Friday, April 22, 2011

"Free Will debate - the aftermath" the aftermath or The AfterAftermath.

Hello everybody that enjoyed/was infuriated by/accidentally stumbled upon our debate.  John responded to a few more points and expanded a bit (exactly which parts of him were expanded I think we know but let’s not go there). I’m more than happy to join in. Let’s go...

   “Trevor may argue that there may be a universe where knowledge is possible without causality, but I'll leave that burden with him.”

   Never did, never would. My house is filling up with beaten-up straw effigies. I invite John to come over and clean up the mess.
   “It appears that the map is being conflated with the place. ... I was arguing that the thing the concept was based on was determined and not free, not arguing that the concept of free will doesn't exist.”
   Again (I believe we did cover this in the debate but in little separate chunks rather than as a cohesive whole) the concept of “I think therefore I am” is about the entity or object doing the thinking. If it can assert its own individuality then it is an intellectual entity (they may be lying but you can know this about yourself). It doesn’t matter what concept the person is thinking about and how true it may or may not be. I may believe that a race of all-powerful giant alien kittens are hiding behind all the mirrors, awaiting the order to strike. However much of a twat that may make me I am still an entity (en-twat-y?) making that insane claim.

   The intellectual nature of the concept of self and/or free will was never my point. It – as an idea – may be true or false but if it’s being actively considered by a consciousness then that seals the deal until better evidence comes along.

   There were many more side roads down which we could have wandered, had a little fight, almost fall in a canal then clamber back to the main street (I’m making the debate sound like a Stag Night in Amsterdam with an aggressive drunk - sorry). One of them is an article in the last issue of The New Humanist in which Nicholas Humphrey defends his book “Soul Dust” by pointing out inadequacies of neuroscience and its assumptions about the brain.

   Another is something which occurred to me to use but I didn’t want to. If you’re reading this then you are one of the die-hard argumentative types and I salute you. Here is the argument, please don’t abuse it.

   The determinist idea that if you rewind time and replay it the universe cannot behave in any other way than it did seems like a tautology. It’s not really saying anything meaningful. In fact (and I don’t want to believe this but it occurred to me so I must) it may not be true.

   Particle physicists insist that the strange behaviour of sub-atomic particles can never translate to the macro world of our experience. We can view two things happening at once in this realm, or things appearing to go back in time or things being so uncertain it is impossible that it could ever be repeated. It actually may be conceivable that on a universal rerun a subatomic particle might behave differently for no other reason than its massive uncertainty. These things translate to no effect, apparently in our universe but we can now measure the sub-atomic. If we make some physical event contingent upon the measurement (like Schrodinger’s Cat living or dying) then the fixed events can be randomly changed even with none of the variables being altered.

   Of course this is only worthwhile as a thought experiment unless somebody actually invents a universal rewind machine but the more simplistic religious types may try and use God to fill in the blanks (don’t you hate it when they do that?). Whether you use God, Doc Brown or The Doctor to travel back in time it remains as theoretically plausible that our universe might hurtle along one of its many other possible courses.


   Didn’t we start all this by talking about free will? It’s amazing where such a simple argument may take us. The determinacy or otherwise of our universe still decides nothing about free will – it’s just an interesting diversion.

   The weight of John’s argument rests in denying something we all experience and in proving something counter-intuitive – that free will is outlawed from the universe. My job is only to suggest that physicality is not the entirety of existence. His argument that because we can neither prove nor disprove it, it must be false is arbitrary. It gains respectability from my side of the argument having been pointlessly and thoughtlessly appropriated by wishful dreamers trying to hope their religious texts into actuality.

   Who would have thought that John, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and others have God (and the many piss-poor attempts to argue “him” into existence) to thank for bolstering their position? 

   I hope John doesn’t remain too down on our performances. In an hour long debate that was – let’s not forget – broadcast live, I think we did rather well. It could have gone so much worse. For those of you wanting some “car crash radio” I have yet to have had any kind of full absence seizure or hypoglycaemic nonsensical rant on air. And failing that, stay tuned, there’s a car crash coming (or at the very least a car park dent) and I can’t wait.

1 comment:

  1. "My job is only to suggest that physicality is not the entirety of existence."

    As I highlighted in my "straw man", causality would be a problem for a comprehensible universe where physicality was not the entirety of existence. I wasn't trying to straw man you, I was just being flippant. I'm sorry you felt that way.

    "His argument that because we can neither prove nor disprove it, it must be false is arbitrary."

    If the default position is to accept unprovable claims then things start to get ridiculous. Do you accept that we are in the matrix? If we accept claims be default it leads to contradiction.

    I'm looking forward to further car-crash radio in the form of debate. We've hit an all-time low if the only way to get listeners is with the "entertainment" of a co-host potentially having a seizure.