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Gorgo
SFN Die Hard

USA
5310 Posts

Posted - 04/08/2005 :  11:20:52  Show Profile Send Gorgo a Private Message
What say ye all about determinism and naturalism?

http://www.naturalism.org/tenetsof.htm
[Moved to the General Skepticism folder - Dave W.]

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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13462 Posts

Posted - 04/08/2005 :  11:44:22   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message
It seems only fair to include this link as well:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/determinism-causal/

Never the less, naturalism works for me...

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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beskeptigal
SFN Die Hard

USA
3834 Posts

Posted - 04/08/2005 :  12:22:15   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send beskeptigal a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Kil

It seems only fair to include this link as well:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/determinism-causal/

Never the less, naturalism works for me...

Thanks for the other link, Kil. My brain resisted learning those terms and ones like existentialism as not necessary and I have to read what they mean if discussing them.

I'm for the naturalism as well. If there were any real Universal Morals for example, then they ought to be the same throughout the world but they aren't.

An example of non-universal morals for instance was Bush's press secretary today saying Bush and the Pope had the same beliefs about "the culture of life". When asked to square the different positions held re the death penalty, he replied, "Bush believes in a culture of life for 'innocent' people. The death penalty is for people guilty of horrible crimes."
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
25997 Posts

Posted - 04/08/2005 :  13:22:37   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Gorgo

What say ye all about determinism and naturalism?
I can get behind the naturalism (to the point where the supernatural is dismissed a priori, rather than empirically ignored), but the determinism leaves a bad taste in my mouth. After all, it pretty much kicks personal responsibility out the window.

People's brains, after all, are not deterministic machines, but only probabilistic. Behaviour depends on the average of the interactions of countless molecules. Even if we could track and predict the pathways of the gazillions of atoms in the brain, we cannot predict the radioactive decay of any particular carbon-14 atom (of which there are billions in any single brain).

So much for determinism: it's been demolished by naturalism.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
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Dr. Mabuse
Septic Fiend

Sweden
9669 Posts

Posted - 04/08/2005 :  14:23:19   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Dr. Mabuse an ICQ Message Send Dr. Mabuse a Private Message
Simple events can be predicted because everything acts accordingly to the physical laws that govern the Universe.
We know the historical paths of the planets in the solar system, and our knowledge of the physical laws enable us to determine where the planets will go, and where they will be in the future.

However, the predictability are only as good as our measurements of the present state of things and the past, and the number of relevant variables included in the calculations.

At one point or another, there will be too many variables to handle, and/or too high demands of accuracy of the measurements for a prediction to be good. At that point we will start to perceive chaotic behaviour.
Weather forecasts are good examples of this.

Some people think like this (paraphrased as I understand them, in my own words):
Newtonian physics describes the world we can see and feel.
In Einstein's relativistic world his equations tells us how the world works in some extreme situations, like close to the speed of light, or around heavy concentrations of mass. In a sense it explains the macro-world beyond our normal senses.
Quantum physics describes the micro-cosmos, the workings of the smallest pieces of the puzzle that makes our world: atomic and sub atomic particles.

Every time we have added magnitudes to our microscope, we've had to figure out new explanations and new mathematical formulae that describe the nature of what we see. Things thought of as random, gets a rational explanation that in the end shows the event never was random.

In the same sense these people will not accept the thought that the decay of the carbon-14 atom is random, but think that somehow, some day, someone will figure out that there is an underlying mechanism that makes the decay of the atom predictable on a single-particle level.

I have conversed with such people, and though I don't share their idea of this absolute determinism, I understand that it has some appeal and merit to them.

I do believe that man's choices are determinable, if the original state is fully known and all variables are taken into account. However I do not think it will ever be possible to recreate a system capable of managing all the information needed for an accurate prediction.
It will be like running a PC emulator on a PC... But so much more complicated.

The idea that the random decay of carbon-14 atoms in the brain will have an impact on our decisions seems pretty far-fetched to me.
I can see myself standing there at the crossroad where I'm choosing between a real(tm) coke, and a diet coke, and I'm undecided at exactly 50%-50%, all the various factors taken into account... I can't see how a random atom would sway the scales in favour of one over the other.
At that point I believe that the gravitational pull of Venus or Mars in opposition of the Sun will have a greater impact.


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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13462 Posts

Posted - 04/08/2005 :  14:25:59   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message
quote:
DaveW:
I can get behind the naturalism (to the point where the supernatural is dismissed a priori, rather than empirically ignored), but the determinism leaves a bad taste in my mouth.


I'm with you on that, but the way I see it, if something that seems supernatural turns out to actually exist, it will probably have a natural explanation. Of course, there is the God question. If I could be convinced of that God exists and has control over nature, the explanation for such a being would have to come from outside of nature. I dunno. Guess I will have to cross that bridge if I ever come to itů

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

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dv82matt
SFN Regular

760 Posts

Posted - 04/08/2005 :  15:03:54   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send dv82matt a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Dave W.

<snip>
...but the determinism leaves a bad taste in my mouth. After all, it pretty much kicks personal responsibility out the window.
I guess it depends on what you mean by personal responsibility. If you mean that it removes free will from the equation, then yes it does (and so does naturalism), but if you mean that it holds that people should not be held responsible for their actions then no it does not.
quote:
People's brains, after all, are not deterministic machines, but only probabilistic. Behaviour depends on the average of the interactions of countless molecules. Even if we could track and predict the pathways of the gazillions of atoms in the brain, we cannot predict the radioactive decay of any particular carbon-14 atom (of which there are billions in any single brain).

So much for determinism: it's been demolished by naturalism.

I wouldn't count determinism out completly. Quantum mechanics imposes fundamental limitations on our ability to perceive quantum interactions, so we may never know if things are deterministic, under the hood, so to speak.

I do think that, for the time being at least, Occam's razor makes the probabalistic explanation the more reasonable of the two.
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furshur
SFN Regular

USA
1536 Posts

Posted - 04/08/2005 :  16:24:26   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send furshur a Private Message
Determinism would pretty muchly kick chaos theory out the window. Also if determinism is a fact then cause and effect is just and illusion.

Can't buy it.




If I knew then what I know now then I would know more now than I know.
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Dr. Mabuse
Septic Fiend

Sweden
9669 Posts

Posted - 04/08/2005 :  16:58:18   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Dr. Mabuse an ICQ Message Send Dr. Mabuse a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by dv82matt
I wouldn't count determinism out completly. Quantum mechanics imposes fundamental limitations on our ability to perceive quantum interactions, so we may never know if things are deterministic, under the hood, so to speak.

I do think that, for the time being at least, Occam's razor makes the probabalistic explanation the more reasonable of the two.

I agee. While everything might have an underlying non-randomness, the system is just way too complex to deal with. Probabilistic explanations makes more sense to us since it drastically reduces the number of variables we need to keep track of.
Cause and effect will still be there, but the cause will not have a random trigger. The trigger will just be the effect of another cause.

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astropin
SFN Regular

USA
970 Posts

Posted - 04/08/2005 :  17:26:35   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send astropin a Private Message
I have given allot of thought to this topic of late. It makes my head hurt. But the more I read and think about it the more, I ever so slowly, lean towards determinism. Whether or not we will ever have the math and the processing power to figure it out is hard to say, but I won't rule out the possibility. While the statement "it pretty much kicks personal responsibility out the window." (From Dave's post) may leave a bad taste in your mouth, that does not mean it isn't the truth. Also, while individuals may not actually be responsible for their actions, I still think that they should be held responsible. While that may not play to some people's sense of "fairness", I think it's the only way to run an organized civilization. Yes, I'm saying people should, in the long run; have to pay for decisions that may very well be out of their control.

I would rather face a cold reality than delude myself with comforting fantasies.

You are free to believe what you want to believe and I am free to ridicule you for it.

Atheism:
The result of an unbiased and rational search for the truth.

Infinitus est numerus stultorum
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dv82matt
SFN Regular

760 Posts

Posted - 04/08/2005 :  18:10:44   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send dv82matt a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by furshur

Determinism would pretty muchly kick chaos theory out the window. Also if determinism is a fact then cause and effect is just and illusion.

Can't buy it.

Well chaos can result from mathematical equations which are completly deterministic, so that doesn't pose a problem.

How do you figure that determinism would mean cause and effect are illusions? Do you mean that time itself would be an illusion?
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
25997 Posts

Posted - 04/08/2005 :  18:36:55   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Dr. Mabuse

I do believe that man's choices are determinable, if the original state is fully known and all variables are taken into account.
If the random decay of radioactive atoms is taken into account - and it is the only truly random process we know of - then restarting things from even precisely the same original state may not result in the same outcome.
quote:
The idea that the random decay of carbon-14 atoms in the brain will have an impact on our decisions seems pretty far-fetched to me.
I can see myself standing there at the crossroad where I'm choosing between a real(tm) coke, and a diet coke, and I'm undecided at exactly 50%-50%, all the various factors taken into account... I can't see how a random atom would sway the scales in favour of one over the other.
At that point I believe that the gravitational pull of Venus or Mars in opposition of the Sun will have a greater impact.
This may be the case (incredulity, however, is no basis for an argumnet), but think about this. Neural communications and firing is all about chemicals and trigger thresholds. You're there, trying to decide between diet or not, and some neuron is - hypothetically - pumping out calcium ions at just a high enough level to keep one of its neighbors sending out a strong signal to its downstream neurons. One of the ca+ channels suddenly has a single carbon-14 atom decay into nitrogen-14, changing its shape and blocking its transport of ions. The neighboring neuron shuts off, and stops sending its strong signal to other neurons, which all then possibly change the states of their "downstream" neurons, etc., etc., and the entire state of the brain changes dramatically. "I'll just have a bottle of crab juice," you find yourself inexplicably blurting out.

Given 15.6 decays/minute/gram-of-carbon... oh, nevermind, someone's done the math already, and finds that in an average 75-kilo person, there are nearly 27,000 C-14 decays every second. Given a 2% brain-to-body ratio, that's about 540 decays just in the brain, every second.

While the vast majority of these decays are probably occuring in cell-wall lipoproteins (and thus would be relatively effect-free), some won't be. Some could even "break" DNA, mRNA, or enzymes involved in critical protein transcription.

(I'm starting to address others besides you here, Mab...)

As far as determination leaving a bad taste in my mouth, it was perhaps a poor turn of phrase. I certainly agree that whether I find it repugnant or not, if it's the truth, then it's the truth. But my argument against determinism isn't based upon my repulsion, it's based on physics.

And as far as the "God question" goes, the distinction I was trying to make clear was between "there is no evidence for any god" and "there are no gods." While there may be no differences between the two for how one lives one's life, there are large, basic philosophical differences between them. Given a lack of evidence, I take the former position, and only conclude what I know. (And whether any particular god is a part of "nature" or not is a question which need not be asked until we find evidence of said deity.)

Finally, people paying for decisions they cannot control sucks rocks, but it happens all the time, already (war in Iraq gobbling up my tax dollars). On the other hand, our legal system as it is now attempts to avoid punishing people for their mental incapacities, and instead tries to treat them, while protecting the public from them. Should naturalists advocate the elimination of the "insanity" defense?

And if it could be determined (haha!) that people have no "free will" in any way, why shouldn't a defense similar to insanity become popular? "Your Honor, I had no choice but to go to the bar after work. I had no choice but to have nine beers. The victim had no choice but to insult me. I had no choice but to break a bottle over his head, and then grind the shattered glass into his neck. You see, your Honor, we've learned that my brain is wired in such a way that put in these environments, with these triggers, it only reacts in this fashion. I had no choice whatsoever, my actions were predetermined by things which were outside of my control. Even this speech is beyond my ability to stop. Were I to walk up to your bench, your Honor, and start peeing (as I'm doing now), there would be nothing I could do about it. And there's nothing you can do but scream in response, and there's nothing your bailiffs can do but drag me out of the courtroom."

Determinism, astropin, doesn't say that people may not be responsible for their actions; it says that people cannot be responsible for their actions, good or bad. And if such is the case, then whether we have an "organized civilization" or not simply doesn't matter. If determinism is the governing rule, then whatever sort of civilization we have at the moment is not something that we have worked towards (so it's worthless), and if it crumbles - worldwide - tomorrow, that will have been pre-ordained, also (so it's no fault of ours).

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
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Gorgo
SFN Die Hard

USA
5310 Posts

Posted - 04/08/2005 :  20:42:21   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Gorgo a Private Message
I don't completely get it. From naturalism.org:

"Responsibility and morality: From a naturalistic perspective, behavior arises out of the interaction between individuals with their environment, not from a freely willing self that produces behavior independently of causal connections (see above). Therefore individuals don't bear originative responsibility for their actions, in the sense of being their first cause. Given the circumstances both inside and outside the body, they couldn't have done other than what they did. Nevertheless, we still hold individuals responsible, in the sense of applying rewards and sanctions, so that their behavior stays more or less within the range of what we deem acceptable. This is how people learn to act ethically. Naturalism doesn't undermine the need or possibility of responsibility and morality, but it places them within the world as understood by science. However, naturalism does call into question the basis for retributive attitudes, namely the idea that individuals could have done otherwise in the situation in which their behavior arose."

I know the rent is in arrears
The dog has not been fed in years
It's even worse than it appears
But it's alright-
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 04/08/2005 :  20:50:00   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message
quote:
I guess it depends on what you mean by personal responsibility. If you mean that it removes free will from the equation, then yes it does (and so does naturalism), but if you mean that it holds that people should not be held responsible for their actions then no it does not.


Strict determinism is garbage. If it were true there would be, as Dave_W said, no real meaning to anything. People could not be held accountable because they had no choice in the matter.

The philosophical naturalism described in the link from the OP is a kind of soft-determinism, when it speaks about ethics/morals. Personally I find soft determinism to be pretty much garbage also.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 04/08/2005 :  20:52:13   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Gorgo

I don't completely get it.
I'm not sure I see a difference either. "Given the circumstances both inside and outside the body, they couldn't have done other than what they did." This is different from determinism how?

quote:
Originally posted by Dude
The philosophical naturalism described in the link from the OP is a kind of soft-determinism, when it speaks about ethics/morals. Personally I find soft determinism to be pretty much garbage also.

Maybe that's what I'm picking up on then...


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 04/08/2005 21:03:16
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
25997 Posts

Posted - 04/08/2005 :  21:28:22   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
Right, Gorgo, it doesn't make sense.
Given the circumstances both inside and outside the body, they couldn't have done other than what they did. Nevertheless, we still hold individuals responsible, in the sense of applying rewards and sanctions, so that their behavior stays more or less within the range of what we deem acceptable.
There is a certain amount of cognitive dissonance necessary to make both of those statements. They're saying "people cannot help but do what they do, but we're all for trying to change that through rewards and sanctions." And how is a sanction anything but "retributive?" Synonyms for "punishment" don't mean anything except "punishment."

And no, naturalism doesn't undermine the idea of personal responsibility. Determinism does. That's another disconnect apparent on that page - that naturalism implies determinism, when in fact things like radioactive decay make determinism defunct. As I said, I'm all for tempered naturalism, but determinism simply doesn't match reality.

Determinism also makes "learning" - as the authors mean it - a rather silly concept. In any given deterministic situation, people will either use the training they've received as a part of the decision-making process, or they won't, and they have no control over it. A person who has been through dozens of hours of weapons training but still accidentally shoots a friend isn't at fault, he had no control over the fact that his education didn't "kick in" at the moment he forgot to clear the chamber. Does a sanction of any sort make sense in such a situation? How could he possibly be held responsible for his inaction?

And please note that I am not arguing for a non-naturalistic source for behaviour. The brain is a frontier of science. To think that we are at the point at which we can determine just how responsibility, morality and/or education come about or function is to jump to an conclusion unsupported by evidence. But, of course, nobody ever claimed that naturalists and/or determinists were necessarily properly skeptical critical thinkers. These philosophies are, in reality, largely independent of one another. Someone who, for example, believes without evidence that there exists a god who treats all humans like puppets would be an unskeptical theistic determinist. Since there appears to be evidence against determinism, I believe the web page in question was written by an unskeptical deterministic naturalist.

You might call me a skeptical naturalistic non-determinist.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
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