May 2008

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I will still believe in a free will, until someone can show me a flaw in the following deduction:

Alternative 1: There is no free will.
In that case I have no choice in what I believe, because of having no free will. So if I believe in haveing a free will, I can't help it.

Alternative 2: There is a free will.
In that case I might miss some good oportunities if I don't believe in a free will and consequently use it for decision making.

Conclusion: If you don't believe in a free will, you either can't help it (1), or you might miss oportunities (2). So I believe in a free will and hope I decided to do so ;-)


Example: Billiards. In billiards/pool, we know that geometry, and the
basic principles of physics determine the outcome of every single action.
If we knew all the angles, speed, weight, trajectory, bounce, and basically
all the factors, we could in essence predict exactly where each ball would end up after the "break".
The universe operates under these same principles, only on a much
grander scale. Our microverse is also determined by these same laws.
All the atoms, quarks, neutrinos, or whatever, all have a deffinative size,
shape, energy output, lifespan, blah blah blah... And if we knew (not
very likely) what all the numbers correlate to, then we could, in essence,
predict every outcome of every action. Even our own actions.
And our actions include choice.

P.S. Scott, I think I'm an Avatar since '03


I do not understand why we consider the subconscious mind as some separate entity controlling our selves. We can always increase our consciousness and bridge the gap between the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. The closer you are to the subconscious, the more your free will.

Most of the meditation practices have this objective.


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This exact study has been done several times in the last 3 decades. Old news.

Marlan Winter

If you want to really see a philosphy of no-free-will (wet wired robots) then you'd find "The Mystery Method" a really good read. It's amusing to no end.



As one psychologist wrote, free will simply means making a choice.
What influences those choices is another matter.
Science can affirm many things and then the next generation of scientists may affirm the opposite.


Since reading Scott's blog for many moons, I have come to believe that free will doesn't exist. I believe we are controlled by instincts and conditioning. The more knowledge we have, the better decisions we can make. Observing my wife and children daily only increases my beliefs.

Do you get to choose what sounds good or bad to you?
...what tastes good or bad?
...what smells good or bad?
...what looks good or bad?
...what feels good or bad?
I don't believe we get to choose. We are wired a certain way to know good from bad. We are also wired to choose good over bad.

Do you get to choose that joke is funny and then laugh at it?

Do you ever get bored? Why? Did you choose to get bored? Why not just choose not to be bored? Just think how much smarter people would be if they would choose not to be bored with school and studying.

Can drug addicts just choose not to be addicted?
Do people choose to have multiple personalities?
Do people choose to be bipolar?
How does dementia affect free will?

How do salmon know to swim back up river to spawn all at the same time? It is genetically controlled. It cannot be a learned behavior because the entire previous generation are dead.

We are humans and we are wired to act in certain ways just like other animals are wired to act a certain way. Dog breeds have definable behavioral characteristics that distinguish them from other dog breeds. Why? Because they are controlled by instincts that are passed down by genetics. We use training to condition them to act in a manner that is pleasing to us. But, we don't get to just choose any training method we want to get the behavior we want. We have to supply a stimulus that will give us the correct reaction. That reaction is dictated by the dog's instinct which is controlled by the brain which is an expression of DNA.

From the Myers-Briggs Type descriptions, I am an ISTJ. Could I choose to be an ENFP?

Did you choose to be a heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual?


I'm glad to see you using a scientific source for your argument--it's a great step in the right direction. I've found that debates based on evidence and studies are much more worthwhile than when people simply throw around theories based on unsubstantiated "facts."

It is an interesting study, but I don't necessarily see how it has anything to do with free will. It basically just says that people make their decisions a few seconds before they can pinpoint making them, at least in the case of simple things like pushing a button. If anything, it's about subjective perception.

But of course, free will is such a poorly defined concept, as "understanding" said, that it is really impossible to prove or disprove.

Paul Coleman

I notice that "Haynes' team monitored these shifting neural patterns using a functional MRI machine. " Does this imply that previous attempts has used a NONfunctional MRI machine?


Do bugs have free will? Why are bugs attracted to the light?

Also, does our ability to logicize with our rational brains improve our unconscious decision making skills? I mean, obviously there are people who are so attracted to the tables in their front yards or to their bikes or vacuum cleaners, but perhaps there is a way to *zap* them like a bug zapper so they don't do it again. Also, precognition forms via the input that you allow into your mind, and you have some control over that, well some people do anyway. Isn't the scientific method the best rulebook that you can program your mind with if you happen to be a slave-bot like you believe we all are? If you program yourself to think "I doubt this, but I don't know for certain either way" each time you are presented new information then won't you make better decisions and form more intelligent beliefs than if you program your mind to say "I absolutely believe it because somebody said it".

Now, the only question I really have is, "can we or can bugs or can dolphins program ourselves to think in certain ways that are different than the rest of the group?"

Man is a social animal, meaning that everything he does is somewhat dependant on the environment around him, but I wonder if it is possible to train a person not to be attracted to that table in the front yard or a moth to not be attracted to that buglight, and then again, were they free not to be attracted as such or were they merely reprogrammed by their environment? I can't stop blogging, so I make a decision to delete all my blogs out of my favorites folder, I see a huge decrease in the amount of blogging I do because I have to take the time to find the blog sites once again, and thereby a huge increase in my natural productivity in doing other things.

Geeze, does it even matter that we are influenced by our environments to varying degrees from person to person, and by our internal workings? Herd mentality dictates that the masses will by your product if you advertise your product and people like your advertisment, whereas some people will just sort of say "I don't need that dilbert book, Monkey Brain!". Of course, my decision was more rational, I said that I didn't need it because it wasn't free because I'm a cheapskate, but if you made it free I probably would have snatched it up then and there. That's how my programming was at the time at least, but it could change over time, and hopefully as I improve myself by surrounding myself with the influences that I wish to become and by distancing myself from the influences that make me change my views in ways that I know to be wrong.

For instance, I am 99.99% certain that humanity evolved from single celled organisms in the ocean and only 0.01% certain that we did not, or at least for right now since the overwhelming evidence points in that direction. I am not going to read intelligent design books because I may begin to doubt my certain beliefs and it may look more like 80%-20%, and then I may do irrational things because of the internal conflict occuring in my mind. I may even completely overlook the scientific method and listen to an argument from a celebraty like ben stien, and thereby get myself expelled from the priviledge of complete scientific enquiry. However, if I go prepared, and view that movie from an objective viewpoint, overlooking the attractive status of hollywood and the humor of funny celebrities believing something absurd, then perhaps I won't go there at all or perhaps I'll laugh it off as merely an anomaly.

The scary thing, of course, is that religions don't use the scientific method for determining things or forming beliefs, nay, they just use peer pressure to get you to believe absurd claims.

Somebody at the ben stien movie: "Everybody else in here believes in God, so why don't you?"

Me: "Well, you see, there is no proof either way, so why would I form such a belief"

SATBSM: "Because you want to go to heaven, right!?"

Me: "There is no proof of an afterlife, and the evidence is overwhelming that there is no way of even detecting an afterlife with our scientific instruments"

SATBSML "The Bible says it's true"

Me: "And without any proof"

..... wow, what a tangent I'm on, I actually have no free will and this tangent is proof positive. Blogging less often means I have to say more stuff when I do blog, you understand, right Scott!?

L. Silva

My brain is making the decisions based on being me, I am my brain and my brain is me. How can that not be free will? To not have free will it would have to be someone else's brain making the decision.


What is interesting to me is that so many people in America think the burden of proof lies on the side of scientists. Perhaps initially scientists had to really duke it out to prove their points, but scientific knowledge has advanced to such a degree that the burden of proof SHOULD be shifting over to the side of intelligent designers/free willers. Why do people still scoff science but offer nothing as a counter-argument? Why is their best argument a scathing remark coupled with a quote saying that it is impossible to disprove something? Yes, science itself admits that disproofs do not exist with absolute certainty. But when a scientific theory can explain a process better than any other, and can accurately predict the future of that process, that theory is considered proven beyond a reasonable doubt. People need to stop yammering about more proof being needed to disprove their fairy-tale concepts and need to start offering proof of their own.


Many of you appear not to understand, and Scott hasn't really made it clear.

It's about predestination, in the sense of Calvin and Zwingli ... sort of.

You don't control what you do. You simply do. You _perceive_ what you do, but you don't _choose_. How could you? You are the logical heir of the big bang, as am I.

"You" are a construct of the brain in your skull. Once that part of your brain ("you") understands that, you appreciate what the kindergarten teacher earlier was saying. There is no blame, no shame, no guilt. There just is.

I will admit I haven't fully wrapped my software around this yet, but I don't see the alternative. God? Some other mysterious force?

It doesn't seem likely.


You haven't debunked free will. You've just moved the argument into the subconscious. How could you make a decision without drawing on all of your past experiences and knowledge?

"Free will" has never been properly defined so it's difficult to debunk or prove.

Sir Mike Tallon, PhD

I don't know about it proving anything about free will, but it does confirm my long standing assertion that people know exactly how they feel about something and how they want to handle it right away. The rest of the contemplation is "doubt" until they realize their instinctive answer is the only way. Strangely, people will know how they feel right away but will verbally respond with ways that vaguely indicate otherwise. You can see through it by hints and interpretable phrases they give.
It's funny how they say we know 7 seconds in advance what our decisions will be, there's an old ninja addage that one should be able to make a decision in 7 breaths. It's funny how intuitive some of our ancestors were. Or maybe not to Scott Adams.


A direct quote from the article that you say debunks free will:

"Also, the predictions were not completely accurate. Maybe free will enters at the last moment, allowing a person to override an unpalatable subconscious decision."

Keep trying though.



Science continues to discover that experiments examining the brain-body connection cannot rule out free will.


If you really want to know first hand how the brain works, listen to the amazing story of the brain scientist who studied and remembered the effects of her own stroke:


This will eventually be pointed up as rubbish, I think. Suppose I'm driving on a narrow road and a child suddenly runs in front of me. On the left side of the road is a rock ledge; on the other is a deep lake. I have one second to decide whether to drive into the cliff, the lake, or the kid. How is my brain supposed to have made this decision six seconds before the emergency arose?


I don't get it. From the article I get the impression people were told to conciously decide whether to push a button with their left or right hand. In the process of them making that decision, the scientists recorded brainwave activity and found that it corresponded with the decisions people made?

If someone is laying out a path of logic to reach a particular conclusion, it is pretty easy to see the conclusion they are going to reach a long time before they get there. That doesn't obviate them reaching that conclusion. A similar process is occuring here.

The other caveat is that if it takes the subconcious mind 7 seconds to decide which button to push, and considering that many decisions are made in less than a second, it means the subconcious mind must be able to see the future.


you forgot to add the DMD :)


Free will is meant to describe the fact that you are not fated to be a certain way.

Obviously if you live in squalor, the odds of you being unhealthy reaches 100%. Obviously you are affected by your genetic makeup which means you may have more of a battle with weight or disease than the next person.

Free will means you get to choose how you respond to events that you cannot control. Free will is in the context of the question, Does God let me live my life or am I fated to only do what strings He pulls in my life? That is the question "free will" offers.

Yes, we make decisions based on what we saw as we grew up. Some of us had sucky examples in the adults we had as role models. Others of us had good ones. I have seen kids group up that had sucky parents do quite well. I have seen kids with decent parents end up in jail.

If you don't believe in a God that is taking an active part in human history, then the concept of free will is not relevant to your life.


Quote from article:
"Caveats remain, holding open the door for free will. For instance, the experiment may not reflect the mental dynamics of other, more complicated decisions.

"Real-life decisions -- am I going to buy this house or that one, take this job or that -- aren't decisions that we can implement very well in our brain scanners," said Haynes.

Also, the predictions were not completely accurate. Maybe free will enters at the last moment, allowing a person to override an unpalatable subconscious decision. "


I choose to believe in free will because if I'm wrong, it isn't my fault.

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