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What's your opinion on free will?

I am religious and believe in free will
- 69 (28.9%)
I am religious and do not believe in free will
- 9 (3.8%)
I am not religious and believe in free will
- 105 (43.9%)
I am not religious and do not believe in free will
- 56 (23.4%)

Total Members Voted: 235


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Author Topic: Railgun and Spirituality Discussion  (Read 429197 times)

Th4DwArfY1

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Re: Railgun and Spirituality Discussion
« Reply #7050 on: May 18, 2022, 07:47:36 am »

I have a diamond. I have a lump of coal.

I place both in the same machine and pulverise them into atoms. I am left with two identical masses of carbon.

But one was still a diamond. And one was still a lump of coal.


((Don't science me about the accuracy of my metaphor dammit, that's not the point  ;D ))
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MaxTheFox

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Re: Railgun and Spirituality Discussion
« Reply #7051 on: May 18, 2022, 08:05:33 am »

Free will is honestly irrelevant and impossible to argue about in a rigorous manner because it's unprovable. I feel free will requires spirituality to make logical sense, so I guess it depends on your take on that.
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Quarque

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Re: Railgun and Spirituality Discussion
« Reply #7052 on: May 18, 2022, 10:24:48 am »

I feel free will requires spirituality to make logical sense

Here I differ. I think that free will and randomness are actually the same thing, in the sense that there is no meaningful way to distinguish them. Randomness is a much deeper phenomenon than it may seem at first sight. It is impossible to write an algorithm that generates truly random numbers; the best you can do is write a pseudo-random number generator that repeats some erratic pattern with a certain period, even if the period can be extremely long.

In my opinion, this is equivalent to saying that you cannot tell a computer how to make a free choice.

In mathematics there is also a deep relation. If you generate a random real number between 0 and 1, there is a 100% probability that you end up with a series of digits that is uncomputable: no sort of finite instruction can generate it. In other words, a repeated coinflip can do something that no set of rules can do, no matter how complicated the rules.

Nature is fundamentally random, because of quantum mechanics. The machines that we build have been designed to be as predictive as possible, to rule out random quantum noise as much as possible. That is why we instinctively feel that a computer has "no free will". Although this isn't entirely true: I would say it has almost no free will. Even a computer can experience a random bitflip because of background radiation, which is caused by quantum mechanics.

An animal or human differs from a machine because they are inherently chaotic systems. That means, roughly speaking, that their large-scale behavior will often be influenced by tiny details. This in turn means that quantum mechanics plays a big role and our decisions are to a good degree truly random.

Now I know that the many-worlds interpretation of QM is not random but deterministic. However, it relies on an infinity of parallel universes which would be unobservable. Many-worlds says that you have no free will because you are simultaneously making every possible choice at the same time, all of the time -- the other versions of you being invisible. In my opinion, many-worlds is a more far-fetched idea than free will.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2022, 11:01:31 am by Quarque »
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Telgin

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Re: Railgun and Spirituality Discussion
« Reply #7053 on: May 18, 2022, 10:49:47 am »

I keep holding out to my hope that one day we'll discover that quantum mechanics isn't the full picture and that the universe is actually deterministic at some fundamental level, since that makes more sense to me intuitively, but I readily admit that I believe scientists when they say there are really good reasons to believe that quantum processes truly are random and there are no hidden variables.  But, I'm getting philosophical and off topic to an extent.

This does bring up a few things to contemplate though.  For one thing, it brings up the question of how much like a computer a brain is, since as you say you can't program randomness into a computer.  If brains fundamentally work the same way, that means there's no randomness to our behavior and it's all dictated by solid rules that at least in theory could be defined and used to predict behavior perfectly.  In practice it would be so insanely complex you can't do that, but I think it does have some merit in religious discussions to consider that as a possibility since it kind of means you're not responsible for anything you do.  There's some wiggle room there for sure, but I mostly mean it in the context of things like eternal reward or punishment for religions that believe in that.  If you're predestined to do something from birth, how can you be blamed for it?

And of course that goes back to things like Christianity where God presumably does know precisely what you're going to do before you're even born, since he presumably knows everything, including the future with perfect accuracy.  If you believe that, and also believe in things like eternal burning Hell where you're tormented forever, how does that influence your feelings on God?  I know that predestination is a big religious topic but it's not one I hear discussed in person.  I think most people around here, who do believe in eternal punishment for dying as a sinner, prefer to just sweep it under the rug and believe in free will anyway without scrutinizing it at all.  God can just make that work for them somehow I guess, like making a rock too big for himself to lift it and then lifting it anyway.

Then, circling back to the nature of randomness in quantum mechanics, you could argue that our behavior is modified by that and isn't subject to harsh rules.  Sure, that may even be true.  I don't know how much that actually applies to the chemistry or electrical excitations in our neurons, but I can believe that it could manifest some macroscopic changes ultimately.  But... if it's random, is that any better than being governed by rules?  You still have no say in the matter.  It's random.

You could then try to argue that that's where your soul comes in, I suppose.  Like God set up the universe in such a way that our souls are manifestations of some kind of driven bias in quantum mechanics that gives us agency.  That's impossible to disprove, so maybe it's true.  But even if it is, it doesn't sidestep the issues I mentioned above about God knowing the future and what you're going to do, which in a sense means you still have no choice in what happens.

I guess if you don't believe in an all knowing or all powerful God then the problem is less serious.
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MaxTheFox

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Re: Railgun and Spirituality Discussion
« Reply #7054 on: May 18, 2022, 10:55:36 am »

I don't think free will is the same as quantum randomness, because otherwise electrons have free will and that's just silly, and and I don't believe in predestination. You can't know the future if entities with free will are involved, even if you are God. Just as God can't eruirqeuoiwuif, because "eruirqeuoiwuif" is more than impossible because it's not a thing in any capacity. It's above impossible: inconceivable. For example, eating the galaxy is impossible, but is at least logically sound. While drawing a triangle with four sides is inconceivable, because it's not logically sound.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2022, 11:12:04 am by MaxTheFox »
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Quarque

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Re: Railgun and Spirituality Discussion
« Reply #7055 on: May 18, 2022, 11:01:47 am »

I wish I could change my vote on a poll. I voted before my conversion. Did a 180 on most things related to religion.
Out of curiosity, what made you change your mind?
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Quarque

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Re: Railgun and Spirituality Discussion
« Reply #7056 on: May 18, 2022, 11:08:16 am »

But... if it's random, is that any better than being governed by rules?  You still have no say in the matter.  It's random.
Right, this is what I really wanted to illustrate with the two-dwarf example.

Let's say Toady magically implements Free Will one day, but only some dwarves have it. Other dwarves behave randomly. (To dodge the pseudo-randomness thing, let's say their choices are generated from quantum noise somehow.) And to be more precise, what they do is not completely random, but a messy mixture of randomness and some unknown rules based on their history and situation.

Now we have two dwarves running about in a fortress. One of them has the new Free Will feature, the other does not. How are they different?
« Last Edit: May 18, 2022, 11:14:25 am by Quarque »
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MaxTheFox

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Re: Railgun and Spirituality Discussion
« Reply #7057 on: May 18, 2022, 11:11:27 am »

I wish I could change my vote on a poll. I voted before my conversion. Did a 180 on most things related to religion.
Out of curiosity, what made you change your mind?
I don't know, something shifted inside of me. Hard to explain.

But... if it's random, is that any better than being governed by rules?  You still have no say in the matter.  It's random.
Right, this is what I really wanted to illustrate with the two-dwarf example.

Let's say Toady magically implements Free Will one day, but only some dwarves have it. Other dwarves behave randomly. (To dodge the pseudo-randomness thing, let's say it their choices generated from quantum noise somehow.)

Now we have two dwarves running about in a fortress. One of them has the new Free Will feature, the other does not. How are they different?
Well neither has free will unless they are sapient and thus have souls. Which is a whole other can of worms but let's ignore that for a moment.

I guess you could tell, from the outside, by the free-willed dwarf doing things that dwarves don't usually do according to their routines. Which is kinda sidestepping the question, because for actual humans you can't really tell from the outside.
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Telgin

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Re: Railgun and Spirituality Discussion
« Reply #7058 on: May 18, 2022, 11:16:30 am »

I don't think free will is the same as quantum randomness, because otherwise electrons have free will and that's just silly, and and I don't believe in predestination. You can't know the future if entities with free will are involved, even if you are God. Just as God can't eruirqeuoiwuif, because "eruirqeuoiwuif" is impossible because it's not a thing in any capacity. It's above impossible: inconceivable. For example, eating the galaxy is impossible, but is at least logically sound. While drawing a triangle with four sides is inconceivable, because it's not logically sound.

This is a reasonable mindset to have I think, but it does mean it restricts God's knowledge.  Do you believe God knows the future?  Only in broad strokes, or not at all?
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Criptfeind

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Re: Railgun and Spirituality Discussion
« Reply #7059 on: May 18, 2022, 11:17:22 am »

I don't understand the leap between true randomness on a very small level exists -> free will for macroscopic entities exists. Leaving aside the question of how common it is for the human brain to  actually be effected in a noticeable way by true randomness and assuming that it does happen even if rarely. What free will am I exerting that causes the fuzziness of the boundary conditions of my existence to possibly make a difference in an otherwise split decision? How is that doing anything but kicking the can down the road from "I don't have free will because I are fully predictable by the conditions of my existence" to "I don't have free will because my decisions are made by truly random quantum fluctuations."

Without finding a way to make that leap I agree you need spirituality for free will. (Although you can use spirituality to make that leap by saying the soul is controlling the quantum fluctuations in the brain, but that's probably the saddest form of free will ever :P)

Now we have two dwarves running about in a fortress. One of them has the new Free Will feature, the other does not. How are they different?

I would feel like this is on you to explain how they are different to demonstrate free will? If there's no difference between something existing and something not existing, then doesn't it not exist?

((edit: This conversations moving a bit fast for poor slow typing cript here so maybe the first part of my post is a little bit outdated by now, oh well  :'())
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MaxTheFox

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Re: Railgun and Spirituality Discussion
« Reply #7060 on: May 18, 2022, 11:29:26 am »

I don't think free will is the same as quantum randomness, because otherwise electrons have free will and that's just silly, and and I don't believe in predestination. You can't know the future if entities with free will are involved, even if you are God. Just as God can't eruirqeuoiwuif, because "eruirqeuoiwuif" is impossible because it's not a thing in any capacity. It's above impossible: inconceivable. For example, eating the galaxy is impossible, but is at least logically sound. While drawing a triangle with four sides is inconceivable, because it's not logically sound.

This is a reasonable mindset to have I think, but it does mean it restricts God's knowledge.  Do you believe God knows the future?  Only in broad strokes, or not at all?
God knows the future in broad strokes I feel. He, after all, has a lot of information and is utterly incomprehensibly intelligent. This is essentially knowing the future, with just some exceptions. You can't predict people aside from broad strokes however. Nations, sure. Organizations, sure. But individual people are just too chaotic for anything other than (something that looks like) probabilities.
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Quarque

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Re: Railgun and Spirituality Discussion
« Reply #7061 on: May 18, 2022, 12:25:03 pm »

I don't understand the leap between true randomness on a very small level exists -> free will for macroscopic entities exists.
It is a two-step leap. The first part is that for a chaotic system like the human brain, random effects on the microscopic scale will quite often make a difference on the large scale.

A good demonstration of what a chaotic system is can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_s4NLA8aAgw. A laser beam shines into reflecting balls. If you vary the input angle even the tiniest bit, the outcome will differ dramatically. Almost everything in nature works like that. If you change a tiny detail in the weather today (a butterfly flapping its wings), it will often completely change the weather two weeks from now.

This first step also answers your next question:

Leaving aside the question of how common it is for the human brain to  actually be effected in a noticeable way by true randomness and assuming that it does happen even if rarely.
I don't think it is rare, because tiny quantum fluctuations influence events at a larger scale through the butterfly effect.

The second step in this leap is that free will and randomness do not differ in any way that can be observed, so the scientific method cannot distinguish them.
So you can make a case for free will without invoking religion.

Rationally I'm sort of agnostic by the way. Emotionally (this is scary to admit) I do believe that there is a God, but not a God that judges us. More of an all-pervasive, all-knowing consciousness that we and the things around us are all part of, without knowing it.
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Eschar

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Re: Railgun and Spirituality Discussion
« Reply #7062 on: May 18, 2022, 12:28:27 pm »

Cells are fairly robust to nanoscale perturbations. Quantum fluctuations do not ripple throughout cells in a butterfly effect because the chaotic-system-nature of the brain is at a much higher and physically larger level than the quantum effects - it's the network of interconnected neurons. Though some research suggests they can occasionally trigger mutations.
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Quarque

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Re: Railgun and Spirituality Discussion
« Reply #7063 on: May 18, 2022, 12:40:49 pm »

Cells are fairly robust to nanoscale perturbations.
Do you have a source? There is a field of study called "quantum biology" that's concerned with questions like these, but I'm not an expert at all. Would be interested to learn more.
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Naturegirl1999

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Re: Railgun and Spirituality Discussion
« Reply #7064 on: Today at 08:26:40 am »

I also wish to change the poll, I used to believe in free will, but now I donít, Iíve seen a few videos mentioning that the choices we make are influenced by unconscious processes, like hormones being produced leading to an emotion, which would then prompt a reaction. We are made of cells, cells run on chemical signals. A multicellular organism is thus a network of microscopic protein machines. While we donít know exactly how they all interact, there are still rules. I used to think free will was a thing before thinking more about what I am, the collection of cells, each running different processes to run a much larger program, the body. We are biological machines. We may not know exactly why or when weíll do things, but we donít control as much as we think. We canít choose what to find enjoyable, what to be scared of, what music to listen to, what you like or dislike, those are subconscious, the conscious bit is just us reacting to the inputs and weights, our reaction being the output.

Emotions are not the only thing to cause us to start doing things, there are days where I donít feel any emotion for a while, so I do something to help me think until one pops up, I think I need to talk about some things
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