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Getting a lot of criticism from Dan Dennett's fans. My response:
Sam Harris, neuroscientist and author of the New York Times bestsellers, The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, and The Moral Landscape.
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I look forward to you and Dan discussing this in more detail some time - always like to hear both sides at once, being able to interject as they need to, when forming my opinions on things (though, I must admit, I am inclined more towards Sam's thinking in this case).
Doesn't Chaos Theory essentially explain exactly why free will MUST be an illusion?
I'n not sure that chaos is relevant. A smidgen of true randomness is needed to separate causality from predeterminsim; but it is complexity theory that describes how this randomness can become a coherent system that is not, itself, random; but can become an autonomous "self" whose state has a greater impact on the evolution of that state than does the environment (until the truck hits).
I read Free Will and then Michael Gazzaniga's book Who's In Charge and have been reading Krishnamurti regularly for ten years or so. And my take on this is that everything changes depending on how you define 'you'. If 'you' begins at the language based recognition of; acknowledgement of; or consciousness of; things happening then sure, these arguments make sense. If on the other hand, 'you' happens to not be a language based entity (think about how you learned language to begin with to grok that) then the whole thing is not particularly debatable given the fact that the language based 'you' can not communicate with an otherwise defined You. There are clearly things going on at the cellular level in your body/mind that most people can not even begin to imagine how to communicate with. There seems to be plenty of good empirical science around now demonstrating that fact. Or at least, there is a conspicuous lack of empirical evidence that it can be done. And clearly, at the cellular level, words are not the primary form of communication. So it seems that there are still plenty of enjoyable novels like Hofsteadter's I Am A Strange Loop yet to be written on the subject of precisely defining who 'you' are. Before anyone can question exactly what role 'you' play in the chain of things happening.
I eagerly await the results of discussion between Sam and Dan on this topic..
I dunno Sam.. having not read Free Will, nor Dan Dennett's arguments against it.. it seems from this article as if your opposition to the notion of free will is based on your assumption that "free will" is a religious moral imperative. I tend to think that outside physical impossibilities, people can do pretty much whatever they like. That some choices may be labelled unlikely and/or detrimental... doesn't remove those things from our selection of actions to choose. But then again, perhaps thats exactly what you said in the book.. maybe I should kindle it.
it's not so much whether we have free will or not, but how to cope with the fact that we don't. I'm currently trying out the "ignore" and "i should have never asked this questions" approach. :) maybe i'm lying - i might be in the "free will was never an option so nothing is lost" phase now - it's more comforting :)
+Cameron Sharrock: But the question is why do you choose to do one thing over another? What processes are behind it? Every decision that we make is a result of external stimuli and brain chemistry, things that we can't control and often aren't even conscious of, as Sam explains in his writings.
+Dave Whipp My understanding of Chaos theory, is that it states that hyper-complexity can arise from relatively simple interactions so quickly that it it soon becomes unpredictable. HOWEVER, it's still deterministic and there is no "true randomness" involved in any processes. To me this suggests that every input that has impacted any person to that point, directly determines the choices and behaviors they will make... and to me, that's the elimination of free will.
I think there are two basic reasons for people being defensive against the idea of our actions being fully caused by nature and nurture combined (possibly with the addition of pure randomness), beyond the normal reaction to a new idea that contradicts what previous beliefs were held, which was partially touched on in this article, but I believe is worth discussing further. (Apologies for this being not as coherent as I'd like, but bear with me!)

1. People's need to feel in control of their lives. This is a core psychological need, called "efficacy" by Maslow at the higher, emotional levels, and what I call output "freedom" and Maslow calls "Safety" at the lower physical levels. We need to have a connection between the effects we cause externally and the internal cause if we are to be able to function at all. Literally, without feeling a connection between our internal state and what we do, we'd be catatonic, or epileptic. So that feeling is hard wired into us so that we can physically function. This is the sense we have of free will. And it's real! But it's pretty likely not free in the sense of being causeless (fully random), or caused by a supernatural power (able to function above the factors of genes and environment). But if people want to make a case for pure randomness (boring, to me, and still not "free" in any useful sense) or supernatural power (simply another type of natural law that just happens to add another level of control to the equation, since then we have to ask what's causing the thing that causes our free will?) In other words, even if there is some third factor in our behavior, we still have to ask what causes it, and at some point down the line, we either end up with pure randomness (no cause) a fixed/first cause (total natural law) or a cyclical process that has always existed where there is no first cause ever, and the end of everything always causes the beginning of everything. But, it doesn't really matter, because the feeling of control, causality, is still always going to be necessary for us to function. So accepting it, while knowing that what causes us to do anything is somewhere bigger, and grander, than our little pile of guts and brains. :-)

2. People want to feel ok about wanting to hurt others when others hurt them. This defensive mechanism is also hard wired into our bodies, as a way to protect ourselves from being hurt. It's sensible. It's also unhelpful in many of the more complex situations we encounter in our technologically and philosophically modern world, where we know that hurting others pretty much always makes them more likely to hurt us in return, and where we're so overpopulated that we really don't have a choice but to try to collaborate with everyone else to solve our shared problems of global... well... global everything. So we need to find a way to express ourselves and our anger/fear/frustration when we get hurt in a way that doesn't hurt others, and instead helps us all. My suggestion is that we look to helping upset people clarify what useful, important, beloved thing it was that someone feels protective of, so that we can validate their feelings, while also using their data to find better ways to do things in the future that respect everyone's most cherished stuff. And, we need to value anger itself as an important warning signal, that lets us know that someone is being hurt. Once we have better options for our reaction to being hurt and angry, we won't cling to the idea that people who are violent/angry/harmful are any more or less in need of love and respect than we are.
I just start from this: What is 'will'? It's just what my brain does that I say makes me act freely. What is 'blue'? It's just what my brain does that I say makes me see blue.
+Dave Coykendall Your understanding is chaos theory is correct but for one detail: chaos itself indeed cannot introduce randomness, but it does not limit in any way the possibility that there may be some other source of randomness. That said, a consequence of chaotic behavior at the smallest scales does mean that there is no experiment we could perform that can distinguish true randomness from pseudo randomness. Which means that the appeal to constrained randomness as the source of free will is ultimately unsatisfying: we cannot tell if it is an illusion.

Your suggestion that chaotic interactions of everything with everything implies that your choices are determined by everything ignores that concept of a "self". I like to think of it as a conceptual membrane that temporarily shields some coherent state from these external influences. Even the simplest "copy me" pattern has distinguished itself from its environment -- if the pattern persists over time then it has, by definition, protected itself from those external influences.
+Dave Whipp My suggestion doesn't ignore the concept of the self. My definition of the self probably just differs from yours, in that I believe the experience of the "self" is an illusion. I can appreciate that you "like to think of it" as something, membrane or otherwise... but you cannot simply augment my point to match your own perceptions of which I do not share. You would be tasked with providing your reasons for assuming the experience of the "self" is in fact NOT an illusion.

Also, we can never determine, due to the constraints of our human biology, if randomness does in fact exist because it will always be indistinguishable from hyper-complexity. Having said that, there is an actual basis for the concept of hyper-complexity and it's ability to mimic the characteristics of "randomness"... whereas true "randomness" is only an assertion you must assume exists. I don't believe "randomness" is a reality, only an illusion created by the limits of human biology in comprehending hyper-complexity.
There is a possibility of real randomness: the random readings made from quantum particle experiments. (Get them here: <>.) These are not due to any source of deterministic complexity. Randomness happens in the microworld. How this effects macroworld structures (like neurons and brains), I don't know.
I'm not sure what it means for the "self" to be an illusion, because the thing that is being fooled by that illusion would be the illusion itself. And that's just a little too circular. The definition of "self that I used above (I should know better than to use that word -- its too emotive) is simply one of a self-sustaining dynamic system -- the famous "red spot" on Jupiter would qualify. To go from there to consciousness -- and thus to conscious free will -- is a big leap; and I suspect it is the source of many disagreements.

The only two conclusions I need to draw from the discussion of randomness, chaos, and complexity are that causality doesn't imply predetermination; and that randomness does not imply an absence of causality.
This free will thing keeps going like a wild fire that it actually exists. There is so many contradictions in religious texts for what ever reason and even in interpretation. Not here to judge or bash but rather curious why people still follow such ways that are destructive and harmful to themselves or others.
I think motivations are a big part in thought processes to what we decide in such things. "Journey From the Psychology of Evil to the Psychology of Heroism"

Self Awareness 101 Episode 13: The Power Of Belief Systems
Is it fear and love that are the main motivation factors for belief systems and beliefs?
Is the fear of evil that motivates us most in to deciding right from wrong, or is it something else that makes us create morals as well?
There is something that has been bothering me about the media of propaganda that tries to isolate any philosophies other than their own. There has been that cult like atmosphere from all kinds of ways that language is twisted to belief rather than what it is in reality.
Then there are those who are out to win instead of have the growth of knowledge and wisdom for all. The 'human pecking' order as I at times call it. Do all groups of social animals have some form of hierarchical system of social organizations?

Communication is very important to the 'collective conscious' of our species and to us as in survival.

For some reason love keeps coming up too in that only christianity knows real love.
I do not understand how some would believe only christians can love or even other religions in such competition of that belief. "This mini-documentary by Mike Adams the Health Ranger exposes the false philosophy underpinning most of modern science. It explains why science is rooted in evil and destruction while harming life on our planet: GMOs, vaccines, psychiatric drugs, nuclear weapons -- they've all been pursued and promoted under the brand of "science." And yet, shockingly, modern scientists do not believe human beings are conscious beings. They claim we are all just "biological robots" which provides the philosophical pretext for genocide. See more at www.NaturalNews.TV "
Science is feared by some as the destruction of the world.

Animals of other types are different than humans neurologically and socially. Even microbes have some form of awareness.
I am sure most have seen this one before.:

Found this interesting in a google search:
"Now, scientists are beginning to probe the connection between thought and action. In a series of blog posts over the coming week, I'll discover how far that research has come--and how far it has yet to go.
Part 1: Free Will in the Lab
Part 2: Is Free Will an Illusion?
Part 3: In Defense of Free Will
Part 4: Does Free Will Matter?"
What +Philip Thrift said. Probably the apparent randomness in the microworld doesn't have a huge impact on the macroworld, otherwise we wouldn't be able to predict the behaviour of macroworld structures very well. Still, it could occasionally make the difference between a neuron firing or not.
Genetics, epigenetics, and neurology seem to effect us even when we don't know it. There are some people that want to believe that we have full control over our thoughts and actions but this is not always the case.
Mental illnesses and physical chemistry do make a difference on how we perceive the world.
(Scientists and philosophers are using new discoveries in neuroscience to question the idea of free will. They are misguided, says Martin Heisenberg. Examining animal behaviour shows how our actions can be free.) "Not surprisingly, epigenetic changes are also a part of brain diseases such as mental illness and addiction. Understanding the role of epigenetics in brain disease may open the door to being able to influence it. This may lead to the development of new and more effective treatments for brain diseases."

Even if we can know an outcome of a flipped coin that does not mean we are always in control of it.
+Dave Whipp I think chaos argument makes the pre-determinism impossible. Brains are nonlinear and chaotic and therefore it is not possible to predict their state. But I don't see what role can chaos play in free will. The chaos in computations is still part of the black-box which supplies us with pre-computed states.
so does mind altering drugs, such antidepressants that are out there we do not know about their effects. Millions of people are on them now.Some take for the down affect an not for purpose intended
Some times even placebos seem like the 'magic' of the subjective truths out there of bringing happiness and peace of mind.
Let me point out a similarity between this discussion and the usual discussions with religious people.

When a sophisticated theologian says that “the bible is true” and when a layman says that “the bible is true” they mean almost completely different things. But by defending the wording of the statement, theologians defend layman interpretation even if their reasoning implies that it is wrong. (I actually suspect that theologians are usually aware and quite happy about that.)

Similarly, by saying that “free will exists” Dan Dennet defends common-sense interpretation of the statement. While, as far as I understand, he means something completely different (and very similar to Sam's point of view). And If the discussion is just about how to call things – then I agree with Sam that calling it a “free will” is wrong.
I'd like to know how this discussion differs from "parametric determinism". Also, how does this perspective relate to post-modernism. Why is it important that "we" as a nation re-define "free will" at all? Doesn't this lead to a discussion of the role of language as power?  

SH is heretically and methodically trying to define effective secular systems to understand and improve the human experience. He seeks to drive widespread re-evaluation of the roots, purpose and efficacy of our shared cultural values. Ones that do not rely on the logically incompatible concept of adherence to a limited amount of data proscribed many generations ago.

On some level I wonder if he isn't trying to provide an "apples to apples" argument that hopefully the religious will see isn't that far from theirs. It "accepts the things we cannot change and seeks to change those we can"  (to quote a well known cultural meme of Christian origin). He just leaves out all the unnecessary old theories about where knowledge comes from. We know. It comes from observation and thought. Commodities no one can monopolize (usually?). Moreover, this philosophy is focused by process of elimination, on the role of introspection, the value of a strong and positive community, the need to beware of worshipping false idols (bias blindess), and the importance of data. 

His books are fundamental arguments about values and power and the language we use to create and maintain them. I hope, as I think he does, that this sparks a broader, much needed national conversation about meaning and values in all spheres. 
Dr. Harris,

There is a simple way of seeing things which is different from your incompatibilist view, and that is also different from a naive compatibilist view:

Simply put - free-will, although unreal at the level below neurons, is real at the level of consciousness, and is thus real FOR US.

First, it is wrong to talk about reality of free-will without taking into account of the doer's consciousness - to talk about whether free-will is real or not in void is utterly meaningless.

Then, consider this: a piece of rock is, ultimately speaking, unreal. What's  real are the atoms that make up the stone. But this does not forbid US from holding it, touching it, and throwing it.
If we can directly manipulate, interact with, control the piece of rock, I say the rock is real FOR US.

In the case of free-will, we do feel we have the freedom to make choices, just like we feel we can manipulate the stone (unless in cases where we have lost such feel: schizophrenic, tumor in the head etc.), this then implies free-will is real FOR US.
A consequence of this is that the responsibility is real FOR US too.

Another way of seeing this is that since consciousness and free-will both emerge from the neuronal level, they are at the same level. Entities at the same levels of emergence be relatively real to each other.

I call this view Relative Entity Realism:
If A and B are at the same level of emergence, and if A can manipulate/control B, B is real relative to A.

In short, reality shouldn't be a straightforward yes or no affair. It is a relative concept, and you have to specify relative to what point of view (or level) when you are talking about its reality.
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