A Skeptic’s Arguement For Free Will

I’ve been reading a book called 13 things that don’t make sense – baffling scientific mysteries – by Michael Brooks and one of the chapters is Free Will.

The evidence we have so far, leans towards no free will; that we are just brain machines.

One of the more compelling proof for no free will, is that if a person exposes various parts of your brain to an electro-magnetic field, your body parts will move – a hand, finger, leg, arm – the part dependent on the intensity and location of the current.

The person waving the device has control of your body, totally.

By using less current that would result in actual movement, subjects reported the urge to move some part of their body, and by increasing the power, the body part actually moves.

Other tests show brain activity 350 milliseconds in advance of actual movement.

So it appears that consciousness is a trick the brain plays on itself in order to avoid dealing with the cognitive dissonance of being self aware as an entity, but not self aware of brain functioning.

But the idea that we are brainbots, is disturbing, and it’s an aspect of consciousness to be unware of the brain’s importance to being exactly who and what we are. Especially when you consider that brain injuries cause major personality changes.

We reduce the brain to just another organ, and maintain the illusion that we are something else, something spiritual or energy matric that in inhabiting the body and brain, that somehoe the brain is what connects the pure spirit self with the physical meatbag body, that the brain is both the operating system of the body, and what connects the matter body with the energy self.

Our bodies become the mechanical devices that transports our brains to where there’s food, shelter and other brains to interact with, because we don’t want to be just the clever animal or meatbag supporting the grey glob.

This cognitive dissonance of not wanting to be just a brainbot is likely why so many people cling to being godbots – that something higher makes us more than a brainbot animal, but imbues us with specialness.

It actually make sense then, that a group who is true believers in a deity that makes them special, with purpose and makes them not animals, could then view other people who don’t share the belief, to be as animals, so provide the justification for slavery and other atrocities against fellow, but to their godbot justified brains, less than human.

But, what does there not being free will really mean?

If we really aren’t in control of our decisions/choices, and are just brainbots – then it’s not really possible to hold people accountable or responsible for their actions, since, they had no choice, given their personality program – which undermines our legal system for starters.

An uncomfortable thought, no one being accountable.

My Premise is that genetics determines a lot about us – not just physically but also personality. The debate of nature v nurture isn’t really which one, but rather, what’s the ratio of each side’s influence? Can it be altered over the course of a life, that is, will treating people different, result in their behaving differently?

The biological imperative of organisms is survival and reproduction.

So, if we are just brain support systems, it doesn’t make sense that we would be able to make decisions that would work against survival and reproduction opportunities

Yet, we do.

People who can rationalize extreme criminal acts are not working in their survival/reproductive interests, nor are suicides, childless by choice (rather than lack of opportunity) or sacrificing your life for a stranger’s.

Yet, these event occur regularly, some people even make it literally their jobs to put their lives at risk for other people’s lives or for maintaining social order.

There must be some portion of our behaviours and decisions that are randomly up to whatever we are individually; much like, while genetics drives your body development and appearance, fingerprints are not genetically driven – they are unique and random – even between the closest appearing of identical twins.

So, that we have fingerprints is genetically determined, but what those fingerprints end up looking like, there is no genetic code for, it’s random as far as we can tell.

So, genetics must give us our emotional range, our skill potential – but the limitations are based in the quality of our nurturing, our experiences, our personalities.

Much of what and who we are does seem to arise from genetics, given the decades long study of twins separated at birth, but who, despite having being raised in different households, end up leading parallel lives – making similar career choices and having similar families as adults. But en then, there’s random variation, small differences that make each twin unique.

8 thoughts on “A Skeptic’s Arguement For Free Will

    • well, the subject matter is a bit unsettling.

      Being the writer of the article, I have a different relationship with the text.

      What strikes me the most now is the line about “how one is treated creates behavioural responses with the suggestion of longer term personality changes”

      not that wording, but paraphrasing to lead into a new idea to reflectively added.

      Reading that book was actually more pivotal than I realized, and now it’s on the list of books that saved my life.

      because of course how people are treated determines their personality.

      How we are raised in childhood forms our very nature and more often than not. determines our limitations and our uppermost level of achievement possible.

      Who we are born to and where, puts the limitions on the family unit itself – and across social attitudes.

      People who had subpar childhoods have to work harder internally to achieve the same levels as people who had advantaged to average.

      But regardless of socio-economic factors – the one critical factor is how intact your self esteem and sense of security and safety within the family and the larger world you inhabit, within the larger context of the nation to globe – was when you when through through the development stages through to adult separation from the birth family to forming your your chosen family and network of people.

      so how we are later treated, our ability to manage and cope is well determinative of both your nature and your nurture.

    • funny

      some people in crisis turn to prayer and soul searching

      I conducted an intensive psychological research project.

      figures. it’s like I told my First Ex on the day of my Uncle Gus’ funeral.

      when she realized that she had me chauffeurring her around town doing mundane errands and I was late for the family gathering.

      Her: Why didn’t you tell me you had to go to the funeral today?

      Me: because I said that in order to cope, I needed to do things as normal as possible and catering to you is well. what I normally do.

      And really, I’ve had a lot of time to think about that behaviour and the consequences of where that leads.

      • Oh well.

        You know Pat. I got a really good screenplay out of that relationship.

        Funny. a movie script convinced me to leave that first partner, because I realized when I was writing it, that the relationship couldn’t work out.

        This time last year, I had come up with a concept for a TV show. Now I am divorced and have a Second Ex.

        Perhaps my Dad was correct when he told me 18 years ago that writers shouldn’t get married.

        hard to say what’s in the cards for the future

        the past is usually a good indicator of the future,
        but it’s not always, given random chance and proactive behaviours …

  1. What you write is correct in my perception. Everything boils down to whether consciousness is a side effect of the brain, or whether it can disconnect from it. You have already answered that question, but i’m not sure. Neither can i find logical and sound arguments for one or the other. You can also make a dead frog’s leg move by applying electricity to parts of its body. If consciousness is not part of the body, you will never be able to measure this, you will only measure levels of awareness in parts of the brain. It might be beneficial to humanity if consciousness is a side effect of the brain: no more karma or reincarnation or a god to fight for, a hell to be afraid of. Although i tend to have indications that there is a duality between brain and consciousness, i do not believe in the above metaphysics, and i’m sure the world would be better of without it.

    • well, yes

      that is the real question

      does consciousness continue to exist when there’s not a body to support the brain’s functioning and

      presumable generating it

      we can’t really know until we die and then, no one’s ever reliably returned to tell about it

      but maybe, that’s one of the rules?

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