleasant experience, he smelled rotten eggs.

You could say that such experiment shows how our perceptions are indeed determined, in this case by the content of our consciousness. At the same time, and since we are not denying that all events are determined, it also points at how our consciousness and our interactions with others can produce changes in our experience that may have implications for our actions. So, from that perspective, we are operating collectively in ways that are more consistent with the abstract idea of free will. We will not be able to figure out how a bird flies by examining the molecules that compose its body. Flight is more complex and dynamic than that. Perhaps free will is more complex and dynamic than examining reflexive actions.

One thing I know for sure, we are not going to resolve this problem or answer any questions. But it's good exercise to try and stretch our minds beyond our daily routines.
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Old 07-03-2011, 10:50 PM
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

I listened to a talk by Dennett on the topic of free will. I listened to it in bits and pieces, among other reasons because I've been doing other things, but also because it's extraordinarily boring.

However, towards the end, while answering a question he says that chimpanzees don't have free will, not the way we do. And the reason they don't is that there is a really clear horizon on their capacity to produce future and to learn. And what's really remarkable about us is that we have the capacity to take everything we do and reflect on it, and then reflect on the reflections and so on. Those were Dennett's words.

His talk was dry because he's having the same kind of difficulty articulating a concept that is emerging. We don't have the language to explain emerging psychological processes. They don't belong to the usual stuff that we talk about. They can't be explained with the same terms that we explain their predecessors. That's why it's difficult to understand that determinism doesn't have to be contradicted. But it just doesn't explain a process which is in a category above it. It is as if we tried to explain a third dimension in space while we only have language to describe two dimensional space. Or better still, trying to explain time with only language that refers to spatial dimensions.

I've got to get some sleep and stop rambling.
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  #33  
Old 07-04-2011, 03:50 AM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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Going back to my point about revisiting free will more recently, it came about from reflections about our creative actions. I used the term "creative" in the most general way. It refers to the fact that we have developed a new realm of existence, our consciousness, where we can experiment and manipulate our representations.
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I have always had the impression that our ability to develop an evolving culture must be tied to this general idea of free will. It is our ability to create new concepts, new behaviors, new structures, that suggests that there's an emergent quality in our species that allows us to escape the circle of stimuli-response. But, again, I only have a faint grasp of that idea.
In a few words you have blown away this whole tedious discussion of "free will," made all the more tedious by the sophomoric biologism of Bob Wright. Human acts are not determined in the same way that animal behavior is determined. How can anyone deny this? They result from deliberation and deliberation depends on reason or language (logos), which is the first manifestation of human creativity or freedom---freedom from the "circle of stimuli-response." Even if most of us are semi-conscious automatons most of our lives, the complex and diverse historical cultures that we inhabit, the creations of our ancestors, have freed us from biological determinism. We are culturally diverse automatons, if nothing else.

So much should be obvious. But determinists will no doubt go on until the end of time repeating their boring falsehoods. I wonder what determines them to be such bores?

Last edited by Florian; 07-04-2011 at 03:54 AM..
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  #34  
Old 07-04-2011, 11:23 PM
T.G.G.P T.G.G.P is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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Originally Posted by Florian View Post
In a few words you have blown away this whole tedious discussion of "free will," made all the more tedious by the sophomoric biologism of Bob Wright. Human acts are not determined in the same way that animal behavior is determined. How can anyone deny this? They result from deliberation and deliberation depends on reason or language (logos), which is the first manifestation of human creativity or freedom---freedom from the "circle of stimuli-response."
Humans are a species of animal. And scientists believe there are learned "cultures" within chimpanzee communities as well.

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Originally Posted by badhatharry
The tactic I find despicable is when one person voices a feeling or opinion and another person very gently but firmly puts that person on the couch, pointing out that their feeling or opinion must be a case of neurosis or deep seated whatchmacallit. It's a not so subtle form of domination in a conversation with or without a license.
A common trope, often referred to as "psychoanalyzing". C. S. Lewis made up the term "Bulverism" to describe it.

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Originally Posted by osmium
Lots of apples fall quite far from the tree. More unscientific speculation
The phrase you're looking for is "regression to the mean". It was coined by Francis Galton. Of course, there is also regression FROM the mean in which unusually average parents have children who are less average (though we can't predict in which direction, we can guess the magnitude based on a population's standard deviation).

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Originally Posted by AEMJeff
There's less genetic difference between races than there is between individuals of a single race - in other words, whatever differences there are between us, those due to race are far from the most important ones.
"Importance" is rather subjective. Part of the reason "Lewontin's fallacy" is indeed a fallacy is that the genetic differences among races are not random. An obvious example is that skin color is the product of multiple genes (I think the current consensus is five) and because populations evolving in certain regions have different selection effects we're going to see multiple genes with similar effects being correlated with race. So going back to the previous example, if one thought skin color was important differences between races would be important. But as is noted in "The Bell Curve", the variation in IQ due to racial group differences (in the U.S at least) is trivial relative to the overall variance (which is why they purposefully avoid talking about it for most of the book). Lots of continuous traits are like that, skin color being different and having a presumably smaller number of determining factors resulting in virtually disjoint distributions.

Last edited by T.G.G.P; 07-04-2011 at 11:41 PM..
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  #35  
Old 07-06-2011, 11:55 AM
eeeeeeeli eeeeeeeli is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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The bottom line being that we are not powerless creatures unable to influence our own destinies. We just have different degrees of freedom.
I think this is exactly right.

What is interesting to me is that much of the judging we humans do is based on the assumption that people have more freedom than they do, that they could have made better choices.

Yet if they had more freedom, would they not have made the "better" choice?

I think we also have a very befuddled concept of what freedom is, and where it comes from. It certainly is not always rational. I don't make a conscious decision to not steal from grocery stores, or not berate the clerk (most of the time...), etc. Because so much of our behavior is unconscious, it is difficult to determine what the freedom actually is.

Yet freedom can be both rational, as well as unconscious. Not having an overwhelming desire to eat that donut, much of which can be said to reside beyond the bounds of rational control - and thus unconscious - is certainly a freedom. Many of us ought to be thankful indeed for the many unconscious freedoms we were born with or have gained over the course of our life that say, criminals or those with psychological disorders do not possess. However this is a dynamic process, of course. Anyone who has been to therapy or, or even worked out some of their "issues" will recognize the increased freedom.
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Old 07-06-2011, 04:15 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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Anyone who has been to therapy or, or even worked out some of their "issues" will recognize the increased freedom.
It was while in therapy that I realized that my issues had issues.
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Old 07-06-2011, 04:52 PM
eeeeeeeli eeeeeeeli is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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It was while in therapy that I realized that my issues had issues.
I'm not sure which way to interpret that point!

But I am reminded of the power of cognitive behavioral therapy, in which the goal is less about understanding your "issues" in a psychodynamic sense, but in simply changing patterns of thought and behavior. So for instance, I may never know why I have such self-doubt about my ability to be more social, but I can notice patterns in my thinking, recognize them but not let them interfere with my life.

I'm not a trained therapist, but I do know this is very effective for many people, especially those with clinical disorders, such as phobias, etc. As I understand the history of psychology, many people have been unfairly diagnosed as having problems that originate in psychodynamic tension, and thus expected to resolve their "issues" in order to get better. Even in cases where the "issues" were indeed instigated or originated with early trauma, etc., and not simply genetic, one could see how this technique could be a rabbit hole of sorts, miring an individual in endless rehashings of the past, and perseverations in the present.
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  #38  
Old 07-06-2011, 07:02 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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Originally Posted by eeeeeeeli View Post
I'm not sure which way to interpret that point!

But I am reminded of the power of cognitive behavioral therapy, in which the goal is less about understanding your "issues" in a psychodynamic sense, but in simply changing patterns of thought and behavior. So for instance, I may never know why I have such self-doubt about my ability to be more social, but I can notice patterns in my thinking, recognize them but not let them interfere with my life.

I'm not a trained therapist, but I do know this is very effective for many people, especially those with clinical disorders, such as phobias, etc. As I understand the history of psychology, many people have been unfairly diagnosed as having problems that originate in psychodynamic tension, and thus expected to resolve their "issues" in order to get better. Even in cases where the "issues" were indeed instigated or originated with early trauma, etc., and not simply genetic, one could see how this technique could be a rabbit hole of sorts, miring an individual in endless rehashings of the past, and perseverations in the present.
Depending on the problem and a number of other characteristics of the individual person, one form of psychotherapy may be more appropriate than the other. Sometimes you can start with one modality and move to another at a later time. People may be amenable to different approaches at different life stages. Unfortunately, too often we see therapists who have only been trained in one modality and they apply it to everyone the same.

The example you give of someone digging himself in an endless fruitless rehashing, is definitely among the possibilities. The person wasn't ready to go that deep. So a different approach can get them out of the hole, and perhaps later on in their lives they will be readier to do that kind of work. Most people never get too deep into their issues. Either there's no need, or they just carry their wounds to their graves.
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Old 07-02-2011, 11:54 PM
Parallax Parallax is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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John and Bob's shared assertion regarding the "corruption" of the field of psychiatry by pharma.
When I was watching the diavlog I got the impression that Bob was not fully on board with Horgan's statement however he decided not to be too hostile to Horgan. I don't know if John realizes it or not but the first half of the diavlog was pretty embarrassing for him.
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Old 07-02-2011, 06:03 PM
Ken Davis Ken Davis is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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Isn't that along the lines of what John was trying to explain about Dennett's ideas?
John mentions emergent abilities to make conscious choices, but I'm not sure that he's talking about the same thing as Gazzaniga here. And that's because of what he says a few moments later. No amount of agonizing over a decision, no matter of how great an import, can affect the decision that is made. Agonizing is not an indicator of free will. We do what we are capable of doing, based on our psychological makeup at that moment. Gazzaniga is talking about the social environment as having an epigenetic influence on our psychological makeup, as I understand him.
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