Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Random Borrowed Thoughts On Free-Will

If people are told that free will doesn’t exist, their brains might follow suit.

A test of people who read passages discrediting the notion of free will found an immediate decrease in brain activity related to voluntary action. The findings are just one data point in ongoing scientific investigation of a millennia-old philosophical conundrum, but they raise an intriguing possibility.

“Our results indicate that beliefs about free will can change brain processes related to a very basic motor level,” wrote researchers led by psychologist Davide Rigoni of Italy’s University of Padova in a study published in May’s Psychological Science.

‘Abstract belief systems might have a much more fundamental effect than previously thought.’Rigoni’s team asked 30 people to read passages from Francis Crick’s 1994 book The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul. Half read a passage that didn’t mention free will, while the others read a passage describing it as illusory. All were hooked to electroencephalograph machines that monitored electric activity known as “readiness potential,” which is linked to the neurological computations that occur in the milliseconds before voluntary movement.

The test subjects were then asked to press a mouse button when a cursor flashed on a computer screen for several seconds. Those who read the passage dismissing free will displayed significantly lower readiness potentials. Their actions seemed to involved less voluntary control than the control group’s.

Tested on when they decided to press the button, the non-free-will group reported doing so a fraction of a second before their counterparts. To lose confidence in free will seemingly introduced a lag between conscious choice and action.

Earlier psychological studies of free will have found that discrediting free will seems to trigger an increase in cheating aggressiveness, encourage people to be less helpful and generally sap motivation.

The latest findings extend the effects of disbelieving to a more basic physical level. Whether there’s a relationship between free will, motor activity and more complex behaviors is yet to be determined, but “abstract belief systems might have a much more fundamental effect than previously thought,” wrote the researchers.

Free will is a "necessary assumption for both agency, intention, persistence of self and rationality."

Psychopaths are described as being physically incapable of feeling empathy, guilt or even love.

An entire realm of "causal constraints" are eliminated from psychopathic decision-making. By extension, they are born with a greater degree of freedom in their decision-making.

Freedom isn't simply more forks in the road. More options, more choices. It's also about depth, reflection, contemplation, and wisdom. Thinking ahead. Slowing down. Reflecting deeply. Rethinking our decisions. Consulting others.

It seems clear that the advantage of having more options is that when the option at hand is not desirable a further option can be worked toward. And thus the skill you advocate as an enhancement to freedom comes into play. But then we do step outside of the casual flux as something passively accepted to engage in an effort to change whatever end in sight we don't want into one that we do.

So the distinction would be this. No, we do not, cannot step outside of the causal flux absolutely. But yes, human consciousness does provide an inner sanctum from which to observe the existing options and marshal our resolve to change those options, when we don't like them. I guess I'm advocating that there is no metaphysical, absolute ability to step outside the causal flux, but there sure seems to be a practical, relative human ability to observe the world, retreat into an inner space to consider further possibilities, and advance effort toward preferred outcomes that would not have existed without human consciousness.

Christianity collapses of its own weight if we are not all "stained" from birth by Original Sin. It is the "explanation" for the state of our world, as well as our need for salvation, but more importantly (as I have been told) the reason why we continue to sin. Why else do we need, as you say -- liberation?

Freedom of choice inevitably leads to errors (sin). It is, in a word, that which defines us as human beings before a Just God. Somehow I see little place for "freedom" in this paradigm.
Since I had no "free choice" in my own creation, how am I either accountable or responsible for Original Sin?  In this respect, there IS no freedom, no matter your definition.  Is it possible to exist and not be conscious?  How would you know?

My Final Thought
We are not causally distinct nor removed from our sin, our choices. I believe our determinations occur without prior cause. We are creative and hence we have free-will. "I think therefore I am"

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