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Do We Have The Freedom Of Choice?

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Postby JackBean » Sun Apr 07, 2013 8:02 pm

@biohazard: Let's forget about the free will for a sec and let's talk about consciousness.
I guess one neuron is not aware of itself, is it? Now, let's take bunch of neurons, will they have consciousness? If so, when did they get it? After we merged two neurons? Or thousand? Does the brain by itself have consciousness?
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Postby biohazard » Mon Apr 08, 2013 9:08 am

@ughaibu: I like your reasoning and you make a lot of sense to me. Even though I cannot fully escape the feeling of determinism when trying to observe the nature from a rock to a spider and to a human being, I get your point. And yes, the world may have been created on last Tuesday, but the difference here is, I think, that we may try to have a logical chain of reasoning (based on our observations about nature and the laws of physics) about free will, but we cannot really have similar debate about that particular Tuesday or, say, about the existence of a god. Thus, I find free will as a logically valid matter to be debated, and by that I mean that we can (experimentally or theoretically) inspect that when an atom A bumps into an atom B, C happens and then we can debate whether these events are determined by one another of if there is a degree of uncertainty somewhere along the chain that gives rise to things like free will. Tuesday or god do not give us the chance to have a similar logical way of reasoning.

As strange as it may sound, I think we are actually not that far from each other. It just seems that we have subtle differences in our interpretation of the phenomena related to this matter, which gives rise to quite opposite final conclusions at the moment. You seem to have made up your mind regarding this, but I am still weighing the two possibilities and will add your input to the basket of free will.

p.s. You may have mentioned somewhere, but do you consider all, most, or only few (humans and maybe apes and dolphins and such) animals to have free will? Like, if you look at a spider, do you think it makes choices and decisions, or is it completely on the mercy of its reflexes and reactions to external and internal signals it receives? I know that you cannot know the spider's thoughts, but what is your feeling about it? To me, they look and function just like a very sophisticated robot might do! Or what about more complex animals, like mammals or birds? Do you consider plants to be completely deterministic, since we probably cannot say that they have any kind of will? Finally, do you think that everything is open, that nothing is determined or destined to happen, and if so, where does this uncertainty and possibility for different outcomes stem from?

@JackBean: this is a very similar question but it is not directly related to free will. Because even if we were able to exactly pinpoint the requirements and building blocks for consciousness, we could not use that to answer the question about free will. With my example I was trying to point out that all the building blocks of the apparently free-willed machine that is our brain seem to follow purely deterministic reactions based on the flow of electrons and ions and atoms and molecules, so one would expect that the brain, assembled from these deterministic building blocks, is deterministic as well -- in a same way as, say, a computer is. If we had a computer that was aware of itself, would it have free will, or would it still be on the mercy of the bits in its code that make it aware in the first place? Because all its calculations and reactions would ultimately stem from the fixed set of rules about how the code is executed in different situations. Or is it possible that computers simply cannot develop awareness and/or free will because of this reason?

Mechanistically, though, the question about consciousness is pretty much the same as the question about free will, because we assume that they go hand in hand: when one is aware of itself, it can also make "aware" decisions. A very intriguing question, too, but I think it misses the point that I tried to make with my example.
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Re: Do We Have The Freedom Of Choice?

Postby mnatashgaran » Mon Apr 08, 2013 3:08 pm

To determinists: What's the benefit of free will delusion in human evolution? Doesn't determinism peril morality?
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Re: Do We Have The Freedom Of Choice?

Postby biohazard » Tue Apr 09, 2013 7:08 am

mnatashgaran wrote:To determinists: What's the benefit of free will delusion in human evolution? Doesn't determinism peril morality?


Perhaps the delusion of free will (assuming it is a delusion for the purpose of this question) is just a by product of something else? Of our consciousness, for example. However, one could think that it also gives us the feeling of purpose, because we think we're in control and thus makes us try harder and do better in the grand competition that is life.

Of course, if everything truly is deterministic, then the question is perhaps irrelevant: we do as we do and feel as we feel because that is how the cascade flows, so to speak. Heck, if everything is already determined, everything is irrelevant in a way. And this is probably one reason why so many of us reject the idea of determinism: we do not feel that everything is irrelevant and we do feel that we can make our own choices, and these feelings are usually so immersive that we cannot think of any other possibility.
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Postby JackBean » Tue Apr 09, 2013 1:43 pm

I didn't want to use it as argument for free will. It was just analogy, because I hope you agree that we are aware of ourselves while most animals are not. So, there must be some line, we just not able to draw it. Similarly for the free will, only because we cannot say where the line is, doesn't mean there is no free will.
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Re: Do We Have The Freedom Of Choice?

Postby mnatashgaran » Tue Apr 09, 2013 7:20 pm

biohazard wrote:one could think that it also gives us the feeling of purpose, because we think we're in control and thus makes us try harder and do better in the grand competition that is life.

When everything is determined and predictable, why is the delusion needed to make us try harder? Is it possible to gain in better situation than the determined one in the deterministic world?

biohazard wrote:Perhaps the delusion of free will (assuming it is a delusion for the purpose of this question) is just a by product of something else? Of our consciousness, for example.

I agree... It's possible.

You reasoned that cells (like neurons) don't have freedom of choice as an evident thing but I doubt that. The exact situation of electrons around nucleus isn't predictable and they treat randomly. So we can think that everything has free will but only few beings like humans are aware of it.
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Re: Do We Have The Freedom Of Choice?

Postby biohazard » Wed Apr 10, 2013 6:51 am

mnatashgaran wrote:When everything is determined and predictable, why is the delusion needed to make us try harder? Is it possible to gain in better situation than the determined one in the deterministic world?


No, it would not be needed for anything, I just tried to come up with an explanation that would fit the evolutionary theme. Naturally if everything is already determined, nothing is "needed"; everything simply exists as a passing phase of a big chain reaction. And if we have free will, then of course the feeling of it is not a delusion in the first place.
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Re:

Postby ughaibu » Fri Apr 19, 2013 5:31 am

biohazard wrote:do you consider all, most, or only few (humans and maybe apes and dolphins and such) animals to have free will?
An agent has free will on any occasion when that agent makes and enacts a conscious choice from amongst realisable alternatives. The main disagreement amongst philosophers is as to whether or not there could be any freely willed actions in a determined world. Compatibilists, those who answer "yes" to the above question, interpret "realisable" in terms of either logical or physical possibility, whereas incompatibilists hold that free will requires actual possibility. By actual possibility they mean that there is a time zero at which the agent is aware of a finite set of at least two actions that are physically possible at time two and that there is, at time zero, no true statement about which of the set of actions the agent will perform at time two consequent to a conscious choice made at time one. Naturally there are various problems about what a "true statement" is or a "conscious choice", nevertheless, the basics are clear enough, I think. And as we appear to inhabit a non-determined world, we can consider the compatibilist position to be purely academic. So, your question reduces to one of which animals are conscious and amongst those, which, on at least some occasions, consider more than one before selecting an action. I haven't got a strong opinion on the matter, I suspect that at least all mammals and birds have free will.
biohazard wrote:Do you consider plants to be completely deterministic, since we probably cannot say that they have any kind of will?
Determinism is a well defined metaphysical thesis, as far as the free will question is concerned, and it makes no sense to talk about plants being "deterministic" unless one means something quite different from what philosophers are talking about when they talk about determinism. So I don't know what you're asking.
biohazard wrote:Finally, do you think that everything is open, that nothing is determined or destined to happen, and if so, where does this uncertainty and possibility for different outcomes stem from?
If the world we inhabit is a non-determined world, then nothing is determined. Determinism is a global thesis, all or nothing. That's all there is to it, the world either is determined or it isn't. So you question; where does this uncertainty and possibility for different outcomes stem from? is another that doesn't make any sense to me. What manner of statement would constitute an answer to that question?
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Postby biohazard » Fri Apr 19, 2013 8:36 am

I'm sorry, it seems my English has failed me here and therefore I used the term 'determinism' in a wrong context. I was referring to events purely within the natural sciences with no metaphysical or philosophical aspect in mind. With the word/term 'determinism' I meant that each reaction in the world is determined by the reactions preceding it and that each reaction determines the reactions succeeding it. 'Reaction' being any event that happens because of the laws of nature (a physical, chemical or biological interaction of photons, electrons, atoms, or molecules and such).

From this kind of 'natural determinism' I was deriving the doubts of the existence of free will, and similarly I was asking if there is proof of anything being random in the world, because this would bring the element of uncertainty to this chain reaction and thus 'break us free' from our predetermined actions and reactions. I have understood that on the quantum level of things there might be some true randomness - that is, things happen regardless of what has happened before, or something - and something like this is where I see a possibility for free will to 'emerge'. Unfortunately my understanding of quantum physics is too limited to make any further conclusions about its effect on the laws of nature.

In my opinion, the only metaphysical or philosophical aspect of free will is just the question: does it really matter? Whether or not we have free will, we act as if we had and are happy that way. Even the people who believe that there is no free will still act as if they had it!
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Postby chatters » Wed Jun 05, 2013 7:00 am

I think we need to undertand string theory better. Certainly we cannot account for all aspects of biology yet, for example there is too little information in dna to account for the complexities of brain structure.
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Re:

Postby Ahsmeah » Sat Aug 31, 2013 5:45 pm

MarkHolland wrote:A lot of people consider that because 'lower' animals are not aware of themselves as individuals that they act only from an 'instinctual' drive that makes them helplessly what they are... WE as humans on the other hand, are above and somehow removed enough from nature's influence to rule our responses.

No, not really. Goes back to what I said in the topic starter.

MarkHolland wrote:We remember past events, project future consequences, and have the command of our own thoughts and the actions upon which we 'decide' to undertake.

Those memories are just cells in one giant bundle of symbiotic relationships.

MarkHolland wrote:But ask yourself this: Do you decide what you like the taste of? Do you really choose what attracts and repels you?

You don't decide what you like the taste of, it's genetic.
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Re: Do We Have The Freedom Of Choice?

Postby Fearnot » Fri Sep 13, 2013 7:06 am

Hi, Ashmeah, you must be a very thoughtful and intuitive boy to bring up such a topic; keep it up!


In answer to your question “do we have the freedom of choice?”

Yes, we do:


Ashmeah wrote:

“Since the body is made up of living and dead

cells, including thoughts, would that make the

"human being" technically predecided, and we

would all be masses of cells interacting with

the world in the shape of a human?”

Yes, we are masses of cells interacting with the world but that doesn't mean we are predecided. Don't forget we are also made up of thoughts, and what we think depends on our individual experiences and understanding. Now, one may argue that our understanding of event depends on our cellular make up as people tend to understand the same event differently; but what would be said of identical twins that basically has similar cellular make up, but would interpret the same event differently and even be at different places at the same time! So if we are just bunch of cells, then we have no free will, we are just an advanced level of machines, but you feel it that you have free will, but the fact that you can't prove it makes you wonder if it really exists.
Human beings are not just bunch of cells but we are souls inhabiting a building of cells depending on our potentials, to help us grow (just as cells grow by food, souls grow by knowledge). Science has not yet proven the existence of souls, so it can't prove the existence of free will. Yet we do feel and know that apart from this cells there's another part of us that is also as essential as the cells.
For instance, you may see someone for the first time, physically (cellularly), the person looks beautiful and you feel like associating with him/her, but when you get closer the person's character (soul) is entirely ugly to associate with; later you encounter another person with 90% similarity in appearance to the first in context but the character is 100% different, how does the cells play a role in the choice of character? Even identical twins are likely to make different choices given the same two options.

Secondly, going scientific, if we rule out the existence of souls, then we are just a bunch of cells.
Biohazard wrote:
“Brain imaging analyses have repeatedly shown that when a human makes a decision
(e.g. they have to choose to press a red or
blue button), the computer analyzing the
images can tell which decision the person is
going to make long before the person
themselves is aware that they have made a decision. So the feeling of a free-willed
decision comes after the brain has already
decided.”
This scenario does not rule out free will. If we are really made up of masses of cells, they are not just any cells, these cells are unique to us, therefore whatever these masses of cells chose, it is our free will choice 'cause the bunch of these unique cells makes who we are. We are not just aware of it at the moment of the decision by the brain 'cause of the distance the information will have to travel and the integrative process that must occur before the decision is carried out, don't forget that the brain is still part of us made up of our unique cells.
Concerning the issue of being predecided, I don't think so, 'cause identical twins are not likely to press the same button in that scenario except their cellular make up is different in a way that is not yet discovered.
"And he who wants to be a creator in good and evil has first to be a destroyer and break
values."

N
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