Saturday, November 26, 2011

Spew the Woo

Nobody can spew the woo like secularists/rationalists/materialists trying to explain free will. Behold (via wikipedia) the woo-master himself, the old fraud Daniel Dennett:
The model of decision making I am proposing has the following feature: when we are faced with an important decision, a consideration-generator whose output is to some degree undetermined produces a series of considerations, some of which may of course be immediately rejected as irrelevant by the agent (consciously or unconsciously). Those considerations that are selected by the agent as having a more than negligible bearing on the decision then figure in a reasoning process, and if the agent is in the main reasonable, those considerations ultimately serve as predictors and explicators of the agent's final decision.
No theologian would dare write such nonsense. On a smaller scale, consider this new-age crapola from freethought blogger Daniel Fincke:
Further, I do not believe in an undetermined free will. I do think we have a will that makes genuine choices as expressive of who we are, but who we are is still ultimately determined by physical, chemical, biological, and psychological laws (and social determinants) in ways that make it ultimately impossible that we might have done otherwise than we chose to do. I just think that since we are these beings who are determined in these ways, what we do is a genuine expression of us.
Of course, not all atheists vomit up woo to explain the inexplicable. Some are quite honest. One well-known example is Cornell biologist William Provine who writes:
Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly.
1) No gods worth having exist;
2) no life after death exists;
3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists;
4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and
5) human free will is nonexistent.
Provine is quite right. The problem for the atheist crowd always has been and always will be that there is no physical mechanism for free will. In terms of quantum mechanics, the wavefunction of the universe at time t, which tells us all there is to know about the universe, is determined by the wavefunction at t = 0 and the Hamiltonian (Energy) operator H.

Ψ(t) = e-iHtΨ(0)

Free will demands that by some thought process (evaluating and choosing) you can affect Ψ(t) by altering the Hamiltonian. Ψ(t) ends up different than it would have if you hadn't made that choice. But the only way that can happen within the laws of physics is if your choice was already built into the Hamiltonian of the universe. But if so it wasn't a choice at all.

The only way that free will is possible is for something to affect the system from the outside. By altering the Hamiltonian through an intervention. There is a term for that: supernatural.

Provine understands this. Woo-masters like Dennett do not, or they do and they choose to lie about it. So they obfuscate due to ignorance or malice aforethought by penning impenetrable gobbledegook about "consideration-generators" and the like.

That is the only choice they have, short of being honest like Provine. Because nothing, ever, can rescue them. Ever. No philosophical solution, no matter how jargonized and obscure, can obviate the need for a physical mechanism which the laws of physics don't allow. You cannot, through mental processes, change the Hamiltonian in situ. It is what it is. It is, in fact, determining your mental processes, not vice versa.

The religious agree with Provine. The natural world cannot accommodate free will. Only the supernatural world can. Provine rejects that solution, we accept it, but we agree that it takes an intervention from outside to redirect the time evolution of the universe—which is precisely what free will represents.

110 comments:

  1. Some sympathy for your points, David, and of course Dennett is at his usual, oily, prevaricating self on this. But I don't agree re QM. The Schroedinger equation is indeed "deterministic", but the whole insight of QM (before clunky or fallacious diversions like Bohmian mech. and decoherence/MWI took over, see my blog for more) is that some mysterious, intrinsically stochastic "collapse" picks out parts of the WF to localize and manifest. As Penrose well explains, that is an intrusion into the orderly deterministic evolution (which of course cannot predict which outcome occurs.)

    That intrusion does not have to come from outside the system, or what regress is there (yeh, the Cat paradox - but what's the answer?) So the system can have some inscrutable "choosiness" that can't be analyzed.

    If critics say, "but it's just random", they don't realize that isn't a clear point since quantum randomness is not "understood", it is not just the ordering of classical options FWIW. I'm not sure how that fits in to free will, but it means to me, that FW isn't ruled out. BTW David what is your view on the "measurement problem"?

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  3. I think these people are looking for free will in the wrong places. Choices are neither random nor purely pre-determined, they are choices, something entirely different. I personally think free will is something like imagination, something creative, something that is not just the sum of its parts if you will. However, if it turned out free will worked in some kind of super convoluted way, I would not really mind that, and would be pretty happy to know for sure that I had it.
    That said, I do not see why we must appeal to the supernatural. After all, even if we had some kind of supernatural soul (which I am not convinced we have) it would have its own rules anyhow, wouldn't it?

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  4. By the way, do Calvinists even believe in free will? I thought you guys had that whole entire "predestination" thing. Correct me if I am wrong.

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  6. Sami: I am a Calvinist and I don't believe in free will.

    Free will is an illusion that arises out of the goal formation algorithms in our brain. It's a mental illusion, no different from an optical illusion.

    Via The Reference Frame I watched a presentation by Anton Zeilinger on quantum mechanics. After talking on entanglement and using dice to illustrate entangled particles, at 17:35 he asks the question "how can it be that two completely random events give you the same result?" He mentions two attempts to understand this phenomenon: hidden variables and communication between the particles. But then he rules both of these out. At 27:12 he presents the slide titled "Some Philosophical Possibilities" with 5 bullet points:
    1) Locality ?
    2) Total Determinism ?
    3) Actions back into Past ?
    4) Aristotelean Logic ?
    5) Realism ?

    He says that locality is not true. He notes that total determinism is a logical possibility, but then rules dismisses it by asking himself, "what am I doing when I do physics? When I do physics, I believe that I can ask free questions to nature..."

    What's fascinating about this exchange is that prior to this at 2:00, he recounts a difference between Einstein and Bohr. Einstein wanted physics to talk about "what is". Bohr said that physics can only determine what can be calculated. Later, at 47:27 he asks the question "How real is reality?" "Supposedly Albert Einstein demanded ... physics to describe reality as it is out there, completely. And Bohr said, 'no, Einstein, it can only be about what we can say about reality.'"

    Now, somewhen recently, I heard the phrase, "shut up and calculate." It's interesting that when it comes to determinism, and our supposed free will, that Zeilinger didn't apply that to his own question, "What am I doing when I do physics?" The proper response is "Shut up and calculate."

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  7. For one, I do not really relate quantum physics with free will. I simply allow that such a relation might exist, and find the proposition interesting. As for your claim that free will is an illusion, forgive me if I do not take your claim seriously. First, there is not such thing as "algorithms in our brain", the brain does not work like this. This is not philosophy, it is a fact. You are also making a claim for epiphenomenalism, which is a philosophical position held by nearly nobody since most evidence contradicts it (especially evolution). Your position is also extremely reductionist, which is a position that I believe can no longer really survive in our modern world. Finally, you are talking about volitional control, not free will. Free will, the ability to do otherwise, is different from volition, the ability to choose to do things consciously. From what I understand, Calvinists do not believe in free will. I do because I do not think God would want a relationship with beings that don't have it, and I don't think it is possible to talk about morality without free will. That said, thank you for answering my question, if this is truly the Calvinist position, I can safely reject it.

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  8. Sami: As for your claim that free will is an illusion, forgive me if I do not take your claim seriously.
    I don't expect you to. Your brain is softly wired to reject the notion that it isn't free.

    First, there is not such thing as "algorithms in our brain", the brain does not work like this. This is not philosophy, it is a fact.
    Then feel free to demonstrate it. Electrons in motion, whether in carbon or silicon, express algorithms.

    You are also making a claim for epiphenomenalism, which is a philosophical position held by nearly nobody since most evidence contradicts it (especially evolution).
    I suggest you take a look, say, at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. It's hardly settled. And I don't see how evolution can address the issue.

    Your position is also extremely reductionist...
    So is quantum mechanics. That doesn't make it wrong. We know that the brain works via electrons in motion in certain patterns. Affect the electrons and brain function is affected. But we also know that the brain is partially elastic in that the motion of electrons can affect brain wiring.

    Finally, you are talking about volitional control, not free will.
    No, I'm talking about brain function which, conceptually, can be divided into goal formation and goal attainment. It should be obvious that the portion of our brain that proposes goals creates more goals than can be attained. Selecting from this set of possible goals is choice, and it is governed by the laws of quantum mechanics.

    I [believe in free will] because I do not think God would want a relationship with beings that don't have it, and I don't think it is possible to talk about morality without free will.
    So you base your doctrine on feelings? You're wrong, demonstrably wrong, on both counts. If you think the Bible teaches that man has free will, then you've obviously never comprehended Romans 9. That Romans 9 happens to agree with physics is just a nice bonus.

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  9. Natural in this sense is defined to be mathematically precise (although when pushed most admit we don't necessarily understand all the math), therefore deterministic. Next thing to "static". Choice in any meaningful sense is excluded.

    We (that is, humans) can't make accurate predictions about interpersonal phenomena, or even more than a probabilistic assumption about whether the car will start in the morning. Ordinary life is anything but deterministic. Thinking Descartes-like about our own thinking without free will is absurd (in the technical sense), even for Calvin.

    I like that straightforward admission of a "supernatural" dynamicism. We theists should learn to play on our own court while admiring the naturalness of the natural.

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  10. @wf3: Are you thinking of verse 15?: For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."

    But just because the Servant rules by authority of the Master doesn't mean that doesn't grant the Servant authority to act on his own. Eg, the parable of the talents.

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  11. Marshall asked @wf3: Are you thinking of verse 15?:

    No, verse 16: "So it [God's sovereign choices in election] depends not on human will or exertion...".

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  12. I don't really argue about religion or morality since they inherently steps into the realm of feelings and biases (if you think that your own faith is not based mostly on feelings and intuitions, you are severely deluded). However, I am more than happy to point out flawed science. One, electrons in motion do not "express algorithms," algorithms model electrons in motion. If I model the motion of a bouncy ball with math, it does not mean that the bouncy ball is bouncing because of math, it is bouncing because of the laws of physics, which humans describe with math. When I said that the brain does not have algorithms, I simply meant brains are not digital computers, the same way that electrons are not digital computers. Two, determinism is a strange position to hold simply because most of the universe we observe behaves statistically, there is an entire field in physics centering around chaos theory and how indeterministic everything is. Then there is quantum physics of course. Supposedly, there is still a chance the universe is deterministic, it is just not very likely. Reductionism is not viable anymore, simply because complex systems such as storms exhibit top down casualty, biology depends on emergent phenomena (not reductionist phenomena), and consciousness cannot be reduced (try breaking down the color red into parts). Epiphenomenalism is even worse because if consciousness doesn't do work, it can't be selected for by evolution and it relies on a supernatural one way "bridge" between the physical and mental, even interactionism does a better job. That is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of its problems. Again, these are facts, nothing to argue about here. If you want to argue Romans 9 interpretation (interpretation is a key word here) with somebody, you can do it all day, but this stuff right here? Sorry, it's off limits if you want to remain a sane human being.

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  13. Sami wrote: I don't really argue about religion or morality since they inherently steps into the realm of feelings and biases (if you think that your own faith is not based mostly on feelings and intuitions, you are severely deluded).
    First, Christianity is based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ which was a historical event. For a good treatment of this, see The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach by Michael Licona.
    Second, you're projecting. You neither know me nor how I think.

    One, electrons in motion do not "express algorithms," algorithms model electrons in motion.
    What do you think happens when a computer is programmed? The program sets electrons in motion in a certain pattern. It doesn't matter if it's electrons in a silicon or a carbon matrix. After all, that's the goal of artificial intelligence: to make electrons move in silicon so that the end result is isomorphic to electrons moving in carbon.

    When I said that the brain does not have algorithms, I simply meant brains are not digital computers
    Which is irrelevant, as I've programmed both. There are, after all, digital-to-analog converters and analog-to-digital converters.

    Two, determinism is a strange position to hold simply because most of the universe we observe behaves statistically...
    Sure. But they behave according to the [classical] laws of physics which, in turn, obey the laws of quantum mechanics. See, for example, this article at The Reference Frame.

    try breaking down the color red into parts
    Why do you think this is hard?

    Supposedly, there is still a chance the universe is deterministic, it is just not very likely
    Why is it not likely? Did you watch the presentation by Anton Zeilinger that I linked to @ 6:04 PM? He presents it as a way out of some of the difficulties of QM, but then dismisses it because he believes he has free will.

    Epiphenomenalism is even worse because if consciousness doesn't do work...
    The electrons that produce consciousness do do work. The brain is somewhat plastic, after all.

    In order for there to be free will, you have to hold that "mental stuff", whatever that is, is under "your" control, whatever "you" are. "You" affect the laws of physics. Magnets can be used to affect the way your brain works. Can you show me a study, or even a theoretical basis, for the opposite?

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  14. sigh.
    I think this is starting to become an argument... I don't really want to argue with you, especially on the internet. I was simply trying to ask about what Calvinists are supposed to believe, mostly so I could see if I was accidentally a Calvinist myself. From what you are telling me, I'm not.
    Sorry if you feel I am "projecting" or whatever on you, I am simply stating that faith is not something particularly logical, so criticizing someone who bases their faith on intuitions and feelings is pointless. I do not claim to know you, though now I know you are apparently some type of programmer, which is interesting. I think programming is pretty cool, so if you feel like diverting from this ever so fun conversation about what should be common knowledge, you could tell me about your job. I would rather be your friend really.
    Now you said something about artificial intelligence...I think you are leaping to conclusions if you think that brains and computers actually do the same thing based on the claim that both "move electrons", by that logic everything is a brain. BTW the electrons in a computer are not acting according to algorithms either, we are setting up paths we later interpret as algorithms, pictures, etc. I can make a pattern of different colored birds represent something, and manipulate the "program" by having the birds move in different positions with food. No matter how I do it, the "program" does not really exist anywhere except for my mind (unless you are some strange type of Platonist, which is another non-reductionist, non-determinist position). As for super-determinism... there is a reason he just passes over it. It's not science and basically screws over any attempt to even do science. The answer to any question you ask about the universe suddenly becomes "because of super-determinism" since there are no other reasons anything ever happens. For it to actually work, the entire friggin' universe has to be linked together (which breaks the crap out of special relativity) there can be no non-reductionist effects (and reductionism is not viable, no matter what kind of ridiculous rationalization you pull off) or top down causality. The only way it could work is if some kind of not so benevolent God was behind it, and then we are back to religion and faith. As for your claim that you can break down red, go for it, there is nothing to break down. There is an entire field related to qualia (experiences) and the idea that you cannot break them down and they are subjective (two no-no words in reductionism)is literally part of their definition. Red, like other experiences, is similar to the word "God", if you take a letter out the word "God" it is no longer "God" if you rearrange them, you might get "Dog" or "Ogd" but not God. Words, like red, cannot be reduced. Understand? I cannot emphasize enough that this is not an opinion.
    At this point we are littering Prof. Heddle's wall, so we should probably end this before I have to start explaining literally all of physics.

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  15. Sorry, I forgot one last thing. Just because there is no theory as to how something happens does not mean it doesn't (in terms of mental causation) two, "I" am some type of mental stuff, so it would be weird if I could not affect other mental stuff. I cannot even vaguely understand your logic that
    a)since magnets affect the brain
    b)we have no free will
    There is no proof that we are actually separable from our brains anyways, so when you say "oh my brain decided to do this" aren't you just saying "oh, I decided to do this"? It seems like common sense. I do not know if "I" affect the laws of physics, we don't even know what mental stuff does, all I am saying is that it clearly does something, or it wouldn't exist. You are saying that the physical can affect the mental, but not the other way around, there is no good proof of this, and no good conceptual theory. The second you posit a second type of stuff, you are stepping into the realm of the non-reductionist. I genuinely cannot understand why you are trying so hard to convince me you are a robot. Of course, it is possible you are one of those rare, rare cases of fake people who actually are robots, which would be kind of interesting.
    Finally, if you want a study of how the consciousness affects the brain there are many, many studies being done on the subject if you actually look, just search consciousness on psychology today, or look up Alfred Mele. If you want theories, again there are many. Look up Karl Popper, John Eccles, Nancy Murphy, and many, many more. If we are talking about who has more evidence and theory backing them up, then you have already long since lost.
    That said, this really is the last thing I am saying on this subject, if you want to argue with yourself, go ahead I guess...
    I am still interested to know what you do though. Programming seems like a fun field.

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  16. Sami,

    To confuse the matter more (perhaps), I am a Calvinist and I absolutely believe that we have free will. Here are some of my posts on free will from a Calvinist perspective, if you're interested:

    I chose God from my own free will!

    Sproul Chapter 3: Free Will

    Lesson 5: Free Will

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  17. Daniel Fincke's definition of "free will" is especially ridiculous. Literally *every single object in the universe* has "free will" as he defines it.

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  18. The Deuce: Literally *every single object in the universe* has "free will" as he defines it.

    See John Conway's "Free Will Theorem" which uses relativity and quantum mechanics to prove that if humans have free will then so do particles. There's a six session presentation on iTunes U.

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  19. wrf3:

    Free will is necessary to (is coextensive with, actually) rationality. A computer cannot be a rational being, as it behaves deterministically as programmed, and has no reasons of its own for its behavior. To be rational is to grasp universals and to act based on reasons, which are irreducible to mechanistic, contingent causes. You are following a mistaken extrapolation from Calvinism into something almost indistinguishable from reductionist atheism.

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  20. The Deuce wrote [a lot of stuff I disagree with].

    Free will isn't needed for rationality. All that's needed is a means of goal formation and goal selection. A successful biological entity will have goals broadly compatible with reproduction.

    And of course a computer can be rational; every game playing computer is rational. It doesn't matter that it's programmed -- so are we. We just currently have a greater ability to form goals than today's computers.

    I'm a professional software engineer; we will attain human level artificial intelligence. There's nothing fundamentally mysterious about what your brain does; even though the complexity is above our technology for the moment.

    You (and David) are peddling the same type of "woo" that David (rightly) complains about. I'd be happy to dissect David's posts on free-will, but I've already monopolized this discussion too much.

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  21. Prof. Heddle, thank you for linking me to those posts. I see you are actually a compatibilist (determinism and free will can work), a perfectly fine position to hold. However, now I cannot really see the difference between your free will and Fincke's... Honestly, even your definition of Calvinism does not really appeal to me anyways. Thanks though, at least it was better than the conspiracy theory I was hearing about before.
    The Deuce is actually quite right about rationality and volition being bound together. Not really something to argue about.
    wrf3, I am tempted to say you do not know much about rationality, the brain, or how to not sound like a conspiracy theorist. Honestly somewhere around the point where you said you take superdeterminism seriously, you started losing credibility. If you think there is nothing mysterious about what the brain does, than excuse me, you are ignorant and filled with enough hubris change the moon's orbit. Even our greatest neuroscientists do not claim this, and most claim artificial intelligence is either impossible or in possible only in a far far away future. No, computer gaming programs are not performing any act of rationality, this is common sense, nobody seriously claims this, you seriously need to read some Searle. All of your statements are faith-based despite your impossible sureness of their truth. I never asked for a faith-free conversation, simply a rational one with some basic humility.
    Thanks all of you. Calvinism is not my cup of tea, but at the end of the day, as long as we love God and love people, I think we will all be fine.

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  22. Interesting that I find myself agreeing with most of what a Calvinist, wrf3, says- I'm an atheist, and I've never understood how anyone who believes that God is omnipotent and omniscient can possibly believe in free will. My "free will" to make a decision is risible, if God has known before the world was created what decisions I would make (omnipotence) and created me knowingly in just such a way that I would make the "decisions" I do (omnipotence). Not much wiggle room in my four-dimensional spacetime worm pinned down sub specie aeternitatis, at least not from the God's eye view. I might feel that I'm making "free" decisions, but that's an illusion: they're already cast in stone by God- He's made them for me. I don't have any more "free will" than a program that plays tic-tac-toe.

    As far as "free will" exists in lack of a God, I think the question is more or less meaningless. From my imperfectly informed point of view, I do have free will, because I can't predict my decisions- and neither can anyone else, not perfectly. So I would say that "free will" is more or less a measure of what we do not, and to some extent cannot, know about ourselves.

    cheers from chilly Vienna, zilch

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  23. I think it is interesting that an atheist would agree with a Calvinist as well. However, to answer your question, Catholics believe that God does not exist in time anyways, so there is no such thing as "predetermination" since there is no "pre" anyways, to understand this position, the answer to "what happened before the big bang" is "nothing, there is no time before the big bang" also, we don't think that knowing what someone will do is the same as forcing them to do it. Of course, understanding how God would create a world with free will is kind of impossible anyways, but if he is omnipotent it seems clearly possible. So, at the end of the day, do I really know how free will works or how I have it? No. However, just because I don't know how something works, it does not mean it does not.

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  24. Sami wrote: I think it is interesting that an atheist would agree with a Calvinist as well.

    That's a feature, not a defect. What God has revealed through nature must agree with what God has revealed through His word. After all, both are from the same God.

    By saying that you have free will, you're saying that human thought does not follow the laws of physics. All of the evidence -- physical and biblical -- is to the contrary. Furthermore, it can be shown that the idea that you have free will is a result of "the fall" in Eden. Your knowledge of good and evil leads to an unexamined expectation that you have free will.

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  25. P.S. Here's a fascinating example of the effect of magnets on brain function: Magnets and Morality.

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  26. Wrf3, why do you keep talking about "laws of physics" as if we were still in Newton's clockwork universe?

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  27. It's true that Wrf3 still appears to believe in an outdated clockwork universe. He also clearly does not understand neuroscience or non-reductionism. You are still stuck up on this magnet thing as well (in the specific study you are mentioning, the magnets interfered with the ability of the subjects to recognize intentions, influencing their moral judgement. It should not surprise anybody that magnets (which can stimulate neurons) can affect behavior, the same way that any electrical, and many chemical signals (think about drugs) also alter behavior. Nobody claims that the physical brain has no effect on the mind, that would be stupid. Magnets do not prove or disprove free will; I can't even begin to imagine what kind of convoluted logic could lead to that conclusion.
    Of course, the more I think about it, the less I think this is a productive conversation. Nobody is going to convert over a blog post, and I don't see anymore new ideas or evidence coming into the conversation.

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  28. Moving on to another topic,
    Mr. Bates, I liked your essay on whether reality was "binary or analog", good stuff. I tried going to older parts of your blog and found it difficult though. Is it a recent blog, and what do you intend to do on it?

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  29. Hehe, Sami, I wouldn't worry about atheists agreeing with Calvinists occasionally. Heck, I even agree with Catholics sometimes! It's not as though atheist cooties adhere to everything we do or say. Otherwise, you would have to relinquish any joy you felt on sunny days, for instance (a perennial favorite of atheists, and even pagans, not to mention Adolf Hitler).

    In any case, I invite you, Sami, and wrf3 and all the rest of you, Christians or heathens or whatever- if you're ever in Vienna, or in the SF Bay Area in the summer, drop me a line, and lunch is on me.

    cheers from chilly Vienna, zilch

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  30. Sami, I want to keep blogging but I keep "not finding enough time" etc. I did put up a post recently but didn't even really finish it up. You would surely like my post about AI and awareness of reality, see http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com/2010/09/jaron-lanier-inspires-this-takedown-of.html.

    Much of the blog is hard going for lay readers, glad you like the FQXi paper. I can send you a better-written one, email me using "tyrannogenius" and the "gee mail" service.

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  31. Neil Bates asked: Wrf3, why do you keep talking about "laws of physics" as if we were still in Newton's clockwork universe? and Sami opined: It's true that Wrf3 still appears to believe in an outdated clockwork universe.

    These are classic textbook examples of a non sequitur. Look at Prof. Heddle's post. He wrote:

    "In terms of quantum mechanics, the wavefunction of the universe at time t, which tells us all there is to know about the universe, is determined by the wavefunction at t = 0 and the Hamiltonian (Energy) operator H.

    Ψ(t) = e-iHtΨ(0)

    Free will demands that by some thought process (evaluating and choosing) you can affect Ψ(t) by altering the Hamiltonian. Ψ(t) ends up different than it would have if you hadn't made that choice. But the only way that can happen within the laws of physics is if your choice was already built into the Hamiltonian of the universe."

    Are you going to likewise accuse him of believing in an "outdated clockwork universe"? Both he and I are saying that the "laws of physics" (please note that he uses that phrase, too!) don't allow for free will.

    He has to posit that there is a supernatural mechanism that allows us to control the flow of electrons in our brains. That means that either we ourselves are supernatural, or that we (who are "but dust") control the supernatural. Surely Prof. Heddle will agree that neither are we God, nor do we control God. Good Calvinist that he is, surely he will recognize the absurdity of both conclusions, and therefore reject his premise.

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  32. Wrf3, have you read much quantum mechanics? Are you aware of "the measurement problem" or "the quantum measurement paradox" (look that up on Google and see who comes in 2nd or 3rd ....)? Do you know that the results of quantum experiments are irreducibly (as best we know and can find out) "random" in an intrinsic way, not per "if only we knew more about the preconditons"?

    As far as "we know", not my personal take, individual results are unpredictable in principle and are *not lawful*. It is only the overall statistics that are given by formulas (you know, the Born rule - right?) This is basic stuff!

    The wave function can't really keep on evolving deterministically, how about the problem of which spot on a screen actually flashes? Sorry to have to say, Dave did indeed slip up there and should have addressed the well-known issue (*surely* you've heard) of "the collapse of the wave function." That is the part that is not deterministic, in traditional theory.

    But maybe David and/or your are Bohmians? (An extra field, the Pilot Wave, guides the particles to their destinations. But it has to operate FTL, about as weird as Copenhagen anyway ...) Well, that needs to be stated, the theory mentioned, and defended as well (there is *no evidence* for de Broglie-Bohm mechanics - is there?)

    I know, there are claims that Schroedinger evolution keeps going (MWI) but they are full of flaws: increasing mass-energy at the multiple sites where the particle is allowed to end up (despite flabby evasions to contrary), can't derive the Born-rule probabilities, etc.

    If the *universe itself* is non-deterministic, then a system with some "integration" could express "inexplicable" undetermined choices on its own without need of external, "supernatural" intervention. (Indeed, the lesson of QM is that our universe is in effect "supernatural" in kind, altho not of course banally "by definition" of the term.) This is at least consistent with the idea of "free will" even if not proof of it. Get back to me when you've done more background study.


    "Fine minds make fine distinctions."

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  33. For the record, I do not really agree with Prof. Heddle's assessment of free will and quantum mechanics. However, if you really must believe in a deterministic universe, what Marshall said earlier is also quite accurate: supernatural freewill was never actually ruled out. I am not that big of a fan of it myself, but I don't deny the possibility. All we really have are possibilities at the moment.
    Mr. Bates, I do know quite a lot about the quantum measurement paradox, as well as most the interpretations of quantum mechanics. I think my favorites are Copenhagen, Consistent Histories, and the Information Interpretation. I am not sure what to think about the Bohm interpretation though, what do you think?
    Zilch, I did notice that my earlier post did seem somewhat like I was claiming wf3 had "atheism cooties". Sorry about that, I myself sympathized with atheism for a while, but the Christian God really appeals to me, logically and intuitively. Have you ever considered Posibillianism? It is a very interesting philosophy that might suit you.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LENqnjZGX0A
    Be careful about offering invitations, I might just take you up on it :)
    From Georgia, Sami

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  34. A bit unrelated, but this is one of the first times I have ever actually used a comment section, I was expecting "trolls" but so far this has been sort of fun. The community here is also pretty diverse for a website mostly about Christianity. We have an atheist, a Calvinist Physicist, a epiphenomenalist Calvinist, and an Atheist, all in one spot having a mostly civil conversation. I am not sure what religion Mr. Bates prescribes too though. I must congratulate Prof. Heddle for creating such a civil atmosphere in his blog.

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  35. Sami, tx for your interest. I am highly attracted to possibilianism, but have come to some strong but not "hard" conclusions, one of which is that this universe is not existentially self-sufficient (not clear just what *is* ...) Tell me more about your adventures in QM. As for the community here and the discussions, yes it's great and rather polite. I know Dr. Heddle, he teaches at CNU nearby. I didn't mean to be hard on him about the QMP, after all no one understands what happens to the wave function but we do know, "something" needs to be done about our finding discrete measurements in the end.

    PS, you mean Georgia the US State I presume?

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  36. Neil Bates wrote: If the *universe itself* is non-deterministic, then a system with some "integration" could express "inexplicable" undetermined choices on its own without need of external, "supernatural" intervention. (Indeed, the lesson of QM is that our universe is in effect "supernatural" in kind, altho not of course banally "by definition" of the term.) This is at least consistent with the idea of "free will" even if not proof of it.

    Except that this doesn't help you. Free will means that you (whatever "you" are - note the symmetry to the question of what "the universe" is) control your choices. Adding non-determinism to the process out of which the will arises doesn't make it any more free. It's no different from a computer algorithm that uses a random number generator to make choices. If non-determinism as a component of the will makes it free, then you'll have to grant free will to machines.

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  37. Sami- Thanks for the link on Possibilianism- I'll check it out. And I'd be delighted if you took me up on my offer. My email is on my Blogger profile- just click on my name. Same goes for the rest of you, even if you're Catholic.

    wrf3- yep, I, too, don't see how non-determinism gets you free will either, unless you (whatever "you" are) are determining the non-determined events, which rather tarnishes their pristine non-determinate status. If free will exists, it is rather in the more mundane sense of our engaging in weighing alternatives and making decisions, which are not (perfectly) predictable by ourselves or anyone else. That kind of free will can (and does, I would maintain) exist in either kind of universe, determinate or indeterminate. As long as God doesn't exist, that is.

    cheers from chilly Vienna, zilch

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  38. "Free will means that you (whatever "you" are - note the symmetry to the question of what "the universe" is) control your choices. Adding non-determinism to the process out of which the will arises doesn't make it any more free." But "you" are in large respect, by definition, what controls your choices. Non-determinism keeps it from being "inevitable" which is at least the removal of a hurdle.

    ND is a necessary but not sufficient ingredient for "free will" if there is, hence your argument about RNGs in machines is inadequate. Additionally, we need an integrated system of self-reflection, something "whole" to some extent.

    BTW, if a RNG works using "seeds" etc, it is not a real RNG - it is determinate production of a pseudorandom number. Indeterminacy does not have to be limited to an isolated source of "randomness" that affects "something else" - if the system as a whole is beyond reductive determinism, like a brain expressing extended and entangled wave functions, and it is "intelligent", then it's acts are "chosen" and not forced like clockwork. Yet neither is it like a puppet, with strings being pulled according to say, hands of cards. It's the combination of all the attributes.

    Of course I am not "sure" of all this, it's a rough theory or even speculation. And BTW if we did not have the "integration" we couldn't act so smoothly and have such sudden ability to turn on a dime, etc.

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  39. I do not hold that indeterminacy is required for free will. However, many others do. The basic idea is that determinism does not leave room for really free choices, and that indeterminacy breaks the casual chain of events, allowing "you" to make a decision that was not determined completely by the past. It has nothing to do with randomness, and everything to do with possibility, think of the future as a superposition if you will, and "you" are something responsible for "collapsing" it. Personally, I think the real enemy of free will is not determinism (which I don't think is true, whether or not free will exists), but reductionism. The algorithm analogy does not hold, since people in this kind of free will do not make decisions based on "random" factors, they just have more than one "real" choice. There is a great deal of theory behind it if you care to look it up, and honestly I could not explain all of it to you even if i wanted to.
    Also Zilch, I maintain that God's existence does not make free will impossible. After all, do you not believe that a omnipotent God could make a truly free (whatever that means) being if he wanted to?

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  40. By the way Mr. Bates, I agree that the universe is not self-sufficient, and that it could not have come from nothing, since after all, nothing does not exist. That's basically the definition of nothing, "not existing". In the Bible (which I am not sure you personally attribute any meaning to, it says "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." I think that whatever the Word/God is (absolute infinity, pure existence, super love, something like that), it is, in a way, somehow simpler than nothing. Do you think this makes sense?

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  41. I am more a "possibilian" but also "Unitarian Universalist" and with some sympathy for "there is a teaching inside Christianity (& many others) with validity" but I look it over, not taken as handed down. I don't consider any revelatory message as "evidentiary" (can't quote to make a point), but also: evidence is a constraint, not a necessity (so we an speculate.)

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  42. The universe - sure, not "just there" IMHO, it's a manifestation, a mask of a big Mind underneath albeit not IMHO omnipotent about particulars, and a long way from being a bigger man in the sky.

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  43. The Unitarian position is interesting, but Christianity really speaks to me. While I don't make the claim every event in the New Testament has been absolutely historically proven, no faith required, I do think the Bible has a solid historical background. Of course, I do not deny my own experiences (spiritual and otherwise) bias me, but I don't know of anyone living without bias.
    I don't know of many Christians who would claim that God is just a "bigger man in the sky". Though we do claim that he wants a relationship with us, and that at some point he did in fact become a man.

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  44. Sami- you say:

    Also Zilch, I maintain that God's existence does not make free will impossible. After all, do you not believe that a omnipotent God could make a truly free (whatever that means) being if he wanted to?

    I dunno. Can God make a rock so big He cannot pick it up? I guess it depends on from whose point of my will is free: from my point of view, given an omnipotent and omniscient God, it's still free because I can reflect and choose, and I don't know in advance what I will choose. But from God's point of view, how can I be said to have free will? God has made all my decisions for me before I was born, and moreover must have wanted me to decide the way I do; otherwise He would have made me differently. This is one reason I find the concept of freewill, not to mention the concept of sin, to be problematic on theism.

    Neil- I still don't see how non-determinism makes your will any freer, no matter what the source or characteristics of that non-determinism. If "you" (again, whatever that means) want to make a decision, how can any sort of randomness or undetermined input in the decision help make it "your" decision?

    cheers from chilly Vienna, zilch

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  45. Ah, the famous stone. The stone, interestingly enough, is not an argument against real omnipotence, but a type of "forced" omnipotence. God is as powerful as he wants to be, if he wants there to be a stone he cannot lift, or a decision he cannot predict, he can make it so. If wants to limit himself to being a human, he can also do that. In fact, in some types of theism (which I do not endorse), God actually does not know the future (by choice).
    As for indeterminism, it simply states that the future is not set in stone already. You never "have" to do anything, since there was always the possibility that you could choose not to. Randomness has nothing to do with it. Or at least that's the idea. I think indeterminism is probably not necessary for free will, but it's their if it is.
    Also, Zilch, did you see the thing about Possibilianism? I think it is a really cool idea, something that should be spread to everyone.

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  46. Sami, you say:

    God is as powerful as he wants to be, if he wants there to be a stone he cannot lift, or a decision he cannot predict, he can make it so.

    How far does this go? Perhaps God is so powerful He can decide to not exist, and I am right in being an atheist. The trouble with this line of reasoning is that this conception of omnipotence is a carte blanche for "anything goes", and it defenestrates any possibility we have of knowing anything at all. Such a God might well have written the Bible and all other scriptures to trick all the poor saps who don't think logically, and He will welcome us atheists into Heaven. There's no knowing. I don't know many Christians who would admit such a possibility, or even the possibility that God is capable of acting irrationally or evilly.

    I watched the clip on Possibilianism, and found it very engaging, and I pretty much agree with everything he said. But to tell the truth, I don't see any new ideas here: as far as I can see, Possibilianism is simply a new name, and a nice package, for agnosticism. The only seeming difference between Possibilianism and, say, the take-no-prisoners atheism of Dawkins or PZ Myers is the emphasis on tolerance. But there's no difference, as far as I can tell, between the core beliefs: use the tools of science to build knowledge, but stay humble and openminded about all that we do not know. I don't think many atheists would disagree there.

    cheers from rainy Vienna, zilch

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  47. Basically, you are asking if God can die, and the answer is yes. He can come back from the dead. Omnipotence is exactly as you say it is, "anything goes", when you decide the rules, you also decide what goes, nothing illogical there. Can God act evilly or irrationally or commit suicide? Probably, but the real question is: would he? If anything, that is one more thing to thank God for, after all, if God decided to permanently stop existing, we wouldn't be here! If God decided to be evil, this universe would be a terrible place! But he doesn't, because he is kind, that is the entire basis of faith. Faith is not blind acceptance, it is trust, when you have faith in God, you have trust that he is not going to screw you over, that in the end everything will be all right.
    As for atheists going to heaven, why not? You seem like a nice guy, so if I saw you there, I wouldn't have any complaints. Of course, I'm not God, so who am I to say?
    Possibilianism is about more than just agnosticism though. It is simultaneously holding several beliefs, or at least beliefs in possibilities. You act as if they might be true, and you openly consider them. True agnosticism, at its core, is simply a statement of "I don't know, nor do I really care."
    Tolerance and humility are also important. I will tolerate and attempt to understand just about anything, even if I think it is stupid. But in my opinion, New Atheism is simply unacceptable.
    So, I am not sure this is a good enough answer for you, but I think that, seeing as it is nearly impossible to know with absolute certainty anyhow, I think I can rely on faith here.

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  48. I could have sworn I already posted this comment, but I guess not so here goes (if ref. to Sami's next to latest comment as I write):

    I think Sami is mostly right on this one. Even God presumably couldn't be self-contradictory but REM that such problems occur in logic anyway (Russell's paradoxes etc), so then what? If indeterminacy can exist at all, it can be emanated from "God." That in fact seems to be the kind of universe we actually live in, so not much point in arguing whether it "can" exist.

    Nor do I think God knowing the future has anything to do with the nature of the choice or causality - knowledge just "shows" what happens, it doesn't prove anything about functioning and determinacy. If the choice really isn't pre-determined, then to know what it will be must involve literally transcendence of time, the seeing of the future itself rather than *predicting* it from current properties, as in Laplacian extrapolation.

    Added: back to free will: it isn't just "randomness" thrown in there, and it isn't classical "randomness." I don't think our idea of randomness is well-formed as a causal (versus a descriptive) idea. If I'm a system, I'm saying I am mulling over things and my "choice" is not predetermined, nor is it just composited or pushed by an external "random number generator", it is inherent to "me." That may not sound very convincing, but still, the post-classical universe gives us "undetermined" choices *from inside* a "thinking system" which is pretty close to the intuitive feel of the meaning of "free choice." But sure, I appreciate the difficulty and the lack of firm case here, I just doubt the alternative.

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  49. Hey Mr. Bates, did you read those articles I tried to send you over gmail? they pertained somewhat to the discussion, so I wanted to see your opinion on them (and hopefully grasp some of your understanding too).

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  50. Sami, tx for those links. Briefly, they make the basic point that indeterminism is real, because attempts to find things like "hidden variables" that control quantum events (deterministically but "behind the scene" as it were) cannot succeed. Even so, those articles are a bit behind and some proponents of ideas like Bohmian mechanics say there is still a way to make things determined. However that needs weird effects like faster than light communication. So there is no easy way out of quantum weirdness. My own experimental proposal is an attempt to shut the door on another evasion of the collapse problem.

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  51. I know about your experiment, but from what I understand it does not actually exclude Bohmian mechanics if it works, but does exclude other theories relying on Decoherence (Many-worlds, Consistent Histories, etc.). What's interesting is that Bohm himself did not support determinism, despite wanting hidden variables.
    Honestly, have you ever heard of a good critique of Bohmian mechanics? I am not sure I have read one yet myself.

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  52. Sami, that's about right. I'm impressed with your acumen, I hope you don't think I'm spilling beans by noting that AFAIK you aren't even 18 yet! Yes, a Bohmian could say, the "pilot wave" just guides the photons to one or other detector whether there is decoherence or not. As for critique of BM, you can find it out there. It includes "where do pilot waves come from, how can they communicate FTL, what then are photons if not spread out like the EM waves they are carriers of (most quantum optices people say *no sense* to imagine "photons" as particulate at all "in flight", but only per interaction with something!

    I am going to add you to a science-related discussion group on FB, if that's OK. We "argue" about QM all the time, but good atmosphere (like here.) One guy, Phil, is very attracted to BM. Not me!

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  53. Oh, tell me more about Bohm not wanting determinism. I thought that was his whole point, unless you mean he believed in the equivalent of "randomness" but in the classical way. Remember, in Copenhagen there literally is not a fact of the matter (indeed) about the current state, that compels or could be used to predict which quantum alternative is actualized.

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  54. Bohm was philisophically a bit of a mystic actually. He had his own pet interpretation (the "real" Bohm interpretation) that combined hidden variables and indeterminism. His real idea was not to make quantum mechanics deterministic, but to change it completely. He simply did not believe it was a complete theory.
    Read the bottom of Bohm's page on Wikipedia.
    Is it true that hidden variables violates special relativity? And can you explain Quantum Logic (I think it is the same as the information interpretation, but I am not sure).
    Finally, if you haven't seen it before, this link has helped me in the past http://www.mth.kcl.ac.uk/~streater/lostcauses.html#III
    I don't really understand his criticism of quantum logic or hidden variables, so again, I'd appreciate a translation.

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  55. Thanks. It will be a while until I have good answers to lots of what you asked, except that per FTL: you do need such to tie together the entangled measurements, if you are a "realist" and imagine some actual causal connection. It could be per the context and not a specific "preferred frame" but either way it's not kosher SRT.

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  56. Sami, you say:

    Possibilianism is about more than just agnosticism though. It is simultaneously holding several beliefs, or at least beliefs in possibilities. You act as if they might be true, and you openly consider them. True agnosticism, at its core, is simply a statement of "I don't know, nor do I really care."

    I would say that caring about what one doesn't know is not what "true" agnosticism" is about- it's the apathetic agnostics who say "don't know and don't care". I am, or at least I try to be, open to all ideas, but I can't say that I believe in everything simultaneously.

    Tolerance and humility are also important. I will tolerate and attempt to understand just about anything, even if I think it is stupid.

    Yes, tolerance and humility are important.

    But in my opinion, New Atheism is simply unacceptable.
    So, I am not sure this is a good enough answer for you, but I think that, seeing as it is nearly impossible to know with absolute certainty anyhow, I think I can rely on faith here.


    I also find that the "New Atheists" often do their cause no favors, when they make fun of the religious, for instance. That's no way to get someone interested in what you have to say, or to help make the world a better place.

    cheers from chilly Vienna, zilch

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  57. It was a cool link though right? A little bit inspiring even, or at least food for thought.

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  58. Thus wrote zilch:
    I am, or at least I try to be, open to all ideas, but I can't say that I believe in everything simultaneously.
    Makes for cute snark, but surely you realize that possibilianism is not about believing in everything, but in being open to whatever of it may be true (non-prejudgmental, etc.)

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  59. Neil- I wasn't being snarky, but responding to what Sami said. I understand that possibilianism is not about believing in everything.

    cheers from chilly Vienna, zilch

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  60. No worries, I didn't notice any snark myself :P
    Hey Neil, what do you know about the Afshar experiment?

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  61. Afshar experiment: basically, start with double slit then add a row of wires where "dark fringes" are presumed to be "in space" - (later you see how this bypasses fixation on measuring devices having to be there to have anything to tell the difference. The wires don't detect photons (may intercept a few due to imperfect realization), but basically it's as if they weren't there.

    The kicker is, add a viewing device to see which slit the photon *apparently* came through. Yes you can do this, focus the DS plane onto a detector, and just as you'd get a built up image of two bright slits, sensitive detectors can click at the focus spot of slit A or slit B. In ordinary conceptualizing of QM, this means we find which slit the photon "came through" (compare Wheeler delayed choice experiment.) But if the choice to measure "which slit" had retrodicted the waves to come from one or the other slit, then the wires would intercept half of them instead of very few. It seems like we're tricking the wave function into being a wave (goes around the wires) and particle (which slit image the photon is found in) at the same time.

    I think nature can handle this and we can understand what the AE shows. The AE is important in showing that orthodox thinking has been faulty. The result is likely a "post selection effect." The WF is as it sounds, a "real wave" as it goes through space regardless of what happens afterwards. The interference pattern avoids the wires, then the WF encounters the detectors and one or the other (at each slit image) goes "pop" with a photon - just like when a photon spreads out any other time.

    The click of a detector at image B does not mean the wave is redacted back in time to "have come from" slit B. It just "appears" to have, like a photon split by a BS may click at one detector or another, but didn't get sent in one direction by the BS. Schroedinger evolution does show effects of anticipated interactions! That is so, regardless of what happens *during* a measurement. But scientists had thought, you couldn't find both aspects at once so Shahriar Afshar deserves credit for IMHO proving them wrong, even if we can explain what happened. My two cents. See also Wikipedia etc.

    "Fine minds make fine distinctions."

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  62. So lately I have been trying to understand hidden variable theories, and I finally understand why people don't normally like it.
    I did not realize this before, but the "nonlocal hidden variables" are REALLY nonlocal... The pilot wave is supposed to connect every particle in the universe. So it's like the force from Star Wars or something.
    I think I am going to have to say "no" there, I think it is probably fallacious to try to apply a wavefunction to the entire universe. I also really don't like the idea of a special "Pilot Wave" that I can't find, despite the fact that it's everywhere.
    Any comments Mr. Bates? Tell me if I am wrong about the Pilot Wave being everywhere.

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  63. Sami, briefly as I run out of time for awhile: the PW is a sort of potential, and connects particles that have some quantum causal relation (e.g., an entangled pair) but I'm not sure that "everywhere" is a good way to put it, sounds too expansive and imprecise. It is more "all over" than an EM wave, since it doesn't need time to propagate at c. I suggest looking at those physics FAQs, but Wikipedia article is a bit technical.

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  64. Not to flog a dead horse here, but I really don't see what quantum mechanics, or even if the Universe is determined or undetermined, have to do with free will at all. Making choices is something we do, like breathing: do we need quantum uncertainty to breathe "our own" breaths, or must the Universe be determined or undetermined? How is free will any different?

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  65. Zilch asked: Making choices is something we do, like breathing: do we need quantum uncertainty to breathe "our own" breaths, or must the Universe be determined or undetermined? How is free will any different?

    Yes, making choices is something "we" do. But what are "we"? Is there some supernatural "stuff" in our brains that don't follow the lays of physics that makes up the "we"? Or is "we" an epiphenomenon of the motion of electrons in our brains? If it's the latter (as I claim that it is), then the epiphenomenon of "we" follows the laws of physics. That means that what "we" do follows the laws of physics. Quantum indeterminacy is a dodge used by those who want to maintain that we somehow, against all logic, have free will. That our "freedom" is found in randomness. But, again, this doesn't help because, 1) "we" don't control the laws of physics, and 2) randomness isn't rational.

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  66. wrf- yes. Iirc, William James said something similar, not about quantum indeterminacy of course, but more generally about how randomness doesn't give us any "freedom".

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  67. Sorry for double dipping here, but I just found this quote by J.J.C. Smart which I thought was apposite:

    "Indeterminism does not confer freedom on us: I would feel that my freedom was impaired if I thought that a quantum mechanical trigger in my brain might cause me to leap into the garden and eat a slug."

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  68. wf3, you have not been able to make any kind of case for why anyone in their right minds would think epiphenomenalism made sense. This is not a position held by most physicists or even neuroscientists. In fact, besides you I do not know of anyone who actually subscribes to this strange theory. I am telling you: it is not viable. Epiphenomenalism is not sound science, and it's not sound theology. It's just a bad idea. I am starting to think you might be trolling me...
    zilch, the only worry people have about determinism is that their decisions are somehow determined completely outside of their control, that they never really had a choice. Indeterminism is useful to these people because it means the future is not set in stone already. It's not that they believe that a quantum fluctuation is causing their behavior or anything, they are causing their behavior in a world that has an open future. Or at least there are multiple "paths" to take.
    Many people do not think this type of phenomena is really needed, you and me included. (Though I am pretty sure a reductionist world is not ok) But if it is, it's their if you need it. So if you ask me, good news for all.
    So I guess that's all that needs saying. I commend you all, we have covered the entire debate of determinism vs. indeterminism up until this point. We didn't even call each other profane names once either!

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  69. Sami- unless you believe in some sort of multiple worlds theory, where every decision (what exactly is a "decision", though, and why do "decisions" have privileged status over, say, taking breaths?) causes a branching and multiplying of worlds, which include all the "possible" different worlds resulting from these different decisions, then there is only one future ahead of us. Either I will decide to post this comment, or not: either way, it's set in stone, in the sense that we have only the one future, and in that future I either have or have not posted: no "possibilities" here, just what happens.

    If there is only one world, it can be represented, sub specie aeternitatis, as a four dimensional (disregarding string theory) spacetime worm. What we see as "decisions" are points that are fixed in the worm, from the God's eye view. This is regardless of any quantum fluctuation or other indeterminism- if there's just one world, it's set in stone.

    Of course, we don't have this perspective. That's why I said earlier that our free will is a measure of what we do not know, rather than any sort of magical or quantum phenomenon.

    Just my humble opinion. Cheers from chilly Vienna, zilch

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  70. Zilch wrote: That's why I said earlier that our free will is a measure of what we do not know, rather than any sort of magical or quantum phenomenon.

    But that doesn't work, unless you want to be consistent and claim that computers have free will. A chess program doesn't know all of the paths to the end game, for example -- it has the same lack of knowledge -- and so it's choices are educated guesses.

    It's no different for us -- the state space of life is much, much larger than the game of chess. In most cases we can't see the complete path between our current state and whatever goal we currently desire. So, just like the chess playing computer, we have to guess. But we still choose.

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  71. wrf- is there a logical line to be drawn between our decisions and those of a computer? If so, where and how? I don't understand your point here.

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  72. Zilch wrote: is there a logical line to be drawn between our decisions and those of a computer?

    Last night I read this paper: Computation Emerges from Adaptive Synchronization of Networking Neurons. What this shows is the computational equivalence between neurons and NAND gates, i.e. neurons can be used to build a NAND gate; NAND gates can be used to build neurons. This means the answer to your question is a definite "no".

    I don't understand your point here.

    I claim that lack of knowledge should not be used as a way to define free will, unless you want to make the claim that computers have free will. Our lack of knowledge while making choices in the "game" of life is no different from a computer's lack of knowledge while making choices playing Chess or Go.

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  73. So, wrf, how do you define free will? Do you think that human free will exists, and must (for some unstated reason) be logically different than, say, our ability to breath, or the ability of a program to make chess moves? If not, then I still don't understand your point. If so, I'd like to see evidence.

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  74. Zilch asked: So, wrf, how do you define free will?

    Refer back to my post with the 6:04 PM timestamp:

    "Free will is an illusion that arises out of the goal formation algorithms in our brain. It's a mental illusion, no different from an optical illusion."

    Trying to define free will as a function of knowledge, instead of as a function of choice, is just an attempt to maintain the illusion.

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  75. That was a pretty cool article wrf3! I noticed several things I think you sort of missed in your analysis of it though. There is a rather large "logical line" to be drawn between computers and brains if you actually read the article. It never said NAND gates are the equivalent of neurons, they work in a fundamentally different way. What is stated is that, through emergent (EG, non-reductive) and sporadic (EG, random) properties, neurons can simulate not just NAND gates but can perform many other operations as well. It is stated quite clearly that neurons are not NAND gates; it is stated that under certain conditions they can simulate NAND gates. There is a key difference. Brains are not computers, they do not work like computers, they do not do the things computers do, and so far all the attempts (and there have been many) to emulate neurons (which require the processing power of an entire computer to simulate) have not really worked. To claim that this study actually supports the idea of Brain=Computer is a twist of logic. What it does support is the contemporary view of the brain as an "orchestra", comprised of many "processors" working together in a type of network.
    I think you might be making several false assumptions about the brain. One, I think you might believe that neurons are all exactly the same (they are not, there are many specialized types of neurons) and that neurons are the only cells in the brain (again, they are not). Two, I think you might be imagining the brain as a chaos free system. This is also false, in fact research shows that without chaos neurons don't even work properly.
    So far, that is all neuroscience has really gotten us. Perhaps in the end I will be wrong and we will actually be computers with a consciousness that apparently does nothing, but so far the evidence is against it.
    Honestly, I can't understand why some people are so keen to defend this view though. Normally, you would be happy to hear the good news right? Especially when the bad news requires leaps of logic.

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  76. Also Zilch, if you are interested in the "logical line" between computer and brain, I suggest reading something from Roger Penrose for an understanding of non-computable functions in the brain, Nancy Murphy for an easy understanding of top-down casuality and non-reductionist properties of the brain, and John Searle for the basic conceptual problems of comparing brains to computers. They all operate from a physical approach, so you won't hear about any soul stuff.
    So yeah, hope that helps.

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  77. Sorry guys, three comments in a row. :(
    I just wanted to point out that logic gates can be made out of almost anything. Wrf3, I checked multiple times to make sure I did not miss it, but they never mention in the entire paper that they made, or can make, a neuron out of NAND gates. It was probably an accident, but don't overstate anything.

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  78. Sami wrote: Wrf3, I checked multiple times to make sure I did not miss it, but they never mention in the entire paper that they made, or can make, a neuron out of NAND gates. It was probably an accident, but don't overstate anything.

    See, as one of many examples, NEURON which is a neuron simulator. Since it's a computer program, it can be constructed from NAND gates. QED.

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  79. I've read about neuron before, it simulates neurons, and if you are going to claim that simulating something and being something are one in the same, then I can make a hurricane in my computer right now.

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  80. Sami wrote: I suggest reading something from Roger Penrose for an understanding of non-computable functions in the brain.

    To save me a bit of time, do you have a specific reference? I would argue that the brain doesn't compute non-computable functions. Indeed, it cannot. What the brain does do is "talk" about what non-computable functions are (e.g. the Busy Beaver function), but describing a function and computing a function are two different things.

    Searle has offered his Chinese room argument against computers with understanding. On the other hand, John McCarthy, one of the fathers of artificial intelligence, has, IMO, successfully rebutted this argument.

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  81. Sami wrote: I've read about neuron before, it simulates neurons, and if you are going to claim that simulating something and being something are one in the same, then I can make a hurricane in my computer right now.

    And earlier you hinted that I might be a troll.

    The subject is computability, not the ability to blow air. A system composed of NAND gates can compute everything that a system composed of neurons can. Since neurons can be used to build NAND gates, the reverse is also true.

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  82. Haha, it takes forever to scroll to the bottom of this comment section.
    About Penrose, he writes books on the subject if you feel like looking him up, but I can't link you to an article, sorry about that.
    But yeah, I have heard the system response before, and the only way it could work is if you already accept functionalism (that Consciousness is just the process of doing something). I don't share this view, since doing so would require that I believe a nation, a room full of people, or a figment of my imagination could all be conscious. If it turns out imaginary brains can be conscious, I would consider this proof that information is the real reality, independent from material things, which would certainly be strange in my opinion.
    Of course, maybe we are overstepping ourselves. We are not even close to uncovering all the brain's mysteries, and we haven't even ruled out the existence of souls yet. Perhaps our discussion is premature.

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  83. Sami wrote: It never said NAND gates are the equivalent of neurons, they work in a fundamentally different way.

    Don't get hung up on the underlying mechanism. What's important is the equivalence in what neurons and NAND gates can compute. Thought is nothing more than electrons moving in a certain pattern. It doesn't matter if it's a silicon or a carbon matrix.

    neurons can simulate not just NAND gates but can perform many other operations as well.

    Sure, but then NAND gates can simulate those operations, too.

    Brains are not computers, they do not work like computers, they do not do the things computers do

    Except that the equivalence in computability between neurons and NAND gates shows this to be false.

    and so far all the attempts (and there have been many) to emulate neurons (which require the processing power of an entire computer to simulate) have not really worked.

    But they have worked -- just not on the scale of the human brain, which has, what 100 billion neurons and some 5 trillion connections? This is just a matter of scale.

    I think you might be making several false assumptions about the brain. One, I think you might believe that neurons are all exactly the same...

    I don't, but the differences can be simulated with NAND gates, so it doesn't change anything.

    Two, I think you might be imagining the brain as a chaos free system.

    Most certainly not. See my post God, The Universe, Dice, and Man. My thinking has evolved a bit since I wrote that, but the core of it is still true.

    ...but so far the evidence is against it.

    Artificial intelligence is only around 60 years old. It's still an infant. The only thing that will prevent artificial intelligence from succeeding is that there really is some supernatural "stuff" powering our brains, stuff that we won't be able to duplicate. But John 1:1 really argues against this: "the Word became flesh."

    Honestly, I can't understand why some people are so keen to defend this view though.

    Because it's the true view of reality?

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  84. Sami wrote: I would consider this proof that information is the real reality, independent from material things, which would certainly be strange in my opinion.

    Information is the "real reality". See the tail end of the presentation by physicist Anton Zeilinger where I provided a link in my post at 6:04 PM. This guy is a renowned experimentalist in quantum mechanics who actually said that information is at the bottom of things. Much to my surprise, he even put up a powerpoint which quoted John 1:1: "In the beginning was the Word."

    However, information is not independent of "material things." There has to be some variation, some non-uniformity, for there to be information. Up/down, left/right, charm/strange, plus/minus, wave/trough. I simply can't imagine how something immaterial can have variation and, therefore, information content. However, that may mean I'm just ignorant. Although I'm familiar with Plato, and Russell's defense of the "unchangeable world of ideas", I think Russell's argument to be flawed.

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  85. I fully intend to get "caught up in the underlying mechanism". There are different ways to do the same thing, and I believe consciousness is one way of using information. If we can use information in other ways, through books, computers, or an abacus, they might end up producing the same output. But nobody argues that an abacus is a book, even though I could, through a long series of rules and abacus positions probably produce the same output as a book. I think you are completely missing how big a deal emergent properties are in the brain, and I highly doubt that NAND gates can perform all of these emergent properties. At some point, billions of neurons, through their interactions, form the strange, unified entities that are you and me. You talk about how NAND gates can do this and that and how artificial intelligence is unstoppable, but I think you are jumping to conclusions that I think we have good reasons to doubt. You speak like this is all really obvious, as if the facts only pointed in this direction, but with all of these experts in disagreement and the general craziness of the world, don't you think maybe, just maybe, there is a better answer, that there are other answers besides you being a robot confused by illusions in a world that he does not even vaguely affect?

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  86. Well, I am not sure we will ever actually agree about whether or not computers can be conscious, I think I see a new fun conversation topic.
    I have often heard about the "information interpretation", and I definitely have some sympathy for it (but I think that the material is still important, or at least that simulations or fictions are not the same as reality). However, you do realize that, since information is non-reductive, it contradicts your earlier superdeterminism?

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  87. Sami wrote: I fully intend to get "caught up in the underlying mechanism".

    Then might I suggest looking into computability theory? An abacus is not a computational device. It's no different from a piece of paper and a pencil. You are the "computer" that drives the abacus. You just made the same kind of mistake that Searle did in his Chinese Room argument.

    and I highly doubt that NAND gates can perform all of these emergent properties

    Based on what reason, since neurons and NAND gates are computationally equivalent? What is it a neurons can do that NAND gates cannot? It doesn't matter how many neurons you use, or how you wire them up -- there's an equivalent system of NAND gates.

    At some point, billions of neurons, through their interactions, form the strange, unified entities that are you and me.

    And those neurons are pushing electrons around in certain patterns. That's why I said that thought is electrons (or photons, or...) in motion in certain ways. If neurons can do it, NAND gates can do it.

    there is a better answer
    Better, how? Philosophically? Do you really think the world has to conform to your notions of good and evil?

    that there are other answers besides you being a robot confused by illusions in a world that he does not even vaguely affect

    First, I'm trying to get past the illusions. That's a good thing. Second, I don't mind being a robot. I have a title for a book I'll probably never write: "A Kite in God's Hands". Nothing wrong with that, at all. "In Him we live and move and have our being."

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  88. Sami wrote: However, you do realize that, since information is non-reductive, it contradicts your earlier superdeterminism?

    No, I don't. Would you elaborate?

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  89. If I had a lot of time, I could use pen and paper to perform all of the tasks a computer can, in exactly the same way, without even vaguely understanding what program I was implementing. That is literally the entire point of Searle's argument, that there is no real difference between a computer and an abacus.
    I don't think anyone has proved that NAND gates can do everything neurons can do, and I don't think they can. I base this belief off of the fact that neurons work through emergent properties, and therefore should exhibit properties that NAND gates do not (again, this is non-reductionist). I have not seen any data that supports the hypothesis that NAND gates and neurons are equal to each other. I have read work from many neuroscientists, and a major theme in all of contemporary work is that brains do not equal computers, straight and simple. To accept otherwise would be to go against the consensus of the people who actively study the brain, and I think that would be irrational. You seem to believe that consciousness is just moving electrons, but we have no proof of that. In fact, if that were true consciousness should form when I turn on my flashlight. Yet likewise, I could say that brains and batteries are the same, since after all, they also both move electrons. As for my "better answer", it is "better" because it does not posit a God who creates beings without freewill, throws some of them in fire, creates elaborate illusions that the world around them is indeterminate and that they are free, does everyone's thinking for them, and somehow takes pleasure in all of this. Evil doesn't even make sense without free will, since people can't disobey God if God is controlling their every action. You are, according to your theory, not trying to get past your illusions: you are not doing anything.

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  90. Last one for tonight. Zilch, I haven't forgotten you in the other thread.

    Sami wrote: If I had a lot of time, I could use pen and paper to perform all of the tasks a computer can, in exactly the same way, without even vaguely understanding what program I was implementing. That is literally the entire point of Searle's argument, that there is no real difference between a computer and an abacus.

    Do read the rebuttal that I linked to previously. You, like Searle, are confusing the system [you + abacus] when you say that there's no real difference between a computer and an abacus. An abacus by itself is not a computer.

    I don't think anyone has proved that NAND gates can do everything neurons can do, and I don't think they can. I base this belief off of the fact that neurons work through emergent properties, and therefore should exhibit properties that NAND gates do not (again, this is non-reductionist). I have not seen any data that supports the hypothesis that NAND gates and neurons are equal to each other.

    I just showed you the data. The paper that shows that neurons can simulate NAND gates, and the program NEURON that shows NAND gates can simulate neurons. They are physically different, but computationally equivalent.

    I have read work from many neuroscientists, and a major theme in all of contemporary work is that brains do not equal computers, straight and simple. To accept otherwise would be to go against the consensus of the people who actively study the brain, and I think that would be irrational.

    For every PhD there is an equal and opposite PhD. Shall I cite the researchers in artificial intelligence who believe that we will achieve human level AI?

    When you say "brains do not equal computers", do you mean in their physical construction (which is true), or in what they can compute? The important thing is in what they can compute, not how the computation is done.

    You seem to believe that consciousness is just moving electrons, but we have no proof of that.

    Earlier you wrote, "At some point, billions of neurons, through their interactions, form the strange, unified entities that are you and me." Their interactions are electronic! You gave yourself the very proof you demanded.

    In fact, if that were true consciousness should form when I turn on my flashlight. Yet likewise, I could say that brains and batteries are the same, since after all, they also both move electrons.

    That's silly. It isn't just that electrons (or photons, or ...) are moving, but that they are moving in a certain pattern. NAND gates in one arrangement implement an adder. NAND gates in a different arrangement implement a comparator. NAND gates in yet another arrangement implement an algorithm that plays chess. And so on. It's all how things are wired together.

    As for my "better answer", it is "better" because it does not posit a God who creates beings without freewill, throws some of them in fire, creates elaborate illusions that the world around them is indeterminate and that they are free, does everyone's thinking for them, and somehow takes pleasure in all of this. Evil doesn't even make sense without free will, since people can't disobey God if God is controlling their every action. You are, according to your theory, not trying to get past your illusions: you are not doing anything.

    Notice that this isn't a scientific answer. Now you're objecting to science based on theology. In particular, you're relying on your notion of good and evil which, as we all know, hasn't been reliable since Eden. I can demonstrate that the idea that you have free will is a result of the Fall and is therefore not a good metric for whether or not something is true.

    But, that's enough. I'm bowing out.

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  91. Superdeterminism can only work in a reductionist setting, since any non-reductionist setting includes top-down causalities and novel phenomena, which thus cannot be predicted, or determined, strictly by initial conditions.
    Information is non-reductive because information exists as whole concepts. For instance, lets look at the word "dog". You cannot remove a letter from the word while preserving its meaning, you cannot predict what word you will get purely based on its letters (for instance, you might get "dog" or "God"). You cannot predict the behavior of a word based on its letters (even if you have d, o, and g, you do not know how "dog" fits into a sentence without the word being intact and in context of a larger sentence). Even in programming, if you break up your sequence of ones and zeros in ways that often appear insignificant, you might screw up the whole program. This is the concept of non-reductionist of information. If you accept that information is a real part of reality, you must abandon reductionism (and thus superdeterminism) since reductionism claims that information is just a subjective way of looking at the "real" reality, which is just meaningless (as in without information) motion. That is why it was important that Zeilinger said information is at the bottom of things, it is a whole new way of looking at the universe, incompatible with our older views.
    Also, I missed one of your earlier posts, and wanted to clarify something: just because neurons can emulate NAND gates does not mean it works the other way around. After all, NAND gates can make the other logic gates, but not all logic gates make NAND gates. So if we go by "since A can make B, B can make A" logic, we would need any gate to be able to make a NAND gate.
    Also, sorry about accusing you of trolling, I just felt that everything I was saying was just going right past you. I am often told that "trolls" stick to ridiculous premises against all logical arguments in order to get a rise out of other people.

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  92. I mean, if we are going to talk about God, we have to talk about good and evil. The fall (if it happened, we can't be sure it wasn't a metaphor) isn't even possible without free will to reject God in the first place. Of course, any evaluation of "better" or "worse" is going to be mostly subjective on our part. I am not objecting to science though, you have no science backing you up, and the question of consciousness is far from over.
    Theologically however, I would like to know why God would try so hard to trick us (essentially lying to us, is lying something God does?).
    The interactions between neurons is not purely electric, it is also physical and chemical (and according to some people, not me, quantum). I already said simulations are not the same thing as the real thing, so you need not bring up NEURON again. I just explained to you that the authors of the study were not endorsing your view that NAND=neurons, but were proving that neurons can (but are not limited to) perform the calculations done by NAND gates in a completely different fashion. Let me emphasize that, the neurons in this experiment use emergent properties to achieve the same outcome (not process) of a NAND gate. "It is not the end of a journey that matters, but how you get there." I am applying this lesson to brains here, because I do not believe doppelgangers are the same thing as those they copy. Unlike NAND gates, neurons are alive: they require a chaotic environment to function properly, are adaptable, only work properly in group settings, are each working in parallel, use non-reductionist principles, store information not just electrically, but also structurally, spatially, and temporally, respond to chemical signals, grow and die, can integrate thousands of inputs each, can simulate even more states than a NAND gate (like emotions). Show me a NAND gate that actually does all of this, and we haven't even gotten started on glial cells.
    Maybe, just maybe, I am wrong and you are right, but I wouldn't be able to do anything about it anyways, since after all, in your universe, with a God of fancy kites, I wouldn't have a choice. For now, I intend to choose the rational choice.

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  93. Sami, wrf- interesting discussion, guys. I can't respond in detail, because I have a concert coming up, but I'll just agree with wrf that Searle's "Chinese Room" Gedankenexperiment has been thoroughly rebutted- Douglas Hofstadter did a nice job in The Mind's I. And wrf- while I also don't see any theoretical reason that the logical function of wetware cannot be duplicated by hardware, I'd be surprised if anyone has yet duplicated anything more than the function of isolated neurons. As Sami points out, there are many different kinds of neurons, and there are complicating factors such as hormones as well. Not to say that it's not possible, but I don't think we've covered all the variables yet.

    cheers from chilly Vienna, zilch

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  94. Free will - the randomness in QM may seem pointless by itself, but if the brain is an integrated "system" then the indeterminacy is more than just being pushed around by individual coin flips. IOW, I am saying it is not just like a deterministic robot with a separate RNG thrown in. And indeed, there is a difference between "determined" in principle, and not determined. I'm sure Dave meant well but he didn't really explain the issue in the post.

    Simulating logical function of wetware: the whole idea that the WW simply performs "logical functions" is a conceit of those who want to believe it - what is their evidence or good argument? Just seeing "connectors" and signals is not enough. The brain is messier than that and the function doesn't follow specified rules. All those quantum mechanical atoms and electrons with subtle entangled relations just aren't a "circuit." Therefore, no reason to think a "circuit" could model it.

    Indeed, there is a powerful argument that we can't be just computational AI. If we were, we couldn't appreciate that our world was "real" and not itself a mathematical model, because computation just crunches numbers. Those numbers could just as easily be abstractions, there is no way to represent "these computations are being done by a real material computer." IOW, no way to represent that modal realism is wrong (look up MR and MUH, they are astonishing to the uninitiated.) Well, proponents of MR will just say "we're right anyway," but it's ironic that "materialists" will have trouble with it!

    I owe much of this thought to the under-appreciated Jaron Lanier, but I may have put in the coup-de-grace on it.

    I don't apologize for "spewing woo" since the universe itself is weird like that (and would be a fallacy to consider the idea itself invalidated by some people pushing the idea too far or in clumsy ways.) Indeed, I refer to it as the "wooniverse." ;-0

    Hey, this may be one of Dave's longest threads. It's been a great tussle so far, and I'm gratified to tangle or find support from very bright commenters here, agree or not as we may. (And this is inherently a very difficult and disputable subject!)

    Holiday Cheers to all!

    "Fine minds make fine distinctions."

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  95. I also expect a wooful universe, evidence simply points in that direction.
    Hey Mr. Bates, did you hear about this new theorem? It along with Kochen and Specker's work puts a nail in the coffin of hidden variable theories, so that is pretty cool :). Of course, this only works if we assume statistical independence, which is the basis of all of science in general. So if you are going to reject that, might as well throw out science in general. Solid stuff. http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/1105/1105.0133v1.pdf

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  96. Neil, you say:

    Free will - the randomness in QM may seem pointless by itself, but if the brain is an integrated "system" then the indeterminacy is more than just being pushed around by individual coin flips. IOW, I am saying it is not just like a deterministic robot with a separate RNG thrown in. And indeed, there is a difference between "determined" in principle, and not determined.

    Can you explain how the effect of quantum indeterminacy on free will is "more than just being pushed around by individual coin flips", and what the difference, again for free will, is between determined and undetermined? I still don't get it. How is free will "freer" if it is subject to random alteration, from whatever source?

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  97. Zilch, I don't think a clear picture can be made. As I noted, I think we are "integrated" and in a way that cannot be modeled by classical concepts. But you ask, "whatever the source" - if the source is an integral part of the system itself, is not classically representable, and is part of a "thinking system" then it at least "could be" the sort of thing imagined as "free will." REM that quantum randomness is "inexplicable", not just the unknown selection of which card that is already determined by the atoms in the universe. In some combined structure, it need not be just thrown together from separate sources. IOW your intuitive sense of "randomness" and it's implications is misleading (not that anyone "gets" how to imagine it alternatively!)

    I probably cannot and won't try to "prove" it is valid and a property we have, I am in effect taking my own intuition and sense of inner process and trying to justify it. It might never be possible, like we may never understand the "collapse of the wave function" etc.

    But in any case, critique based on imagining processes as representable math of any kind, is no more adequate than the original claim itself. IOW, I'm more saying "you can't prove we don't have FW" than pretending to prove it.

    Sami, tx - unfortunately my Adobe is not up to date.

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  98. Sami wrote: Information is non-reductive because information exists as whole concepts. For instance, lets look at the word "dog". You cannot remove a letter from the word while preserving its meaning, you cannot predict what word you will get purely based on its letters (for instance, you might get "dog" or "God"). You cannot predict the behavior of a word based on its letters (even if you have d, o, and g, you do not know how "dog" fits into a sentence without the word being intact and in context of a larger sentence).

    Once again, you aren't correctly analyzing the system. There is no inherent meaning in the letters 'd', 'o', and 'g'. After all, our friend Zilch would use 'hund'; while Russian readers might use 'sabacca'. The meaning is not in the letters, but in an isomorphism in our brains. By convention, English speakers associate the letters 'dog' with the abstraction of the visual image (or audio description, or tactile impressions) of a dog. Meaning exists in mental models and mental models are based on the flow of electrons in our brains. So one can, in fact, reduce this form of information. That's why humans and computers can recognize shapes, for example, and why computers with cameras for "eyes" can look at a scene, determine what's in the scene, and reason about relationships between the objects.

    This is the concept of non-reductionist of information. If you accept that information is a real part of reality, you must abandon reductionism (and thus superdeterminism) since reductionism claims that information is just a subjective way of looking at the "real" reality, which is just meaningless (as in without information) motion.

    You are confusing information, which is just a string of variations, with meaning, which is built on top of information. Information doesn't have inherent meaning. Rather, we build up abstractions (isomorphisms) in our brains which are useful for interacting with the world.

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  99. Sami wrote: Also, I missed one of your earlier posts, and wanted to clarify something: just because neurons can emulate NAND gates does not mean it works the other way around.

    Except that NEURON shows that it does.

    Also, sorry about accusing you of trolling, I just felt that everything I was saying was just going right past you.

    I understand what you're saying. After all, you sound like the me of years ago. The arguments you're using are the arguments I used to use, until I discovered that I was wrong.

    I am often told that "trolls" stick to ridiculous premises against all logical arguments in order to get a rise out of other people.

    Well, the claim "we don't have free will" certainly gets a rise out of people. It's because your brain is strongly (but not unalterably) wired to believe that it has free will. Your brain would rather shape the evidence to fit this in-born conception, rather than let the evidence shape the brain.

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  100. Actually, I don't think there's much point in debating whether or not we have free will, as long as we don't define exactly what "free will" means. And I haven't heard any definition so far that doesn't beg any number of other questions.

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  101. Sami wrote: The interactions between neurons is not purely electric, it is also physical and chemical (and according to some people, not me, quantum).

    Sure. It's all based on quantum mechanics. I remember when my boys were in Boy Scouts and the Scoutmaster decided to have a class on the Chemistry merit badge. He had a PhD in chemistry and started by using the QM description of electrons -- since chemistry is all about what electrons do. The kid's eyes glazed over, because they weren't used to that way of thinking, but he was absolutely right. Chemical reactions are electronic, which means they are quantum.

    I already said simulations are not the same thing as the real thing, so you need not bring up NEURON again.

    Oh, but I do. There are things for which the simulation is the real thing. Computation is one. Consider what the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says about Turing machines: "Turing machines are not physical objects but mathematical ones. We require neither soldering irons nor silicon chips to build one. The architecture is simply described, and the actions that may be carried out by the machine are simple and unambiguously specified. Turing recognized that it is not necessary to talk about how the machine carries out its actions, but merely to take as given the twin ideas that the machine can carry out the specified actions, and that those actions may be uniquely described."

    This means that the simulation of computation is computation. This is also true for intelligence -- whatever simulates intelligence is intelligent. That's the basis of the Turing test.

    "It is not the end of a journey that matters, but how you get there."

    Except that this is completely wrong for computation and, therefore, intelligence. It doesn't matter whether one uses a Turing machine or an Intel processor or your brain. They are all equivalent in terms of the computations they do.

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  102. Math and meaning are "platonic structures", non-reductive, and furthermore non-physical. The analogy of words that I used apparently didn't work very well for you, but it was an analogy, not an argument. Meanings, associations, qualia, and mathematical structures do not break down into their parts, some things like qualia do not even have parts to break down into. Reductionism leaves no room for things like "math" or "meaning" or real, objective information in general. Brains do not do computation, they do cognition. Furthermore, the using the Turing Test begs the question, you have built in an assumption that simulating something is the same as being something, and then "proved" it with circular logic. If I do not accept (and I don't) that simulations of intelligence and real intelligence are the same thing, then the Turing Test simply tells me what I cannot know about a system. You are not proving functionalism (which by the way, is a non-reductive theory as well according to the people who made it), you are just stating over and over "functionalism is true" with different words.
    I noticed some inconsistency in your logic as well. You claim that consciousness is simply the movement of electrons in specific patterns. However, the patterns of electron motion are completely different in a computer and in a brain! The entire point of functionalism is that it does not matter whether you use electrons or whatever to do a computation, as long as the output of the computation is the same. You are using a non-reductive materialist notion of consciousness, a functionalist notion of AI, and a reductionist notion to describe the universe. These are three conflicting ideologies, so pick one. (For the record, I kind of like non-reductive materialism myself)

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  103. Zilch: definition of free will, sure, but just about anything that is not pure description is hard to define - define out of what? I like to ask people, what makes the terms we use in definitions, themselves "obvious" and not needed defining in turn? If they are proper "givens", then why not whatever you're asking me to define. OTOH, if not: then there's an infinite regress of meaning all the way down, no understanding to define with.

    Ironically, we more have to *understand* something in order to define it, than define it in order to understand it. And that is hard. But it applies also to the supposedly understood "causality." Consider Humes' critique: we are just referencing regularities in what happens, a mere description like "symmetry" not an actual "something that makes things do what they do" as "laws" are imagined to be. So you ask if "free will" can be "defined" and I shoot back with "can determinism or lawfulness be defined"? Not so easy or simple as you think. The whole subject is a mess, we thrash around it with our intuitions anytime we go beyond merely saying "things happen such and such a way" to "why."

    Wrf3, you bring up quantum mechanics but don't seem to appreciate the implications or at least, possible implications of it. But no one really "gets" that anyway. However, you say "simulating computing is computing" etc. but you don't explain why I should believe that NEURON or whatever process simulates *what our brains are really like.* You have to show that the brain is such and such a way, not just presume from convenience (as I suspect ideological hacks like Dennett et al do) and vaguely suggested analogies from "look at those connections" - see what I wrote about the messiness of brains and their clouds of wave functions etc., no "computing machine" that.

    Also, as I noted, if we were mere AI/CI intellects then we wouldn't be able to think the thought or appreciate being in a "real world" and not just the math of the computation itself. (Nor IMHO could we have "real feelings" like nausea. I challenge you to even outline the construction of a computational entity that can feel nauseated, and from "principle" (as you would build a chess-playing machine) and not cheats like saying you'd copy from a real brain (which begs the question of whether such a real mess could be simulated anyway.)

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  104. Wrf3's real problem is that his ideology is a logical hydra.Let's not look at all the science that contradicts most of his positions, and just try to accept them for a second.
    His three theories are functionalism (consciousness for computers), reductionism (everything can be reduced to its parts), and epiphenomenalism (conscious will is an illusion).
    If functionalism is true, and since functions are second order phenomena which are actually independent of the matter that makes them (including electricity), then reductionism is not true, which therefore disproves superdeterminism. Furthermore, functionalism also does not mix with epiphenomenalism, since functions=consciousness and functions are casually potent in functionalist theory.
    If epiphenomenalism is true, than that means that consciousness is not computing, since computing is casually potent. If consciousness has no real function, than it cannot be described by functionalism, since it means that intelligence is independent of consciousness and therefore cannot be tested by a Turing test. This also means that whatever consciousness is, it still cannot be described by its parts, disproving reductionism.
    If you accept physicalism (which I can at least sympathize with) of any kind, reductive or nonreductive, than what something is made out of matters, and the electricity or whatever has to move in the right way in the right structures. Functionalism in this case is false, since even if brains and computers both "compute" things, they are not made of the same types of stuff. Epiphenomenalism would also be false since consciousness is a casually potent, physical entity.
    Consider that your ideologies are incompatible, and that is the nail on the coffin of your argument. So my challenge now is this: pick what you actually believe and get back to me. And I assure you, they are incompatible, not just because of my arguments, but because the proponents of each theory claim they are incompatible with each other, and they have many arguments for this that would take an entire book to write for you. Quite frankly, I don't think you did your research.

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  105. Sami wrote: Wrf3's real problem is that his ideology is a logical hydra.

    Except that you don't understand my ideology. You "destroyed" a creature of straw.

    Let's not look at all the science that contradicts most of his positions, ...

    I'm not the one who confused information with meaning, or who rejects the position that the simulation of intelligence is intelligent (thereby declaring AI impossible by fiat!), or who doesn't understand that there are many ways to do the same computation, regardless of the complexity involved, or who wants to rely on explanations that don't ultimately rest on QM.

    His three theories are functionalism (consciousness for computers), reductionism (everything can be reduced to its parts), and epiphenomenalism (conscious will is an illusion).

    I never said that conscious will is an illusion. Not once. I said that the idea that our will is free is an illusion.

    If functionalism is true, and since functions are second order phenomena which are actually independent of the matter that makes them (including electricity), then reductionism is not true, which therefore disproves super determinism.

    This is false. Functions are not independent of the matter that makes them. Rather, different arrangements of matter can produce the same functional result.

    For example, I can calculate sines by using a taylor expansion, or interpolation on a lookup table. I can build an adder out of NAND gates or neurons. Different devices, different wiring, same result.

    Furthermore, functionalism also does not mix with epiphenomenalism, since functions = consciousness and functions are casually potent in functionalist theory. If epiphenomenalism is true, ...

    I don't hold to epiphenomenalism, at least as strictly defined. Part of the problem is that I'm using the word based on the Greek meaning of "epi", while I suspect you're using in the formal sense in that mental states have no effect on physical states. That's certainly not true. Mental states are caused by electrons in motion in certain patterns, electrons can certainly affect other electrons.

    If you accept physicalism (which I can at least sympathize with) of any kind, reductive or nonreductive, than what something is made out of matters, and the electricity or whatever has to move in the right way in the right structures. Functionalism in this case is false, since even if brains and computers both "compute" things, they are not made of the same types of stuff.

    Doesn't matter. Different stuff can compute the same things. That's a fact of computability theory.

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  106. Sami wrote: Math and meaning are "platonic structures", non-reductive, and furthermore non-physical.

    You can't have "platonic structures" without matter. My post at 8:58 PM said that I disagree with Plato and Russell on this. You can't have information without "matter", more specifically, differences in "something." Uniformity has little informational content

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  107. Once again I must agree with wrf: while one can argue about exactly what to call the patterns of, say, mathematics, I don't see any reason to believe that they can exist independent of matter. To be sure, the informational content of, say, 2+2=4 is substrate neutral: it can exist on paper, or in a pattern stored in a computer or a mind, but I don't see how it can exist with no substrate, and substrates are, in our experience, always made of matter.

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  108. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  109. Neil wrote, but apparently deleted, Wrf3, all: I am denying that all our brains can do is equivalent to "computation" (even though some of it surely is.) Sure, anything carrying out the same "operation" is doing the "computation" - that's why Searle's (?) "room in agony" is a good put-down of the absurdity of the idea that our *feelings* can come from computations....

    I assume you're going to repost an updated version of this. If so, I'll be glad to respond. Otherwise, I can respond to a similar post from you at 8:37 PM.

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  110. Ohhhh, see I thought you were claiming REAL epiphenomenalism, hahaha, sorry :P
    However, real epiphenomenalism is the only theory the mind that can accept reductionism, so I still maintain that you cannot hope to hold onto superdeterminism as a viable theory. Any other theory is going to have second order/top-down casuality, which denies reductionism and thus superdeterminism. For the record, superdeterminism claims that quantum mechanics is incomplete, so it is you who does not want to rely on explanations that "ultimately rest on QM".
    That said, I never claimed that information is independent of matter, only that it is non-reductive. When I said that functions are independent of the matter that makes them (in functionalism), what I should have said is that they are substrate-neutral like Zilch said. Because functions (and not the properties of their materials) are the "real" casual forces in this theory it is not compatible with reductionism which denies the existence of second order causation and multiple realizability.
    Therefore, you still must drop at least superdeterminism. As for functionalism, even if I do not really agree with it, I can at least begrudgingly admit that it is a more open question (though at the very least I think it is an incomplete theory as it stands right now).
    Our conversation would have been a lot more fruitful if I knew you weren't trying to stick to real epiphenomenalism, so that is partially my bad for not noticing, but I sort of wish you made that clear earlier.
    I think that as the issue stands right now, we do not have enough information to make further judgements. Personally, I am more sympathetic to Searle's position that simulation is not implementation and that the right matter should matter. You are more sympathetic to Dennet's position that a function, whether utilized by India, a computer, or a brain, is good enough consciousness. There is a chance you might be right, but I guess we will have to wait for a successful Turing test and more knowledge about how the brain stores information to find out.
    Sorry for thinking you were crazy Wrf3! You are at most slightly eccentric.
    But you know, I don't think you actually believe in superdeterminism either. When the scientists say "free will" they don't mean free will like we are using free will, they mean statistical independence. Statistical independence is something required for science in general, and rejecting it is 50 different kinds of ridiculous. What you believe in is something more like "fate", and I don't think you need superdeterminism to believe in that (I would argue that you probably don't need to reject free will either, but whatever). In other words, you don't need to believe that God is monkeying with physics just to break Bell's inequalities to think that he has a hand in guiding history.
    At this point I am pretty sure we are at a "stalemate" due to the lack of available information, so any discussion past this point is pure woo and sophistry.
    If it turns out you are right, I guess I can only hope that I am not one of the kites God decides to fly into a building. In the meantime, I intend to continue believing that I play some role in my destiny and that God really loves me enough to give up some of his own control for me.
    Merry Christmas, Sami

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