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March 10, 2012

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Apparently Sam Harris could not freely choose but to think the way he did/does. His publishers could not freely choose to reject so publishing his book. Brian cannot freely choose to disagree with its thesis. And any who comment here cannot freely choose but to do so. And those who do not comment (or believe Mr. Harris' thesis) cannot freely choose to do otherwise.

Robert Paul Howard

Robert, you've got it! You don't need to buy Harris' book.

Yes, Harris talks in the book about the process of writing the final chapter, how he feels he can freely decide what he's going to say, but how this is an illusion.

Cause and effect rules the roost. We all cackle and crow in accord with it.

I guess I have no choice but to disagree with this "science" with every fiber of my being.

The idea that "efforts matter and that people can change " despite not having free will makes no sense. If I can't be "self made then I can't change myself. Therefor if I fail at anything it is due to someone else not changing me. If I am poor it is your fault. If I commit crimes it is your fault. If I shoot a coyote it is your fault.

the only thing redeeming in the post is this...
"it is wise to hold people responsible for their actions "
of course it is. The problem with your idea is just this...you say it is wise to hold people accountable for something they have no control over. what passes as logic or science here is actually nonsense.

despite the fact they we (the blog writer and my self) apparently have greatly opposing views on most subjects, and considering that this is your site, I do have respect for your willingness to post descenting opinions. That is something both very different and very respectable about this site.

for that I commend you.

bob, did you understand what Harris meant when he said, "And it is wise to hold people responsible for their actions when doing so influences their behavior and brings benefit to society"?

Telling people they are responsible for their actions, or that they have free will (even if this is an illusion), is another cause that can/will influence behavior and thinking.

This isn't a contradiction. Society may find it useful to tell people they're responsible for their actions, even if this isn't scientifically true.

Personally, I don't like spreading untruths, but as a practical matter, people are going to keep believing in free will no matter what science says, so maybe it is OK for judges, courts, etc. to spread the gospel of freely chosen responsibility if this causes citizens to act more responsibly.

I commended you because you have a CHOICE to publish or not any commit.

It puzzles me that you can not see the drastic flaw in your own reply. If I do not have free will you can not give it to me. I would have no choice in my reactions to whatever you do or say. It would be very saddistic indeed to say or do anything in an attempt to alter someones thinking or behavior if you truly belived that they did not have a choice in there behavior.

"Telling people they are responsible for their actions, or that they have free will (even if this is an illusion), is another cause that can/will influence behavior and thinking. "

If there is no free will then nothing can iffluence behavior(I would have no choice in how to respond just as you would have no choice in how to influence) , yet you just stated that you believe behavior can\will be changed by telling people they are responsible. which is it?

bob, you should read a couple of posts about free will that I put up on my other blog. See:
http://hinessight.blogs.com/church_of_the_churchless/2012/03/the-dizzying-joy-of-being-freed-from-free-will.html

http://hinessight.blogs.com/church_of_the_churchless/2012/03/free-will-is-a-dangerous-destructive-belief.html

Here's an excerpt from the first post that gets at what you're concerned about in your comment:
---------------------
I love the notion -- more, the reality -- that free will is an illusion. It's difficult to explain the dizzying enjoyable feeling I get when I realize there's no exit.

Wherever I turn, whichever way I go, always I'm in a maze of causes and effects not of my own making, because there's no separate "me" apart from those causes and effects. We're all in this maze together; no man or woman stands alone; individual human islands are an impossibility; it's all one big continent of interacting influences, a beautiful natural ecology of determinism.

Here's my favorite Harris passage from the part of his book that I've read so far.

"Consider what it would take to actually have free will. You would need to be aware of all the factors that determine your thoughts and actions, and you would need to have complete control over those factors.

But there is a paradox here that vitiates the very notion of freedom -- for what would influence the influenced? More influences? None of these adventitious mental states are the real you.

You are not controlling the storm, and you are not lost in it. You are the storm."

Wonderful. Love it! You are the storm. Nothing scary about a hurricane if you are the hurricane. Nothing bothersome about the brain's workings if you are those workings.
-------------------------
There's no "outside" to free will. There's no independent choice, such as whether to tell people they have free will, or not to tell them. That too is part of the web of cause and effect that guides everything.

You're looking at free will from inside your belief system that free will exists. Yet actually, it doesn't. So you're trying to figure out a problem that doesn't exist, because free will doesn't exist.

I realize this sounds weird. But if you let the notion of "no free will" sink in, it might start to make sense to you. That's what has happened to me, which is why I wrote about their being "no exit."

"Wonderful. Love it! You are the storm. Nothing scary about a hurricane if you are the hurricane. Nothing bothersome about the brain's workings if you are those workings.
"

and here we have our answer. You relinquish free will in order to obsolve yourself of your fears. I understand now, and feel sadness for your condition. wether your end be by the winds of the storm or the workings of your own mind is not a mater of forgone conclusion. You do, and will have a choice even if you simple choose not to make a choice.

I will offer you this... give me a title of a book or bind me to reading your posts for a period of time in exchange for reading one book that I would select for you.

bob, you can just tell the book you'd like me to read. Can't promise that I'll read it, but I always enjoy checking out books that other people find deeply interesting.

the book I would select is Mere Christianity by CS Lewis

Dear Brian,

Since "maybe it is OK for judges, courts, etc. to spread the gospel of freely chosen responsibility if this causes citizens to act more responsibly[,]" is it also OK for the RSSB to lie, or otherwise misrepresent the ~real~ world, in presenting their understanding of the ~real~ world (e.g., GIHF) to others?

(Naturally I could not save myself from inquiring.)

Robert Paul Howard

Robert, it seems to be that there's a difference here, but it's hard to put my mental finger on what it is.

Perhaps it's something like this...

A judge encouraging people to freely choose behavior strikes me as more defensible than a member of a religious group encouraging people to submit themselves to a guru, pope, or other authority figure, who tells them what to do.

Also, I think Harris was recognizing that many people either won't become aware of the neuroscientific conclusions about free will, so they aren't really being deceptive when they encourage others to act freely.

However, a group which knowingly represents facts about the real world is different.

Dear Brian,

But, of course, they can't help doing what they are doing (as by "cause and effect").

Robert Paul Howard

Brian, you have a twisted view of judicial authority vs. modern Christianity as it relates to free will (“A judge encouraging people to freely choose behavior strikes me as more defensible than a member of a religious group encouraging people to submit themselves to a guru, pope, or other authority figure, who tells them what to do.")

Break the law of the land and a judge will forcibly have you thrown in prison, say, for something as minor as petty drug possession. Break the law of the Church and the Pope will pray for your redemption.

Don’t agree with the judge? ...Too bad; free will isn’t going to keep you out of prison.

Don’t agree with the Pope and don’t want redemption? …Free will gives you that choice; the Pope can’t send you to Hell.

I'm not religious at all, a true skeptical scientist, but I've been having an interesting conversation with a close friend of mine who is a Jesuit priest. The roots of this discussion go to Augustine, who wrote in 400 AD that we have and are judged for our free will, yet God already knows what our choices will be. In a weird way, I actually feel that this is the most logical conclusion of current science. We can't really actually control what we do (how can you have any say when all actions are already exactly predicted and known?), but we are judged and operate as though we do. So the core of the Christian tradition meets the core of modern science. There are, of course, numerous other views in broader Christianity, but they have not been as well thought out as that old Catholic dogma. These tend to lead to thoughtless statements about how your actions are reflected in earthly rewards, and other demonstrably untrue and unbiblical statements.

In short, wouldn't it be nice if for once religious people and the non-religious were actually talking about the same thing, and just not knowing it? (At least the hard-thinking members of said groups.) We may not agree on the reason, but at least the practical outcome could be agreed upon.

Hints of how to do this are given in the blog here, where both liberal and conservative can meet in the middle to care for the needy while encouraging to the extent possible hard work and independence.

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