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romansh

Free Will

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I don't want to leave Jen hanging out to dry here. I resonate strongly with what she has written, but ultimately it is about my need to be among people who share a stronger consensus on the basic mainline Christian beliefs. PC is about challenging traditions, it is true, but there is a core that I do not wish to debate or defend. It stresses me out.

 

I wish each of you peace, joy, and love in your endeavors here. I have much love for this forum and it's participants.

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My current view on the will is that I have two wills. One is my base or ego will and it is concerned with instant gratification, greed, anger, etc. The other is my higher will, the one capable of influence from God, the one aiming for my and other's true best interests and positive evolution. More later.... off for a hike.

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You don't have to know the will of God to submit to it.

 

The configuration of your brain causes you to express this particular world view.

 

I don't think my brain configuration will have much impact on yours fatherman.

 

 

 

 

Having read rest of the thread now

 

As Dave Allen used to say, .... thank you, and may your God go with you.

Edited by romansh

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That the people who normally post on this forum can be a little rough there can be no doubt. There is an old adage that says "avoid those who are vexatious to the spirit". So, I think it's perfectly okay to leave the field when vexed! Of course, this runs the risk of attracting less diversity of opinion. I'm just say'in.

 

Steve

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My current view on the will is that I have two wills. One is my base or ego will and it is concerned with instant gratification, greed, anger, etc. The other is my higher will, the one capable of influence from God, the one aiming for my and other's true best interests and positive evolution. More later.... off for a hike.

 

Thanks LetGo,

 

That would answer my questions. Removing the one perceived self will (ego) and allowing the other to surface.

Joseph

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That would answer my questions. Removing the one perceived self will (ego) and allowing the other to surface.

Joseph

 

The immediate question is who is letting go or removing the perceived ego.

Often we are encouraged to be egoless in some way or another.

I would not be who I am without my ego ...

At best my ego at times can be aware of itself, and this usually is enough to dampen its spirit. If you see what I mean.

Edited by romansh

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Yes. Awareness is sometimes in my view, all that is needed.

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I don't want to leave Jen hanging out to dry here. I resonate strongly with what she has written, but ultimately it is about my need to be among people who share a stronger consensus on the basic mainline Christian beliefs. PC is about challenging traditions, it is true, but there is a core that I do not wish to debate or defend. It stresses me out.

 

I wish each of you peace, joy, and love in your endeavors here. I have much love for this forum and it's participants.

Fatherman, I will respect your decision to leave, but I truly wish you would stay. I understand what you mean by wanting to be among people who share a more mainline Christian beliefs. I attend a UMC with my wife. She is fairly conservative and evangelical, but liberal enough to stay married to me. :) While this is a good church and people there love me, their theology is admittedly quite mainline and I constantly struggle with where/if I fit in. I am definitely a heretic there, but loved as I am nonetheless.

 

There is, of course, something very natural and human about wanting a place of peace. We probably all long for that on some level. But I would gently ask (of myself also), is it in places of peace and tranquility that we grow best?

 

Your friend,

Bill

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Jen,

 

You may have some valid points but i think fatherman can speak for himself. He PMed me and i can say being judged as a theist was not a reason given for leaving. Since it is a PM i cannot say anymore than that.

 

Yes, Joseph, I understand that Fatherman can speak for himself. I made it clear at the beginning of my post that I was speaking only for myself. I didn't share specifics of what I thought Fatherman might be feeling, only that I felt I might understood why he said he was leaving.

 

The comments I made were mine alone.

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Guys, I've been rereading recent threads and realizing that my perception of them were colored by a bit of bipolar mania. I'm much better now. My posts don't show it, but they were motivated but all kinds of negative feelings. I bring some baggage to this site which doesn't really have anything to do with any of you. I'm prone to a little drama because of this stuff.

 

I see, in retrospect, a lot of really good discussion some of which has had positive impact on me.

 

I'll give it another try.

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"Every morning when you wake up you pray Thy Will Be Done, just as Jesus did. Then you let it happen."

 

Fatherman,

 

Your statement may sound simplistic to some, but it is extremely profound. The point is not to presume to know God's will, but to merely let it happen.C.S. Lewis said that prayer didn't change God, it changed him. To relax into it and "let it happen" is the key to happiness, at least in my opinion.

 

Glad you are still with us. Your opinions are just as valuable, and valued, as anyone here.

 

Steve

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Rodge recently intimated (quite accurately I think) that we cannot reconcile materialism with free will.

 

A little more difficult to understand, at least for me, why would a belief in free will win out over a belief in cause and effect?

 

When I faced this conundrum late in 2007, I quickly realized free will is a concept that simply does not make sense, and that I am not a mini-God implementing my divine choices. I am very much part of the universe and its causal mesh as it unfolds ... even if "I" is not quite what it seems.

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Free will makes perfect sense to me, but maybe it's because I let go a long time ago of the idea that Materialist cause-and-effect is the only set of laws operating in the universe.

 

I know you don't agree with me, Romansh, and I know you keep pressing the point that we don't have free will, whereas I continue to maintain the opposite position.

 

Of course we're all part of the universe and subject to its causal mesh. But having free will isn't equal to (or the same thing as) having the power to alter reality by making new choices. If you're talking about the ancient idea that human beings can be mini-Gods by understanding and using "the laws of the universe," that's not free will. That's just old-fashioned narcissism operating under the guise of Ancient Near East Wisdom, with its modern versions including Prosperity Gospel, the Power of Positive Thinking, The Secret, and related works.

 

Free will means that you have the right to choose how you respond emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and physically to all the outside forces and events you have no control over. Free will means you get to choose whether to hate or to love, to hold grudges or to forgive, to hang onto addictions or to work towards healing those addictions, and so on.

 

Addiction disorders often create the impression that we have no free will. But a recent book by neuroscientist Marc Lewis (The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not a Disease) provides evidence that addiction is a choice. Not a simple choice, but a cumulative choice. (Lewis was himself a drug addict in early adulthood.)

 

Free will is about emotional and spiritual maturity, not figuring out how to make the universe bend to your will.

 

Embracing a view of the universe that blends both Materialist and non-Materialist physics shows you pretty darned fast that NO human being is in charge of the universal energies and fields.

 

That`s God`s job.

Edited by Realspiritik

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There are a number of hypotheses, usually produced by theologians and philosophers, regarding the nature of human free will. Depending on which one you like, it's possible to make a relatively coherent argument for your favorite. Normally, I would say that the notion of free will/free choice (take your pick), involves some understanding of conscious, volitional action on the part of an agent.

 

There have been some interesting scientific investigations into this. Some of these seem to indicate that what we believe to be conscious willing on our part is rather an unconscious action which, in retrospect "feels" conscious and volitional. If anyone is interested, they can start by "googling" Benjamin Libet, a researcher at the University of California. His experiments in this area have apparently been duplicated by other researchers. Another interesting finding regarding this is that we apparently have sufficient time to negate our unconscious potential action prior to the action itself. For this reason, the theory is sometimes referred to as "free won't"! So, I'm wondering, if "free will" is an illusion, is "free won't" an illusion as well?

 

For my part, the jury is still out on this question. In fact, it has been out for centuries. But, I would say that at least in some cases, what we take to be conscious, volitional action is nothing of the kind.

 

Steve

Edited by SteveS55

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Good points, Steve. And yes, theologians and philosophers have been arguing about it for centuries. No argument there.

 

Some aspects of Benjamin Libet's theories have been challenged and reconsidered: https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22144-brain-might-not-stand-in-the-way-of-free-will/. Not that this is a bad thing for either Libet (who wrote about "the readiness potential" in the early 1980's) or the researchers who've followed him. Our understanding of the brain is still pretty basic, all things considered. It's humbling to keep in mind that neurogenesis wasn't accepted as a scientific reality until the late 1990's: http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/the_reinvention_of_the_self/P3/. Before this, scientific consensus held that people were born with all the neurons we were ever going to have, and no new neurons could grow in adult brains. It wasn't true, of course, but the minority voice who insisted it wasn't true were ridiculed. It also turned out it was the design experiment itself that created the conditions under which no new neurons could grow in primates -- too much stress was the culprit for lack of neurogenesis.

 

When we're talking about something as complex as free will, I think it's important to be aware that our design experiments and our hidden biases and assumptions can affect the outcome. In fact, as I type this post, I'm seeing the connections between free will and neurogenesis in a new light.

 

Under conditions of great stress (please see the Seed Magazine article for definitions) the human brain not only doesn't grow new neurons and new dendritic connections and stronger limbic system networks, but can actually start to lose them in critical places such as the hippocampus, which is essential for learning and memory.

 

If one's brain is under great stress, and new connections aren't being made, and old connections are being lost, then one's inner experience of free will is going to look quite different compared to the inner experience of somebody who's had the kind of life advantages that help the brain function optimally (e.g. good nutrition, ongoing education, non-abusive family environments, non-abusive social and spiritual environments, non-abusive sexual relationships, access to fun and laughter and mature relationships, lack of chronic pain, and the like).

 

I know from my own personal experience that I have much more personal control over my own thoughts, feelings, choices, and actions than I did when I was 20 years old. When I was 20, I was crackerjack smart and had an amazing memory for facts. But I wasn't emotionally or spiritually mature, and I know for sure I wasn't using all the parts of my brain in balanced, mature ways to give me the kind of control over my moral choices I now have.

 

I was humbled to learn that being smart and well-educated has little to do with having a full and lasting experience of free will (that is, being aware of -- and eventually being in control of -- one's inner motivations, one's choices, and the possible consequences of one's choices). Free will involves taking responsibility for what goes on inside of your heart and your head instead of taking the easy way out and blaming everything and everyone EXCEPT yourself for the mistakes you make.

 

Free will also involves letting yourself off the hook for all the things you couldn't possibly do and couldn't possibly know because you're only human.

 

So free will and self-honesty are closely linked.

 

The problem is that it's hard to be honest with yourself about what you CAN reasonably do and what you CAN'T reasonably do when your brain's learning and memory centres have been damaged.

 

So then it becomes an issue that has to moved out of the realm of pure philosophy and into the realm of practical, everyday neuroscience: how do we help our children's brains grow optimally so they can use their brains in balanced, moral ways to improve their relationships with themselves, each other, and all Creation?

 

No matter how hard we try, no one can escape the practical, everyday realities of brain science. Not even the philosophers and theologians.

Edited by Realspiritik

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Free will makes perfect sense to me, but maybe it's because I let go a long time ago of the idea that Materialist cause-and-effect is the only set of laws operating in the universe.

While you may have let go of it you may have grabbed on to something that is non existent outside of a concept.

 

I know you don't agree with me, Romansh, and I know you keep pressing the point that we don't have free will, whereas I continue to maintain the opposite position.

Yes I know we can't help ourselves

 

Of course we're all part of the universe and subject to its causal mesh.

Here I agree with you whole heartedly.

 

But having free will isn't equal to (or the same thing as) having the power to alter reality by making new choices. If you're talking about the ancient idea that human beings can be mini-Gods by understanding and using "the laws of the universe," that's not free will.

I am not sure that I understand you completely here. For me free will implies that we are able to act independently of that causal mesh, no more no less. Me personally, I understand that I am completely embedded in that universal causal mesh, to the point that thinking of myself as an intrinsic self (I) is a nonsense..

 

That's just old-fashioned narcissism operating under the guise of Ancient Near East Wisdom, with its modern versions including Prosperity Gospel, the Power of Positive Thinking, The Secret, and related works.

I briefly came across a study that realistic thinking was more beneficial than positive thinking which in turn was better than negative thinking.

 

Free will means that you have the right to choose how you respond emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and physically to all the outside forces and events you have no control over.

God given right? I don't think I have any universal right to choose. I do have this huge inability to not to choose.

 

Free will means you get to choose whether to hate or to love, to hold grudges or to forgive, to hang onto addictions or to work towards healing those addictions, and so on.

Here you confound choice with free choice. But funnily enough when I love someone there was nothing free about it, When I hate there is nothing free about that either. For example Donald Trump, no matter how hard I try, I don't know how to like him. Having said thatthere is nothing to forgive as he is a product of the same causal mesh as you and I. We are just in different locations.

 

Addiction disorders often create the impression that we have no free will. But a recent book by neuroscientist Marc Lewis (The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not a Disease) provides evidence that addiction is a choice. Not a simple choice, but a cumulative choice. (Lewis was himself a drug addict in early adulthood.)

Likely Lewis confounds choice with free choice. I can recommend Bruce Hood's The Self Illusion and Sam Harris's Free Will.

 

Free will is about emotional and spiritual maturity, not figuring out how to make the universe bend to your will.

The absence of free will is about understanding the casual mesh shapes you emotional and spiritual maturity and understanding how the universe has formed your will.

 

Embracing a view of the universe that blends both Materialist and non-Materialist physics shows you pretty darned fast that NO human being is in charge of the universal energies and fields.

Blending nothing with materialism leaves pure undiluted materialism.

But orthodox and evangelical Christians do seem to believe we are in charge. Hence our need for evil and forgiveness. An enlightened traditional Christian might happily forgive Donald Trump for his wayward ways. Whereas in my worldview there is nothing to forgive.

 

That`s God`s job.

Give me Carl Sagan over Jesus any day.

Edited by romansh
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Okay, Romansh. So you and I don`t agree on anything. (The only point you agreed with was the statement I made where I agreed with you about the causal mesh, so that doesn`t really count.)

 

You say, `Give me Carl Sagan over Jesus any day.` This is your right, of course. But again I must wonder what the point is when you continually undermine those who come here, to a Progressive Christian site, to share our thoughts and insights about the 8 Points, which are founded in what we see as the most healing and most uplifting traditions from Christianity and Jesus` teachings.

 

Your criticisms of orthodox and evangelical Christianity aren`t news to those of us who come here to talk about Progressive Christianity. We, too, see problems with the certainty and righteousness of many orthodox and evangelical streams of thought. So if you`re hoping to save us from the perils of certainty and righteousness . . . thanks, but I don`t think we need saving. We`ve figured that part out already.

 

I`m not going to apologize for talking about God or non-Materialist physics (i.e. quantum physics) or forgiveness or free will or choice. You may not believe in any of these aspects of consciousness, but your belief is just that -- a belief -- and you have no more right than any of the rest of us here to claim that your version of reality is correct.

 

As for your statement that ``When I hate there is nothing free about that either,`` I just don`t even know what to say about that. Hatred is a choice, Romansh. If you feel hatred towards others, then no one but you can take responsibility for that.

 

I forgive you, Romansh.

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Embracing a view of the universe that blends both Materialist and non-Materialist physics shows you pretty darned fast that NO human being is in charge of the universal energies and fields.

Blending nothing with materialism leaves pure undiluted materialism.

 

 

Upon rereading your post, Romansh, I think there might be some confusion here about the use of terms.

 

If I`m reading you correctly, you`re saying that non-Materialist physics means `nothingness.`

 

Non-Materialist physics means quantum physics -- all the stuff that underlies our everyday classical Newtonian physics but doesn`t behave in the same way as the everyday matter we encounter in our human lives. Quantum fields and energies don`t behave in the simple cause-and-effect ways that everyday matter behaves.

 

Quantum energies and fields make up most of the energy of the known universe. The stuff we think of as ``regular matter`` adds up to only 4--5% of all the energy in the universe.

 

The universe is blended from both forms of energy -- both the regular (baryonic) matter that seems to follow Materialist laws, and everything else.

 

Human beings don`t yet understand the ``everything else`` parts very well at all. But they exist. And it`s important for us to factor them into our understanding of consciousness.

 

Sorry if I created any confusion in my post about the differences between Materialism and non-Materialism.

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I forgive you, Romansh.

 

Thank you Jen, while I might not understand the specific causes to your forgiveness, I do understand there many immediate causes to your world view amongst many nth order ones.

 

I think we have different view of what non material is. For me quantum phenomenon fall squarely into a materialist's world. Quantum phenomenon respond to cause and effect in a probabilistic way. Even Hawking (and Mlodinow) described quantum mechanics as determinism where the probabilities are determined. The Grand Design

 

For me, non material are things that don't respond to cause and effect. Quite often people think of souls as such.

 

In a non free will world people don't need saving, not even the self righteous ... whoever they may be.

 

"Choice" is a tricky concept. Yes I might to choose to hate, in the same way a river chooses its meandering path across a flat plain. I have been married for almost forty years, but I certainly did not choose [consciously] to love her. I just do. In fact I new her for two years before dating, "she was not my type". The same way I don't [consciously] choose to hate people. Incidentally I don't hate any one at the moment and have not in a long time. Regarding love ... you obviously have access to the Newsientist, look up oxytocin. There will be a couple examples where "love" can be induced in the animal world. I can give a brief over view if you do not.

 

Did I criticize evangelical and orthodox Christians? I simply compared my world view with some hypothetical view.

Again criticize has two general meanings ... point out/evaluate inaccuracies is the sense I strive for.

 

I have been taken to task before for not being Christian enough on this site. Are we all not Buddhas or Jesus's? That I happen to prefer Carl to the original; so be it, I have no free choice ... I am meandering on the plain.

Edited by romansh

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Good to hear you haven`t hated anyone in a long time, Romansh.

 

Yes, it`s clear you and I aren`t using the term `non-Materialist` to mean the same thing. Classical physics (that is, Materialist physics) can`t account for quantum phenomena such as non-locality (quantum entanglement), or WHY photons are both wave and particle, or how quantum states can be superposed, or why magnetic poles in an object can`t be `separated` no matter how many times you cut the object into tiny pieces, or what causes gravity, or what black matter is, or what black energy is, or why the conscious observer effect can`t be dismissed, and so on (though, of course, we`re looking!). Probabilities are probabilities, not linear cause-and-effect algorithms. Materialist science operates at the macro level, which currently can`t be reconciled with the quantum level (or levels). I say this as someone who loves chemistry and has studied aspects of chemistry such as quantum mechanics, organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, physical chemistry, and reaction rates. Chemistry is all about the ways we can harness those little electron probability waves and coax them into creating useful substances for us (even in the kitchen, where chemistry rules!). But they`re still probability waves. And we still don`t know WHY they behave the way they do. And Einstein didn`t like this weird stuff (he felt there should be strict, causal processes underlying all observations), but that`s too bad, because Einstein was wrong.

 

Thanks for the mention of oxytocin. You may have missed the part about my interest in neuroscience. I have lots of info in my files about oxytocin and other hormones and neurotransmitters.

 

Enjoy your plain meandering!

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Yes, it`s clear you and I aren`t using the term `non-Materialist` to mean the same thing. Classical physics (that is, Materialist physics) can`t account for quantum phenomena such as non-locality (quantum entanglement), or WHY photons are both wave and particle, or how quantum states can be superposed, or why magnetic poles in an object can`t be `separated` no matter how many times you cut the object into tiny pieces, or what causes gravity, or what black matter is, or what black energy is, or why the conscious observer effect can`t be dismissed, and so on (though, of course, we`re looking!).

 

Jen ... if you are going to claim quantum phenomena as non material, then I am afraid you have to claim the whole caboodle as non material ... I have no problem here. The non material responds to cause and effect in a probabilistic way. There is no certainty in the outcome. Hawking and Mlodinow in The Grand Design:

Quantum physics might seem to undermine the idea that nature is governed by laws, but that is not the case. Instead it leads us to accept a new form of determinism: Given the state of a system at some time, the laws of nature determine the probabilities of various futures and pasts rather than determining the future and past with certainty."

and bonus quote

the molecular basis of biology shows that biological processes are governed by the laws of physics and chemistry and therefore are as determined as the orbits of the planets...so it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion

 

regarding Einstein, you may well be right, but I would not bet against him just yet. Our two best demonstrated theories are incompatible.

 

And just as an aside, I have a degree in chemistry and a PhD in Minerals Engineering. My working life I have worked in a research laboratory (sadly applied, at least for the purposes of this discussion). I mention this simply to save you time when presenting basic science stuff , at least for my benefit.

 

But if you think free will is a result of some dice shaker, fair enough. It certainly what I think of as free will.

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Romansh, I apologize for stating the basics to you. I was really thrown off by some of your statements such as "Blending nothing with materialism leaves pure undiluted materialism" which didn't sound like a comment based in science. However, now you've explained your background and the theories you adhere to, so I'll leave you to your theories, and argue with you no more.

 

I've taken some of the same raw data as you and arrived at entirely different conclusions. Though Hawking and Mlodinow are positing a new form of determinism, it's again just a theory, and one I personally don't accept. Einstein was wrong about non-locality, as I'm sure you must know. Hawking and Mlodinow may also be wrong, though, for the time being, there's no way to be certain one way or the other.

 

I note as I sign off on this one that your devotion to pure determinism in physics sounds no different to me than the certainty, determinism, and righteousness found throughout the history of philosophy and theology. In your certainty, Romansh, you sound to me like the pot calling the kettle black.

Edited by Realspiritik

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I don't why ... but when discussing free will, quite often people get quite defensive ... interesting.

 

Anyway for those interested this is a good resource for those interested in arguments against free will.

 

http://www.naturalism.org/philosophy/free-will

 

And this blog from a quantum point of view brings up the possibility of superdeterminism ...makes interpreting quantum data a little more tricky.

Edited by romansh

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I'm new to this site and am jumping in here without having read everything that's gone before. But someone in another topic suggested that something I wrote there might be of interest here, so I'm sharing it here. This is an argument from personal experience, not theological belief or scientific research. I realize that that approach upsets some, but I think that ultimately everything we believe is based on our subjective evaluation of what we experience (including what we read about technical matters). So, here goes:

 

 

My view of the physical world is mechanistic, predictable. That if I press the "Y" key on on the keyboard, "Y" will appear on the computer screen. That if I heat an egg in very hot water, the liquid contents inside the shell will turn solid. That the rotation of the Earth will cause the sun to appear to rise in the East. We constantly depend of the fact that a certain cause will have a certain effect. What happens in the physical world is predetermined by what happened previously. Theoretically, every physical event today was the result of a series of fixed causes and effects since the Big Bang. Of course, some processes are so complex it is difficult to imagine that we could gather enough information for a precise, correct prediction. But I take that to be a limit of our ability to gather sufficient data instantly, rather than a failure of cause and effect. I also recognize that quantum mechanics describes a different process at the atomic and sub-atomic level, but I'm not aware that anyone has claimed that this atomic activity invalidates Newtonian laws at the scale we experience reality.

But I do find that my experience of life doesn't match this mechanistic view.

First, regarding predictability. After reading your post, I considered how to reply. I thought of one approach, then abandoned it for the approach I am now taking. And, as I type, I revise sentences and substitute new words for ones I have written. That's not how the laws of nature work. Nature doesn't correct errors and make revisions in a specific case. My toaster doesn't correct itself if the setting burns my toast. My radio doesn't correct itself if a short distorts the sound. Nature doesn't "correct" a mutant cell division. One could argue that evolution is self-correcting, but that's not because nature "fixes" a specific mistake; it's just that some causes lead to more enduring results than others. Getting "heads" five coin flips in a row is not due to nature changing anything; it is just a matter repeatedly flipping the coin enough times. When I decide this morning to have a waffle rather than an egg for breakfast, I don't think it is reasonable to believe that that choice was determined at the moment of the Big Bang. I think it is more reasonable to think my human consciousness was able to make an unpredictable choice.

Second, regarding experience itself. I experience my life being full of sensations — color, sound, taste, scent, etc. And yet, none of these exist in nature. Grass may reflect electromagnetic radiation of a certain frequency, but there is no color there. Slamming a door may send shock waves through the air, but there is no sound there. We have evolved to have receptors of data about our bodies and our surroundings. But evolution has also created brains and central nervous systems that make consciousness possible, but the raw data bombarding us is useless as raw data; it must be interpreted. So where does data turn into the experience of color? Not in the rods and cones of our eyes. Not in the neurons of our brains. There is no physical locus where we can objectively show that data has been turned into the experience of color. So I conclude that experience is non-physical, and that our consciousness is affected by external stimulus, but is not totally controlled by it.

Hence, our consciousness enables us to choose among real options, and that's free will. Our choices are limited by physical realities, and our ability to carry out our decisions is limited by our physical location and capabilities. Free will does not, to me, mean anything supernatural, anything in violation of natural law. It is the product of natural processes that created, first, life out of non-life, then consciousness out of programmed responses, then human consciousness that permits our decisions to take into account abstract concepts.

So, that's what made me side with free will. But that's not a decision against cause-and-effect. It's an addition to cause-and-effect.

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