That whole free will doesn't exist in the universe thing:

Jun 2016
1,863
England, 200 yards from Wales
"Free will" is needed to regulate human behavior. If you do something bad "deliberately" you will be punished. If it's accidental you will be treated differently. We also give people who are judged mentally incompetent or diseased a pass, but they are usually restricted in some way. I don't think that will change. Only the death penalty and torture become insupportable in the absence of free will and most first world countries at least are already there. The lesser punishments are to protect the population and can be justified IMO without invoking free will. If you kill your spouse, no matter how much he or she deserved it, you should still go to prison for a long time even though it was inevitable.;)
It seems to me that even if every mental act is wholly caused and determined then law and ethics still function - after all one's awareness of the law and possible consequences, or wish for ethical approval will be mental causative factors, competing with the greed or anger that might impel one to crime.
Myabe they need a belief in free will to work though, even if there is no such thing.
The question is is there some mysterious other thing in the mind that chooses between these influences 'freely' (neither caused nor random but something else?), or is the decision whether to commit the crime the result of the strengths of various causes, maybe operating largely at an unconscious level, and the freedom of decision merely an illusion caused by the complexity and opacity of the process?
I don't know, I'm just not sure what something neither caused nor random is.
 

Theodoric

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Mar 2012
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Will is an abstract concept that doesn’t apply to the universe. As mentioned earlier, the course of the universe is based on probability.

When it comes to human thought, of course free will exists. The fact that people can make decisions and change their minds easily demonstrates this. I understand that some religious movements disagree with it, but their arguments outside of “God commands the will of all” range from the unprovable to the absurd. Before claiming “your decisions are based on pre-existing stimulus” I’ll kill that immediately by pointing out that the decision making processes isn’t necessarily logical or rational and therefore isn’t necessarily determined by stimuli. The will of a person is not predetermined by any knowable factors; arguing “God predetermines” can be dismissed with a “God doesn’t predetermine” - you don’t even need to argue God doesn’t exist.
 
Jun 2016
1,863
England, 200 yards from Wales
Will is an abstract concept that doesn’t apply to the universe. As mentioned earlier, the course of the universe is based on probability.

When it comes to human thought, of course free will exists. The fact that people can make decisions and change their minds easily demonstrates this.
Is it not possible that decisons and mind changes are caused, and, given the state of the brain at that precise moment (including memory and all habits of thought) could not have happened otherwise?
The brain being part of the universe maybe probability rather than absolutely determined causality comes into play, but is that what is usually meant by 'free'?
 

sculptingman

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Oct 2009
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San Diego
What has passed every test is Quantum Mechanics. No one knows exactly why it's so successful. Copenhagen is an attempt to explain why. It's called an interpretation, not a theory or meta theory. It's still the most accepted but not by a majority of physicists who follow a number of other interpretations or none at all. There is no consensus.

Interpretations of quantum mechanics - Wikipedia
Yes- i didn't say it was a theory- but it DOES have testable implications. QM has never once been "caught" in any experiment NOT looking like the collapse of wave function into an event.
the copenhagen interpretation states that the Apparent probabilistic indeterminacy in quantum level observations reflect a genuine wave function of actual probability- and is NOT a veil of observational limitation hiding a deeper deterministic mechanics.

This is very hard to test- but in the 70's John Bell came up with an equation that- if solved- would serve to determine, once and for all, if "spooky action at a distance" is real - or the result of determined states hidden prior to observation. Ten years later, Both Aspect and Clauser had built experimental rigs capable of solving that equation... and it proved that there was no hidden determinacy. Entangled particles literally do not have a state until measured. And observing only one- absolutely creates the state of the other. No ifs, and or buts.
This finding is what made quantum computation possible- Any physicist today claiming a deterministic universe is in denial of these results.
wanting reality to be totally deterministic is NOT a scientific stance- Its an aesthetic one. Or perhaps a religious one. It makes physics work forwards and backwards, neat and tidy and symmetrical- it makes reality seem understandable- its comforting to be able to believe that we Can Know what will happen next. That so many physicists still cling to this fantasy and invent dodges like "mulitverses" to explain indeterminacy away is akin to how fixated earlier astronomers became on the 'perfection' of crystal spheres. An idea that appealed to their preconceptions about beauty and purity more than to any actual evidence.

As far as we can tell, being itself, is nothing but the universe-wide instant of continuous wave function collapse of possibility into actuality. Everything that IS exists in the ever unfolding moment between what Might happen and what Did happen.
 

Theodoric

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Mar 2012
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Is it not possible that decisons and mind changes are caused, and, given the state of the brain at that precise moment (including memory and all habits of thought) could not have happened otherwise?
The brain being part of the universe maybe probability rather than absolutely determined causality comes into play, but is that what is usually meant by 'free'?
It could be an explanation, but it doesn’t have to be, nor would it contradict free will if it were the case - since the individual is still free to make the decision regardless of the influences. Even when faced with a gunshot people have made the irrational decision to have their life ended for the purpose of simply not saying some words - which is a truly extreme case and accounts for a very small fraction of 1% of decisions made.

I can fully buy a person who only makes rational and logical choices having their will locked to rationality and logic; but such people don’t exist in the real world, even among those who strongly believe they are such people. Even if it were the case, a person always makes the free decision to follow logic and reason, it is not a sacrifice of free will to do so.
 
Jun 2016
1,863
England, 200 yards from Wales
It could be an explanation, but it doesn’t have to be, nor would it contradict free will if it were the case - since the individual is still free to make the decision regardless of the influences. Even when faced with a gunshot people have made the irrational decision to have their life ended for the purpose of simply not saying some words - which is a truly extreme case and accounts for a very small fraction of 1% of decisions made.

I can fully buy a person who only makes rational and logical choices having their will locked to rationality and logic; but such people don’t exist in the real world, even among those who strongly believe they are such people. Even if it were the case, a person always makes the free decision to follow logic and reason, it is not a sacrifice of free will to do so.
I'm not saying you're wrong (I really don't know), but I don't quite see if you think "given the state of the brain at that precise moment (including memory and all habits of thought) the decision could not have happened otherwise" might be an explanation, if it were where would be the freedom?
If an individual makes a decision regardless of influences, where does that decision come from? If it is caused (not by external influences but by what is happening in the brain) then is it free? If uncaused, is it just random?
If the brain is a (very very complex) physical system then doesn't its state at one moment produce the state at the next?
I don't think rationality has much to do with it, both rational and irrational thoughts or decisions are brain events, decisions are not made following or despite influences like previous thoughts or memories etc they are simply those things inter-acting? Perhaps.

As I say I don't know, but I have a strong suspicion that conscious making of a decision is an illusory side-effect, like conscousness itself, of complex processes in the brain, many or most of which don't ever enter the little bubble of consciousness bouncing along on them. In effect, as suggested by the bit of research quoted earlier, the conscious decision is not the main event, but an effect of a non-conscious process that's already happened.
And yet, like evrybody, my consciousness feels it is making decisions (or, more often, being indecisive).
 

stevev

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Apr 2017
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Las Vegas, NV USA
The issue with Copenhagen is the importance of measurement. It says that before you make a measurement all states of a quantum object coexist in some kind of unreal manner. The measurement itself causes the quantum wave to collapse into one state which we observe. This interpretation says the process is completely random and the outcome cannot be known in advance. However I don't know how this supports free will. Free will says we can choose. You can either pick A or B. B looks better to you, so you choose B. It's not random. If you wish to call it free will, fine; but why did B look better to you?
 
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sculptingman

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Oct 2009
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San Diego
The issue with Copenhagen is the importance of measurement. It says that before you make a measurement all states of a quantum object coexist in some kind of unreal manner. The measurement itself causes the quantum wave to collapse into one state which we observe. This interpretation says the process is completely random and the outcome cannot be known in advance. However I don't know how this supports free will. Free will says we can choose. You can either pick A or B. B looks better to you, so you choose B. It's not random. If you wish to call it free will, fine; but why did B look better to you?
Here is how it can support free will... Is a neuron firing perfectly predictable based upon excitation, the specific synaptic connections it has with other neurons, and the specific conditions of the human body in which it resides?
If yes- then the choices we make are not choices based upon any variable will but are determined by what came before that created that specific condition within the brain- and the Neuron can Only fire if those conditions are present.
Every thing we think is fated and we exert no real control.

But if a neuron firing can be influenced by a quantum probability... then it is possible that what we think and feel can skew the odds of what result may come up.

The difference is the difference between honest dice, and loaded dice. Honest dice will always show the same probability of results over thousands of throws.
But If consciousness can Load the Dice to one result or the other, then we are varying the result based upon what we think- instead of only thinking what we are fated to think.

Suppose all the parameters for a Neuron to fire are present- but it does not fire. This means that a Neuron is not fated to fire- just because all the conditions for it to fire are met.
Something else has an effect, and if that effect can be thought... Then we can cause the neuron to fire, or not fire, based upon what we think- And what we think is nothing But neurons firing.
The process defines itself- and therefore our minds define themselves. Our actions are genuine choices. Never perfectly predictable.
 
Jun 2016
1,863
England, 200 yards from Wales
Here is how it can support free will... Is a neuron firing perfectly predictable based upon excitation, the specific synaptic connections it has with other neurons, and the specific conditions of the human body in which it resides?
If yes- then the choices we make are not choices based upon any variable will but are determined by what came before that created that specific condition within the brain- and the Neuron can Only fire if those conditions are present.
Every thing we think is fated and we exert no real control.

But if a neuron firing can be influenced by a quantum probability... then it is possible that what we think and feel can skew the odds of what result may come up.

The difference is the difference between honest dice, and loaded dice. Honest dice will always show the same probability of results over thousands of throws.
But If consciousness can Load the Dice to one result or the other, then we are varying the result based upon what we think- instead of only thinking what we are fated to think.

Suppose all the parameters for a Neuron to fire are present- but it does not fire. This means that a Neuron is not fated to fire- just because all the conditions for it to fire are met.
Something else has an effect, and if that effect can be thought... Then we can cause the neuron to fire, or not fire, based upon what we think- And what we think is nothing But neurons firing.
The process defines itself- and therefore our minds define themselves. Our actions are genuine choices. Never perfectly predictable.
But presumably if neurons firing are influenced by thought, then surely thought is neurons firing and so on back, there is a sequence of unpredictable neurons. There may be unpredictability, but is it choice?