Monday, August 07, 2006

Determimystics and Free Will

August 03

Another compelling post from
Gagdad Bob (who synchronisticaly swiped my idea to post about free will – this time even before I could get a single finger to the keyboard. Before I began typing, I had the sudden thought that I’d been beaten to the post – I clicked over to One Cosmos, and sure enough, there it was. Alas. Well then, here's a different angle on it) on the not so Free nature of Free Will.

When the subject of Free Will comes up, and you listen to the lengths that Determinists will go to avoid seeing that they are choosing to think up their theories, I can’t help but think that there must be something hidden in the back of a Determinists mind, that thoroughly fears the idea of Free Will.

It may be that fear, a fear of responsibility for your thoughts and actions, of maturity, that is at the root of why every thorough Leftist is in fact a Determinist at heart. Interestingly, the same seems to go for the radical Theocratic as well. This may explain why Determinists are so thoroughly opposed to letting people freely choose to live their own lives as they see fit – “Freedom?! Impossible! They must be regulated! They must be told what is a Good… (er, wait, ‘Good’ implies Right & Wrong & Choices… umm, ah!) … what is a relatively positive outcome best suited for their position in society!”.

Something odd I think you’ll find to be prominent in the intellectual arsenal of nearly every determinist, is a detailed set of Lists. All the Andrew Carnegie’s and Tony Roberts’ types, although they nominally may claim that you “Must Choose!”, seem to reveal an underlying determinist viewpoint by setting up endless sets of checklists for their followers. That do their best to ensure that choice won’t be necessary, instead their particular flavor of List will just magically build enough momentum for you to carry you over the edge of choice – trying their best to force your mind to choose without the burden of making the actual choice yourself – they try to replace you in your life with their detailed sets of instructions; as if they know better than you do, what is needed to be done to correctly live your life.

Those who fear free will the most are the ones who try the most to overcome the idea of 'choice' with endless steps and lists. But as anyone who has fallen for the Determinists’ spiels’ (“Our Video will take you step by step to Fabulous Energetic Fitness!”, “12 Steps to Health!” “32 points of Compatibility!” or "Our glorious leader's 5-year plan to socialist utopia!!” or for those who literalize the Bible “do your Ten Commandments daily, and exit stage right into Heaven”. ) can tell you, it still comes down to that awful moment where you realize that it all hinges on your actually choosing to do what it is that you need to do, and no amount of steps will cause the choice to choose itself, in and of itself.

Borrowing a little inspiration from Gagdad’s Bobbing for Neoligism’s, I think that with their weirdly mystic belief in the magical ability of List-icism to substitute for Free Will, they might be better termed Determimystics.

I find it’s tempting to say that that missing spark of choice is the physical intersection of YOU and Reality – Bob might say the intersection of the Vertical with the Horizontal.

The fact is that all the sequential steps in the universe will only lead up to that point of choice, but they will never hurtle YOU past it without your making the choice to initiate the action do so. All the cause and effect steps, and intricate variables – multiplying all the thousands of lines of code I write to make a computer program react as I and the client require it to – multiplying it a million fold, a billion fold – will only make it do what I and the Client tell it to do based on what we conscious beings of Free Will, require it to do. Steps, switches, randomly seeded variables, even quantum flux capacitors – will only make an intricate computer – not consciousness. Cool, maybe, but quite dead and lifeless, useful only to those who choose to use it.

I get a kick watching Determimystics racking their brains for that secret code that will make a truly living Artificial Intelligence: “What is missing? What? What?!” they moan, entirely missing that it is precisely what it is that THEY ARE doing, that unexplainable, undeterminable choice to ask WHAT?! which is what they are missing – it’s Them that’s missing, It is WE who are the ghost in the machine.

I want to pull them aside and tell them to get a telescope and look out at the universe, look at the star stuff swirling about, crashing, glowing, collapsing, existence exists - but without your observing it through the telescope, nothing more than stuff. No asking, thinking, being or doing - just stuff. It takes a You to think, evaluate, ponder and Wonder, and a Free Will to choose to do it.

Even if we take the opinion that our souls, our consciousness, are but the result of chemical and biological processes – as when carbonizing the thread into a vacuum sealed bulb and cranking the voltage up to the point where there is suddenly Light!, even then, once the Light is there, it is something separate from the carbonized thread, voltage & vacuum sealed glass. Something new comes into being that is separate from the material which made it possible.

If we someday do manage to determine all the ingredients necessary for life, and Consciousness – once the ingredients are properly mixed and Consciousness flares into being – it will be just as separate from the ingredients as ever. Just as there are no perpetual motion machines, there are no sophisticated sequences of switches which can mechanistically determine Life, Consciousness & Free Will.

But of course, you are free to try to determine it as much as you want.

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