Free Will lives, Determinism died

  1. What should be the default view on Free Will? We talk about Free Will because we feel it in us and in the actions of all other. Even those attempting to disprove Free Will prove instead its existence by trying to persuade us, when lack of Free Will would make this effort futile. We can also see that dead matter is only moved by external forces hence does not have Free Will, and that the living act upon external forces and also what appears to be internally determination, aka Free Will. Therefore, the default position should be that we all have Free Will until one can demonstrate otherwise.
  2. Free Will is the belief that at least some of our actions are not completely determined by agencies beyond our power. “Some” is more than “none”, but it does not have to be “most” or even “many”. Thus, the burden of proof against Free Will is impossibly high, as all – not just some – of our actions would have to be entirely – not just partly – determined by external forces to disprove Free Will. This proof has not and cannot be provided.
  3. Indeed, Determinism is self-defeating as lack of Free Will would render all decisions illusory. The Sun, the dead, and the rocks do not decide anything, so why would a determinism proponent decide any more than these entities? And without decisions, ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘worry’, ‘fair’, ‘guilt’, ‘self’, and so on do not make any more sense either. Convincing others that Free Will is not true makes absolutely no sense if Free Will were indeed illusory.  
  4. So how do we know that we have Free Will? We cannot know for sure, but we infer Free Will the same way we infer reflex actions – we observe and feel. When we observe actions (ours or those of others) that seem nonrandom and unrelated to any known drivers we accept Free Will. Other times, we see automatic reflex or instinct responses and we consider those actions determined by external forces.
  5. Like a muscle, Free Will (Willpower) gets tired and can be overwhelmed or destroyed by external forces. Free Will appears to decrease when suffering brain trauma, under the influence of chemicals, due to genetic conditions, or when infected with certain parasites. In non-human life forms, Free Will seems weaker than reflexes and instincts. Willpower failures are not evidence against Free Will, just as forces overpowering one’s muscles do not disprove the muscular system’s power. Free Will experiments (Libet and others) have been inconclusive so far.
  6. Quantum mechanics indeterminacy invalidates determinism. In the double slit experiment, one can have a perfectly deterministic setup yet every time the experiment is repeated, it cannot be known (except statistically) where the particle will end up even if the setup is calibrated to the n-th degree. This is totally different than the deterministic systems (hereby invalidated!) where the normal distribution of outputs can be narrowed by tightening the inputs / set-up with the theoretical conclusion that perfect inputs / set-up will result in perfect outputs (determinism).
  7. Even Newtonian mechanics doesn’t claim determinism is true. It only gives a limited (not exhaustive) set of rules without implying that’s all there is. Newton strongly believed in divine intervention and didn’t see a conflict between that belief and his mechanics. Chaos theory has been conceptualized as early as 1880 by H. Poincare, shaking the foundations of determinism which was never based on anything other than an incomplete understanding of physics and on a pure philosophical desire.
  8. Is Free Will then just a mix of Randomness and Determinism? No. Free Will is a function of the living. Randomness and Determinism apply equally to the inorganic, but only the living (organic) has Free Will. Anything less than 100% combination of Randomness and Determinism is not sufficient to disprove Free Will.
  9. Many machines fully controlled by Randomness and Determinism have been built, yet none of them displays Free Will aside from the will of their human designer. ‘Artificial Intelligence’ is an ongoing pursuit, and AI machines will eventually be so good, that the naive observer will completely miss the human designers’ contribution and will falsely conclude that the machine perfectly mimics Free Will, hence “Free Will is just an illusion”.
  10. Religious views are behind most of the arguments on both sides of the Free Will debate. While opponents see only an illusion created by Randomness and Determinism, Free Will proponents also see the touch of our Creator behind the machine that would otherwise indeed be just subject to Randomness and Determinism. Is God’s omniscience incompatible with our Free Will? Not at all. Many times parents know that children’s actions will end up badly, yet they chose to let the children exercise their Free Will anyway.

Pro-Con Notes

Con: According to our best present understanding of the fundamental laws of nature, everything that happens in our universe is due to only four different forces: gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear force. These forces have been extremely well studied, and they don’t leave any room for free will.

Pro: Actually…

  1. No, we do not know the laws. We just know instances of those laws and we have been wrong in the past about those laws.
  2. The laws cannot be known with certainty from as many discrete observations as you want
  3. We know with certainty that 100% determinism fails ever since quantum mechanics effects were first observed. This invalidates your: “what you do tomorrow is already encoded in the state of the universe today”?
  4. In the equation Outcome due to X% Determinism + Y% Quantum Indeterminacy + Z% Free Will + K% Unknown where X+Y+Z+K = 1, We Do Have Free Will if Z > 0 no matter how small is Z. You’re on mission impossible trying to demonstrate Z = 0
  5. You’re not thinking through the implications of you being just a probabilistic automaton.
  6. As explained, the default view on Free Will should be ‘FW is true’ because we feel it in us and in the actions of all other.
  7. We clearly see the difference between inert objects that do not have Free Will and alive organisms that do. You can include in the first category the most advanced AI and the dead (formerly alive) and in the second the simplest bacteria and slime mold.

Con: From everything we know about brain function, our experience of our own existence are largely a constructed illusion. The brain is still a machine, and is dependent upon the laws of physics.

Pro: Actually, you don’t know much and you misinterpret what you see. In fact, all you have is a bad “brain model”. You don’t know the brain is “a machine” and most certainly don’t know “the laws of physics”. You have a big problem if you must “divorce our abstract thinking from our practical and emotional thinking about our lives”. That simply means one is wrong (yes, that’s your abstract thinking).

Posted in Views and tagged , , , , , , .