Category Free Will and Determinism

Libertarian Free Will and the Principle of Alternate Possibilities

So I am arguing in many different forums at the moment about free will, and in particular, about whether Libertarian Free Will (LFW) is compatible with the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

i define LFW here as the ability to choose otherwise. That means I invoke the Principle of Alternate Possibilities. This means that given a particular situation (CC1), I could choose A or B, and if we rewound time to CC1, and given that everything would remain the same in CC1 (ceteris paribus), then the agent could somehow choose differently, invoking a freedom of the will.

Interview with Tom Clark of the Center For Naturalism

Tom Clark is the Director for the Center for Naturalism (CFN), an organisation which harbours the excellent resource Naturalism.Org. The Mission for CFN is stated as follows:

The Center for Naturalism (CFN) is an educational and advocacy organization devoted to increasing public awareness of naturalism and its implications for social and personal well-being. The CFN seeks to foster the understanding that human beings and their behavior are fully caused, entirely natural phenomena, and that human flourishing is best achieved in the light of such understanding.

Bad Decisions Arise from Faulty Information, Not Faulty Brain Circuits

Some research out seems to support an idea that ‘bad decisions’ that we make are as a result of the quality of the information coming in rather than the quality of the systems working on that information. Of course, this may call into question the quality of the systems actually responsible for collecting that data. The chicken and the egg scenario seems to persist here. Science Daily:
Apr. 15, 2013 — Making decisions involves a gradual accumulation of facts that support one choice or another. A person choosing a college might weigh factors such as course selection, institutional reputation and the quality of future job prospects.

Schopenhauer on free will

Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.

I’ve always liked this quote from Arthur Schopenhauer, so much so that I thought I’d post it here, though it does have a few forms and is often misquoted, as I have no doubt done.

Brain Scans Might Predict Future Criminal Behavior

What is frustrating about this article is the fact that Science Daily produced it and I saw it just as I returned from giving a talk on free will to the Dorset Humanists. Grr. I talked about similar predicitve pieces of research, such as lack of fear conditioning in toddlers and criminal records, as in Gao et al, whose research concluded:

New Studies Link Gene to Selfish Behavior in Kids, Find Other Children Natural Givers

Can’t believe I missed this one. Interesting, and something I will bring up in my talk tonight on free will at Southampton University to the Atheist Society. Research into prosocial (kind) behaviour is always interesting, and something I have documented here, here and here. there is a mix of genetic and environmental influences with this one. It seems that talking to children about giving, about kindness, is more important than role-modeling when measuring children’s kindness. Of course, children who do not have these environmental influences will be at a disadvantage to others who have, and these are variables outside of their control.

Getting Around the Uncertainty Principle: Physicists Make First Direct Measurements of Polarization States of Light

Science Daily: Mar. 3, 2013 — Researchers at the University of Rochester and the University of Ottawa have applied a recently developed technique to directly measure for the first time the polarization states of light. Their work both overcomes some important challenges of Heisenberg’s famous Uncertainty Principle and also is applicable to qubits, the building blocks of quantum information theory.

Rats’ brains linked together to pass information directly. Mental (well, yeah).

Wow. This is mind blowing. Determinists, or near-determinists (such that quantum indeterminism may be true, but that it does not affect the macro level, and certainly not free will issues), will find this Science Daily article particularly interesting. Rats, and even pairs over thousands of miles distance, have had their brains directly linked in communication to solve puzzles. This really does gie the impression that brains are simply very complex biological computers (do you like that oxymoron?).

Red Brain, Blue Brain: Republicans and Democrats Process Risk Differently, Research Finds

I love research like this, it just fascinates me, and adds to the mountains of empirical evidence that supports the logical and philosophical evidence / argumentation which underpins determinism (or, more accurately, the lack of libertarian free will) about which I wrote my first book – Free Will? An investigation into whether we have free will or whether I was always going to write this book. Which, you will glad to know, has some cracking reviews.

Found: Altruism Brain Cells

Brain cells that fire only when monkeys act unselfishly may provide clues to the neural basis of altruism, according to a new study. In the study, the cells fire in rhesus monkeys when they gave juice away, but not when they received it. The findings, published Dec. 23 in the journal Nature Neuroscience, may shed light on why many animals (including humans) exhibit kind, unselfish behavior that doesn’t directly benefit them.

Epigenetics May Be a Critical Factor Contributing to Homosexuality, Study Suggests

I have commented before on homosexuality, particularly with regards to the moral proclamations of Christianity, here and here. I think the subject is incredibly interesting in light of the ideas of genetics, and within the context of free will. In my first book (available from the amazon bar on the right) about free will, I set out a case for the denial of free will. Most Christians and people who find homosexuality ‘wrong’, ‘unnatural’ and suchlike will invoke the notion that people choose homosexuality (h/s), like a new jumper or a political party to vote for. Of course, to me, all of these things are causally determined.

Language – who’s choosing my words?

I find this amazing. Language. I can have a 45 minute conversation with a friend. Neither of us consciously think up individual words. Our word choices (even as I am typing this) are non-consciously chosen. At 150 words a minute, that’s a lot of words decided upon non-consciously. I generally appear to be listening to my own words when they come out.

Gregg Caruso’s “Free Will and Consciousness” Reviewed

I recently came across Gregg Caruso’s book Free Will and Consciousness: A Determinist Account of the Illusion of Free Will. Gregg dropped me a line after coming across my blog and we got chatting. I have not read this book yet, but it seems to ally itself pretty strongly with my first book, Free Will?. Below is a review by Andrei A. Buckareff of Marist College. The book is aimed at academics in the field, but seems accessible to anyone with a working knowledge of the free will discipline. I said I’d post the review for him. Check it out:

My last talk is now a podcast: “Free Will?”

My last public talk which I gave, on free will, has now been made into a podcast which can be heard here. The talk, given to Portsmouth Skeptics in a Pub on 14th June 2012, was a nice informal gathering of about 50-odd people of varying skeptical persuasions. I have not listened to it yet, but the Q and A was an interesting and challenging time with some good questions which I think I dealt with pretty well.