Monday, February 20, 2023

New Movie Documentary Against Free Will

There is a new movie on Free Will? A documentary:
No idea is more fundamental to who we are than the idea that we are free to choose what we do and who we will become.

This idea is known as free will and since ancient times humanity has debated whether or not we have it. The question still remains: are we truly free? And in what sense are we free? Are we determined by forced beyond our control? Is free will compatible with determinism? What does quantum mechanics and neuroscience say? Is free will necessary in order for society to function? What implications does free will have on morality, religion, and the criminal justice system?

Free Will? A Documentary explores all of these topics and more. ...

We're gathering some of the best minds available on every side of the issue — libertarians, determinists, and compatibilists — to offer the best arguments from each side. In short, the mission will be to change the cultural zeitgeist on its understanding of free will.

Biology professor Jerry Coyne watched it so we don't have to, and comments:
But everyone else interviewed is a naturalist, all believing that at any one moment you have only one course of action.
Then it is not covering those who believe in (libertarian) free will. If we only have one course of action, then we have no free choices.
There’s a good discussion of the science, including the Libet and more recent Libet-like experiments
The preview mentions these experiments as showing that a decision might take the brain a couple of seconds, so that it is initiated before the brain is aware of a decision having been made. These experiments have been widely misinterpreted, and really don't say anything about free will.
the failure to connect libertarian free will to Abrahamic religions, of which it’s an essential part — a connection that accounts for why more than half of people surveyed in four countries accept libertarian free will.
Free will is essential to Christianty, but not to Judaism or Islam. Moslems think everything is determined by God's will. Some Christians also think that, but only a small minority. Some Jews believe in free will, but it is not important to Judaism.
I thus use “naturalism” (a term that’s not idiosyncraatic; it was suggested by Sean Carroll) to mean “determinism + quantum mechanics”, i.e. the laws of physics. People who hear “determinism” think that at the big bang the entire future of the universe was determined, which isn’t true.
I guess he is trying to say determinism plus indeterminism explains everything.
That’s fine with me, for once you accept naturalism, one can begin dealing with the important social consequences, including how to judge other people in both life and the legal system.
And then he can use his lack of free will to judge others with no free will? He makes no sense.

One of his readers:

Being an atheist I have to accept that free will is an illusion. But this has no relevance to the criminal justice system. ... Criminologists can debate, on free will principles, whether the purpose of prison is deterrence, revenge, or rehabilitation but ordinary people don’t care as long as the sentence provides a just measure of pain.
Wow, these anti-free-will opinions are just leftist atheist talking points. Free will does not just affect the criminal deciding on his crime, it also affects the judge meting out the punishment. If it is meaningless to talk about why the criminal acts, it is also meaningless to talk about the judge.

Sam Harris is a prominent free will critic not in the movie, and he has released a new podcast on the subject. He claims that he has no free will, and not even the feeling of free will. My theory is that his brain was damaged by hallucinogenic drugs.

His podcast was indeed a rehash of his earlier views. He does not mention his reckless experimentation with mind-altering drugs in his youth. But philosoher Daniel Dennett does tell him that some people do not have free will, as they have a neural disability. He subtlely told Harris that he was brain-damaged!

Harris did admit that the issue is not just nature-nurture, as quantum mechanics disproved determinism. He also conceded the possibility of a conscious soul, although he is a naturalist with no such beliefs.

He argued that everything is determined by four things: nature, nurture, randomness, and souls. But he says, you get no free will from randomness because you do not throw the dice, and you get none from your soul either, because you do not choose your soul!

Theologians make more sense than this. Who does throw the dice? Who chooses the soul?

The argument can be summarized: Everything is either predictable or unpredictable, and therefore there is no free will. This is obviously false, as a free choice is not predictable by someone else.

He also presented a thought experiment, where a violent intruder breaks into your home with evil intent. You have three weapons to choose from. (1) An ordinary gun, to easily kill him. (2) A cage to imprison his body indefinitely, and prevent future harm. (3) A sci-fi "cure gun" that will permanently alter his brain into being a docile slave with no free will.

Harris asks which will you choose? He argued that the third choice is the preferable and humanitarian choice, as it recognizes that the intruder was just someone with a malfunctioning brain that needed to be fixed.

Wow. First, why is he even presenting us with choices, if we have no free will? Second, is this really his goal, to put everyone in a mental prison?

Netflix has a series called Black Mirror, where in some episodes people are trapped in computer simulations. It is a horror show.

Harris is a monster.

Update: Evolutionist Jerry Coyne plugs the new Robert Sapolsky book against free will

At the “Moving Naturalism Forward”, the late physicist Steve Weinberg professed to me a belief in libertarian free will. See the story I told here (scroll down). In our conversation I ascertained that yes, although Weinberg was a Nobel Laureate in physics, he was resolutely wedded to the idea that he could, at any time, have behaved other than how he did.
Weinberg was maybe the most respected Physicist alive at the time. Funny how Coyne thinks he understands science better than Weinberg.
I was accosted by an angry jazz musician. He said that I had basically ruined his life (I am not exaggerating) by telling him that his “improvisations” were not really improvisations in the sense that he he (in a dualistic way) “decided” what riffs to play, but that they were were the determined product of unconscious processes. I tried to reassure him that they were still the product of his own brain, his own musical background, and his training that allowed him to improvise around what his fellow musicians were playing, but he didn’t find that reassuring. (Even Dawkins jumped in and tried to explain that this didn’t devalue the man’s art or abilities.)
Yes, Coyne was devaluing his music by saying it was all pre-determined.
Eventually my friend appeared and said, “You have to leave.” ...

Needless to say, I was dumbfounded. I’ve gone over this in my mind repeatedly, and I am absolutely sure that I didn’t raise my voice or say anything offensive. I was being booted out of a friend’s house because I had the wrong stand on a metaphysical argument!

Again, such is the rage of those who hear others tell them they have no agency. ...

When I hugged his wife goodbye and thanked her for her hospitality, she said, “Have a nice predetermined life.” How rude can one get?

I think Coyne misinterpreted them. They were not angry at having no agency. They just did not want in their house a pre-programmed robot who denies any personal moral responsibility for his actions.


CFT said...

I would ask these folks who don't believe in their own agency a simple question: Why?
What is their motivation for chopping down the very tree they live in and depend upon to survive?
And in the event they manage to successfully destroy their own volition, what then and to what purpose or end? This doesn't lead to understanding, or growth, it leads to mindless annihilation circling the drain of nihilism.

My suggestion to the acolytes of superdeterminism: If you wish to commit intellectual suicide, please don't make a mess and please do so without taking the rest of society along for the ride.

Roger said...

Why? Coyne says it would be a good thing if we all realized that we have no moral responsibility for what we do. We would stop trying to punish people, although he still favor separating dangerous criminals from society.

At least Dennett admits that denying free will is bad.