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Can we prove scientifically the existence of free will?


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Initial post: 17 Jan 2013 15:02:21 GMT
Last edited by the author on 17 Jan 2013 15:07:39 GMT
Bellatori says:
Free Will - an experimental approach. First try...

Dictionary Definition FREE WILL: Power of directing our own actions without constraint by necessity or fate.

Approach - I think we can attack this by looking at constraint.
So any experiment would try and show that some external agency acts on someone's interest (either for or against) without knowledge of the recipient causing a change to occur. What I thought of was a variant on the power of prayer experiments that have been carried out in the US.
Method
You need two large equivalent groups. One of Atheists (A) and one of spiritual/theists (T). Additionally you need a third group (the rest of the world as it were) as a control (C).

We are going to look at death rates/longevity. Each group will be encouraged to support its members when they are ill. The theists by prayer, flowers & grapes, the atheists by flowers & grapes only.

Analysis
We will look for a statistical difference in death rate/longevity.

T=A=C We appear to have free will. Further research necessary
T=A>C Placebo effect real
T>A>=C We do not have free will, something external is interfering with death rate/longevity
A>T>=C Parrots fall off perches!?

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jan 2013 15:11:03 GMT
Spin says:
Belatori: The very act of trying to "prove" the existence or non-existence of "free will" only proves that ones will is not, in fact, "free"...

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jan 2013 15:15:40 GMT
Bellatori says:
You might like to explain how. So far all you have done is provided an opinion.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jan 2013 15:19:42 GMT
Spin says:
Bellatori: "How" what, exactly? How we do not have free will or how by questioning free will we prove not to have such freedom?

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jan 2013 15:33:02 GMT
Bellatori says:
Hi Spin... You wrote "The very act of trying to "prove" the existence or non-existence of "free will" only proves that ones will is not, in fact, "free""

I am asking .... How does 'The very act of trying to "prove" the existence or non-existence of "free will" only proves that ones will is not, in fact, "free", prove your will is not free.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jan 2013 15:47:34 GMT
Spin says:
Bellatori: because the mode of ones questioning, and the method one uses to resolve it, in verbal and practical terms, is based on learned, or conditioned, behaviour...Every thought and action on your part is related to a prior one and so cannot logically or practically be "free"...For instance, you will reject any mode of questioning or method of resolution that does not fit in with your idea of "informative enquiry"...

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jan 2013 16:37:11 GMT
Bellatori says:
Spin says: "Every thought and action on your part is related to a prior one and so cannot logically or practically be "free""

Yes, possibly, but they are my thoughts and actions. I am not being externally constrained so your argument does not really apply. It is a somewhat different philosophical question to that which I am trying to deal with here.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jan 2013 16:40:40 GMT
Last edited by the author on 17 Jan 2013 16:43:49 GMT
Spin says:
Bellatori: I disagree. Only a small percentage of your thoughts are actually "Yours" In fact only a small percentage of the conclusions you arrive at are actualy "yours". Most are derived from thoughts and arguments, actions and consequences, derived from your environment. To be "conscious" is to be "conscious of"; one cannot be conscious in the absence of external elements enabling one to be conscious of them.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jan 2013 16:47:31 GMT
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In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jan 2013 16:57:01 GMT
Bellatori says:
Spin says: "I disagree. Only a small percentage of your thoughts are actually "Yours" In fact only a small percentage of the conclusions you arrive at are actualy "yours". Most are derived from thoughts and arguments, actions and consequences, derived from your environment."

Its the bit where you say 'Most are derived'. Who does the deriving? My guess is you do internally. It is not taken from you, sorted, coded and suddenly implanted in your brain. Also you do not accept anything uncritically - there is always some internal processing of received information and you get to decide whether to accept of reject it. (I make an exception for a couple of posters elsewhere and of course Simon TF Boyd... aah bleeeess!"

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jan 2013 16:59:12 GMT
Spin says:
Bellatori: One cannot arrive at a conclusion without input from the environment. A genuine free will has no contact with reality whatsover and so its conclusions are relevent only to the mind in which they float...

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jan 2013 17:27:12 GMT
Bellatori says:
Spin says: "One cannot arrive at a conclusion without input from the environment."
In the main I agree with this. I have a few caveats but these are specific rather than general so as a general statement, yes, I go along with it. Its the next bit I have a few problems with.
"A genuine free will has no contact with reality whatsover (sic)"
When I go to M&S with my wife (that is a free will question in itself! Shopping for men!) and I look at a range of pullovers. Who is constraining me with regard to choice? (The answer 'Your wife' is not acceptable at this point). Internally I have decided I am fed up being cold and I need a pullover. Is that someone else's decision? I pick a colour. Who is down for that? External input... internal choice.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jan 2013 17:36:27 GMT
Spin says:
Bellatori@ so it was your physical discomfort at beong "cold" which determined your decision to buy a pullover. Hardly an argument for "free will". Even if you buy an item because it is the latest fashion, or a fashion you like because of its obsurity, you are still not acting because of "free will"...there is no such thing as "free will"...It is a concept based on the assumption that ones conclusions are independent of physical and mental influences.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jan 2013 17:48:21 GMT
Bellatori says:
"It is a concept based on the assumption that ones conclusions are independent of physical and mental influences."

No it is not. It is based on the idea that given the external inputs you are free to chose any possible outcome. I did not have to chose I was cold. I made a subjective judgement. That ability alone is free will. the fact that some choices are stupid does not negate free will. You are free to be stupid.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jan 2013 17:51:54 GMT
Spin says:
Bellatori: How can one be free to conclude as one wishes when every past thought or experience has brought one to that point of conclusion??

Posted on 17 Jan 2013 17:54:56 GMT
R. Woolmer says:
I could prove free will but I cant be bothered so there you have it free will :)

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jan 2013 17:57:04 GMT
Spin says:
R; No, your apathy is not the result of free will. It is based on prior considerations and experiences.

Posted on 17 Jan 2013 17:58:14 GMT
R. Woolmer says:
Like what?

Posted on 17 Jan 2013 17:59:18 GMT
Spin says:
A genuinely free will (however the terms "freedom" and "will" is defined) cannot exist except in total isolation from any reality of environment providing the "will" with its, so to speak, "willingness"

Posted on 17 Jan 2013 18:03:22 GMT
R. Woolmer says:
free will is simply just making a decision for yourself, unless you are a brainwashed zombie anyone can do that.

Posted on 17 Jan 2013 18:05:46 GMT
fairy queen says:
Babel fish anyone?

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jan 2013 18:08:46 GMT
Spin says:
R; So your decision to post was based entirely on your free will, not on any posts you have read and disagreed with...?

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jan 2013 18:16:29 GMT
Bellatori says:
Spin says: "Bellatori: How can one be free to conclude as one wishes when every past thought or experience has brought one to that point of conclusion??"

Easily. I get to that point and then who makes the decision? I do. Free will does not mean I make a random decision. Free will is entitled to be as informed as you like. The end point though is entirely you, not the external inputs. You internally make the decision - guided by observation and thought does not invalidate it being a free choice.

"R; So your decision to post was based entirely on your free will, not on any posts you have read and disagreed with...?" Same argument applies about this comment. He made an informed decision. That does not negate it being freely made.

Posted on 17 Jan 2013 18:17:32 GMT
R. Woolmer says:
yup, I chose to add my 2 pence in the way i did, it wasnt predetermined somehow.

I do know what your getting at, a person would have to live in a complete vacuum with no outside knowledge so that everything that they think of would be completely their own thoughts but really thats not what "free will" means, its really just does someone choose to be good or bad (in the religious sense)

Posted on 17 Jan 2013 18:18:29 GMT
Bellatori says:
Spin says:
A genuinely free will (however the terms "freedom" and "will" is defined)

Not allowable. You cannot change the definition from that above. the object of this thread is to look at how we might test free will according to the definition above. Start a new thread 'I think free will is...' if you want to do that.
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Discussion in:  religion discussion forum
Participants:  18
Total posts:  189
Initial post:  17 Jan 2013
Latest post:  3 Feb 2013

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