• TheMadFool
    4.3k


    The main idea in the video I want to contextualize the discussion on free will is viz. NATURE'S EFFICIENCY (NE)

    By NE I understand that all processes in nature have evolved to achieve stability with the minimum of energy expenditure and it exists as a fundamental rule of the processes of nature whether living or non-living.

    If, as they video claims, NE is an overarching principle of nature, then the intelligence to identify the most efficient method of any and all processes must be coupled with free will to enable an organism to choose the most efficient method so identified.This suggests that free will would evolve naturally and that our intuition of possessing free will may not be an illusion after all. Life requires an agency capable of discovering the most efficient processes to perpetuate itself with the ability to choose these processes in order to do so.

    In fact it could be said that if nature is truly efficient it would favor directed evolution which necessitates an agent with intelligence AND free will rather than just leave everything to the vagaries of chance.

    However, notice that the organism with free will must always conform to the basic principle of NE otherwise there's the danger of extinction. Given this is so some may object by saying that organisms purported to have free will actually don't have a choice but to follow, like water, the path of least resistance - the most efficient pathways.

    We're in a catch 22 situation. The ability to choose - free will - combined with intelligence would favor life but then there would be no choice but to follow the most efficient processes.

    Perhaps we could frame the issue in terms of intelligence alone not being adequate because then there would be nothing to make a choice to follow the most efficient processes to perpetuate itself. There is a need for the ability to choose (free will) even if in the broader context these choices are limited by NE.

    Comments...
  • OmniscientNihilist
    171
    intelligence and free-will are both mysticism

    "intelligence" is basically just a type of pattern and process

    and free-will just means you have no gun to your head forcing you. real free-will would require something from nothing which is impossible

    reality is patterns and cause&effect. these two things explain nature well enough on their own without needing to bring mysticism into it
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    intelligence and free-will are both mysticismOmniscientNihilist

    Mysticism? Everyone is really under the impression that what they think, speak and do is volitional - choices made without any coercion and/or unconscious influence. What is mystical about that? Of course it maybe an illusion but you can't deny it.
  • OmniscientNihilist
    171
    Of course it maybe an illusion but you can't deny it.TheMadFool

    i dont deny the illlusion, caused by ignorance of cause and effect
  • ZhouBoTong
    584
    If, as they video claims, NE is an overarching principle of nature, then the intelligence to identify the most efficient method of any and all processes must be coupled with free will to enable an organism to choose the most efficient method so identified.TheMadFool

    I don't think this adds up. Free will gives the option to NOT pick the most efficient method. So the best (most efficient) way would be better achieved without free will, as it would ALWAYS occur. If we can identify anything as "best" or "most efficient" then free will's only significant function would be to choose otherwise.
  • Brett
    1.1k


    Is it actually a truth that the most efficient survive? I don’t know how we can really know that without knowing what the alternative might have been. Is our position on the planet, the result of evolution, one of being the most efficient? Is this the best we could be? Would we have been more efficient with an eye in the back of our head, or two hearts sharing the load?
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    I don't think this adds up. Free will gives the option to NOT pick the most efficient method. So the best (most efficient) way would be better achieved without free will, as it would ALWAYS occur. If we can identify anything as "best" or "most efficient" then free will's only significant function would be to choose otherwiseZhouBoTong

    You make a fantastic point here. I see this, let's call it rebellion - the ability to choose the "wrong" path - as something of a necessary evil. I think we have a very good analog in our lives viz. what I hear quite often but don't engage in, at least not voluntarily. That's the so-called package deal.

    In order to achieve its ultimate goal of survival, life (is this personifying?) needs itself to be able to choose the most efficient means of survival. In order to do that we need organisms that

    1. Can think and know what these most efficient pathways are

    2. Can choose to go down those life-sustaining and life-promoting paths

    As a side-effect we also gain the ability to deny these obvious routes to biological success - survival.

    A hint that this is true can be seen in our ethics; especially how it has spread out into environmental issues. Are humans not trying to preserve the totality of the ecosystem which is another way of saying isn't life trying to preserve and promote itself through us, the only organisms endowed with the two abilities I mentioned above.

    The quite apparent fact that this isn't working - people don't give a damn about ecology - is evidence that humans have free will that is powerful enough to reject options that clearly have a real impact on their ultimate survival as a species.

    I could offer an "explanation" for what is quite frankly an odd situation - evolution backfiring in this case as endowing us with free will seems to have a net negative effect on the living world. Could it be that there's an equilibrium down the road where the species (us) aligns its goals with the 5 kingdoms of life?
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    Is it actually a truth that the most efficient survive? I don’t know how we can really know that without knowing what the alternative might have been. Is our position on the planet, the result of evolution, one of being the most efficient? Is this the best we could be? Would we have been more efficient with an eye in the back of our head, or two hearts sharing the load?Brett

    Great observation. I wasn't clear enough so my fault. Efficiency here represents all principles active in the process of evolution. I'm unfortunately not aware of them. It suffices to say that these evolutionary laws/rules make some pathways of biochemistry and physiology more favorable than others. This is what I'm referring to with efficiency of life.
  • ZhouBoTong
    584
    In order to achieve its ultimate goal of survival, life (is this personifying?) needs itself to be able to choose the most efficient means of survival.TheMadFool

    Doesn't it just need to obtain/use the most efficient means? Why is choice needed? Are you suggesting that microbial life is somehow "choosing" the most efficient method? Or are you just saying that "choice" would be a pinnacle of evolution as it allows the possessor to INTENTIONALLY select the most efficient method? I still think being compelled to use the most efficient method is better (would yield consistently better results) than choosing the most efficient method.

    Or maybe you are using "choose" separate from will? Something like: "evolution chooses the most efficient method."

    On a separate note, I would point out that survival only needs "efficient enough to survive", it doesn't require the "most efficient". But that is a separate point from what I think you are hoping to discuss, so I will ignore that for now.

    1. Can think and know what these most efficient pathways are

    2. Can choose to go down those life-sustaining and life-promoting paths
    TheMadFool

    Instead of these two, in a compelled version:

    1. Organism that do not use the most efficient methods die.

    2. Those that don't die are using the most efficient methods.

    Where is choice NEEDED? How would it help?
  • Brett
    1.1k


    I don’t see ‘choice’ being a factor, nor do I even see it as a fact in evolution. And if there’s no choice then there’s no proof of free will. Not that I’m disputing free will necessarily, only that this doesn’t suggest it.

    It’s only after the fact that the efficiency is evident, isn’t it? No one can know what the future holds. I tend to regard what you see as efficiency as advantageous, in relation to future events. Those with the fortunate advantages advance, survive and pass on their genes. That may look like efficiency in the long run because of the perfect fit.

    Is it possible for humans to make efficient choices regarding evolutionary survival? What efficiency would we chose for an unknown future? Who can know except those in the future? Is climate change a slow, inevitable process that reduces human numbers? If so then our contribution to climate change is an efficiency to reduce numbers to a level where we can survive and continue our evolution. Or should we fight climate change because it threatens the species?
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    Or are you just saying that "choice" would be a pinnacle of evolution as it allows the possessor to INTENTIONALLY select the most efficient method? I still think being compelled to use the most efficient method is better (would yield consistently better results) than choosing the most efficient method.ZhouBoTong

    The irony is that choosing the most efficient process is actually having no choice ("being compelled") other than that particular process because if an organism opts for another less efficient process its survival prospects are reduced. It's like telling someone to choose but giving only ONE option (the most efficient process). However this isn't the complete story as you yourself mentioned in a previous post:
    Free will gives the option to NOT pick the most efficient method.ZhouBoTong

    On a separate note, I would point out that survival only needs "efficient enough to survive", it doesn't require the "most efficient"ZhouBoTong

    Yes, but you won't disagree that if the most efficient process is adopted by an organism it greatly increases the chances of its survival.

    It’s only after the fact that the efficiency is evident, isn’t it? No one can know what the future holds. I tend to regard what you see as efficiency as advantageousBrett

    But we can and do plant the future don't we? The success of such plans may be less than certain but if we look at the way the world's turned out we do have an acceptable hit rate with our plans. Similarly I'd say that knowledge of life processes will give us an advantage for we can select the best processes that give us a survival advantage and discard those that are detrimental.
  • Brett
    1.1k


    But we can and do plant the future don't we? The success of such plans may be less than certain but if we look at the way the world's turned out we do have an acceptable hit rate with our plans.TheMadFool

    I’m just not sure that’s true. Wouldn’t it be the case that it’s only true if we had somehow stepped out of the condition of evolution as it applies to the past and other life forms? That we are no longer bound by nature. And that might be the case.

    Similarly I'd say that knowledge of life processes will give us an advantage for we can select the best processes that give us a survival advantage and discard those that are detrimental.TheMadFool

    So which would be the best process to consider in my point about climate change? Which would be the decision that has most efficiency for our survival?
  • Brett
    1.1k


    Actually, I might have just clarified one of my doubts. Regarding my example of climate change I am quite aware of the choice. I just don’t know which is the most efficient.
  • Gnomon
    300
    If we can identify anything as "best" or "most efficient" then free will's only significant function would be to choose otherwise.ZhouBoTong
    Yes. That's why I have concluded that human Free Will is limited to a conscious Veto over the options presented by automatic sub-conscious calculations. Our "selfish genes" program the subconscious to calculate what's "best" for survival and reproduction. But our mental Selves may have other priorities, such as morality. So freewill is not quite as free as some would like to believe, but it's also not an illusion as others would prefer.

    The human brain is a future-predicting machine, but the human mind has an over-ride vote : an unforced choice. Unfortunately, many of us allow a coin-flip to decide; hence, no better than robots.
  • Brett
    1.1k


    That's why I have concluded that human Free Will is limited to a conscious Veto over the options presented by automatic sub-conscious calculations. Our "selfish genes" program the subconscious to calculate what's "best" for survival and reproductionGnomon

    I don’t know if I accept the idea of “the selfish gene”. So on that basis the human Free Will has even less presence or effect over what’s ‘best’. And even less as a ‘future-predicting machine’.

    But that’s purely on the basis of my position on the selfish gene.
  • ZhouBoTong
    584
    Our "selfish genes" program the subconscious to calculate what's "best" for survival and reproduction. But our mental Selves may have other priorities, such as morality.Gnomon

    I think I agree overall, assuming you are using some figurative language. But as a small disagreement, couldn't our sub-conscious also be influenced by morality and other non-survival concerns? If I spend a lot of time consciously thinking about "x", won't it naturally get integrated into sub-conscious thought? Not that that necessarily causes any problems for your overall point.
  • ZhouBoTong
    584
    The irony is that choosing the most efficient process is actually having no choice ("being compelled") other than that particular process because if an organism opts for another less efficient process its survival prospects are reduced. It's like telling someone to choose but giving only ONE option (the most efficient process).TheMadFool

    So if you look at humans who can make choices, and then organisms that can't, which one selects the most efficient path most often? Humans very regularly do not. For MOST meals, I compromise on perfectly healthy in some way. And statistically, I eat healthier than the average human. I get that half the planet is ill informed on such things, but I would bet against the informed making proper choices if "proper" is inconvenient or uncomfortable.

    I would also point out that the "choices" we are discussing happen during one's lifetime, and therefor have very little to do with evolution (how many of those choices actually effect the passing on of genes?), unless we are bringing Lamarckian evolution back. Notice that "unhealthy" choices like having loads of unprotected sex are actually very "fit" according to evolution.
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    So which would be the best process to consider in my point about climate change? Which would be the decision that has most efficiency for our survival?Brett

    One could say that life has achieved self-awareness through humans. This isn't such a difficult proposition to consider. Look at the human body. Is our liver or heart or lungs or our toes conscious? No. Yet the brain, the conscious part of our body, works to ensure the survival of the whole body. Similarly, life is like the body and humans are like the brain. We humans, conscious and capable, must work to ensure the survival of the entire biosphere. Trying to prevent and reverse climate change is beneficial to the entire ecosystem. We may not be in the know about which methods/processes can solve the problem of climate change in the most efficient way but we are looking aren't we?
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    So if you look at humans who can make choices, and then organisms that can't, which one selects the most efficient path most often? Humans very regularly do not. For MOST meals, I compromise on perfectly healthy in some way. And statistically, I eat healthier than the average human. I get that half the planet is ill informed on such things, but I would bet against the informed making proper choices if "proper" is inconvenient or uncomfortable.

    I would also point out that the "choices" we are discussing happen during one's lifetime, and therefor have very little to do with evolution (how many of those choices actually effect the passing on of genes?), unless we are bringing Lamarckian evolution back. Notice that "unhealthy" choices like having loads of unprotected sex are actually very "fit" according to evolution.
    ZhouBoTong

    We need to look at the time-frame if you want to see the difference between blind evolution and human-directed evolution. Blind evolution would require an immense amount of time to get things right. Human-directed evolution would arguably achieve optimum efficiency in a shorter period. Which situation would have a higher hit rate? You firing your gun randomly or a trained sniper?
  • Brett
    1.1k


    One could say that life has achieved self-awareness through humans. This isn't such a difficult proposition to consider. Look at the human body. Is our liver or heart or lungs or our toes conscious? No. Yet the brain, the conscious part of our body, works to ensure the survival of the whole body. Similarly, life is like the body and humans are like the brain. We humans, conscious and capable, must work to ensure the survival of the entire biosphere. Trying to prevent and reverse climate change is beneficial to the entire ecosystem. We may not be in the know about which methods/processes can solve the problem of climate change in the most efficient way but we are looking aren't we?TheMadFool

    But I doubt we can know the best course to take, despite our self awareness.

    Trying to prevent and reverse climate change is beneficial to the entire ecosystem.TheMadFool

    Possibly, but not necessarily so. What if we didn’t reverse climate change, that we let it go, that in time (maybe a hundred years, maybe more) the climate caused a reduction in human numbers, a reduction in the demand for food, a reduction in tensions over resources and borders and instead there was a more balanced environment, occupied by people who had the time to consider decisions more temperately.

    That could be the greater efficiency than fighting climate change. But how do we chose, how do we decide?

    Not only that, but what is a collective choice? Is there such a thing, or is it the choice imposed from above where the “right” decision has been weighed and implemented.
  • Brett
    1.1k


    Second thought: and, if I am correct (of course I think I am), then what exactly and what value is the ‘self-awareness’?
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    Second thought: and, if I am correct (of course I think I am), then what exactly and what value is the ‘self-awareness’?Brett


    The unexamined life is not worth living — Socrates

    If truth is our ultimate goal then self-awareness is a necessary step. I can work in my own favor only if I know I exist. Right? It appears that life and by extension the universe wants a "life" that isn't at the mercy of chance. Life, the universe, has become self-aware AND rational. Essential ingredients for success, don't you think?
  • Brett
    1.1k


    If truth is our ultimate goal then self-awareness is a necessary step. I can work in my own favor only if I know I exist. Right? It appears that life and by extension the universe wants a "life" that isn't at the mercy of chance. Life, the universe, has become self-aware AND rational. Essential ingredients for success, don't you think?TheMadFool

    So, the evidence of our self awareness, our quest for truth, is also evidence of the universe seeking the same, recognising and choosing order over chaos, choosing rational thought and naturally efficiency to reach that ultimate goal, and that this is evidence of free will in action.

    But my feeling is, and this partly tied to the selfish gene idea, that the only act of free will we have is to go against our nature (I don’t know if this what ZhouBoTong is suggesting, maybe) which is moral anyway, and that would be a destructive act and consequently irrational. If self awareness amounts to the ability to make that choice, then what could the benefit be?

    We cannot chose efficiency because we can only know the present. The future waits to act on us.



    I
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    But my feeling is, and this partly tied to the selfish gene idea, that the only act of free will we have is to go against our nature (I don’t know if this what ZhouBoTong is suggesting, maybe) which is moral anyway, and that would be a destructive act and consequently irrational. If self awareness amounts to the ability to make that choice, then what could the benefit be?

    We cannot chose efficiency because we can only know the present. The future waits to act on us.
    Brett

    I've heard that evolution finds it difficult to explain morality, given the fact of the selfish gene. I find this rather odd point of view considering how a person's sense of wellbeing seems to lie beyond the self too - in family, friends, communities, nations, etc. It isn't too much of a stretch to see where this is going. Haven't we realized that the health of the ecosystem we live in is critically dependent on each element in it? It seems the so-called selfish gene will shrink and fade away with an ever-expanding familial connection, as evidenced through biology, between all species. This realization - that we're all family - is the truth that there is no us vs. them but that everything is us.
  • Brett
    1.1k


    You cannot make the right or efficient choices for a future you do not know, and the choices you do make are very minor in the scheme of things, and whether they are the right choice in terms of evolution cannot be known.

    So is there evidence of choices determining our future that overrides our nature? The only evidence of a choice is in going against our nature, as I said, which is no different than suicide, it’s more an act under duress, which is not much of a choice. Could that affect our evolution? Possibly, if there were enough people making the same type of unstable decisions, but then again the decisions are unstable and not conducive to survival.

    So, if there is no choice then there is no free will.


    I've heard that evolution finds it difficult to explain morality, given the fact of the selfish gene. I find this rather odd point of view considering how a person's sense of wellbeing seems to lie beyond the self too - in family, friends, communities, nations, etc.TheMadFool

    It’s not hard to explain evolution and morality if you throw out the idea of the selfish gene. A discussion we’ve all been through before.
    Yes, our well-being does lie outside of ourselves. Family, communities, lie at the core of our evolution. The morals we feel to be real today are the ones that formed those communities and were perpetuated by the success of those communities, both owe their success and endurance to each other.

    By and large our choices are framed by those morals. Being moral is not a matter of choice, it’s what we are. This doesn’t mean that people won’t behave badly. So there is no free will except in going against our nature, which takes us nowhere.

    So I don’t believe we can make choices that we might call efficient to shape the future according to our desires. As I said which is the best choice about my climate change dilemma?

    Yes, everything is ‘us’ in the sense that no one can get off the train. But we can only affect what happens around us now, through our ideas of morality, which are essentially the protection and well being of the family and community, which is what enabled our evolution to this point.

    Could that aspect of human nature, that morality, be destroyed. I don’t think so, but it could become dormant if the idea and importance of family and community is whittled away and the idea of the individual is made paramount and promoted as the essential way to survival. Then you will see ideas of efficiency working their way through society and morality regarded as old fashioned, inefficient and burdensome.

    In fact the use of the word efficient in terms of society makes me nervous.
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    You cannot make the right or efficient choices for a future you do not know, and the choices you do make are very minor in the scheme of things, and whether they are the right choice in terms of evolution cannot be known.Brett

    Why do you say that? Have you never planned for the future? Did you not plan yesterday that you would respond to my post? If you say "no" then, like me, you're a rarity in the world of humans who do make plans for the future and most of the times these do bear the desired fruit. Human society has a structure that depends on considering future outcomes which seem to, on mos occasions, work quite well. Don't you think?

    I'd like to request a good justification for the words "future you do not know". If you mean to critique causality, the basis of all planning, then I'm all ears.

    So I don’t believe we can make choices that we might call efficient to shape the future according to our desires. As I said which is the best choice about my climate change dilemma?Brett

    Not having knowledge is not the same as not wanting knowledge. You can't hold a toddler responsible for not knowing a match causes fire but one would be concerned if s/he has no desire to know.

    In fact the use of the word efficient in terms of society makes me nervousBrett

    Yes, I understand what you mean. For one it may be extremely efficient to kill of all people who have "unhealthy" genes. However, this is a non-issue because, having achieved total control of our genes, this problem would simply vanish on it's own accord. Do we worry about small pox these days? However, your concern is of great importance because as Dosotevsky pointed out "without God everything is permissible". To navigate the perilous seas will require more wisdom than we can credit even the wisest amongst us.

    Nonetheless, we can agree that morality, in essence, is about inclusion contrasted with exclusion. We always think twice about hurting those we include in our personal space. We usually don't give a damn about or feel no qualms about hurting those we exclude as not-us. I must say we can pin the blame for this situation squarely on the selfish gene.

    However, consider how knowledge gained through our rational mind, itself a product of the "selfish" gene, has quite literally unveiled a truth of great consequence viz. we're all connected in a way that to heed only the call of our selfish genes is to invite disaster one of which you mentioned - climate change.

    While this may be viewed as the height of vanity - the acme of selfishness where humans broaden their concern to other life-forms only because ultimately we care for ourselves - it can also be construed as life itself recognizing it's own nature and wanting to self-correct. Viewed this it isn't selfishness. Rather it's, for lack of a better word, an Awakening.
  • Gnomon
    300
    I don’t know if I accept the idea of “the selfish gene”.Brett
    It's just a metaphor. You can substitute whatever "programming" results in the body's ability to run itself, like a robot, without the mind consciously directing a million events every second.
  • Gnomon
    300
    I think I agree overall, assuming you are using some figurative language. But as a small disagreement, couldn't our sub-conscious also be influenced by moralityZhouBoTong
    Yes. I use metaphors as a short-cut for extremely complex "mechanisms". And I agree that the sub-conscious mind can be "programmed" by conscious concerns for morality : that's what we call "developing Character". But, once programmed, the subconscious system operates the body automatically, until some problem requires an executive decision. For example, the emotions quickly prime the body for "fight or flight". But the exec has to decide which. That's why we tend to freeze, when startled, long enough to assess the situation. Of course, when faced with a seven foot tall, 800 pound bear, the feet may start running before the exec even gets the request for orders. :smile:
  • Brett
    1.1k

    It's just a metaphor.Gnomon

    Yes, I’m aware it’s a metaphor and I disagree with the concept it represents.
  • Brett
    1.1k


    Why do you say that? Have you never planned for the future?TheMadFool

    Of course I plan for the future. However I might make a plan for going from Australia to New York, book flights, hotels, anticipate the weather and choose appropriate clothing, change my money, work out how long it takes from home to the airport and arrive in time to board the plane. What I didn’t plan for was the plane crashing into the Pacific Ocean.

    [quote="TheMadFool;354822"
    ]I'd like to request a good justification for the words "future you do not know"[/quote]

    I’d like to hear a justification for the words “future I do know”.

    I don’t mean this as confrontational as it sounds.
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    Of course I plan for the future. However I might make a plan for going from Australia to New York, book flights, hotels, anticipate the weather and choose appropriate clothing, change my money, work out how long it takes from home to the airport and arrive in time to board the plane. What I didn’t plan for was the plane crashing into the Pacific Ocean.Brett

    No plan is perfect but no objective is under the sway of every possible contingency. Right? You didn't expect the crash but at least you thought, for a good reason, that sailing there on home-built raft is not the best you could do.

    Your concern on the difficulty of planning to be 100% successful is valid. However don't compare the success rates of planning for the future to 100%. Rather weigh it against random probability. You can't deny that your well-conceived plan to travel to Australia isn't better than walking randomly in the streets and if and when you chance upon a travel agent to throw a dice to choose your destination and so forth, hoping that in behaving this way you'll reach your desired destination, Australia?
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