Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?
August 21, 2017, 01:24 am

Updated Topics | Recent Unread Topics
Home Help Search Login Register

+  Dragon Mountain
|-+  Forum
| |-+  Sanctum Sanctorum
| | |-+  Is belief in free will compatible with atheism?
Pages: [1] 2 3 Print
Author Topic: Is belief in free will compatible with atheism?  (Read 10625 times)
Johnny Roastbeef
Novice LARPer



View Profile
« on: November 08, 2013, 07:33 am »

For clarification, I don't mean atheism in the sense of, "I don't believe in traditional religions or a higher power."  I mean the firmer idea of "everything about the world is explained by science."

There's not some ulterior gotcha to this question, I'm just interested in people's thought processes.
Logged

Because freshness is expected of any hip-hop artist, I avoid using traditional techniques.
BSam
Vice Douchelord



View Profile
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2013, 09:10 am »

It was my understanding that it is, because while we may be influenced knowingly and unknowingly, it's still us making the choices.

As opposed to a being guiding us, who knows all including what we will do in any situation, and potentially using this in some 'plan'


i dunno. drunken ideas in head, they seem to make sense to me.
Logged
yowhound
Sucks at High Fiving


Fuck, yeah


View Profile
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2013, 10:07 am »

By believing in something intangible, you are expressing free will. You are choosing to believe that your choices can make a difference, to your own life, if not to others. The fact you are choosing to believe in a lack of belief makes no difference.

I'd suggest that free will would be a cornerstone of being an atheist. It's just you, calling the shots in response to your environment.

No will is ever totally free. There are other people, your environment and your circumstances that come into play in every decision. Your personal abilities, interests, loves and hates will also affect your decision.
Logged
Kybard
society's stared-at man
Mod


HOW ARE YOU


View Profile
« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2013, 10:19 am »

as an atheist who finds neuroscience fascinating but impenetrable and therefore only superficially understandable, I don't really believe in free will in the literal or simple traditional sense (i.e. we are in full, conscious control of our choices/actions) but I also don't really care.

it's easy to point to a litany of things that counter the notion of "free will" as I think it's been historically understood. genetic determinism and brain chemistry, mostly. I'm most compelled by the notion that our brains are really good at tricking us into thinking that we're making a decision consciously or deliberately, when in fact that's just a decision that was already made by some deeper, subconscious aspect of our mind due to whatever.

this sort of thing gets really tricky when we're talking about, say, punitive response to crimes, but insamuch as it affects my daily life experience, all I can think is (and this is my reaction to solipsism or Descartes' evil demon, too) "so what?" I experience the world as a place in which I make decisions for which I hold myself accountable and am held accountable. I experience my personal decision-making process as a balance of impulse control and deliberate use of willpower and feel on a conscious level that I am able to manipulate that balance. that is a satisfactory expression of "free will" to me.

so, I don't know, I guess my answer to this question is "probably not in the sense you mean, but it's easy to shift the definition of 'free will' to something that I still find satisfactory"
Logged

but it's not so great when you consider that it's coming from an alive lady
Kybard
society's stared-at man
Mod


HOW ARE YOU


View Profile
« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2013, 10:28 am »

The fact you are choosing to believe in a lack of belief makes no difference.

this is a sidetrack, and maybe my perspective is just a little off here, but I find this idea silly; does anyone really experience the expression or nonexpression of faith as a choice? I've never really considered theism or atheism as a choice. being an atheist doesn't demonstrate my free will; kind of the opposite, in fact, because to be honest with you, if I were able to believe in a higher power and an afterlife, I would, because that shit would be comforting
Logged

but it's not so great when you consider that it's coming from an alive lady
norumaru
Columns: 2, Pillars: 4,
Posts: 5



View Profile
« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2013, 10:29 am »

For certain values of free will:

If you mean the ability to consciously make reasoned decisions, then no, because that is not a process we employ when we make decisions.

If you mean the freedom (in the sense of non-restrictedness) to follow our decisions as we can and not fear consequences other than those resulting from your decisions themselves, then yes. This comes with the implicit acknowledgement that said decisions are informed and shaped by our environment, as well as their consequences, though - a more pragmatic perspective that puts man in a labyrinth and points to the ability to choose which way to go, rather than in a big empty field where he can go absolutely anywhere.

If you want to go full culture-pessimistic, empiric deconstruction, you could again say it is not, because both freedom and will are entirely meaningless terms.

Neuro(psych)ology has basically proven Schopenhauer's old chestnut right: "Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills." As long as you work from an atheism that assumes you incorporate all available empirical findings in your world view, all you're left with is defining where "will" begins.

This comes from an entirely different angle, as BSam, a gentleman and a scholar, has rightly remarked, than arguments concerning free will in a religious context. In religion, you have to ask: Is our will really our will, and separate from our religious figure's? In atheism, the question becomes: Does "will" even exist?

After all the genetic and cultural and whatnot determination, there is a bit of personal accountability, one could argue. If that is enough to be called a free will is up to your concepts of will and freedom.

Edited to add support for Kybard's above statement, he too is a nob and a bookworm.
Logged

Don't discriminate, you retards, racism is gay
yowhound
Sucks at High Fiving


Fuck, yeah


View Profile
« Reply #6 on: November 08, 2013, 12:38 pm »

The fact you are choosing to believe in a lack of belief makes no difference.

this is a sidetrack, and maybe my perspective is just a little off here, but I find this idea silly; does anyone really experience the expression or nonexpression of faith as a choice? I've never really considered theism or atheism as a choice. being an atheist doesn't demonstrate my free will; kind of the opposite, in fact, because to be honest with you, if I were able to believe in a higher power and an afterlife, I would, because that shit would be comforting

Fair enough - it was poorly stated.

You may choose to believe in a higher power - call it what you will - or you may choose not to believe in said higher power. That seems to me the definition of free will. You may pick what you think is correct and modify your thoughts based on evidence. There is some evidence that our brains are designed to believe. As usual, the source has it's bias but it is an interesting read, regardless. The bible itself states that belief or not is a matter of choice - while I don't figure it is infallible at all, it has been around for a while and has a long baseline of observation. It is the whole free will/predestination thing. I am a firm believer in both. You drive from New York to LA - start and end points are fixed, but the path you take is entirely up to you.

Regarding the bold bit - would it be comforting, or a crutch when you have two perfectly good legs?

I think - from seeing people in church - that much of it is habit. The Jesuits have a saying: "Give me a child for for his first seven years and I'll give you the man." Doesn't just apply to religion, it applies to everything. In a way we are programmed by our upbringing and childhood experiences, and that programming is comfortable. We are used to it. Don't really think about it much, just as you don't tend to wet yourself once you are potty trained. It's just there.

The study norumaru linked to should be required reading for anyone interested in neuroscience and the difference between rational and rationalization.

Still - there a lot smarter people on here who can explain it (or try to) - just my take. Personal thoughts - I find the idea of a mechanistic universe revolting. If you have seen anything die - person, dog, cat, even a bird - you can see and feel there is something missing.
Logged
fermun
Mod



View Profile
« Reply #7 on: November 08, 2013, 01:59 pm »

For clarification, I don't mean atheism in the sense of, "I don't believe in traditional religions or a higher power."  I mean the firmer idea of "everything about the world is explained by science."

There's not some ulterior gotcha to this question, I'm just interested in people's thought processes.

The way the question is phrased, it sounds as if you are making some assumptions prior to the question. I don't think the question can be phrased as it is without assuming a few things, these assumptions appear to be:

1) I am somehow separate from my body or brain, I am my soul. I perceive the world through my body and I (my soul) is acting upon it. I am above and behind my body.
2) Free will is some magical quality of the universe but separate from it that can be truly independent of outside actors, a belief that your thoughts are truly your own regardless of what is going on otherwise.
3) A belief that a true "in the now" knowledge of free will vs. determinism can be made and experienced. There can be a difference known or perceived between doing something because of your "programming" or your free will decisions.

I disagree with all three of these.

I am not above and behind my body, I am my body. I am my thoughts, my actions, my brain chemistry, my responses to outside stimuli.

I am not outside or independent of the world. I am not able to independently look at me thinking separate of me. Anything that happens to me can change me.

There is no way to perceive a difference between things being predetermined or my will being free, so there is no effective difference. We see things in the now as our decisions through free will, and since we can't in real time perceive any difference, there is in effect no difference.
Logged
Johnny Roastbeef
Novice LARPer



View Profile
« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2013, 04:46 pm »

Just to be clear on what I'm talking about by free will I mean the concept that a human being is in control of the decisions/actions they undertake.

So fermuns objection (and kybards articulated belief) is essentially exactly what I'm asking.  It would seem to me that any notion of control over ones decisions would necessitate belief in consciousness existing as a separate entity from the body.  Atheism would seem to reject that belief.  So it doesn't seem like atheism is compatible with belief that you are capable of controlling anything and what we typically describe as human will is an illusion.

The discussion of whether it matters that a couple of you brought up is interesting philosophicallythough and I haven't thought of that before.  I have no control over my life but my perception of life is pretty unambiguously one of control.
Logged

Because freshness is expected of any hip-hop artist, I avoid using traditional techniques.
norumaru
Columns: 2, Pillars: 4,
Posts: 5



View Profile
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2013, 06:11 pm »

Just to be clear on what I'm talking about by free will I mean the concept that a human being is in control of the decisions/actions they undertake.
That notion, though, is also utterly incompatible with any religious world view. Even the ones that do not incorporate some kind of Big PlanŽ incorporate some ultimate goal a soul strives or longs for, so if you discount the ghost of the machine type consciousness fermun describes (and I am with him) for being too pre-determined, so has to be any soul that arises from or is bound to any religious concept. If there is a maker, it has made your will too, hence it cannot be free of that maker, and so on.
Logged

Don't discriminate, you retards, racism is gay
Johnny Roastbeef
Novice LARPer



View Profile
« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2013, 06:33 pm »

Most religions specifically identify a deity's hands off approach on the will, as the source of merit for ones actions. 
Logged

Because freshness is expected of any hip-hop artist, I avoid using traditional techniques.
norumaru
Columns: 2, Pillars: 4,
Posts: 5



View Profile
« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2013, 06:50 pm »

That just raises more questions! Why is such a god-created illusion of will free-er than a neuron-created one, for starters? You can't just discount your own objections to one worldview when examining another just because that second one has a line that says it totally ain't so, honest, folks.

Still - there a lot smarter people on here who can explain it (or try to) - just my take. Personal thoughts - I find the idea of a mechanistic universe revolting. If you have seen anything die - person, dog, cat, even a bird - you can see and feel there is something missing.
Just because it's organic, that doesn't mean it has no emotion. This Robotverse VS Spirit Realm thing is a false dichotomy if I ever saw one. Does - spoken with a young, better Dawkins - a rainbow become less beautiful from knowing it's just water? Your legs don't stop working as soon as you realize they're just muscle and bone. Why would emotions become less real if we understood how the brain creates them? It's not like there's no evidence that they exist.
Logged

Don't discriminate, you retards, racism is gay
Johnny Roastbeef
Novice LARPer



View Profile
« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2013, 07:04 pm »

I didn't object to your worldview.  Look, when the religions who describe gods say that we can't understand them, arguing about why a god does or does not act a certain way is pointless.  I'm less concerned with the truth behind belief systems than I am with their consistency and theoretical bases.  If your theoretical basis is that god is a being you can't understand, it's perfectly consistent to internalize aspects of that god that seem inconsistent for the reason that you don't have the understanding.

That discussion is frankly a waste of time.  The question of whether a neuron created free will is even a scientific possibility is not.
Logged

Because freshness is expected of any hip-hop artist, I avoid using traditional techniques.
Karlski
ಠ_ಠ
Admin



View Profile
« Reply #13 on: November 08, 2013, 07:27 pm »

Penrose demonstrated that it is in Emperor's New Mind.

edit for clarity: Roger Penrose, in his book Emperor's New Mind, shows that neuron-created free will (in the I can choose to do whatever sense) is entirely consistent.
Logged

<TDF> Karlski only has one rule
<TDF> And that rule is "get fucked"
norumaru
Columns: 2, Pillars: 4,
Posts: 5



View Profile
« Reply #14 on: November 08, 2013, 07:29 pm »

I didn't object to your worldview.
Sorry, bad wording. I meant to say your objections to the idea of free will in one worldview etc. - Anyway.

I'm not arguing about why a deity does anything, I'm arguing that the idea of free will in a religious world view is extremely inconsistent, especially when it comes to christianity, and super especially in those subsets that subscribe to the idea of a Great Plan. It ultimately lands you at the same spot: Your freedom of choice is extremely limited by external circumstances, and the heart of the question is how much freedom a will has to have to be considered free will.

My point is this: Does empirical skepticism discount the de of a soul, or a consciousness that is separate from the body it lives in? Yes. But 1., that poses no more limits to its will than in any religious view, and 2., there really is no difference between a transcendental will restricted by god's plan and a will as an emergent property of a fleshy, squishy brain, restricted by its environment, when you're looking for the possibility of free will. And 3., you would therefore, as fermun said, be unable to tell the difference, and what do we call a difference that nobody can tell and that has no perceptible repercussions on our world? We call it not a difference.

My problem with your argument is: You work forward from a false dichotomy: Separate, transcendental consciousness VS predetermined automaton. Yet your control group provides no actual different dataset, apart from a post-it that says "DIFF. DATASET", and again, just because a consciousness is flesh-bound, it doesn't have to be an entirely choiceless slave to its physis, nor is an immaterial will necessarily any freer.

It is well established that the will cannot be entirely, bodily-reality-defyingly free, even long before the study I linked above. Anyone who has gone without water for two days can tell you as much. So your question is one of where you set the cut-off point, of how many choices have to be possible for a will to be considered free. Otherwise there can be no free will and we can just go home and have some grilled sandwiches and beer.
Logged

Don't discriminate, you retards, racism is gay
yowhound
Sucks at High Fiving


Fuck, yeah


View Profile
« Reply #15 on: November 09, 2013, 01:01 am »

It is well established that the will cannot be entirely, bodily-reality-defyingly free, even long before the study I linked above. Anyone who has gone without water for two days can tell you as much. So your question is one of where you set the cut-off point, of how many choices have to be possible for a will to be considered free. Otherwise there can be no free will and we can just go home and have some grilled sandwiches and beer.

Or try going without sleep for 72 hours. Your "will" is gone. You become extremely suggestible, see and hear things that are not there and don't see things that are. Or take the opposite case - it is perfectly possible to control and adjust your body's workings through will alone. (Sorry for citing wikipedia, but it is both well written and extensively sourced) There is no doubt at all that there is a significant impact by your environment, others and your body on any use of free will.

Bolded bit - nicely said.

Going back to the other study you linked, I had a random thought after re-reading it. Most every day processing is done in the background and below the surface. Pretty much everyone has had an intuitive leap while thinking. I know people don't like the term subconscious but it seems apt in this case. It reminds me very much of trying to retrace a complex chain of thought after you are interrupted. It is a pain to do.

If your subconscious is doing the driving, there is no free will at all. Just action / reaction arcs based on previous experience, memory and maximal benefit to you as a whole.
Logged
DiegoInglewood
Sauce Castillo
Probably a postbot


#1 Internet Content Poster


View Profile
« Reply #16 on: November 09, 2013, 02:52 am »

For clarification, I don't mean atheism in the sense of, "I don't believe in traditional religions or a higher power."  I mean the firmer idea of "everything about the world is explained by science."

Well then this is not about atheism. Nice baiting title homie
Logged


HyperGlavin
bridge and tunnel dyke
Probably a postbot


I'm a cool guy irl


View Profile
« Reply #17 on: November 09, 2013, 03:59 am »

Yeah, as an atheist, I'm more than a little put off by the implication that lack of belief in a deity necessitates that kind of 'deus ex academia' train of thought. It's entirely possible to be atheist for purely pragmatic reasons, and from a pragmatic perspective, it makes sense to believe in free will. You could make the philosophical argument that randomness is also an illusion, but that won't make you any more likely to win the lottery.
Logged

Yes, come on, get a dog up you, you rapscallion.
yowhound
Sucks at High Fiving


Fuck, yeah


View Profile
« Reply #18 on: November 09, 2013, 04:24 am »

Yeah, as an atheist, I'm more than a little put off by the implication that lack of belief in a deity necessitates that kind of 'deus ex academia' train of thought. It's entirely possible to be atheist for purely pragmatic reasons, and from a pragmatic perspective, it makes sense to believe in free will. You could make the philosophical argument that randomness is also an illusion, but that won't make you any more likely to win the lottery.


At the risk of a divert: Any chance on expanding that bolded bit? I can't see any pragmatic reason for being an atheist at all. Doesn't mean there isn't any, just outside my life experience.

Logged
HyperGlavin
bridge and tunnel dyke
Probably a postbot


I'm a cool guy irl


View Profile
« Reply #19 on: November 09, 2013, 04:33 am »

If the teachings of religion are inconsistent with and hold no practical purpose in your observable reality, it makes no sense to have faith in it.
Logged

Yes, come on, get a dog up you, you rapscallion.
Pages: [1] 2 3 Print 
Jump to:  


Login with username, password and session length

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!