Comments

  1. Father Ogvorbis, OMoron says

    Two nights ago, I had a horrible (and really weird) nightmare: I dreamed that I had to trade in my Taurus (I love that car) and the only car I could find, that I could afford, was an AMC Gremlin stretch limousine. Now, thanks to the Hivemindmaster, I fear I will dream of N. Cage‘s hair.

    Thank you so very much.

  2. carlie says

    PZ, I found you a coffee table!

    StarStuff – in my experience, you end up just picking. You can ask around, but I’ve found that sometimes the ones who get the best recommendations are the worst to deal with (I’m not sure what happens there). I have noticed that you can tell a lot by the front desk staff. Pick one, call up for an initial appointment, and if they’re snotty to you on the phone, cancel and go to the next one on the list.

  3. says

    StarStuff, I’m trying to solve a problem that you posed: I call up the doctors and ask who they recommend, in the same field. Depending on the sample, it’s worked for me.

    I had the hardest time finding a ‘personal physician’ because very few doctors in my area take new patients. And my insurance requires having one.

  4. consciousness razor says

    for but nor yet or so either not neither both whether the if a no an while as though because after that since unless until where when why what who and how

    Hopefully that’ll be sufficient.

    One can write perfectly cromulent sentences without any of those.

  5. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    Ogvorbis, it would have been OK if the AMC Gremlin stretch limousine was steam powered. Right?

    No.

    By the by, the reason I cursed the entire human race on Sunday was because of three (count ‘em, three) different conversations from hell

    First was a conversation about a young woman he knows who got raped. He refused to acknowledge that wondering what she wore, where she was, and whether she had a friend with her was blaming her for being raped.

    Second, an attempted saving by a Christian. Not just a Christian, but a freemarket libertarian Christian who, while trying to witness me to RightWingChrist was also explaining that selling all National Parks to private industry would save the government $150billion a year. It is hard to argue with such abject uninformed asshattery while one is on the job.

    Third, a discussion (same person as First) about 9/11 and how it should be a national holiday so no one forgets what happened and he was not amused that I, and others, are trying very hard to forget some of the details.

    Anyway, I should not have dumped without being willing to go into what actually happened. Won’t happen again.

  6. carlie says

    StarStuff – I’ve had to get new doctors a stinking large number of times, given the few times I’ve moved (they all move away and leave me…) By now I figure eh, either they’re good or not, and if they’re good then I’ve lucked out, and if they’re bad then I get passive-aggressive and find a new doctor, then call and cancel the next up appointment with the old one and say I just can’t reschedule right now. It’s worked so far.

  7. carlie says

    Anyway, I should not have dumped without being willing to go into what actually happened.

    Sure you can. That’s what we’re here for.

  8. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart OM, liar and scoundrel says

    Sally:

    Thanks to Janine for posting the porcupine video.

    That was me*. :P

    Anyway, back to my beer and book!

    *Unless there’s more than one porcupine video floating around– I’m way behind.

  9. Esteleth says

    Meep! My Ph.D. defense is on FRIDAY. Meep!

    If I’m scanty in these parts until then, that’s why.

    I’ve already scheduled and planned a party for Saturday night, though. Should be fun.

  10. walton says

    Ing, last thread:

    Not picking on you but since you believe in rehabilitation over punishment and all (which I largely agree with) in a perfect world SHOULDN’T anti-social and irrational behaviors be treated as the product of mental illness or emotional damage and be given treatment?

    Yes, you’re right. Indeed, I’ve tried in the past to reconceptualize some of the behaviours we call “wrongdoing” as a kind of disorder that needs treatment. But ahs has sometimes chided me – with good reason – for using these terms imprecisely.

    Of course I do not believe in retributive justice, and argue against it loudly and frequently. Since – on a materialistic view of nature – human beings are the products of our genes and our social environment, and have no “free will” in the traditional religious sense of that term, it makes little sense to dichotomize people into “good” and “bad” and to assert that “bad” people “deserve” to be punished for their actions. And since there is no angry god that must be appeased by blood-sacrifices, it makes little sense to take revenge on people for the sake of it. Richard Dawkins says something of the kind here:

    Ask people why they support the death penalty or prolonged incarceration for serious crimes, and the reasons they give will usually involve retribution. There may be passing mention of deterrence or rehabilitation, but the surrounding rhetoric gives the game away. People want to kill a criminal as payback for the horrible things he did. Or they want to give “satisfaction’ to the victims of the crime or their relatives. An especially warped and disgusting application of the flawed concept of retribution is Christian crucifixion as “atonement’ for “sin’.

    Retribution as a moral principle is incompatible with a scientific view of human behaviour. As scientists, we believe that human brains, though they may not work in the same way as man-made computers, are as surely governed by the laws of physics. When a computer malfunctions, we do not punish it. We track down the problem and fix it, usually by replacing a damaged component, either in hardware or software.

    Basil Fawlty, British television’s hotelier from hell created by the immortal John Cleese, was at the end of his tether when his car broke down and wouldn’t start. He gave it fair warning, counted to three, gave it one more chance, and then acted. “Right! I warned you. You’ve had this coming to you!” He got out of the car, seized a tree branch and set about thrashing the car within an inch of its life. Of course we laugh at his irrationality. Instead of beating the car, we would investigate the problem. Is the carburettor flooded? Are the sparking plugs or distributor points damp? Has it simply run out of gas? Why do we not react in the same way to a defective man: a murderer, say, or a rapist? Why don’t we laugh at a judge who punishes a criminal, just as heartily as we laugh at Basil Fawlty? Or at King Xerxes who, in 480 BC, sentenced the rough sea to 300 lashes for wrecking his bridge of ships? Isn’t the murderer or the rapist just a machine with a defective component? Or a defective upbringing? Defective education? Defective genes?

    Concepts like blame and responsibility are bandied about freely where human wrongdoers are concerned. When a child robs an old lady, should we blame the child himself or his parents? Or his school? Negligent social workers? In a court of law, feeble-mindedness is an accepted defence, as is insanity. Diminished responsibility is argued by the defence lawyer, who may also try to absolve his client of blame by pointing to his unhappy childhood, abuse by his father, or even unpropitious genes (not, so far as I am aware, unpropitious planetary conjunctions, though it wouldn’t surprise me).

    But doesn’t a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not? Any crime, however heinous, is in principle to be blamed on antecedent conditions acting through the accused’s physiology, heredity and environment. Don’t judicial hearings to decide questions of blame or diminished responsibility make as little sense for a faulty man as for a Fawlty car?

    Why is it that we humans find it almost impossible to accept such conclusions? Why do we vent such visceral hatred on child murderers, or on thuggish vandals, when we should simply regard them as faulty units that need fixing or replacing? Presumably because mental constructs like blame and responsibility, indeed evil and good, are built into our brains by millennia of Darwinian evolution. Assigning blame and responsibility is an aspect of the useful fiction of intentional agents that we construct in our brains as a means of short-cutting a truer analysis of what is going on in the world in which we have to live. My dangerous idea is that we shall eventually grow out of all this and even learn to laugh at it, just as we laugh at Basil Fawlty when he beats his car. But I fear it is unlikely that I shall ever reach that level of enlightenment.

    But ahs has also pointed out in the past, correctly, that we have to be very careful about relabelling “crime” as “illness” or “disorder”, because any reference to the latter will be seen within the current flawed paradigm of involuntary mental health treatment in the justice system. There are real dangers that the well-intentioned idea of rehabilitating those our society labels “criminals”, and of understanding them as patients with illnesses that need curing, will turn into a kind of paternalistic totalitarianism in which people are subjected to intrusive and coercive forms of “treatment” for, ostensibly, their own good. State psychiatric hospitals for the “criminally insane” do not exactly have a praiseworthy record, and A Clockwork Orange was not so far-fetched a dystopian vision when it was written. (Not to mention, as an extreme example, the Soviet practice of detaining political dissidents – and, on occasion, gay and lesbian people – in state psychiatric hospitals in an attempt to “cure” them.)

    There’s one major problem with Dawkins’ formulation; a human being, unlike a car, is not the product of design. A car is designed for a purpose, and it is “faulty” or “defective” if it fails effectively to fulfil that purpose. But we have no similar teleology for human beings. No conscious agent “designed” us, and we have no inbuilt purpose (at least none which we can discern). So by whose standards should a human being be judged, by the state or by society at large, as “faulty” or “defective” and in need of “fixing”? If we are to talk of mental disorder instead of crime, who should the state label as “disordered” and commit to involuntary treatment? Such standards are, of course, heavily contingent on culture and prevailing values – and are ultimately shaped by the will and interests of the ruling class. (Just as the things we define as “crime” or “wrongdoing” are contingent on culture and prevailing values, and are ultimately shaped by the will and interests of the ruling class.)

    With this in mind, we have to be aware that, in the specific context of the justice system, the concept of “mental disorder”, like that of “crime”, is shaped by the state and can easily be employed to authoritarian ends. While I’d like to see the end of the concept of retributive justice and of the traditiRathonal moralizing paradigm of “crime and punishment”, I’m not certain that replacing it with a “treatment”-based approach is a panacea either. Rather, the more realistic, if bleak, view is that as long as we have institutionalized state violence of one form or another, it will create problems. (Unfortunately, we have no obvious means to eliminate the violent rule of the state, because the alternative seems to be violent rule by the local gang of armed thugs, as has happened in Somalia and wherever else states have crumbled.)

    Sorry for the incoherent tl;dr. I hope it made a sort of sense. (I’m sleepy and should be working on a research task right now.)

  11. walton says

    traditiRathonal

    Wow… I’m not even sure what happened there. My brain hurts.

    (Maybe traditiRathons are like traditions, but with rats. Running marathons.)

  12. says

    So by whose standards should a human being be judged, by the state or by society at large, as “faulty” or “defective” and in need of “fixing”?

    Indeed. I’d rather we be more straightforward about it and just say “this is behavior our society will not tolerate, and we will do what we can to contain it.”

    And with that:

    http://harpers.org/archive/2011/07/hbc-90008153

  13. says

    Esteleth, you’ve worked hard, you’ve done good work, it’ll be challenging, but you’ve done the work and it’s a foregone conclusion. (Otherwise they wouldn’t have let you stick around so long.)

    You’re gold.

  14. Esteleth says

    I’m not too worried – it’s just that I have this horrid irrational fear of putting on my suit, standing in front of various people and going, “herp derp.”
    I know that I’m not going to, it’s just…

    Fucking stage fright.

    Of course, my advisor is going to play with his iPad (it is an extension of his arm) the whole time. Should be fun seeing if he pays attention.

    A sibling (with a Ph.D.) says that I’ll feel ready to defend on Saturday, which sounds about right.

  15. walton says

    And with that:

    http://harpers.org/archive/2011/07/hbc-90008153

    I always find that book horribly provocative. Of course I strongly oppose any form of corporal punishment in any context. But his point, as I understand it, isn’t so much to advocate judicial flogging, as to illustrate that the current American system of mass incarceration is so appallingly cruel and barbaric, so expensive, and so utterly ineffective at reducing reoffending, that almost any alternative (short of killing people) would probably be more humane and effective. Of course, people cling to imprisonment because they can pretend to themselves that it is more humane than the deliberate infliction of physical pain, and that it serves some sort of rehabilitative function that is in some sense “good” for the prisoner. But the evidence consistently says otherwise. The reality is that prisons in the United States today serve an essentially retributive function; they exist purely to make people suffer, as a means of public vengeance and humiliation of those society has labelled as “bad”. If that is what the defenders of mass imprisonment genuinely want, it would, in truth, be more honest of them (as well as cheaper) to advocate the reinstitution of corporal punishment, as vile a concept as it is.

    Of course, the better course is to abandon the notion of retributive justice altogether. The place to start is by changing the substantive criminal law; it would be very easy to reduce the prison population considerably by legalizing drugs, prostitution and other victimless crimes. (The non-criminal detainee population could also be reduced to a tiny fraction of its current level by abolishing all substantive restrictions on immigration, and granting a blanket amnesty to all current undocumented residents, as I have long advocated.) In a US-specific context, the other necessary change is to revise statutory provisions on criminal sentencing, and to eliminate prison sentences entirely for theft and other property offences.

  16. says

    Stage fright is what makes us good at the performance part. I’ve never remembered a thing I’ve said on stage. Or at any public presentation. I wish I had recordings because people have told me I was brilliant.

    Break a leg.
    +++++++++++++++
    ahs, “rum, sodomy, and the lash” is considered foreplay in Chez Sailor;-)

  17. says

    In a US-specific context, the other necessary change is to revise statutory provisions on criminal sentencing

    Is this another way of saying “get rid of mandatory minimums”?

  18. says

    Ugh, someone is trolling the facebook event page for my next freethinkers meeting. It’s someone who has never been to a single meeting, but feels that he must criticize our topic. He’s just so dense too. I can hardly understand the bullshit he’s saying because he doesn’t understand the concept of grammar and punctuation.

  19. walton says

    Is this another way of saying “get rid of mandatory minimums”?

    Yes, I’d support getting rid of mandatory minimum sentences for most offences; though I don’t think the English system (which has few mandatory sentences, except for murder, and gives very broad discretion to the trial judge in sentencing) is a panacea either.

    More generally, I’d argue for an end to all custodial sentences of less than two years in duration, and their replacement with probation, suspended sentences or other non-custodial sentences. Short-term prison sentences do no one any good; they are very expensive, tend to increase an offender’s risk of reoffending on release, and (by definition) aren’t an effective means of containment. They’re purely punitive in character, and are an entirely useless means of cutting crime. Non-custodial community sentences are demonstrably more effective in reducing reoffending on an individual basis, as well as being less expensive. (Link to Howard League research from England and Wales, but there’s no reason to think that the deleterious effects of being imprisoned are likely to be any less grave in the US.)

    The only people for whom a prison sentence can be reasonably justified (in lieu of anything more humane and effective to do with them) are those who pose an immediate danger to the community if they are free – that is to say, murderers, rapists and those who have committed similar serious acts of violence. I don’t see any good reason for imprisoning anyone else. There’s no good evidence that mass imprisonment as practised in the US (more than 700 per 100,000 people in prison, far higher than in any other industrialized country) is a significant deterrent against offending; and it has come at an immense social, humanitarian and financial cost which is out of all proportion to any discernible benefits.

  20. says

    Totally bankrupt hit-and-run (which seems to be pretty much all I’m good for these days), but I initially read this…

    It is hard to argue with such abject uninformed asshattery…. [emphsis added]

    …as “uniformed asshattery,” which gave me an oddly happy moment imagining the uniforms worn by the Asshat Corps.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled TET….

  21. walton says

    Walton, I have enjoyed your comments in this thread, thanks.

    Thank you! I’m very flattered.

    (And now I should probably stop posting and get back to work, since I have a research task that needs doing.)

  22. Esteleth says

    The other thing about mandatory minimum is that a jury may hesitate to convict because of them.

    Basically, the jury agrees that someone committed crime X but doesn’t think they deserve the mandated minimum punishment (due to some mitigating factor, due to the punishment being too harsh, etc), so they instead acquit or convict for a lesser offense.

    AFAIK, this sort of situation is not rare.

  23. says

    Yes, you’re right. Indeed, I’ve tried in the past to reconceptualize some of the behaviours we call “wrongdoing” as a kind of disorder that needs treatment. But ahs has sometimes chided me – with good reason – for using these terms imprecisely.

    Of course I do not believe in retributive justice, and argue against it loudly and frequently. Since – on a materialistic view of nature – human beings are the products of our genes and our social environment, and have no “free will” in the traditional religious sense of that term, it makes little sense to dichotomize people into “good” and “bad” and to assert that “bad” people “deserve” to be punished for their actions.

    I might want to run some ideas of this ideal off of you some time. I’ve been asked to run a sci-fi P&PRPG and am basing the Federation/Empire it largely takes place in off of Socialism/Communism so they work under those ideals. Obviously tension comes in from not following the ideals exactly (the game takes place on a prison ship (Rehabilitation Transport) ). But the general idea is that the system “works” in the seat of power where everything can be monitored.

  24. says

    I’m challenging myself on this world building by making a Dis/mistopia based on ideals I myself like. There are other factions and one is another challenge where I’m trying to think up of a viable libertarian system.

    The only way I could get that one to work in my mind is a) They had a cultural revolution and started out by redistributing wealth evenly to get a tabula rosa and b) they still have public education.

  25. Owlmirror says

    [copypasting from Sb Pharyngula, because, well, if you like geology and feel like mocking YECs and other delugionists, it’s always good to have something like this:]

    ======

    Another useful link to add to the counter-creationism list:

    http://reports.ncse.com/index.php/rncse/article/view/44/36

      The Defeat of Flood Geology by Flood Geology

    Several Flood geologists have presented geologically sound reasons why strata assigned to specific parts of the geologic column cannot have been deposited during the Flood year or at least during the part of it when the entire planet was under water, hereafter called the PWS (period of worldwide submergence). In fact, compilation of such studies shows that together Flood geologists have eliminated the entire geologic column as having any record of a PWS. Here, I review the evidence against a PWS record that has been presented by the Flood geologists themselves.

    (emph mine)

    Heh.

    (from the comments at skepticblog on one of Don Prothero’s postings )

  26. dianne says

    I have looked, but was unable to find an AMC Gremlin limo.

    I know where to find it…it’s in MY HEAD!!! (Insert hysterical laughter here.)

    My parents had a Gremlin when I was young. Actually, two: the first one was stolen from the (dealer’s) repair shop when they took it in for repairs (shortly after buying it…well within warranty). I can’t imagine what the thief was thinking, but rather than doing the sensible thing (writing the thief a thank you note and buying a Volkswagen), my parents took the replacement car offered by the (embarrassed) dealers. It broke down with regularity. Those cars were well named: possessed by gremlins every one of them.

  27. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Meep! My Ph.D. defense is on FRIDAY. Meep!

    *starts an extra batch of grog for the Pharyngula party*

  28. adotr says

    Esteleth: Good luck with your defense, and I’ll have the tea cart here on Thursday night if you need it!

  29. walton says

    The other thing about mandatory minimum is that a jury may hesitate to convict because of them.

    Well, in proceedings relating to crimes-that-should-not-be-crimes (non-violent drug offences, for instance), I could envision that that kind of jury nullification would be a feature rather than a bug. (I haven’t seen any empirical evidence as to how common it is, but such evidence may well be out there.)

    Though, on balance, I advocate getting rid of juries; the Anglo-American jury system is a medieval relic which is no longer useful. Juries are tasked with making findings of fact, and yet are singularly unqualified to do so. They are allowed, and even encouraged, to rely on their non-expert “common sense” in weighing the evidence and assessing the credibility of witnesses – which often means they rely on unexamined tropes and assumptions which are flatly contradicted by modern psychological research, such as the erroneous belief that a witness who seems confident and claims to recall specific details, and whose story is internally consistent, is more likely to be giving accurate testimony than one who hesitates, seems nervous, or has small discrepancies in his or her account. We know today that eyewitness evidence is by far the least reliable form of evidence, and that human memory is extremely unreliable; yet the proportion of criminal convictions which are obtained on eyewitness evidence alone is frightening. (And in the small minority of such cases in which DNA evidence later becomes available, it quite often contradicts the eyewitness evidence and exonerates the person originally convicted.

    Juries were a useful safeguard in the pre-seventeenth-century era when judges were royal servants and had no security of tenure; and in a pre-scientific age, their local knowledge probably made them more reliable fact-finders than the King’s judges, who typically travelled on circuit (and indeed still do). But there is no good reason today to view them as a safeguard of liberty. The Anglo-American attachment to the jury system is based in a kind of romantic national mythology rather than actual evidence; in reality, I think one would be hard-pressed to establish that the rate of wrongful convictions is very much lower in continental European jurisdictions, most of which do not use juries, than in England, the United States or Australia.

    Of course, I’m talking exclusively about criminal cases here; in England and most of the common-law world outside the US, juries are no longer used in most civil cases (and rightly so). And I should add that scrapping juries would only make a minor difference to the screwed-up and haphazard nature of the Anglo-American judicial process in general. (Nor am I idealizing civil law jurisdictions’ systems, which suffer from serious procedural faults of their own.)

  30. walton says

    that the rate of wrongful convictions is very much lower

    Should of course read “higher”. And if you see me posting again, tell me to fuck off and get back to work, as it’s the middle of the night and I still have lots to do.

  31. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    The Onion is the only place where I’ve seen rape jokes that were actually funny.

  32. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    Walton:

    Fuck work and get back to posting.

    Seriously.

    And you can trust me. I work for the government and I’m old.

  33. theophontes says

    Oh lawdy. I have had to set up a new account to log on. What has happened to wordpress? My nym extension has disappeared to. I haz been reborned.

  34. says

    Trial over Plan B prescriptions begins Monday

    A four-year legal fight over who must provide morning-after contraceptives such as Plan B lands in a federal courtroom Monday, testing Washington state Pharmacy Board rules requiring pharmacies to dispense any medication for which there is a community demand.

    At issue in the U.S. District Court trial is the right of the Ralph’s Thriftway pharmacy in Olympia and two licensed Washington pharmacists — Margo Thelen and Rhonda Mesler — to refuse to stock or dispense a lawful medical treatment on grounds of religious conscience.

    The state Pharmacy Board has had a rule since 1967 requiring pharmacies to stock and provide medications in demand in their communities. Gov. Chris Gregoire and reproductive-rights groups favor the requirements, which have been amended since 2007 to let pharmacists withdraw if others can fill the order.

    But Stormans, owner of Ralph’s, also is objecting to stocking the medications.

    “All our family wants is the chance to keep doing what Ralph’s Thriftway has aimed to do for four generations: to serve our customers in keeping with our deepest values,” Stormans co-owner Kevin Stormans argued in a news release last week by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C.

  35. Jessa says

    Esteleth: Congrats on your defense! I was an absolute wreck the week before mine, so my advisor sat me down and said, “You know more than anyone on the planet about your work, and I wouldn’t have approved you to defend unless I knew that you were ready.” The actual defense was entirely unstressful. It was like having a conversation amongst colleagues.

  36. Jessa says

    theophontes: If you’re logged into FtB, go to the upper left hand where your name is displayed. Select “Edit My Profile”. Modify the “Nickname” field with the desired ‘nym and extension.

  37. theophontes, Hexanitrohexaazaisowurtzitane Wielding Tardigrade says

    @ Jessa

    Thank you.

    I had no trouble logging in yesterday, but today it asked for passwords and then just wouldn’t let me get in. Eventually I just registered a new account (with my same nym and details). I cann’t open my blog (wordpress) either, but that could be a Great Cyberwall of China thing. They don’t like blogs.

  38. janine says

    Labor laws are against god’s will. So says everybody’s favorite fake historian, David Barton.

    We used to have what was called the Puritan Hard Work Ethic, which – it’s really not Puritan – it’s a Biblical hard work ethic. The Bible doesn’t tell us anything about working five days a week, eight hours a day or less – it says “six days shalt thou work.” You rest on the seventh, but the command is you’re going to work six days. And you’ll find that hard working people that work those six days – rural people tend to work longer hours than bankers and lawyers and other and they tend to have less physical problems; they have less burn-out, less stress, less whatever, less high blood-pressure. Folks who work harder and longer tend to do better because God told us to do that; that’s the way he kind of made our bodies.

    Who knew that farmers were that healthy?

  39. Rip Steakface says

    The funny thing about Nic Cage, other than his hair, is that his presence in a movie either is a slight boon or a slight detriment depending on the quality of the movie as a whole. He makes good movies better and bad movies worse.

  40. says

    SallyStrange @ 747 last TET,

    This octopus landborne escape video is far cooler than the one PZ posted before.

    What are the chances ? What are the chances ?

    I watched that with my son today, because he is currently obsessed with “octopus ocean swimmers”, we looked it up on YT randomly, without having seen your link !

    StarStuff:

    But until then, I’d like to share my experience with people here.

    All you’ve done is whine about how you should see a doctor. For the length of time you’ve been doing so, you could have easily done all the necessary things to see a doctor.

    FWIW, I agree.

    I like this talk from Skepticon on Sex and Secularism

  41. opposablethumbs, que le pouce enragé mette les pouces says

    @The Sailor #33

    Should that have been ‘at’ or ‘in’ “Chez Sailor”?

    Cunning linguists want to know.

    Neither. No preposition in English required, as the whole lovely prepositional “at the house of” is already there in the “chez” (it would be a bit like naming your restaurant “The La Trattoria”, I suppose :-) ).

    With a bit of luck a real linguist will be along shortly to explain how that cool chez word works. ::looks around thread hopefully::

  42. opposablethumbs, que le pouce enragé mette les pouces says

    PS I know chez comes from Latin “casa”, but have no idea how it manages to encapsulate the “at the” and the “of” as well as the “house”. Presumably Latin has packed all that in at some point, with its frightening declensional superpowers?

  43. John Morales says

    birger, “How to board a non-stop train while it’s moving”?

    → “How to board a non-stop train”

  44. birgerjohansson says

    Ariaflame: “Would it be also unacceptable to say that someone went Bursar?”

    The Bursar at least passes briefly through sanity on his way to somewhere else.

    John Morales, I just copied the New Scientist headline… in retrospect it would be spooky trying to board a true non-stop train. What if you cannot get off? It would be like “Hotel California”, being doomed to remain on board forwever. And what is the power source? Is the train made of self-repairing nanotech?
    In the latter case, the train must be an alien artefact, made to lure stupid humans on board so they can take huge tissue samples and perform non-survivable experiments. Or the train might be like the car in Stephen King’s “From a Buick Eight”.

  45. John Morales says

    birger, heh. Yeah, I know — I followed your link.

    (Short version: you do it by boarding it while you are yourself moving)

    Of course, the Earth is rotating about its axis and orbiting the Sun, the which is orbiting the Galaxy…

    (Reference frames, how the fuck do they work?)

  46. says

    Good morning
    I still have that stupid cold. I suspect that my tonsils are really inflamed. I’m giving them a few more days. I fear the doctor’s weapon of choice will be antibiotics and I’m not keen on those.

    Esteleth
    You’re going to stun them with knowledge.

    ——

    I hope that Walton is safely in bed so I can post this ;)
    From the Dawkins quote:

    Why do we vent such visceral hatred on child murderers, or on thuggish vandals, when we should simply regard them as faulty units that need fixing or replacing?

    I suppose that Dawkins was overstretching his metaphor, but I find the highlighted part pretty disturbing. What’s that supposed to mean?
    Apart from that I agree in principle:
    If we’ve failed to keep people from doing wrong in the first place, the next step should be how to keep them from doing it again by changing the factors that contributed to the wrongdoing.
    BUt I also see several problems (in a pretty theoretical light, not even touching the problems of authoritarian governments and such):
    -What is actually the problem?
    A lot of things that we now consider to be bad and anti-social were considered normal not long ago and are still seen normal in other parts of the world. You can take some clear examples like beating your children, or you can take the more cultural problem of carrying weapons. German law and culture agree that it’s inacceptable to carry a gun in public unless you’re police officer. People in the USA disagree fundamentally.
    So, where do we put the lever, so to speak?
    Is the problem that people failed to comply with a norm set in a specific area and time, or is the problem that they did X?
    How do we deal with people who:
    -simply didn’t know about that norm?
    -know the norm, accept the norm, but fucked up in that very special instance?
    -people who know the norm, but simply don’t give a fuck about it because they disagree with it, like fundies who beat their kids, rape their wives and sell their daughters into marriage?

    Obviously, I think, set 2 would be the easiest to deal with, since you “only” have to figure out why they lost control in that situation and what to do so they won’t lose control again.

    The second problem I see is is with victims. I’m not talking primarily about retribution, but consequences. Are we throwing the victims under the bus again if the perpetrator can walk away without any consequences*? If they caused serious harm, and now your suffering is diminished to “but he said he was sorry”?
    Don’t we also have a duty towards them?

    *I differenciate between consequences and punishment, although they can, indeed, be the very same thing, depending on how you view them.
    I think that a logical consequence of drunk-driving is losing your driver’s permit. You’ve shown yourself to be unable to handle the responsibility. Come back when you can prove you’ve learned why that is the case and that you are indeed a more responsible person now.
    But evidently, lots of people will see that as punishment. They feel punished (and often unfairly picked at) and are angry because you took away their favourite toy even though they never hurt anybody.
    ——–

    With a bit of luck a real linguist will be along shortly to explain how that cool chez word works. ::looks around thread hopefully::

    Depends.
    I’d say it depends on how much the “Chez Sailor” has become a propper name or is still seen as preposition + noun/name.
    If the article/preposition loses its function, it just becomes part of the name/noun and the whole is treated according to the normal rules.
    Compare to “the hoi polloi” or basically any Spanish noun starting with “Al”, like “el algodón”, from arabic: القطن (al-qúţun), cotton.

    ———

    Argh, I’m procrastinating

  47. echidna says

    re Dawkins quote:

    when we should simply regard them as faulty units that need fixing or replacing?

    I read it like this:

    Faulty units that need fixing (for people: therapy, or something that would allow them to function normally) or replacing (decommissioning sounds worse, but for people not able to function in society, keep them out of harms way, but not given access to people they may harm).

    What we don’t do with a piece of faulty equipment that can’t be used as is anymore is blame it, punish it, or torture it. Dawkins is saying, I believe, that punishing people for being what they are is not a good thing.

    I don’t read it as advocating capital punishment, although it doesn’t exclude the possibility.

  48. says

    echdina

    I don’t read it as advocating capital punishment, although it doesn’t exclude the possibility.

    Neither do I. I read it as “I overstreched my metaphor badly”.
    People may be in need to be “removed” from society, because they are too dangerous, and we do so with cars that are just basically unsafe and beyond repair.
    But I don’t think we can “replace” people with other people, if we continue to view them as actual people.
    Lots of people there

  49. echidna says

    I agree with the overstretched metaphor assessment. I like RD for his directness, and I suspect that he sees through a slightly different lens than most people. I put it down to his mixed African/British childhood.

  50. echidna says

    Lest I get pounced on for a racist remark, I also have a mixed cultural background. It means that you get used to seeing the world differently to the people around you. You also have a harder time getting the nuances just so.

  51. says

    echidna, are you going to the GAC ? In the absence of the BoS I seem to be the warden of the Pharyngula dinner tables. Can you let me know if you’re going please, so I can put a table booking in…Otherwise I just won’t bother, and we can just aggregate on the night.

  52. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    Good morning.

    How to board a moving train?

    Don’t. Serious injury, loss of life, and extremem paperwork may result from neglect of this notice.

  53. birgerjohansson says

    Ogvorbis, what if the train position and velocity is measured in imperial units and the boarding passenger in meters /meters per second?

  54. walton says

    Giliell: Yes, I largely agree with you. I don’t think it’s just the language of “replacing” that’s poorly-chosen, but the whole language that Dawkins chooses, referring to “defective” people who need to be “fixed”. While I agree with him that there is no free will and that retribution and “moral responsibility” are irrational concepts, I also think one needs to be careful – for the reasons I gave earlier – about labelling people as “defective”. Both because a human is not the product of design and has no objective standard of “defectiveness”, and because such language potentially legitimizes intrusive and coercive treatment of the individual under the guise of “fixing” – or, as you point out, “replacing” – him or her. Such language, especially when we talk of “replacing”, can be dehumanizing, treating human beings as though they were purely means to an end, just machines to be fixed or discarded.

    So I think Dawkins’ critique is powerful not because he comes up with a better alternative to criminal justice – he doesn’t – but, rather, because he expresses concisely a very simple, yet all-too-often elusive, point: without a supernatural worldview, the ideas of “just deserts” and “moral responsibility” make no obvious sense. Humans have no free will, and their behaviour is shaped by their genes and by their social conditioning; and there is no transcendent moral order that demands punishment, nor any angry god that must be appeased by a blood-sacrifice. If we want to claim to be rationalists, we clearly cannot talk about some people “deserving punishment”, or mete out justice-as-retribution. This begs the question, of course, of what language we should use to talk about the things we currently conceptualize as moral wrongs. I don’t have a good answer to that, and I don’t think Dawkins does either.

    Of course, one can argue that while it makes no sense to argue that anyone “deserves” to be punished, it doesn’t follow that punishment is irrational; after all, punishment, coupled with the deliberate public humiliation of the criminal process, can serve the purpose of deterrence and of conditioning society’s view of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, in the same way that giving a rat an electric shock can condition hir to run one way through a maze. That may conceivably be true, although of course it’s a nastily authoritarian argument. (And it’s also not very well-substantiated empirically, in the context of criminal justice; it’s hard to claim that harsher criminal penalties, in the real world, are actually associated with lower rates of crime.) But if this is the real justification for state punishment, I’d rather we were honest about it, rather than attaching a whole host of moralizing language about “blame”, “fault” and “responsibility”.

    (This, of course, doesn’t just cut against the arguments of the law-and-order lobby; it cuts against most of their critics’ arguments too. If it’s incoherent to talk about “just deserts”, it’s equally incoherent to talk, as Christians often do, about “forgiveness”; because the idea of “forgiveness” presupposes that someone deserves punishment, but that such punishment will be spared them as an act of mercy rather than justice. “Forgiveness” doesn’t, therefore, make any more obvious sense as a concept than “deserved punishment” does.)

    I’m not talking primarily about retribution, but consequences. Are we throwing the victims under the bus again if the perpetrator can walk away without any consequences*? If they caused serious harm, and now your suffering is diminished to “but he said he was sorry”?
    Don’t we also have a duty towards them?

    *I differenciate between consequences and punishment, although they can, indeed, be the very same thing, depending on how you view them.

    I think the state* is only failing in its duty towards the victims if the end-result is that the perpetrator hurts them again. Human beings have an interest in not being harmed, and since the state justifies its uses of force by claiming to “protect” people, it’s fair to say that the state has a duty to protect victims from being further harmed by their attackers. If, for instance, an abusive husband is released with no charges, and goes home and beats his wife again, then it’s fair to say that the state has failed in its (self-declared) duty to protect her. In that circumstance, in lieu of anything more humane and effective, I have no problem with the state locking him up. Not because the attacker “deserves” to suffer, nor because he is necessarily in any sense “morally responsible” for his actions, but simply because he’s dangerous to her and needs to be contained. (This is a morally-neutral analysis; a rock rolling downhill towards me is dangerous to me, and I might well take steps to protect myself from it, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s a “bad rock”.)

    (*Be careful, btw, in using “we” when you mean “the state”. Just a side point.)

    It’s important carefully to distinguish, though, between the objective of protecting victims from future harm, and that of inflicting deliberate revenge on an attacker because the victim or the public wills it. I gather from your comments that you’re not in favour of the latter; but that is most of what the present criminal justice system does. The criminal justice system is obsessed with finding someone to “blame” for bad things, and with “punishing” those who are “responsible” for bad things, as a means of retribution. And the great majority of the people in prison, especially in the United States, are not there because they are violent and dangerous; rather, they are there, often for a relatively short period, because the state has decided that they “deserve” to be “punished” and that prison is the only tool in its arsenal to make them suffer. This is both irrational – insofar as being imprisoned and subsequently released tends to increase one’s propensity to commit future crimes, and imprisonment comes at a huge social and financial cost – and cruel and inhumane.

    I don’t think it’s realistic to get rid of the criminal justice system, if only because I have nothing better to put in its place. But what we can do is acknowledge that criminal justice is a crude, costly and often-ineffective tool for changing human behaviour, and that we should adopt other strategies wherever possible rather than relying primarily on criminal punishment. For a start, anything that can reasonably be decriminalized should be, starting with drugs and prostitution; not because these things are not harmful – far from it – but because criminalizing them and driving them underground has had the effect of making them more harmful to their victims, not less. And even for things that we all agree should remain criminalized, the primary focus should be on social and economic measures that stop them happening in the first place. Places with greater poverty, deprivation and inequality tend also to have more violence, for instance; we can reduce the level of violence most effectively by attacking the socio-economic causes that increase the amount of violence.

  55. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    Is my country stupid or what? They accidentally made a law that is actually more or less trans* friendly and are now called on it because it’s supposedly bizarre. A person can now change their sex and name in legal documents without going trough sex change operation. I mean, the part where a person would effectivelly end up in a same sex marriage wchih isn’t legal, is ridiculous, but that inconsistency only calls for marriage equality.

    Journalists had a field day being all incredulous about women who are legally men giving birth. I think they thought they were funny. I avoided the comments section.

    People are assholes.

  56. Cannabinaceae says

    <burp>
    Let the leftovercooking begin. First we will start with turkey tetrazzini, followed by cajun gumbo using turkey stock and turkey meat. Depending on the remains after that I can imagine turkey noodle soup. The meat will be gone long before the stock, so my daily glop will have that extra twist for a while.

    This year, there is almost no dark meat left.
    </burp>

  57. says

    @Beatrice:

    The world is full of stupid people. At least you’re that far. In America the federal government is still dragging its heels on adding gender identity as a protected class with reference to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Until that act gets passed, I’m terrified of transitioning.

  58. greame says

    I’m sure some Pharyngulites browse reddit, but for those who don’t, I found this very amusing.

    “A friend on Facebook just reminded me that we should be keeping CHRIST in CHRISTmas!

    I completely agree! It drives me crazy when people forget to honor their god on the occasion named for him. I mean, look at the word! His name’s right there at the beginning!

    So this year, I’m very serious about keeping Christmas for Christ!

    But I don’t want to forget about all of those other gods!

    I’m also keeping January for Janus, the Roman god of doors and gates.

    And February for Februus, the Roman god of purification.

    And March for Mars, the Roman god of war.

    And April for Aphrodite, the Greek god of love and beauty.

    And May for Maia, the Italic goddess of spring and flowers.

    And June for Juno, Roman goddess of marriage, and protector of the state.

    And July for Julius Caesar, believed to be the descendant of a goddess.

    And August for Augustus Caesar, upon his death was officially declared a god by the senate, to be worshiped by all Romans.

    I’m keeping Sunday for the sun, worshiped as a god throughout history.

    And Monday for the moon, also worshiped for thousands of years.

    And Tuesday for Tiu, the Germanic god of war.

    And Wednesday for Woden, chief of the Angelo-Saxon gods.

    And Thursday for Thor, the Norse god of Thunder.

    And Friday for Freya, the Norse goddess, leader of the Valkyrie.

    And Saturday for Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture.

    And while we’re talking about holidays, let’s make sure we keep Ēostre, the Germanic goddess of fertility, in Easter! After all, she’s the reason we have eggs, bunnies, and chocolate!

    So let’s all make sure to remember Christ this Christmas, just like we remember all of those other gods on the occasions named for them! After all, Jesus is every bit as relevant as the rest of them!

  59. says

    *home for a quick coffee*
    Had another appointment with my counsellor. Speaking it out aloud, my life sounds much more complicated than I thought and my family is much more fucked up than I wanted to admit.

    And gingerbread is yummie

    Recipe:
    250g honey
    250g brown sugar
    100g butter
    put in a saucepan and bring to boil slowly so you ge a homogenous mass. Let cool down a bit
    Mix in:
    1 egg
    400g flour
    100g ground almonds (I always roast any kind of nuts before using them)
    1tsp gingerbread spices
    1tbs coacoa powder
    1tbs pottash dissolved in 2tbs water
    Let rest over night

    Roll out on lots of flour with some cling foil on top.
    Thickness depends: if ou want them thick and soft, about 2-3 mm, if you want them flat and crunchy, 1mm
    Cut out cookies, bake at 175°C with circulating air. You can bake several trays at the same time. They also don’t mind if you open the oven

    Walton

    I think the state* is only failing in its duty towards the victims if the end-result is that the perpetrator hurts them again.

    Hmm, what is about the hurt that’s being caused by the fact that their suffering and anxiety might be given a big fat middle-finger.
    I’m not even talking about severe criminal cases and I’ll give you a personal example:
    When #1 was 9 months old, a young lad drove recklessly backwards over the sidewalk into the babystroller. Mr. managed to keep the stroller from falling over, but they both ended up in the middle of the road.
    Daughter and I spent the night in hospital because there was a big risk of cerebral bleeding. After that it took us months before she wouldn’t start crying hysterically whenever there was a loud bang or any rocking and shaking.
    The kid was given a 40€ fine and honestly, I felt kicked. Because nothing in his behaviour had given any indication that he’d understood what he’d done, that he’d understood that he could have killed the child. He hadn’t even turned up with a fucking teddybear for the kid. And he lives in our street which means from that point on I couldn’t walk the street safely.
    So the “mild” treatment he got left me victimized again, because the serious damage he’d caused was brushed off as “a little mistake that can happen, no big deal”.
    Very often victims (at least where the law and order revenge mentality isn’t that strong) don’t want revenge, but they want recognition of the harm that was done to them.
    To stay with your rock analogy:
    If I’m hit by the rock, afterwards people ask about me, not about the rock.

  60. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    Katherine,
    Oh, they’ll go back on it. I’m pretty sure they weren’t even aware of all the implications when they passed the law. It’s just ridiculous that they do something good only when they don’t intend to.
    They whole thing revolves around a case of a couple, a woman and a transman who couldn’t have a kid together as a same-sex couple but will be able to get artificial insemination now that they are legally a hetero couple. At least it will work out for them, even if it gets revoked later.

    As far as our equality laws go, they are not very good. I’m pretty sure that gender identity isn’t even mentioned, but I would hae to check that.
    But I understand that US really goes out of its way to make everything especially difficult. I hope they’ll get more humane soon.

  61. walton says

    Giliell: I won’t respond to the rest yet because I need to formulate my thoughts on the subject (and also have a pile of work to do in the meantime), and would rather give you a good answer later than a bad answer now. However, one point:

    To stay with your rock analogy:
    If I’m hit by the rock, afterwards people ask about me, not about the rock.

    That, of course, is why the analogy should not be overextended (and I should have said so earlier). Of course the difference between the rock and the attacker is that the attacker is as human as the victim, and he, too, has an interest in not being harmed – albeit an interest that may very well be overridden by others’ interest in protecting themselves from him.

    The rock analogy is useful only in illustrating the very limited point that labelling someone “dangerous” is not the same thing as labelling hir “bad” or “evil”, and that the former is a factual observation which does not necessarily imply any moral judgment. Hence the importance of conceptually separating protection from punishment.

  62. says

    Just heard sound samples of Jane Siberry’s latest. Sigh. She made so much great music once upon a time, and now it almost seems like she just wants to enlighten us. For some strange reason her recent music reminds me of a friend who became an Amway rep.

  63. janine says

    I love Jane Siberry. ISSA? Not so much.

    ISSA is what she goes by now. Some spiritual thing. So, yes, Amway rep is perfectly legitimate.

  64. Richard Austin says

    (Just tagging in quickly, but…)

    Nutmeg,

    Yay! Now you’re required to post more.

    Get to it!

  65. Psych-Oh says

    Testing my login. Did this change again?

    StarStuff – Those “girl” science kits are ridiculous. There are actually really good ones out there that are marketed to kids in general. I’ve never bought the “pink” kits, but my daughter just loves the non-gender-stereotyped ones.

  66. Tears of the Mushroom says

    This just in: Anders Behring Breivik was found to suffer from paranoid schizophrenia. Most likely he will avoid prison but will be hospitalized.

  67. carlie says

    Did anyone watch this week’s Simpsons episode? Neil Gaiman as guest star. Cute touches like posters advertising the Rock Bottom Remainders* (all seats still open)and a tableaux of the Far Side dinosaur extinction.

    here
    *a rock band made up of famous writers

  68. carlie says

    Homer: “How could the publishers have changed our book? If they had been in charge of the Sistine chapel, the whole thing would have been vampires instead of the Pope’s private naked dude mural.”

  69. Pteryxx says

    @ Katherine Lorraine: I can talk more if you want; my gmail is just my nym, so you know. (And I’m really bad at remembering to check it… alert me pls?)

    ———-

    re Walton and Giliell, because I’m interested in this topic, and I pretty much agree with both of you: it’s important that society clearly demonstrate (not just SAY) that harm to victims is taken seriously, and that perpetrators’ crimes are addressed and condemned; AND the current criminal justice system (US-centric) doesn’t do well at either of those, along with other horrible flaws.

    Personally I still think imprisonment by the state has a place, mostly because of violent serial predators. Some people just keep racking up victim after victim over their whole lives, and since neither treatment, shaming or security slow them down, the only way to stop them seems to be isolating them from potential targets. That doesn’t mean that I find it acceptable to subject them in turn to being abused and victimized in American prisons. There’s got to be a better way.

    After reading Giliell’s story, and the threads about GelatoGuy, apology and forgiveness, I was wondering: what would a criminal justice system look like if it formally asked the victims of a crime to decide what form of restitution they would accept? Then the state’s role might be as arbiter… so, say in GelatoGuy’s example, there’s a spread of opinions ranging from boycotting his business at one extreme, through requiring him to donate to a secular charity, to accepting his apology as written. Would it make sense to have a victim propose the restitution?

  70. illuminata says

    Whomever posted that Onion article thank you. That was the first honestly funny joke about that situation.

    StarStuff – I’m with you on that fucking insult of a “science” kit. If your sole goal is insulting every female on the planet, why bother making the kit in the first place. Why not call it the “Fluffy bunnies & unicorns make up kit for pretty useless princesses” and be done with it.

  71. janine says

    I just read more about those stupid science kits “for girls”. So. Much. Rage. Who thought that was a good idea?! When I was a kid I loved science kits. They didn’t have to be pink and pretty and ‘mystic’. You never saw Bill Nye make separate, ‘pretty’ experiments for the girls on his show! [/rant]

    StarStuff!? Do you know the intent of the manufacturers? If not, shut up! You have no proof it is sexist! There are boys who want to make the perfect perfume! How dare you deny them!

  72. madarab says

    I’m interested, but I haven’t gotten any email from you. I’ll check to see if it’s in my junk mail folder.

  73. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    Ogvorbis, what if the train position and velocity is measured in imperial units and the boarding passenger in meters /meters per second?

    Well, in that case, the paperwork would be measured in quires per minute.

    And what if the train is leaving Station A at 30 MPH while another train is leaving Station B at 40 MPH and they’re traveling opposite directions from stations that are 240 miles apart.

    Then you I would have to refer the question to someone whi is not a history major.

    ============

    Doing some Solstice shopping. Discovered that our local Turkey Hill give quadruple points for gift cards, so if I get a couple of Amazon cards, I can rack up the points (10 cents off per gallon per 100 points (and they normally give 2 points per dollar spent)) and then order the books for Girl and Boy. And save money at the pump. And it’s not only a floor cleaner, it’s also a dessert toppint!

  74. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    janine:

    Covered in prayer. Reminds me of the South Park episode when Cartman becomes a gospel star using the dialogue from porn movies — he just substitutes Jesus or some other semi-appropriate word. “I fall on my knees, and He covers me in prayer!”

  75. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    Father Ogvorbis: That episode made it so I can never look at praise and worship music the same way again.

    This isn’t a bad thing.

  76. says

    Anders Behring Breivik declared legally insane: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/29/anders-behring-breivik-avoid-jail-insane

    This means he will almost certainly be held in a psychiatric prison for at least 3 years. Apparently he will be reevaluated every 3 years, and if he is never deemed safe for reentry, he will remain in the psychiatric prison for the rest of his life.

    Had he been declared legally sane, the maximum criminal sentence would have been 21 years. But I’m not sure whether that allows for the possibility multiple 21-year sentences served consecutively. Any Norwegians here know about the possibility for consecutive sentencing?

    I was prepared to accept whatever his court-appointed psychiatrists decided, and I have no strong reason to argue one way or the other. It seemed a very difficult case.

  77. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    Every time I go to my youtube homepage, it freezes. No error message, no warning, no time to click on anything, it just freezes. It’s made youtube pretty much unusable for me.

    This is why I instinctively distrust technology. It just decides not to work. There’s no obvious reason it shouldn’t work, it just decides “no, fuck you, I’m just gonna do this now.”

  78. says

    This is not about Breivik, but the Norwegian system:

    I will say I’m not comfortable with evaluations being spread 3 whole years apart. That’s terrifying.

    I’d prefer to see evaluations take place as often as possible, with the requirement that the prisoner pass X consecutive evaluations before release.

  79. says

    If I recall Norwegian system doesn’t allow consecutive sentencing. It’s a maximum cap, period, done. Again the system is addressing the issue from a rehabilitation POV, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t allow for stacking sentences. The goal of their prison system is to release the prisoner, not keep them locked up forever.

  80. KG says

    Had he been declared legally sane, the maximum criminal sentence would have been 21 years. – ahs

    It came out in earlier discussion that this does not mean he could not be held longer if deemed still a danger to others.

    The psychiatrists’ conclusion seems very odd to me – sure, Breivik had some irrational beliefs, but they did not appear to be insane, to take up the distinction you were insisting on a day or two ago. Nor does his conduct, with its careful, long-term planning, suggest someone suffering a psychosis. According to a journalist reporting from Norway the BBC (see the “Analysis” box on the article), the conclusion has also shocked many Norwegians.

  81. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    Breivik had some irrational beliefs, but they did not appear to be insane

    Good point. His views on many things are mainstream conservative tea party here in ‘Mercuh.

  82. says

    Those science kits for girls?

    Marketing a crystal kit to only girls is just plain stupid, even if the company’s mission statement is to be sexist.

    I loved growing crystals as a kid. But I would have been too embarrassed to ask for a pink box with only girls pictured on it.

  83. consciousness razor says

    I will say I’m not comfortable with evaluations being spread 3 whole years apart. That’s terrifying.

    I’d prefer to see evaluations take place as often as possible, with the requirement that the prisoner pass X consecutive evaluations before release.

    Hmm, I don’t know about that. How often are you thinking, and how many times should it be passed? If there are a large number of patients needing evaluation, it wouldn’t be practical to do it very frequently and requiring it to happen many times.

  84. dianne says

    I will say I’m not comfortable with evaluations being spread 3 whole years apart. That’s terrifying.

    I’d prefer to see evaluations take place as often as possible, with the requirement that the prisoner pass X consecutive evaluations before release.

    I don’t know the Norwegian system, either penal or psychiatric, at all, but in general, I’d say that much less time than every 3 years simply wouldn’t be long enough to gather adequate data about whether the person is truly now well and safe to release or not. The patient-whoever he or she is-may act pretty normal for a while, learn to say the right things during formal evaluations, etc. Therefore, you need to observe someone over a long time period-it’s hard to keep up an act of “normalcy” for 3 years, all day every day.

  85. KG says

    I’ve spent much of the day being persecuted by the European Commission. Yesterday I filled in a long, complicated online form – about 5 hours work, at the end of which I was cross-eyed with fatigue, so thought I should leave it until today for a final check. Logging into the system this morning, it said I was not authorised to access the form I’d been working on. AAAAAAARRRRGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

    It took me until 14:30 to regain access, during which time I was told by the helpdesk that my access had been terminated in July 2009, and was sent an automated email message I needed to understand that was in Bulgarian. I was waiting for this message, and when I got the “ping” telling me a message had arrived, opened up the mailer, to find the new message subject line was in Cyrillic characters. Naturally I assumed it was spam from a particularly inept 419-er, and threw it in the trash. When the expected email failed to arrive, I fished it out for a look. There, among the Cyrillic, was my name in Latin script. My first thought was Russian, but Babelfish was baffled, leaving most of it untranslated. Luckily Bulgarian occurred to me, Bulgaria being an EU member, and even more luckily, googling “Bulgarian English translation” came up with a specialist site, which translated it without difficulty. All of this turned out to be a blind alley as far as getting access was concerned, but I’m still trying to imagine what led to the message being in Bulgarian in the first place. Is some unfortunate Bulgar trying to decipher a message in Swedish, some luckless Swede trying to work out whether that’s Serbo-Croat or Slovene, etc.?

  86. chigau (本当) says

    We’re cleaning-up™ in the “offices” (the rooms in the house that serve as office/guest room/storage).
    I just found an instruction video on VHS.

  87. says

    KG,

    The psychiatrists’ conclusion seems very odd to me – sure, Breivik had some irrational beliefs, but they did not appear to be insane, to take up the distinction you were insisting on a day or two ago. Nor does his conduct, with its careful, long-term planning, suggest someone suffering a psychosis.

    I could see it going either way. There’s the question of how he acquired these beliefs. Did he just read up on white nationalism and it made sense to him? Was he experiencing delusions of personal persecution for a while before he figured out it was the multiculturalists and feminists who were out to get him?

    Psychotic episodes can be cyclical. There may have been periods of months when he was unable to plan, followed by fairly lucid periods when he could organize his thoughts well enough to write and plagiarize Kaczinski. I do agree it’s unlikely he could have done all that work while highly symptomatic.

    It will be interesting to read the psychiatrists’ report, if it becomes publicly available.

    +++++
    consciousness razor

    Hmm, I don’t know about that. How often are you thinking, and how many times should it be passed? If there are a large number of patients needing evaluation, it wouldn’t be practical to do it very frequently and requiring it to happen many times.

    I don’t know, and that’s why I left it variable. I just really doubt that 1 evaluation per 3 years is the best Norway can do.

  88. consciousness razor says

    Nor does his conduct, with its careful, long-term planning, suggest someone suffering a psychosis.

    I’m not in any position to weigh the evidence in this particular case, but I didn’t think all schizophrenics would have that sort of problem.

    From the analysis section you mentioned:

    The shock is heightened by the media portrayal of Breivik as carefully planning his actions as a functioning member of society. He does not match the public’s idea of a paranoid schizophrenic.

    Note that this depends on both the media’s portrayal, which I concede probably is fairly accurate, but also on the “public’s idea” of what paranoid schizophrenia is, which probably isn’t. Mine probably isn’t either, for that matter, but I don’t see why I’d believe the public more than the psychiatrists who actually evaluated him.

    From the same article:

    Breivik admits carrying out the attacks but has pleaded not guilty to charges, arguing that that the attacks were atrocious but necessary for his campaign to defend Europe against a Muslim invasion.

    The two psychiatrists who interviewed him on 13 occasions concluded that he lived in his “own delusional universe where all his thoughts and acts are guided by his delusions”, prosecutors told reporters.

    If schizophrenia could take the form of that sort of delusion, then nothing in that seems to require an inability to plan. He just has to plan within the framework of the wrong universe: his delusional one instead of the real one.

  89. says

    it’s hard to keep up an act of “normalcy” for 3 years, all day every day.

    Yeah.

    But it’s hard to keep up an act of normalcy for 6 months, all day every day.

  90. consciousness razor says

    I don’t know, and that’s why I left it variable. I just really doubt that 1 evaluation per 3 years is the best Norway can do.

    Sure, I agree with that. On the other hand, once a day, passing it thirty times in a row wouldn’t be a good system either.

  91. says

    Good evening

    Pteryxx

    I was wondering: what would a criminal justice system look like if it formally asked the victims of a crime to decide what form of restitution they would accept?

    Urgh, with the current state of things, probably bad.
    I’m trying to formulate my thoughts on this more clearly:
    I’m bringing up the victims because the current discussion focusses more or less solely on the perpetrators and their wellbeing, as well as protection of potential future victims.
    The harm done to the victims seems to get a bit neglected with what seems to be an “don’t cry over spilled milk” attitude: It has happened, it can’t be undone, so let’s move on.
    But fact is that the harm and damage can go on if the victims are not getting the recognition and, yes, a sense of justice.

    What would I consider to be a good idea (or ideas)?
    Well, public recognition that they have been wronged and that they suffered. Currently, that happens in the form of court verdicts which is problematic, especially in cases where the perpetrator is found not guilty due to lack of evidence, like in a hell lot of rape-cases.

    Making amends.
    That’s already happening in civil cases. If I break your watch I have to replace it. You suffered damage for no fault of your own, so it’s my responsibility to undo it as good as I came. You shouldn’t have to go without a watch because of me.
    Of course, damage done by criminal acts like rape, or assault aren’t easily undone with money and I’m not talking (exclusively) about money.
    As part of rehabilitation, the perpetrators should try to give to society which in turn gives to the victims (I doubt that a rape victim would like mch help from their rapist afterwards). It should reinforce the idea of society as a community, the importance of social rules and help building empathy.

    Well, what would I have wanted in my personal case?
    My first reaction was that I wanted to kill him with my own hands because he hurt my baby.
    Which was a feeling that went away very quickly.
    I would have liked him to show that he understands what has happened. I would have liked him to show some empathy and care for the victim. It was not that he had commited a crime, which presupposes a certain disregard for the victim, he had made a grave mistake that hurt a baby and he didn’t seem to give a fuck.*
    I would have liked society to recognize that he had made a mistake that was more severe than parking in a residential area without a permit. And I think it would have been necessary for that guy to take some remedial driving lessons since he disregarded several basic rules. That wouldn’t have undone the pain he caused, but it would have made the roads a bit safer.

    *They’re a whole family of assholes. His stepfather sued us for the damage on his car.

  92. John Morales says

    TLC,

    This is why I instinctively distrust technology. It just decides not to work. There’s no obvious reason it shouldn’t work, it just decides “no, fuck you, I’m just gonna do this now.”

    Grats. You’ve just rediscovered animism.

    (You now need to work out the appropriate propitiation ceremonies — ahs helpfully has suggested one)

  93. says

    How often are you thinking, and how many times should it be passed? If there are a large number of patients needing evaluation, it wouldn’t be practical to do it very frequently and requiring it to happen many times.

    Perhaps it would be better approached as: legislatively mandate that at 1 evaluation must be conducted every 12 months, but the psychiatrists are required to conduct evaluations as often as resources allow, and the prisoner must pass all evaluations during a 12 month period in order to be released.

  94. John Morales says

    dianne,

    Therefore, you need to observe someone over a long time period-it’s hard to keep up an act of “normalcy” for 3 years, all day every day.

    I know I couldn’t do it.

  95. says

    … at least 1 evaluation must be conducted every 12 months …

    (You now need to work out the appropriate propitiation ceremonies — ahs helpfully has suggested one)

    :) After that, I will need to collect a small fee before I consult the ancestors of TLC’s current machine.

  96. carlie says

    What do you get when you combine Jesus and a snuggie?

    Covered in prayer.

    Holy crap. And I thought snuggies couldn’t get any worse than this.

    I just found an instruction video on VHS.

    But do you have it in Beta?

    Dang. That prank is so old, I can’t even find a reference to it on the internet. Now I am sad.

  97. dianne says

    Another problem with the Brevik case: How do we know when he’s “cured” and no longer a threat? I’m not a psychiatrist, but I don’t know of any way to make someone like that safe. Especially after he is released. We have treatments, but no cures, for schizophrenia and psychosis-and there won’t be anyone to make him take his meds at home. How do you prove that someone like Brevik is safe? Especially given the risks if you’re wrong? I’d never have the confidence to release him.

  98. carlie says

    Holy fuck. Why do I read Sociological Images? Why why why?

    Story

    Molson’s makes cute cuddly ad to put in Cosmo, puts one in Playboy that announces that women are now “pre-programmed for you” because of the ad they put in Cosmo.

    And someone thought this was clever.

  99. KG says

    Of course it’s possible he came out with some obviously insane stuff when interviewed, but Breivik certainly doesn’t seem like a typical paranoid schizophrenic, judging by his stuff that was posted on the web, and his delusions do not seem noticeably different from those common on the American and European right. Even the stuff about his membership of an order of “Crusaders” could easily have been conscious lying, to make police waste their time andor inflate his own importance. Are all those far-rightists who drone on about Muslim takeovers and “Eurabia” paranoid schizophrenics? Many of them seem to have quite enough hate for “leftists” and “multiculturalists” to do what Breivik did, including some we’ve seen here. I also wouldn’t put it past him to be going for a finding of insanity deliberately, hoping to be out in a few years and able to resume his activities.

  100. says

    I’m sensing something … I sense there was a Celeron, many years ago, with Windows 98. Does that sound familiar, Coyote?

    It has a message for you. It’s very upset that no one ever backed up its registry.

  101. says

    rorschach @74

    Hey Lynna, have you seen this ?
    David Fitzgerald at Skepticon 4- The complete Heretics’ guide to Western Religion (featuring Mormonism)

    I have now.

    Nice presentation.

    The amount of money the LDS Church controls was an interesting point. People are always pointing out how few mormons there are in the USA, and that therefore mormons can’t be very influential, or are not capable of causing society much trouble. Wrong. Any corporation that controls billions of dollars worth of income per year, and has no obligation to report how they use that income, that corporation is a cause for concern.

    The amount of land the LDS Church owns is another cause for concern. They are one of the largest landowners in the USA, and they own huge tracts of land in other countries. This is one religion that is swinging a big stick.

  102. dianne says

    Gilell@105: I’m sorry this happened to you. My impulse, imagining the situation, is to want to take the guy’s head and bang it into his car until I see brain tissue. But this is probably because I’m not only an American but reared in Texas.

    More realistically, I wish that auto crimes were treated seriously. Really, is it any more excusable to drive a car onto a crowded sidewalk than it is to randomly shoot into a crowd? Yet dangerous drivers get off with little or no punishment all the time. Vehicular homicide should be treated like any other homicide. And drunk drivers who kill people should be prosecuted for first degree murder. They knew that they could kill someone when they drove drunk. There’s no excuse.

    Best wishes to you and your little one.

  103. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    Morales and Ahs: I think I see what you’re saying. But which direction should I be facing while I ritually sacrifice wristwatches and calculators, and which spirits should I invoke?

  104. ChasCPeterson says

    someone thought this was clever.

    It is clever.

    Apply as many other adjectives as you see fit–I’d agree with most of them–but a novel advertising strategy like that doesn’t come along every day.
    It’s really very clever, in that evil-clever kind of advertising way (particularly evil in this case as the target is the kind of juvenile schlubs that read the ladmags).

    from the link:

    So Molson is counting on women never seeing their ads in men’s magazines. Alternatively, they’re perfectly happy to alienate female customers. Or maybe both.

    Almosr certainly both. Beer producers know exactly which side of the bread their butter belongs on when it comes to profit.

  105. says

    Another problem with the Brevik case: How do we know when he’s “cured” and no longer a threat? I’m not a psychiatrist, but I don’t know of any way to make someone like that safe. Especially after he is released. We have treatments, but no cures, for schizophrenia and psychosis-and there won’t be anyone to make him take his meds at home.

    Extended psychotic episodes are very unpleasant to the patient. If he can come to understand that the problem is neurological, and he has a psychiatrist who takes seriously his inevitable complaints about the side effects and demonstrates a willingness to try other medications, there’s a good chance he’ll stay on his regimen.

    It may also reasonable to put out a warrant for him if he drops out of contact with his psychiatrist.

  106. says

    sandiseattle: it was originally an unintended effect of shortening “ad hominum salvator ॐ”. After chigau pointed out the awesome, I’m sticking with it partly for that reason. So, lately, that’s right, right.

  107. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    This talk of drunk drivers has me remembering that former friend of mine, who last time I talked to him, had just been pulled over for a DUI twice in the same night.

    In his case, it was pure selfishness. He only considered the possible risk to himself, and of course being one of those manly-man types he didn’t give two squirts of diarrhea about that. You could explain to him until you were blue in the face, the risks, the statistics, the danger to innocents, but of course he always figured ‘just this once’ would be OK. I was weaker then, I let him talk over me and have his own way all the time, in the name of ‘getting along’. I didn’t want to be that douchebag buzzkill always worrying about sissy crap like ‘safety’ and ‘regard for innocent bystanders’, because caring about people just isn’t COOL. Know what I’m saying?

    What really worries me is this: In my experience, a guy who has no problem driving around stinking drunk, usually tends to have no problem ‘riding dirty’ as the kids these days say as well. I seriously hope my former friend isn’t doing that, but the cynic inside me knows better.

  108. chigau (本当) says

    Molson is now Molson Coors.
    I blame Coors.
    —-
    My Beta tapes are all stored, waiting to be transferred to VHS.

  109. says

    And drunk drivers who kill people should be prosecuted for first degree murder. They knew that they could kill someone when they drove drunk.

    That’s not even what first degree murder is.

    You’re describing involuntary manslaughter.

  110. walton says

    Giliell,

    And I think it would have been necessary for that guy to take some remedial driving lessons since he disregarded several basic rules. That wouldn’t have undone the pain he caused, but it would have made the roads a bit safer.

    Now those two sentences, right there, represent a rational approach to criminal justice. And if the criminal justice system actually worked like that, with sentences being tailored to the goal of stopping the individual doing the same thing again (relying on empirical evidence as to what works and what doesn’t), I’d be very happy with it. (It still wouldn’t be perfect – a system that involves coercion can never be perfect – but it would be far better than what we have at the moment.)

    dianne,

    More realistically, I wish that auto crimes were treated seriously. Really, is it any more excusable to drive a car onto a crowded sidewalk than it is to randomly shoot into a crowd? Yet dangerous drivers get off with little or no punishment all the time. Vehicular homicide should be treated like any other homicide. And drunk drivers who kill people should be prosecuted for first degree murder. They knew that they could kill someone when they drove drunk. There’s no excuse.

    I disagree with your reasoning. Not because I think auto crimes are inherently any less “serious” than any other kind of crimes, but because it seems to me that you’re still thinking within the traditional Kantian retributivist paradigm – the belief that “wrongdoers” “deserve” to be “punished”; that it is intrinsically unjust if they “get off” without punishment; and that the more serious and culpable the wrong, the more severe the punishment should be. I’m not convinced that this is necessarily the case, for the reasons I have outlined above.

    Rather, I’m interested in an evidence-based approach to reducing the probability of further offending, by the least coercive available means. It’s a complicated question, but it may very well be that these practical considerations are different for a drunk driver than for a rampaging gunman. But I don’t think their respective degrees of “blameworthiness” or “excusability” should be relevant. Indeed, I don’t think “blameworthiness” or “excusability” are even meaningful or coherent concepts, assuming the non-existence of human free will; and even if they were, it would not necessarily logically follow that the “blameworthy” deserve to suffer, or that the concept of “desert” is meaningful or coherent.

  111. says

    My 1st VCR was a Beta with helically scanned stereo. The instructions came on a Beta tape. (BTW, SpellCzech, helically is too a word.)
    +++++++++++++
    IRT the Girls Chem set; is it possible that they intended it to subvert the sexist paradigm and get girls interested in science/know it’s OK to be interested in science? Just asking.

    In a related observation: my niece was a girly-girl from jump and my Sis is a staunch feminist. We uncles were asked to provide non-gendered toys, so we bought her tool-boxes and science kits. She wanted My Little Pony’s and pink and frill. Eventually my Sis gave up and I bought my niece jewelry, (mounds of second hand costume jewelry when she was younger then charm bracelets when she got older.)

    She’s turned out to be a kick-ass young woman who isn’t afraid to call bullshit on anything. A lot like my Sis, but nicer to me;-)

  112. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    I drink Cariboo beer. Not only is it delicious and inexpensive, it has no annoying ad campaigns.
    And, get this: a portion of all profits from Cariboo brewing products goes towards reforestation projects in BC, combating mountain pine beetle damage. Has anyone here ever seen a beetle-killed forest? It’s kind of depressing.

    So keep your eyes out for Cariboo beer in your local liquor establishment. And remember, of all the cheap beer you could be drinking, Cariboo is probably the least shitty.

    Cariboo beer: Taste the essence of the cariboo.

  113. walton says

    Dammit. Failed to close my bold tag. I am an idiot.

    (In my defence, I’ve been busy working all afternoon and have other things on my mind.)

    ===

    That’s not even what first degree murder is.

    You’re describing involuntary manslaughter.

    Yep, I should have added that. Murder, in common-law jurisdictions, requires an intention to kill or, in England, to inflict grievous bodily harm. (In the old common-law definition, “malice aforethought”, although that terminology is no longer used in England.) An accidental death cannot, therefore, be murder; it is not sufficient to show that the killer was reckless as to the possibility that someone would die as a result of hir actions. The latter situation is manslaughter, not murder.

    However, by way of a response to Dianne’s argument, I’m less interested in being pedantic about what the law is, and more interested in mounting challenges to the law’s philosophical foundations. Perhaps Dianne thinks the legal definition of “murder” should be changed; I certainly wouldn’t criticize her for that, since I can name a whole host of penal laws offhand which I would prefer to repeal, amend, or (in the majority of cases) scrap entirely. However, I do not agree with the reasoning by which she reaches her conclusion on this issue.

  114. walton says

    Drunk Driving though is usually a crime of carelessness or selfishness than of maliciousness or greed. It may be one where determent can be effective by increasing the risks associated with the crime.

    Yes. There are coherent utilitarian arguments for Dianne’s position. And that’s why I deliberately expressed no opinion either way as to whether the sentences for drunk driving should be increased, reduced, or kept the same.

    However, Dianne didn’t make those kinds of utilitarian arguments. Rather, I was disagreeing with her reasoning, not necessarily with her conclusions. See:

    More realistically, I wish that auto crimes were treated seriously. Really, is it any more excusable to drive a car onto a crowded sidewalk than it is to randomly shoot into a crowd? Yet dangerous drivers get off with little or no punishment all the time. Vehicular homicide should be treated like any other homicide. And drunk drivers who kill people should be prosecuted for first degree murder. They knew that they could kill someone when they drove drunk. There’s no excuse.

    This strikes me as a moral argument: people who commit crime X and people who commit crime Y are equally “blameworthy”, so both of them “deserve” the same kind of treatment. This is exactly the kind of Kantian deontological argument that I have been arguing against throughout the thread.

  115. walton says

    (I should clarify that I put quote-marks around “blameworthy” and “deserve” not because I was quoting anyone, but because those widely-used terms refer to concepts which I don’t consider to be meaningful, coherent or useful; thus, when referring to those concepts, I put the words in scare-quotes to express my scepticism.)

  116. chigau (本当) says

    I’ve seen beetle-killed forest.
    I have many unkind things to say about forestry and fire-suppression but I gotta run.
    Catch-up later.

  117. Sandiseattle says

    speaking on beer. I like Coors Light and Corona Extra. Coors Light has the same mouth feel as Perrier to me and Corona is a fav with mexican (food and friends) mostly i’m a liquor guy, but haven’t actually had a drink in monthes.

  118. says

    @Walton

    Except they are addressing the current legal state where a drunk driver is at times assumed to be under diminished capacity and given leniency, despite the fact that the diminished capacity was due to his own actions. They’re saying it’s the same as someone firing a gun wildly into a crowd. From a legal POV either one should have the penalty raised or the other lowered because they are equivalently reckless, in order to maintain internal consistency.

  119. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    OK, I dunno if I buy this ‘no free will’ argument. I mean yeah, you get down to instincts, neurochemical reactions, whatever, and you could claim that everything we do is a function of those randomly spinning molecules. And you’d probably be right.

    But right here, on this plane, can we really functionally claim humans have ‘no free will’ when discussing human behavior? I mean, you get down to atoms and molecules, you realize there’s no such thing as a ‘solid surface’ either. But here on this level, if I smack my face into the surface of this piece of glass, the only way it’s gonna go through is ‘painfully’.

  120. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    I can’t get on board with corona. It seems to be immensely popular, so clearly there’s something I’m missing, but to me it always tastes like bitter flat peewater. Yes, I’ve tried it with the lime juice. It makes it marginally better, but I still don’t see what the big thrill is.

  121. Dhorvath, OM says

    TLC,
    Suppose you grant that free will is not. What would our appropriate actions be to minimize the number of people who perform in manners which violate social agreements? Just leave it alone? I suspect that Walton doesn’t think that way and I am quite sure that I don’t. That people are not free doesn’t mean that they are pre-programmed: everyone is subject to influence. One of our social influences is punishment, but is it as effective as what it costs?

  122. consciousness razor says

    But I don’t think their respective degrees of “blameworthiness” or “excusability” should be relevant.

    If they didn’t commit the act, and that’s all one means by saying they are not to blame for it, then it certainly is relevant.

    Indeed, I don’t think “blameworthiness” or “excusability” are even meaningful or coherent concepts, assuming the non-existence of human free will;

    People don’t have free will. People are generally capable of predicting many of the outcomes of their actions, which makes them responsible for their actions to that extent. That is only to say they can decide how to respond to what happens to them. They can still be blamed or have excuses for what they do. I don’t think all those are meaningless or useless concepts because people don’t have free will or souls.

    and even if they were, it would not necessarily logically follow that the “blameworthy” deserve to suffer, or that the concept of “desert” is meaningful or coherent.

    I think this is the relevant point, not the previous ones.

    BTW, Walton, this recent xkcd made me think of you. I assume you can guess why. ;)

  123. says

    IRT the Girls Chem set; is it possible that they intended it to subvert the sexist paradigm and get girls interested in science/know it’s OK to be interested in science?

    That’s likely the intention of at least some people working at that company.

    It might be better accomplished by showing both girls and boys on the box.

  124. says

    I mean, you get down to atoms and molecules, you realize there’s no such thing as a ‘solid surface’ either. But here on this level, if I smack my face into the surface of this piece of glass, the only way it’s gonna go through is ‘painfully’.

    And we can explain how that property emerges.

    But right here, on this plane, can we really functionally claim humans have ‘no free will’ when discussing human behavior?

    The answer is yes, because there is no explanation for how humans could have free will.

  125. says

    @Coyote

    1) Define Freewill. It’s not well enough defined for me to comment on at this point in the conversation

    2) For most views of Freewill people seem to think that someone can choose to act in anyway. I find this patently false. For example, decide right now to walk away from the keyboard and kill a loved one. People can’t because they are constrained by their preferences and desires, which are not consciously chosen. In fact someone who can do this would probably be viewed as insane.

    3) I Can’t tell the difference between a causal world and one with free will. It seems like a philosophical zombie argument.

  126. says

    They’re saying it’s the same as someone firing a gun wildly into a crowd.

    Okay, well, that’s obviously false.

    It’s more like firing a gun up into the air in a residential area.

  127. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart OM, liar and scoundrel says

    TLC:

    I can’t get on board with corona. It seems to be immensely popular, so clearly there’s something I’m missing, but to me it always tastes like bitter flat peewater.

    Nope, there’s nothing you’re missing. It’s a shitty excuse for beer.

    I can’t figure out why anyone would settle for a mediocre (at best) beer, but Americans sure do love their weak pisswater. My best guess is that 1) it’s cheap and 2) it’s what people are familiar with. You know, like going to Applebee’s instead of a locally owned restaurant.

  128. says

    Suppose you grant that free will is not. What would our appropriate actions be to minimize the number of people who perform in manners which violate social agreements? Just leave it alone?

    Depends on the actions

    If we look at things like theft we can see that much of it is due to poverty induced desperation or social tensions. Addressing that would fix the underlying problem.

    Frankly it seems more logical to treat symptoms on a individual and social level.

  129. John Morales says

    Walton:

    Dammit. Failed to close my bold tag. I am an idiot.

    Tsk. (There go your good intentions!)

    You were careless.

  130. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    Obviously there’s something I’m missing here.

    If humans and other animals don’t have free will, they sure do a hell of a fine job acting like they do. Humans especially. If it resembles free will to such a degree, what is really the functional difference?

    Bear in mind, this is not to argue with the basic point that the concept of ‘punishment’ is crude and barbaric and somewhat outdated. I just think saying humans have ‘no free will’ is just as useless as saying “This piece of glass isn’t REALLY solid”.

  131. says

    Dianne
    Thanx, but no worries, it was more than three years ago and the kid turned out great so far.
    I don’t hold any grudge against the lad (I do hold one against his greedy stepfather and his asshole lawyers), but one thing the current system totally fails to adress is that the fact that this remained an unpleasant accident and didn’t turn into a human tragedy had zilch to do with what he did or didn’t do.
    The law would have adressed the whole case absolutely differently if something serious had happened to the kid or Mr., if they’d been hit by a passing car when they were pushed onto the road, if the stroller had fallen and the kid had suffered some visible wounds. Then the law would have been in full blow. But since Mr.’s quick reaction and the lack of another car prevented that, the whole thing was “downgraded” to something like a parking offense.
    To borrow Walton’s rock metaphor again:
    Because the rock failed to hit me since I jumped away, we don’t turn our back to the instable cliff, we still think we should fix that fucking thing before another rock actually hits somebody.

    Speaking of drivers:
    I think that driving is considered too much a right. It’s a damn fucking privilege and if you fail to recognize that you’re handling a dangerous weapon and go on endangering people, you need to take the bus.

    With that, I go to bed now.
    Goodnight

  132. says

    I think that driving is considered too much a right. It’s a damn fucking privilege and if you fail to recognize that you’re handling a dangerous weapon and go on endangering people, you need to take the bus.

    Bit of a geographical or class privilege there. There’s no public trans for people in many places. The only way to work is to drive.

  133. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    I have many unkind things to say about forestry and fire-suppression but I gotta run.

    I agree about the fire suppression. However, in defense of the early National Forest Service, it was the price demanded in order to allow the NFS to continue to exist and, at the same time, the price demanded by the timber industry to allow the Forest Service to actually have a say about what happened on public land. This does not mean it was the right decision. Without the fire suppression commitment of the Forest Service, it is doubtful that any National Forests would exist save for places that have no marketable timber or are impossible to access.

  134. Dhorvath, OM says

    Ing,
    There is nothing you said which I disagree with. The point I was hoping to illustrate is that regardless of if people are truly free or a complex reactionary program, they are still subject to influence. The things we say and do now can change the things we might say and do later.

  135. Part-Time Insomniac, Zombie Porcupine Nox Arcana Fan says

    Is there anything heavier than Corona when it comes to Mexican beers? And does Dos Equis qualify as light or heavy?
    ————————————–

    I have to admit I can see the sense in getting rid of jail time for certain crimes. Sometimes time behind bars just seems like overkill, but since I didn’t get to read all of Walton’s posts, I’m not sure what would be suggested in place of a prison term aside from community service. I do agree that serial killers, rapists, and the like ought to be in prison.

  136. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    Ing: There’s clearly much I don’t really understand here. Maybe it’s something I should study up on and approach again in the future sometime.

    Maybe my idea of ‘free will’ just isn’t the same as most peoples.

  137. Sandiseattle says

    like going to Applebee’s instead

    IMHO Applebee’s food yes drinks no, went there once with both my SOs and got soaked, mostly because of the bill from the bar

  138. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    Is there anything heavier than Corona when it comes to Mexican beers? And does Dos Equis qualify as light or heavy?

    Modena Negra is a really good dark beer.

  139. says

    Libet’s experiments might be of relevance to Coyote.

    To me the more relevant point is the standard argument against free will.

    Best articulated by Colin McGinn:

    “The argument is exceedingly familiar, and runs as follows. Either determinism is true or it is not. If it is true, then all our chosen actions are uniquely necessitated by prior states of the world, just like every other event. But then it cannot be the case that we could have acted otherwise, since this would require a possibility determinism rules out. Once the initial conditions are set and the laws fixed, causality excludes genuine freedom.

    On the other hand, if indeterminism is true, then, though things could have happened otherwise, it is not the case that we could have chosen otherwise, since a merely random event is no kind of free choice. That some events occur causelessly, or are not subject to law, or only to probabilistic law, is not sufficient for those events to be free choices.

    Thus one horn of the dilemma represents choices as predetermined happenings in a predictable causal sequence, while the other construes them as inexplicable lurches to which the universe is randomly prone. Neither alternative supplies what the notion of free will requires, and no other alternative suggests itself. Therefore freedom is not possible in any kind of possible world. The concept contains the seeds of its own destruction.”

  140. says

    OK, I’m off to bed now:

    The only way to work is to drive.

    Well, class privilege is that I own a car ;)
    My point still stands: Your need to go to work does not grant you the right to needlessly endanger other people. If you can’t use the car responsibly, you can’t use it.
    The need for the car in order to have a job doesn’t trump other people’s right not to be hurt.
    I said repeatedly. Everybody makes mistakes, everybody makes bad decissions once in a while. But if you show that you’re either unable or unwilling to stick to basic road-safety, you need to be kept from driving, just like a serial killer needs to be kept away from people and weapons.

  141. Sili says

    Bit of a geographical or class privilege there. There’s no public trans for people in many places. The only way to work is to drive.

    Another good reason to fight urban sprawl.

  142. says

    Maybe my idea of ‘free will’ just isn’t the same as most peoples.

    I assume your idea of free will implies that for at least one choice you’ve made, you could have chosen differently than you did.

    This is not true.

    If you can invent a meaning for free will such that for any choice you’ve made, you could not have chosen differently than you did, then you’re welcome to enjoy that meaning.

  143. Sandiseattle says

    “Well, class privilege is that I own a car ;)”

    not a priveldge for me, more of a burden, my brakes are out. :(

  144. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    I can’t figure out why anyone would settle for a mediocre (at best) beer, but Americans sure do love their weak pisswater. My best guess is that 1) it’s cheap and 2) it’s what people are familiar with. You know, like going to Applebee’s instead of a locally owned restaurant.

    I think you’re correct on 1 and 2 but I also think people are afraid to branch out and there’s the (some size) part of the population that thinks that drinking anything outside of the macro brews as “sissy beer”. Yes it makes no sense, but I hear it from some of my not so bright acquaintances every once in a while.

    So on that note, I’m having a nice big sour Flemish Red right now. Cuvee Des Jacobins Rouge.

    Just picked up a growler of it on the way home.

  145. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    not a priveldge for me, more of a burden, my brakes are out. :(

    Well, on the bright side, you can get where you need to go. You can’t stop when you get there, but you can get there, right?

  146. consciousness razor says

    If humans and other animals don’t have free will, they sure do a hell of a fine job acting like they do. Humans especially. If it resembles free will to such a degree, what is really the functional difference?

    When I say we have no free will, I mean this:

    Without changing anything about the physical system of you and your environment, at some moment something non-physical could change your actions. There’d be some extra thing there that physics can’t explain which isn’t reducible to or emergent from physical processes.

    Philosophical zombies are pretty much the same, in a different disguise and wearing a slightly funnier hat: it’s about what causes consciousness in general. The argument is that there could be “p-zombies” which think and act just as we do, but which aren’t conscious, implying there is something involved in consciousness that doesn’t reduce to the physical causes of our behaviors. Or you could be a p-zombie, if you want to be paranoid, since p-zombies are supposed to be physically indistinguishable from you as you are now. But I don’t think either makes any sense, so there’s no need to worry.

  147. Sandiseattle says

    Og, actually didn’t get where I was going. Tried, but my brakes don’t really stop the car proper like. It sorta slides to a stop.

    New subject:
    How does one change there avatar/picture from wordpress?

  148. says

    In the US, during sentencing, the victims and their families are allowed to have their say.

    I consider this revenge and not justice.

    Our penal system was starting to be about rehabilitation, and then the good people (you know, morons [/Blazing Saddles]) decided that prison should be about punishment.

    Well, that’s worked out well.

  149. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    I assume your idea of free will implies that for at least one choice you’ve made, you could have chosen differently than you did.

    This is not true.

    Not true as in ‘this isn’t how free will is defined’, or ‘not true’ as in I couldn’t have chosen different? Because I could very easily have made different choices in my past.

  150. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    Og, actually didn’t get where I was going. Tried, but my brakes don’t really stop the car proper like. It sorta slides to a stop.

    My first car with antilock brakes had a problem with a sensor and they became automatic brakes.

    My FIL had a Plymouth Valiant that had power brakes. If the shadow of your foot passed over the brake pedal, the brakes locked up. Brakes are a pain in the ass. Necessary, but a pain.

  151. walton says

    I should reiterate that I’m expressing no view either way about drunk driving or how harshly it should or could be treated.

    Rather, I’m interested in the way we think about criminal justice, and the philosophical and sociological assumptions we unconsciously express when we discuss the subject. I think it’s important to analyze this.

    ===

    If they didn’t commit the act, and that’s all one means by saying they are not to blame for it, then it certainly is relevant.

    Of course whether xe committed the act is relevant; but it doesn’t follow that hir “blameworthiness” should be a relevant factor.

    What people have done in the past must be relevant to how we treat them, for one reason only: because it makes it easier for us to assess what they are likely to do in the future. For instance, we can justify locking up killers because we presume that they are likely to kill again. To lock up a non-killer, on the mere possibility that he might kill someone in the future, would be irrational and arbitrary; after all, any of us might kill someone in the future. (Of course this is a very crude basis of prediction; plenty of killers only kill once, and oftentimes it is entirely unexpected. But – given that phrenology didn’t work, and psychology is an inexact science – we have never managed to develop a more reliable method of predicting an individual’s likely future behaviour than that of looking at what xe has done in the past.)

    But what I am not interested in is the moral agency, or the supposed “blameworthiness”, of the individual involved. That’s a different question. I’m interested in hir dangerousness, which is a question of fact with no necessary moral implications. I’m not interested in judging him or her for what happened in the past, or in apportioning “blame”; I’m interested in what xe is likely to do in the future, and what steps, if any, we need to take to protect ourselves from future harm.

  152. Richard Austin says

    TLC:

    Not true as in ‘this isn’t how free will is defined’, or ‘not true’ as in I couldn’t have chosen different? Because I could very easily have made different choices in my past.

    Who, or what, are “you”?

    How do you define the act of “making a choice”?

    Because if you subscribe to the notion that “you” are a complex mix of matter and energy in a certain state, and “making a choice” as a change in that state, anything “you” do has to be a result of the same laws that govern all other matter and energy.

  153. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart OM, liar and scoundrel says

    Giliell:

    My point still stands: Your need to go to work does not grant you the right to needlessly endanger other people.

    I’m sorry, I can’t get behind this. As it stands now,you’re effectively willing to take away someone’s job because you think they’re a shitty driver. No, no, no.

    I would be able to get behind this thinking if there was an alternative to driving, but there isn’t one. Hell, I live in an urban area and I couldn’t manage without my car– the public transit just doesn’t cut it around here.

    If you want to cut down on bad driving, bring back driver’s ed for high school kids. Make the driving test difficult enough to actually determine if the driver has any skill. Hell, test people every time their license expires and offer driving classes if they need them. Absolutely do not take away their means of supporting themselves. That’s just cruel.

    Rev:

    … there’s the (some size) part of the population that thinks that drinking anything outside of the macro brews as “sissy beer”. Yes it makes no sense, but I hear it from some of my not so bright acquaintances every once in a while.

    Oh, no doubt. There’s a couple of billboards in the area for Miller (Bud, maybe?) Light (Lite?) that say, “Man up, Albany!”. The obvious sexism aside, it seems like a jab at the blossoming popularity of craft/micro-brews.

    My response to this argument is usually that there’s nothing “sissy” about a beer that’s over 9% ABV. And, you know, the macros barely hit 5%.

    Anyway, I’m drinking an old standard tonight: Saison du Pont.

  154. says

    consciousness razor, you’ve got a pretty good one at #208, ought to be sufficient for atheists.

    I think Thomas W. Clark has done one better. Seems to me he’s shown that even God could not have free will.

    The best way to see the flaw in fatalism is to imagine that we do indeed have some sort of contra-causal free will, and see if it could improve on the deterministic situation we actually find ourselves in.

  155. says

    ‘not true’ as in I couldn’t have chosen different?

    This one.

    Because I could very easily have made different choices in my past.

    Well, that almost answers my question about what your idea of free will is. It smells like one of those which is incorrect.

    Here’s something not quite trivial:

    If indeterminism is true (and I suspect it is) then you could have done things differently, if quantum fluctuations in your head had occurred differently.

    But you could not have chosen to make different choices.

  156. John Morales says

    TLC,

    Obviously there’s something I’m missing here.

    If humans and other animals don’t have free will, they sure do a hell of a fine job acting like they do. Humans especially. If it resembles free will to such a degree, what is really the functional difference?

    There are different senses to the compound term ‘free will’.

    At its most basic (and where I’m with you) it merely means the ability to make a choice between alternatives.

    At a slightly higher level of abstraction, it refers to the lack of coercion by other agencies (not by nature!) when making a choice.

    At a more complicated level, it’s what ahs indicated: whether one could in principle make a different choice than that which they in fact make.

  157. says

    Corona = piss with great marketing. (Also, too every American mainstream brewery.)

    Dos Equis were OK, and then bought out by an American mainstream brewery.

    My favorite local raised their prices (or the local liquor distributor, they’re arguing about it) past price my price point.

    I currently drink Killians at home, (which was bought out by Budweiser), and it’s OK … as long as you front it with lot’s o’ rum.
    +++++++++++++
    The free will/no free will debate has been conducted here before.
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Driving in the US is not a right, that’s why cops can do anything they want while you’re in a car. Apparently, even being a passenger is a privilege.

  158. Dhorvath, OM says

    The Sailor,
    But an adequate encouragement to avoid it in the future hasn’t been presented.

  159. says

    Skipping over TET like a stone, as has been my recent wont….

    Walton:

    (*Be careful, btw, in using “we” when you mean “the state”. Just a side point.)

    Why ever? In a democracy, are the people not (at least ideally, theoretically) the embodiment of the state?

    JOOC, in the UK (or other similar constitutional monarchies), is the person of the monarch considered the embodiment of the state? I always consider that the state is an expression of the people in a democracy, but your comment makes me wonder if this represents a fundamental (if somewhat arcane) difference between republics and monarchies, even when the latter are functionally democratic in practice.

    ***
    Coyote:

    Obviously there’s something I’m missing here.

    Don’t feel alone: I’ve been puzzled by the free will discussion every time it’s come up. Partly that’s because much of it involves philosophical concepts and terminology that I admit I’m not well equipped to follow, but partly it seems to me that there are different concepts of free will in play. Basically, it seems to me that there are two incompatible versions of the “no free will” that have cropped up (and no doubt I’ve misunderstood both, or at least failed to grasp their subtleties):

    1. Our will is not free because all our choices are inevitably influenced and/or constrained by environment, conditions, experience, etc.

    2. The material universe is unremittingly and totally deterministic: Our “choices” are all inevitable outcomes of the initial conditions existing at the dawn of material existence, and “will” of any sort is merely an illusion.

    The first proposition strikes me as true, but trivial: Does anyone seriously imagine hir choices are not influenced and constrained? Is that really what people mean when they talk, in common usage, about “free will”?

    The second proposition strikes me as abjectly horrifying: It differs from horrific religious notions of predestination only in that it doesn’t even offer the comforting fiction of a loving god. We’re self-aware minds trapped inside robots whose unbreakable program was written by random events at the dawn of time? Intolerable. If I were persuaded this was true, I would spend the rest of my life trying to forget it. Of course, if it were true, I wouldn’t truly be able to try anything, would I?

    I grok, though, that I have not completely or correctly understood the conversation, as it seems unlikely so many smart people would devote so many words to what seem to me a trivial proposition and a dehumanizing intellectual dead-end.

    Suffice it to say that every moment of my life experience — and everything I observe in the behavior of others — tells me we have the capability to make actual, effective choices that, albeit influenced and constrained by a universe of factors, are nevertheless real, involving agency and therefore creating some degree of responsibility. Even if there is some philosophical sense in which this is not “true,” it seems to me that it’s all we have on which to base our attempts to live together.

    ***
    And now for something completely different: Coors Light is the work of the devil! Corona is tolerable only when eating Mexican food, and only then if you can’t get Negra Modela (I don’t care what the Most Interesting Man in the World™ says about Dos Equis!). It’s astounding to me to recall a time when Coors was considered elite, and so beloved that whole movies were made about attempts to score some. The times, they are a’ changin’, eh?

  160. says

    “if quantum fluctuations in your head had occurred differently.”

    Wow, not that many threads ago I got slammed for saying that. I can’t wait for another round of this shit.

    Yep, we’re all doooooomed, doomed I tell you because we’re just wind-up toys and have zero ability to change our course.

    So why even have a Justice system, why even try at all?

    It’s all bullshit.

    People who go back and forth on this unanswerable question should either graduate into a system where they are paid to do it or get paid for producing something useful in society.

  161. says

    When I am philosopher-despot, I will make the following decree:

    If you invoke quantum effects as a source of free will, one of your older siblings will be required to grab your wrist and smack you in the face with your own hand, while yelling “quit hitting yourself! quit hitting yourself!”

    If you do not have an older sibling, one will be appointed for you.

  162. says

    “if quantum fluctuations in your head had occurred differently.”

    Wow, not that many threads ago I got slammed for saying that.

    No, you got slammed for saying that if quantum fluctuations in your head had occurred differently then this would be free will.

    So why even have a Justice system, why even try at all?

    Read it again: http://www.naturalism.org/fatalism.htm

    People who go back and forth on this unanswerable question

    The question is answerable. Some people get it wrong. And you are one who is going back and forth on it now, yet again.

  163. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    re: Free Will?

    Even if I don’t actually have free will, it makes no difference to me. I still must behave as though I really do have free will.

  164. Dhorvath, OM says

    Bill D,
    I would agree that we reach actual, effective, and important decisions, and that these promote individual decision making points as having responsibility. A large portion of those decision processes takes place in a concentrated environment, but choice is a word I don’t think fits.

  165. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart OM, liar and scoundrel says

    Bill:
    My dad talks about how great Schlitz was in the 70s.

    *shudder!*

  166. says

    Why ever? In a democracy, are the people not (at least ideally, theoretically) the embodiment of the state?

    Sure, but nobody lives in an ideal democracy yet.

    I prefer to say “we” when it’s something I approve of, and “the state” when it’s something I disapprove of.

  167. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    Audley:

    When we lived in California and Arizona, and visited the grocery store once a month, the beer of the month was whatever was cheapest: Schlitz, Hamms, Olympia, etc. Of course, he was buying six cases to last the month, so chap was important.

  168. says

    ahs, you’re still arguing from bullshit. Your opinion, or anyone else’s, IS NOT FACT.

    And please quote my actual statements instead of your (free will) interpretations of it in the future.

    I won’t respond to this part of the thread anymore, there’s my free will.

  169. says

    Bill,

    The second proposition strikes me as abjectly horrifying: It differs from horrific religious notions of predestination only in that it doesn’t even offer the comforting fiction of a loving god. We’re self-aware minds trapped inside robots whose unbreakable program was written by random events at the dawn of time?

    I suspect indeterminism is true, thus some random events continue to occur throughout all time. This is no comfort, just a quibble.

    Intolerable. If I were persuaded this was true, I would spend the rest of my life trying to forget it. Of course, if it were true, I wouldn’t truly be able to try anything, would I?

    Well, sure, you’d be able to try, because you’d have no choice but to try.

    I grok, though, that I have not completely or correctly understood the conversation, as it seems unlikely so many smart people would devote so many words to what seem to me a trivial proposition and a dehumanizing intellectual dead-end.

    See my quote of Colin McGinn at #201 and you’ll get enough to grok, I think.

    I’ve been persuaded, partly by Walton’s hypothesis, that it is not dehumanizing at all.

    Walton proposes that widespread belief in free will causes judges and juries to impose longer prison sentences. I think there is good reason to suspect he’s right about this.

    If Walton is right, then it is actually belief in free will which is leading to the more dehumanizing of possible outcomes.

  170. consciousness razor says

    Bill Dauphin, avec fromage:

    We’re self-aware minds trapped inside robots whose unbreakable program was written by random events at the dawn of time? Intolerable.

    Who are you talking to? The universe doesn’t care whether you can tolerate it. Although, just to be clear, it doesn’t matter whether determinism or indeterminism is true. Neither would be sufficient for you to have “free will” in the sense you would apparently find tolerable. You’re also not a mind trapped inside a robot. You are that robot and nothing else.

    We’re “trapped” in the universe as well. There’s no way to escape it. Do you find that intolerable? Why not?

    If I were persuaded this was true, I would spend the rest of my life trying to forget it.

    Wouldn’t you have better things to do? I know I do.

    Of course, if it were true, I wouldn’t truly be able to try anything, would I?

    Sure you can. It doesn’t mean you can’t try things or decide to do things, simply because those actions are physical processes. It just means they’re physical processes, and that’s it. You can’t break the laws of physics. Is that really so very dreadful? Is that really dehumanizing?

    Suffice it to say that every moment of my life experience — and everything I observe in the behavior of others — tells me we have the capability to make actual, effective choices that, albeit influenced and constrained by a universe of factors, are nevertheless real, involving agency and therefore creating some degree of responsibility. Even if there is some philosophical sense in which this is not “true,” it seems to me that it’s all we have on which to base our attempts to live together.

    All of that is true and it’s all physical processes.

    It’s not such a complicated idea. I guess I’ve been so far from this mindset for so long, it’s now hard for me to understand how non-religious people find it a problem. I think it’s just some kind of misconception about what determinism (or indeterminism, doesn’t matter) really means.

  171. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Bill:
    My dad talks about how great Schlitz was in the 70s.

    *shudder!*

    We had a Schlitz brewery in my home town (at teh time the world’s largest brewery) in the 70’s. I remember going with my dad to the brewery a number of times to get beer.

    He’s one of those not quite assholes but definitively not there types. But those odd kid memories still prompt me to grab a shitty Schlitz (or Schlitz-like beer) every now and then in dive bars and hipster locations here and there.

  172. says

    ahs, you’re still arguing from bullshit. Your opinion, or anyone else’s, IS NOT FACT.

    There are no coherent arguments for even the possibility of free will in any imaginable world. You can demonstrate that I’m wrong by simply offering one. Go ahead.

    And please quote my actual statements instead of your (free will) interpretations of it in the future.

    If I misinterpreted you, it doesn’t imply that I had free will to do so. I’ll quote your statements shortly. Let me go google them up.

    ahs – “Sure, but nobody lives in an ideal democracy yet.”

    Of course not, they don’t have free will, silly.

    An ideal democracy is possible without free will, silly.

  173. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    I still must behave as though I really do have free will.

    You must? ;)

    Yeah. Behaving as if I do not have free will is something my little bitty liberal arts brain cannot envision. Limited, I know, but that’s who I am.

  174. carlie says

    I can still sing the Hamms commercial, although I’ve never tried one. I have no idea why that stupid commercial is one of the parts of my childhood I remember.

    Around here Utica Club is the piss beer of choice, but I haven’t been brave enough to taste it yet. There seems to be no point, when there are enough pubs serving Guinness and there’s always a decent Saranac as an alternative.

    My dad talks about how great Schlitz was in the 70s.

    Schlemiel schlimazel, hasenpfeffer incorporated!

    Oh wait, that was Schotz.

  175. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart OM, liar and scoundrel says

    carlie:

    Around here Utica Club is the piss beer of choice, but I haven’t been brave enough to taste it yet.

    Around here, it’s Pabst Blue Ribbon. Although Mountain Brew (which, if I’m not mistaken, is the cheapest beer I’ve come across) is gaining ground.

  176. tethys says

    I can still sing the Hamms commercial, although I’ve never tried one.

    From the land of sky blue waters (waa ah ters)

  177. John Morales says

    Father Ogvorbis,

    Behaving as if I do not have free will is something my little bitty liberal arts brain cannot envision.

    Since you’re feeding me the straight line, I must (ahem) respond:

    If you must behave as if you have free will, clearly you have no free will, and therefore you must be behaving as if you do not have free will.

    (Fuckin’ natural language, how does it work?)

  178. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    Cheapest beer I’ve ever come across was Red, White & Blue which, back in the 80s (1980s, you annoying kids) cost less than a sixpack of Royal Crown. And it was cheaper than National Bohemian or Strohs. And tasted that way.

  179. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    If you must behave as if you have free will, clearly you have no free will, and therefore you must be behaving as if you do not have free will.

    As I said, in my little pea brain, I see no alternative.

  180. walton says

    In a democracy, are the people not (at least ideally, theoretically) the embodiment of the state?

    I disagree with this statement in two respects, which are worth distinguishing from one another. The first is practical in nature, the second is philosophical.

    Firstly, there is not now, nor has there ever been, any society in which a numerical majority of “the people” (if, by that trite expression, one means “the people living within the territory of a particular polity”) invariably find their opinions embodied in state policy. In reality, some people are, of course, more powerful than others. The rich and the well-connected have more influence than the poor and the unconnected; some people are disenfranchised entirely (foreigners, prisoners, those declared to be insane, and so on); and the interests of the ruling classes almost invariably win out in the political process. And every society insulates the machinery of government, to some degree, from the vicissitudes of public opinion: in a modern bureaucratic state, the civil service, the courts and the other public institutions which exercise the power of the state on a day-to-day basis are generally run by, and their policies made by, professionals, not by the average person on the street. (Indeed, the average person on the street, even if intelligent and educated, rarely understands even a fraction of the laws which govern hir or the activities in which hir government engages.) Some of this can be changed, but most of it is an inevitable artefact of living in a modern complex society.

    Secondly, even if a true majoritarian democracy were possible or desirable, it still would not represent the “will of the people”, because no such thing exists. Indeed, I’m not even sure what you mean by “the people”. In a state with millions of people living under its jurisdiction, with hugely divergent opinions and interests and values, it is hard to tell how there could ever be such a thing as a cohesive “will of the people”. People are individuals, no two individuals are ever likely to agree on everything, and while there can be a will of the majority in a particular community, it’s hard to see how “the people” can have a collective will, let alone how the state can claim to be the expression of that rule.

    In reality, the state is an entity built on institutionalized violence; its power, like all other power, ultimately proceeds from the barrel of a gun. (Libertarians are right about that much; where they’re wrong is in their denial that capitalism is also institutionalized violence. After all, the power of the rich derives from their control over the means of production, and that control is backed in the end by violence. This is why I find that my worldview has transitioned over time from the right to the left, while maintaining exactly the same visceral distrust of coercion and of those who claim “authority” to coerce.) And we have no choice about being subjects of a state, just as we have no choice about being part of the global capitalist economy. Of course I can move, or renounce my citizenship, but I cannot opt out of the jurisdiction of states altogether; wherever I live, there will be some state which claims authority over me, and backs that claim with the use or threat of violence.

    Don’t mistake this for some kind of anarchist manifesto. I don’t think it’s possible or desirable to abolish the nation-state, because the power-vacuum would simply be filled by the local gang of armed thugs, as it has in Somalia. And we’re far better off with a formal state, with laws and courts and constitutions, than we are with unorganized coercion and unlimited exploitation by an armed gang. (The US, for all its faults, is a much nicer place to live than Somalia.) But I don’t think we should buy into the idea that the things the state does are “legitimate”, and that we have a moral obligation to obey its diktats, because they represent “the will of the people”. The Democratic Right of Governments, if accepted without challenge or question, is potentially as dangerous an idea as the Divine Right of Kings; both have the potential to conceal from us the fact that we are coerced every day, and that that coercion often serves not the amorphous interests of “the people” but rather the interests of the ruling classes.

  181. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    Cariboo beer is 10 dollars a six pack, on the nose, about as cheap as I like to go.

    It tastes good. At least, I enjoy it. But I’m a guy who enjoys raw meat, my tastes do not speak for everyone.

    I think right now, Father Ogvorbis’s position is the one that makes the most sense to me. Whether free will exists or not, I still have to act like it does.

    No one would like it one bit if I acted otherwise. Trust me on this one.

  182. walton says

    Walton proposes that widespread belief in free will causes judges and juries to impose longer prison sentences.

    A minor correction: a widespread belief in free will, combined with the widespread belief that those who exercise said will in certain ways deserve punishment, causes judges and juries to impose longer prison sentences. The two things are theoretically distinct; although I deny both the concept of free will and the concept of just deserts, it would theoretically be possible to believe in the former without believing in the latter. (Even if we choose to do wrong, it does not inevitably or logically follow that we “deserve” to be “punished” for doing wrong.)

  183. John Morales says

    Father Ogvorbis, leaving aside your false modesty, I refer you to my #218.

    (That’s to what I alluded in my parenthetical about natural language: the conflation of concepts)

  184. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    John Morales:

    No false modesty. The question remains, then. Other than visible outside forces (including law), how would I know that I do, or do not, have free will? How do I know that my decision to buy an ’08 Taurus was my decision or something I was predestined to do? How do I know if I could have made a different decision? That is what my brain, even with a liveral arts education, cannot grok, even partially.

  185. says

    PBR is HUGE in my uni town. Amazing. I thought we’d killed that shit with fire in the 80’s.

    Generally in beers, I prefer lagers. I don’t know why.

  186. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Other cheap, shitty, but I drank a lot of them before I knew better, beers

    Olympia
    Black Label
    Keystone
    Old Milwaukee
    Hamms
    and the worst of the worst the generic Beer

    Most of them stolen from the fridges of my friend’s parents until I finally got a fake ID by using my brother’s Birth Certificate when I was 16 to get a real NCDL with his name and age and my ugly mug on it.

  187. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    PBR is HUGE in my uni town. Amazing. I thought we’d killed that shit with fire in the 80′s.

    Blame the hipsters.

  188. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    Oh, and the best cheap beer? I can get Yeunglings for $6 to $8 for a six pack. Even for the porter.

  189. says

    Yeah. Behaving as if I do not have free will is something my little bitty liberal arts brain cannot envision. Limited, I know, but that’s who I am.

    Well, I can’t enumerate all the differences there might be, but I’m aware of some experiments which show that introducing an experimental group of people to the concept that they have no free will causes them to behave differently, in tests immediately afterward, than the control group.

    So, whatever it means to behave as if you do not have free will, you can approach it by reminding yourself several times a day that we do not have free will.

  190. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    I used to drink Old Milwaukee and don’t mind it to this day. It’s… not awful?

    This doesn’t look good for my taste in fermented beverages. Clearly I have all the taste of a drowning garden slug.

  191. says

    Og, Yeunglings? I dimly recall that. When I was underage with a 21 ID me and my friends had Schoenling Little Kings or Michelob Dark. Or anything with an alcohol content.

  192. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    ahs:

    Again, please explain (keep in mind you are conversing with an historian) how an individual can differentiate between free will and no free will (leaving law out of it (that part even I can understand)). Or should I just bow out now to avoid exposing my ignorance even more?

  193. John Morales says

    Father Ogvorbis, you’re making an unreasonable request of ahs, since you haven’t agreed on an universe of discourse.

    (If you define what it is to which you refer by ‘free will’, then it becomes a reasonable request)

  194. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    John:

    You are correct. I apologize and withdraw my question. And I promise to never get into a free will discussion again. Sorry.

  195. John Morales says

    Father O, no need to withdraw.

    You can pick one of the senses I mentioned @218, or even define your own.

    (Philosophical discourse need not be frightening)

  196. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    I suppose I should also bow out of the free will discussion- it is beyond my ken for now.

  197. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    I thought I was clear regarding what I was asking about up in my #252. But, clearly (as least to me), I don’t know enough to phrase the question to your specs. Sorry.

  198. says

    “if quantum fluctuations in your head had occurred differently.”

    Wow, not that many threads ago I got slammed for saying that.

    No, you got slammed for saying that if quantum fluctuations in your head had occurred differently then this would be free will.

    And please quote my actual statements instead of your (free will) interpretations of it in the future.

    Here you go:

    Walton, I’m definitely not understanding what you mean. When you say “When I say that we have no free will, I obviously don’t mean that human behaviour is fixed or immutable, or that it can’t be changed through the influence of others. ”

    It can also be changed by ones self. That is free will.

    I think of free will as an extrapolation of the uncertainty principle, writ large. We are also chaotic, and our decisions are tipping balances all the time. (Did that make sense?)

    Apparently, your objection here is “nuh uh, I said if quantum fluctuations in your head and chaos had occurred differently then this would be free will.”

    I look forward to watching you lecture about chaos again, wrongly again.

  199. says

    Ogvorbis,

    Again, please explain (keep in mind you are conversing with an historian) how an individual can differentiate between free will and no free will (leaving law out of it (that part even I can understand)).

    It is a good and hard question. I think similarly to Ing: an individual cannot, because I have never seen a coherent concept of free will to differentiate from.

    I was having a bit of fun, by switching between “behaving as if we have no free will” and “behaving as if we believe we have no free will”. The latter we can do, simply by reminding ourselves that we have no free will.

    The former, as you hint, is impossible to differentiate, as far as I know.

  200. consciousness razor says

    This is just getting silly.

    With my magical superpowers, I freely choose to behave as if I cannot freely choose anything.

  201. says

    I assume your idea of free will implies that for at least one choice you’ve made, you could have chosen differently than you did.

    This is not true.

    How do you know ? How can you know that ? And how does this fit in with the observation that we are able to weigh up choices ?

  202. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    Ugh, I just saw a link to Adam Sandler’s new ‘movie’.

    There’s a word I badly want to use for Adam Sandler’s comedy, but it’s an ableist insult and frowned upon in these circles, but I can’t think of a suitable alternative.

  203. tethys says

    I find the notion that we don’t have free will to be absurd.

    I would rather watch awesome youtube clips from 1976 featuring Cher and The Jackson 5 doing a song medley and dancing The Robot.

    *runs away*

  204. John Morales says

    [throwing a stick at the fleeing tethys]

    Robots don’t have free will.

    ahs, problem is, KG would need to write ‘not xor’ as an equivalent to ‘andor’. ;)

  205. says

    John Morales:

    I can’t complain. You?

    I’m just meh right now.

    I was taking a trip down memory lane and I remember the stir I caused awhile back. It’s funny because I actually tried to go through with it. It failed since I only got a third way through before I found myself doing a “bro-fists” with random Aussie guys in the men’s room at the Palazzo in Las Vegas.

    Still I’m glad the horde tried to talk me out of it. :D

  206. David Marjanović says

    I found out I can purr. It just doesn’t sound good, because I’m far too big… :-(

    Then I stayed up till half past 5 in the morning, wanted to submit my comment, and found out that PZ had turned on the login requirement without warning or explanation. I went to bed. It’s a quarter past 3 in the next morning now, so I won’t try to catch up with the current subthread; maybe tomorrow.

    Newt Gingrich doesn’t understand oil.

    My favorite so far in the Punkin’ Chunkin’ Contest is Chunk Norris.

    Day saved.

    David – have a chocolate. You need to get your strength back up after facing the Dementors. (“Chocolate. Eat. It’ll help.” – Remus Lupin)

    *munch* *munch* *munch*
    *hug* ^_^ ^_^ ^_^

    I’ll have another look at the slimepit sometime tomorrow…

    And maybe the reason for her half-pants is the effect of friction on hula hoop tricks!

    I completely buy that. They don’t look sexy, they just look silly. If she had wanted to look sexy in this day & age and Western culture, she wouldn’t just have called herself a chick*, she’d have worn hotpants, leggings, or a miniskirt. Disclaimer: I haven’t watched the video.

    On the other hand, any attempt to derive “pussy” from “pusillanimous” is pusillanimous.

    * …Did she?

    Haiku is better suited to a language with unambiguous syllables.
    Like Japanese.

    + 1

    not syllables, but morae. In Japanese haiku, you count morae.

    Only makes it worse :-)

    Actually it DOES remind me of the poetry of Andreas Gryphius after the Thirty Year’s War, also about the destruction of war.

    Is that the one with Bistümer and Wüsttümer?

    I prefer the ones without distracting poetry in them. For instance what I saw on a Newsweek title page in 1994: “There are no devils left in hell. They are all in Rwanda.”

    Giving everyone a linguistics degree would actually be more helpful than I thought then.

    Yesss. Yesss. Yesssssss!!! The basics of all linguistic disciplines should be taught to everyone around age 11 or 12 or so. Or 10. Or 9.

    I just found an “I Love Soup” T-shirt online. And I want one. Because I am a sucker for soup year-round.

    Over here, and in Charente in southwestern France, every dinner begins with a soup. :-)

    Nimvarid, welcome in.

    Nimravid. Saber-tooth non-cat. (The cats and the dogs are slightly more closely related to each other than to the nimravids. Pay no attention to the classification on that page that still claims otherwise.)

    My flight was delayed by a couple of hours, but I didn’t care too much, since I had a shiny new copy of Snuff to read (a gift from my parents).

    Have you eaten since then?

    did the maximum number of links suddenly drop from 2 to 1 around these parts?

    The maximum number of links is 6.

    Generally yes, but watch out for the disordered street example, because Diederik Stapel is currently being accused of falsifying data.

    As in… 31 of his studies are said to contain fabricated data, and not all of his studies have yet been investigated. Apparently, he had that field pretty much to himself, so the whole field can’t be trusted at the moment.

    my father’s servicemates were “lamed” in war

    Huh. I didn’t know that word existed in English. In German, gelähmt is the normal word for “paralyzed”; lahm is pretty much restricted to horses… oh, wait, there’s lahmarschig, literally “lame-assed”, which is used in some places; I’m not sure what exactly it means.

    (Not that I’m particularly coherent at four AM anyway, so here’s some salt to take my words with: …….)

    :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)

    And for the sake of your sanity, never read YouTube commentary.

    I’ve been saying that for years. xkcd agrees, too.

    So… where did the person’s values come from in the first place?

    Nationalist indoctination, media saturation, rebellion against the parents’ generation. All the usual suspects.

    Pet peeve alert: I think how common rebellion against the parents’ generation is has been way overestimated because of 1968. I’ve seen it treated as a human universal. Harrumph.

    Most people hold multiple conflicting ideals about who they are. If you’re arguing with a conservative Christian, do not affirm their identity as such. Do not say “I know you believe X because you’re Christian.” Don’t even remind them; it’s a losing strategy. Find another identity, one which is more promising, and affirm that instead: “I know you’re the kind of person who believes in fairness, and that’s why I think you should reconsider X.”

    Seconded and thirded!

    Apparently outside the United States it is not uncommon to point to what other countries do and say “why don’t we try that”.

    It’s a bit more common than in the US, but still stupidly rare. Drive or ride a train through France, then through Austria, and weep.

    @ ahs

    [demographics &} If “what is rational” is defined post hoc as what most people willing to acquiesce to. :) Things like these creep me out a bit. I really would like to think this is not true, but at the same time have to consider that they might well be.

    You’ll have this experience with ahs a lot more often.

    Had to buy some new jeans for me and I hate it.

    But what about my precious, precious p I do fit into a size that is commercially available. Except it’s the smallest of the long-and-thin sizes, so it’s very commonly not available. Worse, lacking fat on my hips, I need to wear the belt on my waist, above the hipbones, to avoid pain or even restrictions to walking – and that’s hardly ever possible with anything commercially available in the last 20 or 30 years.

    There is a similarly inane belief that poor people can somehow “infect” communities with their poverty and often the destitute are murdered.

    I’m out of words.

    *doing a little happy dance*
    1st My professor is still willing to accept me to write my thesis.

    *squeeeeeeeeee* :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)

    2nd At the weekend I got a wonderful compliment about my teaching skills.

    :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)

    Rather, perhaps the wisest course, overall, is to insult people less in general.

    Or we dig for gems in, say, the Slovak inventory. “That’s what you and two people in the Cato Institute believe”?

    You’re lucky, children in the metric system are required to eat a (metric)pound of dirt to stay healthy

    I have to mention that they actually have metric pounds (exactly half a kilo) in Germany. And only in Germany.

    German (“Muschi”)

    I only know that one from reading and TV and was fairly shocked when I found out (from reading the family chronicle grandpa kept) that this had been my aunt’s nickname when she was very little.

    Old French pucelle “slang term for women”

    Diminutive of puce “flea”, which is still used by parents for toddlers, maybe exclusively girls, much like “mouse” in German. Viens, ma puce !

    Then you’d have to change all the speed signs. Simultaneously, or possibly on a state by state basis. And the signs would have to be different to the old signs so it was clear which they were.

    That would be easy, because international speed signs look totally different: they’re circular, have a red rim, and contain no text other than a number (the speed limit in km/h).

    Lots of US traffic signs look different from those of the rest of the world. And the practice of not using traffic signs at all but instead writing stuff on the street itself is much more widespread in the US than elsewhere, too. (For instance, estadounidenses write

    XING
    PED

    on the street where other countries use a traffic sign.)

    My car gets forty rods to the hogshead, and that’s the way I like it.

    Oooooh yeah. Next culture shock: over here, gas consumption is measured in liters per 100 km, not the other way around.

    The root ἴδιος (idios, “one’s own, pertaining to oneself, private”) has a neutral meaning, and is the source for words such

    as the Swiss Idiotikon, a dialect dictionary.

    The US has officially been metric since just after the Civil War, but common usage is tough to replace.

    Hah. Few countries have been metric for longer. The US just hasn’t tried.

    With regards to going metric – to my understanding, the biggest hurdle isn’t the social one, it’s engineering. All of our plants, tools, machinery, diagrams, etc., are all based on imperial measurements. Switching to metric would require replacing literally billion and billions of dollars worth of such equipment on top of millions of hours of labor to redesign equipment.

    Just don’t do it for those things. Many such things are in inches worldwide because of the US. Tires of cars and bikes for instance, and computer screens.

    I used to have my principles, but I lost them gambling. XD

    :-D

    and Swedish värpa “lay eggs”.

    I didn’t know that one! But German werfen can mean “to have young (of animals)”, as in (literally) “the female throws 3 to 5 young per year after a gestation of…”.

    This word is also implicated in one of the oldest attestations of the High German consonant shift, a Lombardic code of law passed on 22 November 643 that was written in bad Latin with occasional untranslated terms like mar(a)hworf “the act of throwing someone off a horse (same word as mare)” and crapworf “the act of digging a corpse out of a grave”.

    The only good thing about the foot as a unit of length is that it’s pretty much a nanosecond.

    A light nanosecond?

    Of course, my advisor is going to play with his iPad (it is an extension of his arm) the whole time. Should be fun seeing if he pays attention.

    He’ll probably read your thesis on it and compare it to what you’re saying. Have fun. :-) It’s not a performance where you could have stage fright – you simply explain an interesting topic to a few interested people.

    tabula rosa

    *giggle* Tabula rasa. Razed tablet, not pink tablet. …I suppose. :-)

    The Defeat of Flood Geology by Flood Geology

    Highly, highly, highly recommended.

  207. consciousness razor says

    how an individual can differentiate between free will and no free will

    Well, in one sense, there isn’t any distinction to be made, short of some real evidence free will exists and has some observable effect on the world. At this point, it’s like asking what difference there is between a world with a deist god and one without, or whether or not there is an invisible dragon in my garage. There isn’t any difference, because they’re simply defined to be undetectable and impossible to disprove.

    On the other hand, if you took claims of free will to their logical conclusion, you could argue as Clark does below (ahs linked to it earlier):

    If the self were truly free to choose between alternatives, uninfluenced by motives in some respect (whether such motives be altruistic or selfish) the choice would never get made. Likewise, if the self were truly free to choose between being rational or not, the operation of rationality would be haphazard and unreliable. As it stands, however, the self is nothing over and above the reliably coordinated system of desires and dispositions out of which decisions are generated. We don’t stand apart from, or direct, the rationally mediated competition of our motives. If we had some capacity to act independently of motives or of the consideration of consequences, that capacity would give us absolutely no power over circumstances. Why? Because that very independence renders such a capacity irrelevant to decision-making. In fact, it would immobilize us, not empower us.

    That would basically be the difference. You wouldn’t have those sorts of things which cause you to make one decision or another, because that’s exactly the claim a free will proponent is making: that at least some of your decisions are free from being caused by anything physical.

    I have no idea why anybody would want that. It doesn’t sound horrifying at all to think that my decisions are caused by what happened in the past. Usually, people have some other vague idea if they believe they have free will, but those are all compatible with determinism. But libertarian or contra-causal free will is that your abilities are somehow magical superpowers that physics can’t possibly explain. If you don’t think that, then there’s probably not much to argue about.

  208. says

    See when I think freewill I think of a character like the Joker, who according to some writers is able to reinvent himself from whole cloth at any time he wishes.

    Of course others would argue he doesn’t have freewill he just operates according to rules of sadistic comedy rather than morality.

  209. crowepps says

    A question: a widespread belief in free will, combined with the widespread belief that those who exercise said will in certain ways deserve REWARDS, results in some people accruing respect, acclamation, and wealth. Should that also be abolished?

  210. John Morales says

    Gyeong,

    I was taking a trip down memory lane

    Heh, I remember that.

    (I also remember being young, like you! :| )

  211. says

    ahs, problem is, KG would need to write ‘not xor’ as an equivalent to ‘andor’. ;)

    I don’t get it, John.

    not-xor’s truth table:
    1 1 1
    1 0 0
    0 1 0
    0 0 1

    andor’s truth table:
    1 1 1
    1 0 1
    0 1 1
    0 0 0

  212. John Morales says

    ahs, my bad.

    ‘andor’ ≡ inclusive or; xor ≡ exclusive or; ‘not xor’ ≡ the ‘or’ that is not exclusive.

  213. says

    Those animals which could not imagine as many plausible futures, or as quickly, did not become our ancestors.

    So they had free will ?

    I think the discussion is (interesting but)moot, because there will come a day when we figure out how decisions come to pass in the human brain(and what influences them), whether it’s little synaptic logic gates, or quantum processes or whatever else.
    I also think that the fact that fMRI has revealed that decisions are seemingly made before we become aware they are made is not necessarily proof that we are all automatons. It may just be that there is a lag between us making the decision and us becoming aware of it.

  214. says

    So they had free will ?

    No, the ones who could imagine more plausible futures, or faster, were just more able to imagine others’ likely actions, and then act accordingly. This is how we inherited the ability to weigh up options (as well as we do).

    I also think that the fact that fMRI has revealed that decisions are seemingly made before we become aware they are made is not necessarily proof that we are all automatons. It may just be that there is a lag between us making the decision and us becoming aware of it.

    I agree that the Libet stuff is a distraction. Free will is dead both philosophically and physically. If it was also dead neurologically, that would just be delicious icing. I bring up Libet because some people seem to respond well to it, but in my opinion McGinn has said all that’s necessary.

  215. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart OM, liar and scoundrel says

    Oggie:

    Oh, and the best cheap beer? I can get Yeunglings for $6 to $8 for a six pack. Even for the porter.

    It’s been a loooooong time since I’ve had a Yuengling, but damn, I want a black and tan now.

  216. says

    I agree that the Libet stuff is a distraction.

    Well, a distraction from free will, anyway. It’s still interesting to think about what this could mean:

    It may just be that there is a lag between us making the decision and us becoming aware of it.

    It suggests the self making the decision is not the narrative self which thinks of itself as the self.

    Weird.

  217. says

    Close.

    Gay marriage is a feminist plot to get rid of marriage to attractive women and therefore is unconstitutional [regardless].

  218. walton says

    a widespread belief in free will, combined with the widespread belief that those who exercise said will in certain ways deserve REWARDS, results in some people accruing respect, acclamation, and wealth. Should that also be abolished?

    Well, it’s that very mentality that is usually used to justify wealth inequality, particularly in American culture; there is a pervasive belief that the rich “deserve” to be rewarded with wealth, power and success because they “work harder” than everyone else. (How many times have you heard phrases like “hard work and success” grouped together in conservative rhetoric, as though one were an inevitable consequence of the other?) Of course, the inevitable nasty flip-side of this is that the poor must “deserve” to be poor, and that those who don’t succeed in the competitive market must be “undeserving” and should not be supported at the expense of the more successful. Hence the right-wing ideologically-driven attacks on welfare and the drive to shame and stigmatize welfare-recipients. With the myth of “free will” comes the myth of “personal responsibility”, and it’s a very dangerous one. A similar mentality is evident in the ideology of the War on Drugs; the idea that those who have substance abuse disorders “choose” to be that way, that people “choose” to become dependent on a drug, and that they “deserve” to be shamed and stigmatized rather than helped.

    Of course this mentality is premised on false empirical claims; I have yet to see any evidence of an empirical association between “hard work” and wealth or success. (Anecdotally, plenty of rich people are lazy, and plenty of poor people work sixteen-hour days trying to feed their families.) But even if such an association actually existed, it would not follow that those who have certain traits “deserve” to be more successful than those who lack those traits. Rather, the better view is that all inequality is arbitrary; after all, being intelligent and being hardworking, like all other character traits, are inborn characteristics that result from a person’s brain chemistry and social conditioning. While it may serve an instrumental social purpose to reward certain traits, this does not mean that the people who are rewarded more highly are more “deserving” than others. (After all, it might suit a scientist’s purposes to reward lab rats for running one way through a maze rather than another, in order to condition their future behaviour; but that doesn’t mean that those lab rats are more “deserving”, in any moral sense, than their peers who ran a different way through the maze.)

    (Of course this is an argument from consequences; free will is nonexistent either way, whether the consequences of a belief in free will are good, bad or indifferent. But if the consequences of believing in free will were clearly better than those of not believing in free will, it would be possible to make a coherent utilitarian argument for pretending that free will exists. The same argument could be and has been made, of course, for encouraging belief in gods even while knowing that it is false. Neither argument seems to me very compelling.)

  219. says

    What I never quite understand in this debate is the leap that to me seems to be required to conclude from indeterminism that our actions must be random. It doesn’t seem to follow.

  220. walton says

    (I should add to #297 that I know crowepps is not arguing in favour of the conservative dogma that the rich “deserve” to be rich. And people on the left rely on the rhetoric of moral desert too, at times. But my point is that the belief in free will and “personal responsibility”, and in the associated but separate dogma that some people are “deserving” and others “undeserving”, does have various nasty consequences in the real world. It’s a doctrine that can very easily be co-opted to serve the interests of the powerful.)

  221. says

    ahs,

    how would it get rid of marriage? To me, same-sex marriage is just expanding our culture’s concept of marriage to fit a more fair and humanistic model. (If that make sense. My brain broke for a second trying articulate that.)

  222. cicely, unheeded prophetess of the Equine Apocalypse says

    If people of African-American descent are allowed to use n****r, then I’m allowed to use “lame”. “That idea is so lame” can easily mean that it lurches along slowly and painfully, in constant danger of falling over altogether, and requires considerable help to get anywhere; and “lame” has an important place in punny, self-referential humor. You’ll take away my “lame” when you pry it out of my cold, dead knees.

    I just found an instruction video on VHS.

    chigau, I’m not sure just how many VHS videotapes (mostly home-recorded) we have. Umm…something like 50 to the drawer, and let’s say…20 or so such drawers…plus the overflow…maybe somewhere in the vicinity of 1500 home-recorded, plus somewhere in the ballpark of 75 professionally-produced tapes (mostly kiddy tapes).

    Bit of a geographical or class privilege there. There’s no public trans for people in many places. The only way to work is to drive.

    Very true. I live outside the official city limits…and that’s where the closest public transit stops. Once upon a time, I coulda walked the two-ish miles it would take to ride the bus to the stop right in front of my place of employment. Nowadays…it’s drive, or go nowhere.

    There’s a word I badly want to use for Adam Sandler’s comedy, but it’s an ableist insult and frowned upon in these circles, but I can’t think of a suitable alternative.

    Here, TLC, let me get that for ya.

    It’s lame. Totally lame. There are completely crippled centipedes that aren’t that lame.

    Does that work for you?
    -

  223. says

    @Audley & Gilliel, there is an intermediate. In Australia if you get your license taken away for DUI, you can apply for a special limited license which allows you to commute at specific times of day on specific routes. You need to show that your job is inaccessible to you by public transport, and you can be arrested if you’re found driving outside your limits.

  224. says

    rorschach,

    What I never quite understand in this debate is the leap that to me seems to be required to conclude from indeterminism that our actions must be random. It doesn’t seem to follow.

    Indeterminism probably holds at the smallest scales. At larger scales, multiple instances of quantum randomness mostly cancel each other out, such that Newtonian determinism more or less holds at our scale.

    So yeah, it’s not quite that “if indeterminism is true, our actions are all random”. It’s more an imagining of the best case scenario for those who seek free will from indeterminism: “if indeterminism is true, then the most you could hope to squeeze out of it is randomness (but more realistically, most or all of our actions are still deterministic).”

  225. John Morales says

    cicely,

    I’m not sure just how many VHS videotapes (mostly home-recorded) we have. Umm…something like 50 to the drawer, and let’s say…20 or so such drawers…plus the overflow…maybe somewhere in the vicinity of 1500 home-recorded, plus somewhere in the ballpark of 75 professionally-produced tapes (mostly kiddy tapes).

    Um.

    (In the current climate, disclaimers would not be inappropriate; these posts are harvested, you know :( )

  226. says

    I don’t know how many VHS tapes we have, but it’s not a small number. Hell, we have TWO copies of GYMKATA for cryin’ out loud.
    I was about to post a stirring defense of free will but the dog wants walkies.

  227. says

    how would it get rid of marriage? To me, same-sex marriage is just expanding our culture’s concept of marriage to fit a more fair and humanistic model. (If that make sense. My brain broke for a second trying articulate that.)

    You’re probably right.

    I keep hoping that marriage is an irredeemably patriarchal construction, and gay marriage will ultimately undermine gender roles, leading to the complete collapse of the nuclear family.

    But I’m just an eternal optimist.

    Oh well. Whatever makes folks happy.

  228. says

    For example, for the last hour or so I have been tossing up between spending the rest of the day at home or taking the train to the city to play some cards. Now, if we assume that there is a lag of a few milliseconds between a decision being made and a person becoming aware of it, then it should be safe to say that the decision whether to stay or go has not been made yet. I’m undecided. It seems absurd to think that prior states of the universe have already led to a decision to be chosen by me at a later time, and that the outcome is inevitable. The factors that seem to effect my decision to stay or go are of the “can’t be bothered to get up”, “it might rain” and “should really do some washing” variety, and the state of the universe doesn’t really feature.
    But then, I can’t know, can I ?

  229. John Morales says

    [pedant]

    ahs, re:

    … if indeterminism is true, then the most you could hope to squeeze out of it is randomness …

    Indeterminacy and randomness are different concepts; you should not thus conflate them.

  230. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

    VHS? Wow. I’m only weeks away from celebrating the fith anniversary of buying my first DVR and dispensing with tape entirely.

  231. says

    @Audley & Gilliel, there is an intermediate. In Australia if you get your license taken away for DUI, you can apply for a special limited license which allows you to commute at specific times of day on specific routes. You need to show that your job is inaccessible to you by public transport, and you can be arrested if you’re found driving outside your limits.

    Oh! Now that you mention it, Alethea, I remember that one of my friends had this arrangement. So it exists also in at least one of these united states.

  232. says

    Indeterminacy and randomness are different concepts; you should not thus conflate them.

    Philosophically, perhaps. I are not trained as such. Physics offers only quantum mechanics as the playground for indeterminism.

  233. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart OM, liar and scoundrel says

    Alethea:

    In Australia if you get your license taken away for DUI, you can apply for a special limited license which allows you to commute at specific times of day on specific routes. You need to show that your job is inaccessible to you by public transport, and you can be arrested if you’re found driving outside your limits.

    This seems like a pretty good idea to me.

    In fact, it looks like you can get a restricted license for certain violations in NY.

  234. says

    The factors that seem to effect my decision to stay or go are of the “can’t be bothered to get up”, “it might rain” and “should really do some washing” variety, and the state of the universe doesn’t really feature.

    Are you proposing that the importance your brain assigns to the laundry is somehow independent of the state of the universe?

  235. says

    ahs says:

    So, whatever it means to behave as if you do not have free will, you can approach it by reminding yourself several times a day that we do not have free will.

    That doesn’t seem very productive. In my case, thinking that I don’t have free will tends to lead to a significantly increased ice-cream and chocolate intake, a decreased work output, and an increased amount of time spent on reading blogs and playing computer games.

  236. cicely, unheeded prophetess of the Equine Apocalypse says

    (In the current climate, disclaimers would not be inappropriate; these posts are harvested, you know :( )

    The vast majority of these tapes were things not (at least at that time; I have no idea about now) commercially available, or likely to become so. They were taped for the same purposes that these days you DVR something you can’t watch during its broadcast time. No one ever profitted by them. (Except to the extent that we bought a shit-load of blank videotapes.) And some of them are things like tapes we made to show to The Husband’s mother…Son’s band concerts, new kittens in the house, new house and neighborhood, Son’s birthday trip to the zoo…stuff like that. Oh, yes; and the walk-through of the last house we rented, after all our stuff was out of it, because the owner was talking like he was going to claim that we’d done all kinds of damage to it, and we were perpetuating the evidence.
    -

  237. Pteryxx says

    oy, I’m spread far too thin, so only skimming these threads by the skin of my beakteeth. I wanted to thank Giliell for replying to my query, at least. Past that I’ll respond in bits as I can.

    ahs:

    It may just be that there is a lag between us making the decision and us becoming aware of it.

    It suggests the self making the decision is not the narrative self which thinks of itself as the self.

    Weird.

    *grin* Makes sense to me. When somebody says “Of course I’m not sexist” and thinks they’re telling the truth, how right are they?

  238. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

    cicely, I believe John was being facetious, specifically because you used the term ‘kiddy tapes’ – which, of course, has a more sinister meaning.

    That’s how I saw it anyway.

  239. says

    Alethea: I’m not at all surprised. I regard that as a serious problem that philosophers and psychologists should be working on. I’m aware of some other negative effects too. This one essay is the only bit of motivational literature I have against it. I suppose the Sagan condition might work too, but then I’m out of ideas.

  240. Pteryxx says

    carlie: Thanks very much for that link about the awful Molsons ad campaign. I’m currently brainstorming about a date-rape awareness campaign targeted at sports bars (like the one I know and love and got dinner from tonight) and that’s going to be a very valuable data point.

  241. consciousness razor says

    It may just be that there is a lag between us making the decision and us becoming aware of it.

    It suggests the self making the decision is not the narrative self which thinks of itself as the self.

    Weird.

    Great, now I also want to argue there’s no self either. I guess I would say that, if anything, generating the narrative is part of what having a self or being someone feels like. But people talk about the self like it’s some sort of thing, or as if it’s a sort of vantage point separate from whatever their brain is doing where “we” can observe it and be aware of it. Whatever the case, English definitely wasn’t designed to discuss this sort of shit. Too many ways of talking about “my brain” and “myself” as if those are somehow different from “me.”

    —*—

    That doesn’t seem very productive. In my case, thinking that I don’t have free will tends to lead to a significantly increased ice-cream and chocolate intake, a decreased work output, and an increased amount of time spent on reading blogs and playing computer games.

    Ha! At least it isn’t filling you with existential dread. So, it could be worse. Hmm, or maybe it couldn’t be…

  242. says

    Great, now I also want to argue there’s no self either.

    Take notes while you read Antonio Damasio, and I’ll bet you’ll be able to do pull it off.

  243. cicely, unheeded prophetess of the Equine Apocalypse says

    Wowbagger:

    cicely, I believe John was being facetious, specifically because you used the term ‘kiddy tapes’ – which, of course, has a more sinister meaning.
    That’s how I saw it anyway.

    I guess I must be more naive and less cynical than I thought! The more sinister possibilities for “kiddy tapes” never once occured to me! Unbelievable, especially coming right off of the Onion article.

    What I meant was Winnie the Pooh tapes, The Great Mouse Detective, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?…things like that. All legally-sanctioned and legitimately purchased, I might add!

    And with that, good night, all.
    -

  244. says

    Are you proposing that the importance your brain assigns to the laundry is somehow independent of the state of the universe?

    Has anyone defined what this mysterious “state” of the universe is actually meant to be ?
    And err, yes.

  245. John Morales says

    CR,

    Great, now I also want to argue there’s no self either.

    Fine, but then you can’t meaningfully write “I guess I would say that, if anything, generating the narrative is part of what having a self or being someone feels like.” :)

    (To what do you refer by “I” or “a self”, if such is nonexistent?)

  246. walton says

    In my case, I find the knowledge that I don’t have free will, and that my actions merit neither credit nor blame, strangely comforting. But I gather that I’m fairly atypical in that regard.

  247. walton says

    Are you proposing that the importance your brain assigns to the laundry is somehow independent of the state of the universe?

    I think this may be the best comment in this debate so far. It’s certainly quotable.

  248. says

    Has anyone defined what this mysterious “state” of the universe is actually meant to be ?

    You’re the one who interoduced the phrase to this conversation, so I figured you’d had it defined well enough for yourself. Why else would you bring it up?

    But it’s not that mysterious, is it? It’s whatever the universe is at a moment.

    (Or your light cone at a moment.)

    And err, yes.

    Huh. Spooky.

  249. consciousness razor says

    (To what do you refer by “I” or “a self”, if such is nonexistent?)

    I refer to myself, John. Duh! ;)

    What I mean is that “the self,” one’s identity, as conceived by most people most of the time isn’t a real thing.

  250. John Morales says

    [OT]

    Thanks, PZ.

    (He just purged some spam from a thread I was following on the old SB, and I want him to know it’s appreciated)

  251. says

    You’re the one who interoduced the phrase to this conversation, so I figured you’d had it defined well enough for yourself.

    I took the term from your link to McGinn. It remains undefined there as well.

  252. consciousness razor says

    Why argue that there’s NO self? Why not many selves? We could call them distinguishing names like id, ego and superego maybe :)

    Or how about dissociative disorders?

  253. John Morales says

    CR @332, you refer to yourself, do ya? :)

    What I mean is that “the self,” one’s identity, as conceived by most people most of the time isn’t a real thing.

    Well, thanks for clarifying your claim that “there’s no self either”; you admit it exists, but qualify it as abstractum, not a concretum.

    (You therefore further grant it’s not a meaningless or inappropriate concept, no?)

  254. says

    I took the term from your link to McGinn. It remains undefined there as well.

    Ah. Properly, a state of your universe should refer to any cross section of your light cone.

    Improperly, but sufficient for understanding, you can take these states to mean “where everything is at this moment”, “where everything was a moment ago”, and so on.

  255. consciousness razor says

    Well, thanks for clarifying your claim that “there’s no self either”; you admit it exists, but qualify it as abstractum, not a concretum.

    (You therefore further grant it’s not a meaningless or inappropriate concept, no?)

    Not quite. It’s inappropriate if it’s false, but it’s not meaningless. I think it’s a real experience people have. We feel as if we are a certain way, and that feeling is real. But that feeling is as real as the feeling of experiencing the presence of a deity or any other imaginary friend. It’d be absurd to say those exist as deities or as friends. Likewise with “the self,” because what we conceive to be the self isn’t what we are, which isn’t to say we don’t exist just that we’re wrong about ourselves.

  256. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    Cicely: Thanks, but I think the word I’m looking for (and won’t use) is a tad more aggressive than ‘lame’.

    The word I’m looking for to describe the quality of his comedy can also easily be used to describe the way he acts in many of his ‘comedies’.

    There’s gotta be a suitable alternative.

  257. John Morales says

    CR,

    We feel as if we are a certain way, and that feeling is real. But that feeling is as real as the feeling of experiencing the presence of a deity or any other imaginary friend.

    Fair enough, I don’t dispute that.

    It’d be absurd to say those exist as deities or as friends.

    But they do exist, contra your initial claim that “there’s no self either”; we agree that it’s at least an abstractum.

    Likewise with “the self,” because what we conceive to be the self isn’t what we are, which isn’t to say we don’t exist just that we’re wrong about ourselves.

    Since you claim that “what we conceive to be the self isn’t what we are” (but rather, our concept of what we are), then what we are must be other than a ‘self’. On what basis do you make this claim?

    (IOW, your claim is that our concept of the ‘self’ is but a map of some territory; what then is the territory?)

  258. says

    You are, at any moment, the physical position of all the matter and energy in your body including your brain, and this position is the outcome of physical laws acting upon the position of a moment before, which was the outcome of phyiscal laws acting upon the position a moment before that…

    +++++
    Ing tried a clever thing a few months ago; it and my answer might be of use to rorschach:

    [Ing:] It seems the only real definition of free will could be having a large number of internal mental stimuli that influence behavior in addition to external stimuli

    But all those internal stimuli are ultimately externally caused. The formation of the self begins by external input in the womb, the brain develops by genetics and chance environmental factors—thus the means by which the brain can learn comes from outside—and the information it learns comes from outside.

    If we want to make a separation of internal and external, where does the internal come from? Early in development, there is nothing internal; the self develops as a small “pocket” of internality which grows larger throughout much of life, but every aspect of internality has an external cause.

  259. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Advice for those vexed about free will:

    Ignore the debate on a day to day basis. I’m absolutely convinced there’s no such thing as free will; it’s clockwork (and quantum clockwork) all the way down. That unnerves me as it conflicts with my intuitive, emotional sense of subjective agency. But that doesn’t make free will true. I deal with it by pretending I have free will and ignoring the reality most of the time. Since every society seems to operate on this basis, and since I don’t want to be wracked with anxiety incessantly, this seems the best approach.

    For me it’s much like death. I’m convinced there is nothing to my consciousness but the organization of material and its interactions that is my body. When I die, there will be no more there there. Despite Mark Twain’s observation that being dead ought not trouble one any more than the eons before one was born, it troubles me. Deeply. I despise it on an emotional and intuitive level.

    It is, nonetheless, true. So it is best ignored most of the time.

  260. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    Alethea: Yeah. “Aggressively stupid” occurs to me… a kind of stupid that insists on shoving itself in your face.

  261. John Morales says

    ahs,

    But all those internal stimuli are ultimately externally caused.

    To link this to the discussion CR and I are having about the ‘self’, the very distinction between ‘internal’ and ‘external’ relies on the existence of a ‘self’ no less than the concept of ‘will’, free or otherwise.

  262. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    Josh:

    Mark Twain’s observation that being dead ought not trouble one any more than the eons before one was born,

    Aw, fuck. Do you have any idea how much the eons before I was born trouble me?

    I missed so much cool stuff. I’ll never get to find out firsthand if tyrannosaurs can be made into loyal pets and ridden around town to inspire terror in the establishment, and that alone is an unbelievable tragedy.

  263. says

    jackass; jackassed; jackassery

    In my opinion jackassery’s implication has lately been amplified to sufficiently stupendous proportions by Johnny Knoxville.

    fuckwit; fuckwitted; fuckwittery

    and KG’s neologism, revealed unto him by Tpyos:

    duckwit; duckwitted; duckwittery

  264. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    Ahs: Wonderfully eloquent. Thank you.

    Adam Sandler is a fucking jackass, and his brand of humor is marketed towards like minded braying jackasses.

  265. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    I’ll never get to find out firsthand if tyrannosaurs can be made into loyal pets and ridden around town to inspire terror in the establishment, and that alone is an unbelievable tragedy.

    Indeed. And I’m super pissed that I’m not likely to live long enough to learn of extra-terrestrial life (I hope it exists). What could be more exhilarating?

    But I’m talking about deep, existential dread. Blech.

  266. says

    Thinking is just the outcome of software running on hardware, people. It is conceivable to write a computer program that lets the computer make “free” decisions. And our brains can do the same thing, without having to first determine the state of the universe in general.
    (I am playing advocatus diaboli a little bit here, admittedly)

  267. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    I like the concept of rebirth. I don’t ‘believe in it’ strongly enough to make a religion of it, but I like it just the same. Besides, with a loose enough definition it is literally true. I will be reborn in the flesh of whatever eats my carcass. I wish I could do one of them sky-burials when I die so it would be vultures, instead of just grave bugs and bacteria.

    Stupid western anthropocentric concepts of what’s ‘disgusting’.

  268. says

    Okay I’ll leave my opinion on this free will debate.
    I don’t really care if we do have it or do not have free will. I really don’t because I’m more concerned with living a good morally upright life. I know it’s an emotionally based response to the whole question and it doesn’t prove it wrong or right, but I don’t pretend that it isn’t otherwise.

    (Now please don’t kill me over this.)

  269. says

    It is conceivable to write a computer program that lets the computer make “free” decisions.

    If it has a source of randomness.

    (A webcam pointed at a lavalamp is typical.)

    And our brains can do the same thing, without having to first determine the state of the universe in general.

    Heh. Without having to query the state of the universe in general. But I didn’t say as much.

    Your brain is not free of its own state a moment ago.

  270. John Morales says

    Gyeong, heh.

    I too am not that fussed as to the reality; my subjective experience is what matters. To go by what we intellectually suspect rather than by what we subjectively experience is perverse, IMO.

    (But it’s fun to explore the concepts!)

    At some point (I think FB PET) I noted the free-will discussion is akin to considering whether we’re solid: we’re not, really, except as a matter (heh!) of perception, but it would be foolish to try to walk through walls.

  271. says

    At some point (I think FB PET) I noted the free-will discussion is akin to considering whether we’re solid: we’re not, really, except as a matter (heh!) of perception, but it would be foolish to try to walk through walls.

    It helps passing the time until one can start drinking, on a rainy Wednesday afternoon.

  272. Rey Fox says

    Josh: You might have been interested in the panel on death (AKA, the “the actual death panel with actual atheists”) at Skepticon 4, in which one person argued that perhaps death shouldn’t necessarily be “coped with”.

  273. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Rey:

    Thanks for that recommendation. I’ll be looking for a video or report on it.

  274. says

    Those Skepticon 4 vids are mostly fantastic, I have to say, as is the fact that they were made available to the public so soon after the event. Other conferences should take that on board as well.
    I watched Rebecca Watson’s talk earlier, and want to watch the Straw Vulcan one next.

  275. chigau (本当) says

    chigau (本当) @142

    We’re cleaning-up™ in the “offices” (the rooms in the house that serve as office/guest room/storage).
    I just found an instruction video on VHS.

    The instruction video is for a computer program.
    Is it funny/ironic now?

  276. says

    the free-will discussion is akin to considering whether we’re solid: we’re not, really, except as a matter (heh!) of perception, but it would be foolish to try to walk through walls.

    We are solid, if solid is understood correctly: having “structural rigidity and resistance to changes of shape or volume” (Wikipedia).

    The compatibilist thing is to argue similarly that we have free will, because free will is properly understood as having the ability to pursue our desires, or something like that.

    That’s clever enough, but I say that Coyote’s fairly typical reaction shows that this definition is wrong. People want free will to mean that they could have chosen differently, and they don’t have this.

  277. says

    Damn, I miss this stuff, and wish I had more time for it. But I really don’t seem to, recently. Briefly, then….

    consciousness razor:

    You’re also not a mind trapped inside a robot. You are that robot and nothing else.

    Whatever it is that’s generating these thoughts, opinions, and intentions, and then choosing (ooh, that word!) to communicate them here is what I’m calling “mind” (you may prefer “consciousness,” and I’d be fine with that term, too); whether it is “trapped inside” the robot or the robot itself strikes me as a metaphorical distinction rather than an actual difference: Either way, I do not intend (!) to be suggesting anything nonphysical or supernatural.

    Suffice it to say that every moment of my life experience — and everything I observe in the behavior of others — tells me we have the capability to make actual, effective choices that, albeit influenced and constrained by a universe of factors, are nevertheless real, involving agency and therefore creating some degree of responsibility. Even if there is some philosophical sense in which this is not “true,” it seems to me that it’s all we have on which to base our attempts to live together.

    All of that is true and it’s all physical processes.

    Then perhaps we don’t disagree? As I say, I’m in no way suggesting that mind or consciousness or intention arises from anything other than physical processes… mostly those located in the brain, I presume, as influenced by other physical processes that affect the brain’s history and environment.

    However, some in the conversation seem to be suggesting that “it’s all physical processes” is identical to “there is no such thing as effective choice.”

    To risk repeating myself: I experience the world as inhabited by distinct, conscious human beings who make true choices and whose behavior is at least partially intentional… and who are therefore to some admittedly limited (but even so nontrivial) degree responsible for their choices and accountable for their behavior. I cannot imagine the world any other way; I cannot imagine how I might try to experience the world any other way, even if I wanted to; and I cannot imagine us humans organizing societies upon any other presumption. All that being the case, the suggestion that human agency, choice, and intentionality might, at some ultimate philosophical level, be not true is, to me, at best an interesting abstraction.

    I hope he’ll forgive me if I’m putting (tl;dr) words in his mouth, but I think that’s kinda’ what Father Ogvorbis was getting at, too.

    ***
    Walton (@248):

    Sorry for the quickie reply, but it really is late here. I think perhaps we have a fundamental disagreement (at let me say up front that I doubt I have the philosophical “chops” to effectively argue my position) about the existence of “the people”: My conviction is that humans form communities in a synthetic way, such that they are at least distinct from, if not greater than, a simple summing of the individuals that make them up. Not only do different individuals have different goals and priorities, but each individual brings an internally competing set of imperatives to the polis. The aim of a participatory government is to synthesize all these inputs into a sense of the will of the community… which is necessarily and by design distinct from a numerical majority of the individuals that make up the community. I would say that in some sense, in a democracy, there is no “state” except the people: The government (which is, as you know, distinct from the state) is simply a hired management team… analogous to the notion that shareholders (and not the executives or the board, except to the extent that they are shareholders, too) are the corporation.

    Of course, like corporate leaders, democratic governments may (and usually do, to greater or lesser degrees) fail to properly represent the people who hired them… but that’s an “engineering” problem: Imperfection in practice doesn’t demolish the theory.

    But the point I was really interested in was more rhetorical than philosophical: Saying “we” in reference to one’s nation need not be any grand declaration of political philosophy… it might also be a simple acknowledgment that we (i.e., me and my fellow citizens) are involved in whatever our nation-state does. This should be at least a little bit true in any nominal democracy, and more and more true in better and better functioning democracies.

    Maybe the reason your comment stood out to me was that it reminded me of an old argument from my dear dead days as a participant on several space policy BBSes: There was one cranky anti-government right-wing libertarian (of a type that seems sadly overrepresented among U.S. space enthusiasts) who would rail furiously whenever anyone said “we” had gone to the Moon or sent Viking to Mars or whatever. He utterly rejected anyone’s sense of even vicarious participation in the nation’s explorations (and was even less charitable when the person saying “we” meant “humankind” instead of “the U.S.”), preferring instead to be pissed at NASA for not fulfilling what he saw as its statutory mandate to send him personally (along with each of the rest of us, presumably) into space.

    Me? I think (to tie the two parts of this post together) “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things….” ;^)

    ‘Night, all!

  278. John Morales says

    ahs,

    People want free will to mean that they could have chosen differently, and they don’t have this.

    But that’s an untestable proposition.

  279. The Laughing Coyote (Papio Cynocephalus) says

    Bill Dauphin:

    I hope he’ll forgive me if I’m putting (tl;dr) words in his mouth, but I think that’s kinda’ what Father Ogvorbis was getting at, too.

    pretty much what I was getting at.

  280. says

    Josh, OSG:

    Advice for those vexed about free will:

    Ignore the debate on a day to day basis. I’m absolutely convinced there’s no such thing as free will; it’s clockwork (and quantum clockwork) all the way down. That unnerves me as it conflicts with my intuitive, emotional sense of subjective agency. But that doesn’t make free will true. I deal with it by pretending I have free will and ignoring the reality most of the time. Since every society seems to operate on this basis, and since I don’t want to be wracked with anxiety incessantly, this seems the best approach.

    I think this is close to what I’ve been trying to say. That is, I don’t share your sense of absolute conviction about the answer, but I do share your approach to dealing with the question.

    And if I’m dealing with the question by (mostly) ignoring it, I really don’t need to know the answer, do I?

    (And now I really am off to bed.)

  281. says

    Bill,

    I experience the world as inhabited by distinct, conscious human beings who make true choices

    Try a restatement of Schopenhauer: we may do what we choose, but we may not choose what we choose.

    Do you disagree with that?

  282. says

    Well, I’m distracting myself from work. Which is in a very boring phase right now, made worse by the fact that I goofed and had to start over. (Sampling-based clerical review of probabilistically linked datasets.)

    I utterly hate and despise SAS today, because it has no option to require variables to be declared in advance. If you type “fullweihgt = fullweight + deathweight;” then it oh so obligingly makes you a spiffy new variable without even a word of warning. CURSE YOU TPYOS AND YOUR EVIL LITERAL-MINDED MINION SAS! YEAH, VERILY, UNTO THE ELEVENTIES!!11!

    There WILL be gin, soon.

  283. you_monster says

    Throwing in my support for hard determinism. Determinism is true —> no robust sense of free will.

    Causally-determined meat-machines.

  284. John Morales says

    ahs, you cite llewelly:

    All the available evidence is that all known physics is deterministic, except QM, which is the deterministic interaction of probabilities

    Sure — it’s a good basis for the proposition — but it’s not compelling.

    Note that (a) how consciousness functions is not part of known physics and (b) that llewelly refers to effective determinism at gross scales by virtue of aggregates, but grants quantum indeterminacy.
    On that basis, you can’t rule out that a decision might go either way as a result of a single quantum fluctuation (just enough to trigger a different synaptic cascade) since deterministic systems may still be chaotic.

    The nonexistence of the deist God is untestable.

    Who here withholds judgement on Him?

    Her; and of course knowledge ≠ belief, warranted as that belief may be.

    (The comparison you’re making is that belief in the non-existence of free-will is as reasonable as belief in the non-existence of a deist god, but, because subjective experience counters the former and supports the latter, I put it to you that it’s not a fair comparison)

  285. says

    Interesting. Watching Julia Galef’s talk at Skepticon, and she mentions patients with a certain brain injury who as a consequence lose their ability to make decisions. So how on earth can determinism be valid, when getting shot in the head or having a stroke in a certain area is enough to destroy our ability to decide between 2 choices ?

  286. says

    So Walton, here’s an argument in favor of the jury system.

    If we have judges, and if we routinely introduce the best arguments against free will into the courtroom, each judge will eventually come to a conclusion about it that’s hard to sway, thinking “I’ve heard it all before.” Some will use motivated reasoning to conclude that free will must be real, justice demands it, the judge’s conscience demands it to sleep at night, and the arguments against it are a political conspiracy by godless communists and anarchists.

    If we have juries, we have an endless supply of new people who haven’t really thought about it a whole lot, and who can be told that Stephen Hawking concludes there is no free will; some polled percentage of physicists or biologists (whichever’s higher) believe there is no free will; and maybe some expert testimony if the defense is competent. Juries can continually, forever be made to doubt.

  287. andyo says

    What’s so bad about Adam Sandler? It’s not like he pretends to do smarter comedy than his movies/standup reveal, like, say, that youtube comic whose name escapes me right now who is hugely popular, and has a “feud” with Louis CK on account of having stolen a few jokes of his.

    I mostly don’t see Sandler’s movies, but I liked a lot Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love and Funny People.

  288. consciousness razor says

    John Morals:

    Since you claim that “what we conceive to be the self isn’t what we are” (but rather, our concept of what we are), then what we are must be other than a ‘self’.

    Right, we’re not a “self” in the sense used before. We could just say that we’re ourselves and be done with it. But that’s not the point. It doesn’t really matter in everyday conversation how we use that kind of language. I should probably just suggest you read some Dennett, Damasio, or Metzinger to get a better idea of the subject, and maybe a little sci-fi. :) I’m bound to confuse this issue, as I’m not a sophistimicated philosopher or a cognitive scientist.

    On what basis do you make this claim?

    On the basis that we aren’t turtles (or selves) all the way down. We have to explain how we get that sort of feeling I’m talking about, of being something with a certain perspective and of having the sense that subjectivity is real and is a different kind of real than objectivity. Along with that, we also have to explain how many people, with whatever mental disorder or altered state of consciousness, manage to experience what they experience. We have to explain how their self-image can change, as well as how their perceptions of their relationships to the world can change (e.g. spatially or temporally).

    It certainly seems like a whole bunch of cognitive pieces have to work together to create this impression of a consistent, continuous sense of awareness and identity, while also having the potential to be inconsistent and discontinuous. If some of those circuits start to function differently, then the sense of self will change. But most people don’t normally think of themselves this way at all. They are the same thing from moment to moment until they die, and that’s all they think there is to say about their identity.

    Having an identity, being aware of oneself, isn’t the whole person having some perspective outside of all of their brain and looking in. Instead, some cognitive functions (which themselves don’t amount to a person or a self) give rise to that sense of awareness at the level of the individual. It’s useful, but our subjective experience of that certainly isn’t giving us the whole story or telling us anything we could get just by looking at the functions themselves.

    (IOW, your claim is that our concept of the ‘self’ is but a map of some territory; what then is the territory?)

    I guess the territory would be the whole person. Perhaps it would also include some stimuli, but only whatever is necessary for some minimal awareness at a given moment. Anyway, it’s just a person. If you want to call that a self, go right ahead. It doesn’t really matter to me, as long as we can avoid confusion.

    The map is a small green elf with a stick, I guess. ;) It sits in your head and watches the everything happen via a big-screen and 7.1 surround sound. Really, I don’t know what kind of crazy things the map could be, because people have all kinds of strange beliefs. It seems like it can be a lot of different things, depending on the person and the circumstances.

    ——

    Bill:

    whether it is “trapped inside” the robot or the robot itself strikes me as a metaphorical distinction rather than an actual difference

    Well, no, there is a difference. I count one entity: (1) Bill, the robot. You count two entities: (1) Bill, the mind inside the robot and (2) the robot.

    Then perhaps we don’t disagree?

    If we agree, then you don’t believe in contra-causal free will. It looks like you just misunderstood the terminology, but then there’s this:

    However, some in the conversation seem to be suggesting that “it’s all physical processes” is identical to “there is no such thing as effective choice.”

    The latter does seem to follow from the former. If you think your choices are physical processes, and if you think physical processes are deterministic, then you’d need to explain why your choices aren’t determined. Or you could spend the rest of your life trying to forget. Whatever you feel most compelled to do will have to suffice.

    Personally, I have no problem talking about making choices, but they aren’t the sort of magical thing some people make them out to be (while denying they’re magical) when they are confronted with determinism. We don’t get to choose to disobey the laws of physics, and that’s fine — at least, I’ve never lost any sleep over it.

  289. Pteryxx says

    ahs: But certainty borne of ignorance can be just as intractable as certainty borne of expertise. Would you really rather have open-minded newbies than open-minded experts?

  290. says

    On that basis, you can’t rule out that a decision might go either way as a result of a single quantum fluctuation (just enough to trigger a different synaptic cascade) since deterministic systems may still be chaotic.

    Indeed. Will my Ministry of Choice be required to appoint an older sibling for you?

    If the decision might go either way due to a single fluctuation, it was not human choice that chose that fluctuation.

    because subjective experience counters the former

    How can it, unless you can coherently differentiate what it would feel like to have free will and what it would feel like to merely have the ability to pursue your desires?

  291. consciousness razor says

    So how on earth can determinism be valid, when getting shot in the head or having a stroke in a certain area is enough to destroy our ability to decide between 2 choices ?

    Because there is something determining our ability to make choices. Things cause us to act a certain way. Getting shot in the head or having a stroke can remove those causal links. That’s exactly what you’d expect if determinism is true. If it isn’t true, you’d expect that getting shot in the head wouldn’t destroy those sorts of abilities, because you’d be claiming that nothing physical causes them to happen.

  292. says

    rorschach

    Interesting. Watching Julia Galef’s talk at Skepticon, and she mentions patients with a certain brain injury who as a consequence lose their ability to make decisions.

    That is interesting.

    So how on earth can determinism be valid, when getting shot in the head or having a stroke in a certain area is enough to destroy our ability to decide between 2 choices ?

    I don’t understand how you imagine these things to be related.

    How can determinism be valid when the tides go in, the tides go out?

  293. says

    What’s so bad about Adam Sandler?

    My ex-wife loves him. A clear sign that the guy is rubbish.

    That’s exactly what you’d expect if determinism is true.

    Does not follow ! If our ability to choose is so easily destroyed, what does that say about any underlying grand scheme that is supposed to determine all of our decisions ? I think this is actually a good clue for indeterminism. We are free to choose, but this ability to choose can be destroyed in the blink of an eye. And the fact that humans could be left in a state where they are unable to decide actually screams out that the world is not deterministic. How could it be determined what choice I am going to make, if I’m not able to make a choice in the first place ?

  294. says

    Audley

    I’m sorry, I can’t get behind this. As it stands now,you’re effectively willing to take away someone’s job because you think they’re a shitty driver. No, no, no.

    No, that’s not true.
    I’m willing to take away somebody’s ability to drive because they have repeatedly endangered (and maybe even hurt) people and on whom “corrective” treatment like remedial driving lessons and such have failed to work.
    Not because I arbitrarily decide they’re a shitty driver.
    As said before, I’m not talking about people who made a mistake, or disregarded safety once. But somebody who’s beeing caught driving 80 kmh in an inner city area every month, somebody who constantly talks on their mobile (the effect is comparable to having 0.8 promille of blood alcohol), or who is stopped several times being intoxicated, and although given the means and possibilities to change their behaviour fails to do so, has no place on the road.
    If they lose their job as a result of this that’s their problem.
    The interest of the public for road safety is more important than the interest of that person to hold on to their job.

    Say, if they apply that behaviour in the workplace, repeatedly disregarding basic work-safety, endangering not only themselves but also their colleagues an maybe even the general population and fail to change their behaviour, are their superiors justified in fireing them?

  295. says

    ahs: But certainty borne of ignorance can be just as intractable as certainty borne of expertise. Would you really rather have open-minded newbies than open-minded experts?

    I expect the judges to become less open-minded about it, the more this argument comes up (and the law journals indicate it will be coming up more and more often).

    I don’t believe that there is much ignorant certainty on this issue. People can very easily be influenced to behave differently by what they’ve recently heard about free will. That particular study shows that less belief in free will results in more willingness to cheat, but that may still result in precisely what a defense attorney needs: a willingness to forgive or downplay the defendant’s moral responsibility for illegal actions.

  296. Pteryxx says

    I don’t believe that there is much ignorant certainty on this issue. People can very easily be influenced to behave differently by what they’ve recently heard about free will.

    …Wait a minute, you were actually using free will as a RELEVANT issue in trials, instead of a convenient placeholder?

    And here I thought the *jury* part was what I should be taking seriously.

  297. says

    Does not follow ! If our ability to choose is so easily destroyed, what does that say about any underlying grand scheme that is supposed to determine all of our decisions ?

    There is no grand scheme, though. It sure sounds like you’re overestimating the momentum such that you’ve implicitly constructed a teleology.

    What you’re going to do in the next moment depends the vector between where everything is in this moment, and where everything was in the last moment. It doesn’t further depend on any prior moments. Just these two are sufficient to determine the third.

  298. tethys says

    Interesting. Watching Julia Galef’s talk at Skepticon, and she mentions patients with a certain brain injury who as a consequence lose their ability to make decisions.

    That is interesting

    I need to watch this talk. I suspect the injury to be to the left frontal lobe.

    Having pointy bits on the inside of the skull is a major design flaw.

  299. consciousness razor says

    rorschach:

    How could it be determined what choice I am going to make, if I’m not able to make a choice in the first place ?

    This isn’t a problem. It could be determined that you cannot make a choice. No one claimed you must constantly be making choices, just that every choice you do make is determined.

    For example, if your head explodes and you die, you’re no longer making choices but determinism, as such, isn’t phased one bit. You’ll rot, and the particles will continue to move about according to physical interactions just as they were while you were alive.

  300. says

    What you’re going to do in the next moment depends the vector between where everything is in this moment, and where everything was in the last moment. It doesn’t further depend on any prior moments. Just these two are sufficient to determine the third.

    And you know this to be true how ? See, this is the problem, we’re left to exchanging assertions, because as they say in German, “nix genaues weiss man nicht !

  301. says

    …Wait a minute, you were actually using free will as a RELEVANT issue in trials, instead of a convenient placeholder?

    Oh, yes. Walton has had me worrying about the judicial implications of belief in free will for a few months now.

    And here I thought the *jury* part was what I should be taking seriously.

    Take either. :) He’s got an argument against juries, above.

    I’m just trying to confound him however I can. It is a most delightful hobby.

  302. says

    For example, if your head explodes and you die, you’re no longer making choices but determinism, as such, isn’t phased one bit.

    This is nonsense. How does the state of the universe determine that I am to have my head exploded ? Why not strange gods’ head ? What does the universe and quantum theory care about my head ? Isn’t it more likely that some random asshole decides to make my head explode because they hate me, or because I slept with their brother/sister/mother/father/uncle/auntie ? What you’re saying is that random quantum constellations (or some as yet unexplained process) determine who we marry/not marry/love/hate etc. Sorry, but I choose to not believe it.

  303. says

    This is nonsense. How does the state of the universe determine that I am to have my head exploded ? Why not strange gods’ head ? What does the universe and quantum theory care about my head ?

    Well, this at least persuades me that the “state of the universe” really was a huge stumbling block for someone. I never would have imagined!

    How about this rephrasing, then?

    You are, at any moment, the physical position of all the matter and energy in your body including your brain, and this position is the outcome of physical laws acting upon the position of a moment before, which was the outcome of phyiscal laws acting upon the position a moment before that…

  304. Pteryxx says

    Meh… I’m still not convinced that physical laws alone determine, as opposed to describe, every single detail of their emergent phenomena. I assume from the dissing that y’all already have counterarguments against chaos theory?

  305. says

    You know, I think once we figure out how decisions work and what actually happens, the determinism vs free will debate will experience the same that happened to the nature vs nurture debate, it will turn out to be shown to be a false dichotomy, when the reality is that we have some room to manouever within a framework of physics-based restraints. Or something like that. Off to the bottle shop.

  306. consciousness razor says

    How does the state of the universe determine that I am to have my head exploded ? Why not strange gods’ head ? What does the universe and quantum theory care about my head ?

    Well, it could also be my head or anyone’s for that matter. I didn’t mean to suggest this is personal.

    The universe “cares” about them because they are physical objects in the universe and thus operate according to physical laws. No exceptions.

  307. consciousness razor says

    Meh… I’m still not convinced that physical laws alone determine, as opposed to describe, every single detail of their emergent phenomena. I assume from the dissing that y’all already have counterarguments against chaos theory?

    Chaotic systems are deterministic.

  308. Pteryxx says

    Chaotic systems are deterministic.

    But not predictable even in theory, as I understand it. Mind explaining that further beyond “probability doesn’t count so there” ?

  309. says

    Meh… I’m still not convinced that physical laws alone determine, as opposed to describe, every single detail of their emergent phenomena.

    So, emergent phenomena result from nonphysical laws?

    I assume from the dissing that y’all already have counterarguments against chaos theory?

    Chaos is deterministic.

    It just makes the conversation more complex. It doesn’t help the proponent of free will.

  310. says

    You know, I think once we figure out how decisions work and what actually happens, the determinism vs free will debate will experience the same that happened to the nature vs nurture debate, it will turn out to be shown to be a false dichotomy, when the reality is that we have some room to manouever within a framework of physics-based restraints. Or something like that. Off to the bottle shop.

    Since I’ve already stated that the universe is probably indeterministic at the smallest scales, and mostly deterministic at our scales, as well as that we have some room to manouever within a framework of physics-based restraints—”the ability to pursue our desires, or something like that” is how I put it—

    I get to claim the inheritance of all cognitive biases around the golden mean.

  311. Pteryxx says

    Pff, quotes restating your point aren’t arguments, whether or not they have some famous dude’s name on them, but I’m not going scanning through multiple TETs at three in the morning. And this:

    So, emergent phenomena result from nonphysical laws?

    is begging your question, not answering mine.

    “…MOSTLY deterministic at our scales…” ?

    *headdesk* All righty, never mind then.

  312. John Morales says

    ahs,

    Indeed. Will my Ministry of Choice be required to appoint an older sibling for you?

    That Ministry may exist in another world-line, but doesn’t in this one.

    (Note it was you who introduced QM via your citation)

    If the decision might go either way due to a single fluctuation, it was not human choice that chose that fluctuation.

    Yeah, but that’s your argument: that human choice, well, ain’t.

    (You’ve gone back to a clockwork universe, with humans just being cogs)

  313. says

    There is a twitter hashtag trending called #discosdemispadres, where you can tweet the bad music your parents used to listen to. Mine being German, the most progressive I ever got to listen to was Abba, with the worst being Heino or Peter Alexander. It was a traumatic childhood.

  314. says

    But not predictable even in theory, as I understand it. Mind explaining that further beyond “probability doesn’t count so there” ?

    No one has asserted that the future is predictable, thus noting that the future is not predictable is not a counterargument against anyone.

    You could have gotten that far by riding Heisenberg anyway, and he’s more in vogue these days than Jurassic Park.

    Pff, quotes restating your point aren’t arguments

    It’s pretty simple. If you don’t understand that chaos is deterministic, then your head is full of woo.

    Read anything. Anything at all will tell you that chaos theory is deterministic. If you don’t even believe that First Approximation understands it better, you can educate yourself. You can cite something that makes you think you’ve got a point.

    is begging your question, not answering mine.

    You’ll have to explain yourself, then. It sounds like you’re saying emergent phenomena result from nonphysical laws.

    “…MOSTLY deterministic at our scales…” ?

    *headdesk* All righty, never mind then.

    I said indeterminism is true back at #217. If you think this helps you get to free will, you still don’t understand the problem. Try Colin McGinn at 201.

  315. says

    *headdesk* All righty, never mind then.

    Pteryxx, relax mate. We’re having some fun here, and not one of those terribly serious discussions™…It looks very different when ahs and I disagree on something and our heart is in it…:-) My life doesn’t change whether I have free will or not, since it wouldn’t be a difference I can be aware of, so having a little chat about it (and this is TET, so a little chat might stretch over 3 months)is nothing but interesting, and a chance for people to read up on the arguments and learn something. That’s TET.

  316. Tethys says

    Julia is citing Antonio Damasio in her straw vulcan talk.

    He has patients with brain injuries that remove the emotional component from decision making, which makes them indecisive.

  317. consciousness razor says

    Chaotic systems are deterministic.

    But not predictable even in theory, as I understand it. Mind explaining that further beyond “probability doesn’t count so there” ?

    We were talking about what exists, not what we know. You agree they’re deterministic, so you can’t use them as an example of something that isn’t deterministic.

    Anyway, ahs is right that it doesn’t actually matter if there is genuine randomness either. When people say they have free will, they definitely do not mean they act according to random motions of particles or according to randomness at some larger scale. There’s no place for any kind of “will” in this picture. What they want is that they can deliberately control what they do to get some particular outcome, and that this can happen independent of any physical interaction (so they can feel like they were “free” to have done something else).

    Now, if you’re right that chaotic systems aren’t predictable in principle either, then those also don’t seem to be a good place to look for anyone who wants to believe in some kind of non-dualist free will. People, or some parts of their cognitive systems, have to be able to predict what the output would be in order to say that they or some part of them has chosen that outcome. Otherwise, whatever input they give it is more or less arbitrary in relation to the output.

  318. says

    John

    (Note it was you who introduced QM via your citation)

    I have no complaint with talking about QM. You and I both know it doesn’t give you what they want. You’re just arguing natural language. I appreciate that; it probably helps.

    Yeah, but that’s your argument: that human choice, well, ain’t.

    And I’ve had some time to prepare for this one. You’re relying on an ambiguity regarding choice at the first order. Some people will say that the quantum fluctuation itself is the choice. I can grant this for the sake of argument, because:

    if free will exists, then it should be possible not only to choose, but also to choose to choose, and to choose to choose to choose, et cetera.

    QM doesn’t give you this. The best it allows you is to choose, in this quirk of natural language. But QM will not give you the ability to choose to choose, because you cannot choose to cause the quantum fluctuation.

    Therefore your excellent attempt to argue in free will is still wrong.

    It was a worthy challenge, though.

  319. says

    Now, if you’re right that chaotic systems aren’t predictable in principle either, then those also don’t seem to be a good place to look for anyone who wants to believe in some kind of non-dualist free will. People, or some parts of their cognitive systems, have to be able to predict what the output would be in order to say that they or some part of them has chosen that outcome.

    Oh snap.

    Bookmarked.

  320. crowepps says

    @ Walton – so looking at this philosophical question from the practical point of view of a preschool teacher trying to socialize a toddler, one should jettison the idea of modifying their behavior by scolding and rewarding, accept that the toddler’s behavior is all predetermined by the state of the universe, and just let them act naturally. Since if they’re not really making choices, and their behavior isn’t really something they control, the teacher is wasting her time?

    ALL doctrines can very easily be co-opted to serve the interests of the powerful.

  321. says

    @ Walton – so looking at this philosophical question from the practical point of view of a preschool teacher trying to socialize a toddler, one should jettison the idea of modifying their behavior by scolding and rewarding, accept that the toddler’s behavior is all predetermined by the state of the universe, and just let them act naturally.

    Can you please quote something that you think justifies this mangling of Walton’s argument? I know I can quote something contradictory which you ignored: “it may serve an instrumental social purpose to reward certain traits”.

  322. John Morales says

    ahs,

    You’re relying on an ambiguity regarding choice at the first order. Some people will say that the quantum fluctuation itself is the choice. I can grant this for the sake of argument, because:
    if free will exists, then it should be possible not only to choose, but also to choose to choose, and to choose to choose to choose, et cetera.

    No, you really can’t; if you do grant that choosing is possible, then one can recurse by making the choice consist of whether to choose (to choose and so forth).

  323. says

    Hey Biochem types, what do you make of this ?

    Antineoplaston AS2-1 and Antineoplaston AS2-5 are degradation products of Antineoplaston A10. The initial hydrolysis of Antineoplaston A10 (3-phenylacetylamine-2, 6-piperidinedione) yields phenylacetylglutamine and phenylacetylisoglutamine. When hydrolysis is carried further the products of the reaction include phenylacetic acid, glutamic acid and ammonia. Sodium salts of phenylacetylglutamine, named Antineoplaston AS2-5, phenylacetic acid and a mixture of phenylacetylglutamine and phenylacetic acid in the ratio of 1:4, named Antineoplaston AS2-1

    I was initially skeptical about this because the claim is that these are peptides found in urine. But unless you have a kidney problem, there should not be peptides/proteins excreted in urine at all.
    Check this out from that abstract :

    The results clearly demonstrated that Antineoplaston AS2-1 has interesting antineoplastic activity in tissue culture of breast carcinoma, and low acute and chronic toxicity in mice

    What the ?

  324. Tethys says

    I choose to choose/not choose/choose differently on a daily basis.

    The brain is not the only part of me that has input into my decisions, it’s just the only part with language capabilities.

    There are many interesting links in the wiki article on the Ventromedial prefrontal cortex

  325. Pteryxx says

    I did read #201 before I said anything at all, and I’m not trying to ‘get to’ free will, just to grasp the arguments y’all are making against it. Or for it, for that matter. But I can read on my own time, thanks; and thanks @rorschach also.

    Now, if you’re right that chaotic systems aren’t predictable in principle either, then those also don’t seem to be a good place to look for anyone who wants to believe in some kind of non-dualist free will. People, or some parts of their cognitive systems, have to be able to predict what the output would be in order to say that they or some part of them has chosen that outcome.

    Mm, I’d say people (or portions thereof) have to *think* they can predict an outcome, or at least shift the odds of that outcome. Anyway, “chaotic systems aren’t predictable in principle” comes from the wiki I just glanced at:

    A consequence of sensitivity to initial conditions is that if we start with only a finite amount of information about the system (as is usually the case in practice), then beyond a certain time the system will no longer be predictable. This is most familiar in the case of weather, which is generally predictable only about a week ahead.[26]

    because if a system’s only completely predictable (as opposed to generally predictable) with effectively infinite information, then whether it’s actually determined or not seems to me like a moot point in the case of free will, because it’s always going to LOOK like free will until we’re telepaths or gods. We don’t even have complete information about the minds we’re using to argue with.

    But I’m ignorant, sleepy and way out of my depth, so eh… y’all go on then. By now I can’t distinguish between what I typed versus what I read anymore, much less parse a concept.

  326. Pteryxx says

    oh… miscellaneous final 4 AM thought: my semi-subconscious meta mind, the part that does most of my artwork, sends up its laughter at all of us arguing with our conscious minds alone about whether or not we have free will. Not like we have much of a choice about consciously expressing our conscious thoughts, eh? (…I think it’s taunting me by saying conscious-me doesn’t have free will, but IT does. Darn troublemaker…)

  327. says

    sends up its laughter at all of us arguing with our conscious minds alone about whether or not we have free will

    Yes. My cock has its own mind, for one. And the things it reacts positively to have changed considerably over the decades, take that determinism !

  328. Aquaria says

    Dos Equis were OK, and then bought out by an American mainstream brewery.

    I’d like to know when Heineken became American. Last I looked, it was Dutch. And yes, they’re the ones who bought out the Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma brewery.

  329. birgerjohansson says

    Rorschach: “Yes. My cock has its own mind, for one”

    Did you design a cybernetic penis, like Kryten did?

    —- —– —-

    “Neil Gaiman’s Episode Of “The Simpsons” (VIDEO)” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/28/neil-gaiman-the-simpsons_n_1117662.html?ref=books
    From Huff Po: “Available free to watch online for one week (click above), the new episode of The Simpsons, called “The Book Job”, features
    Neil Gaiman (“The British Fonzee” according to Homer) joining Homer, Bart, Moe, Principal Skinner and Lisa in an attempted literary scam.
    Filled with painful jokes about the difficulty of writing, young adult clichés, and mentions for RL Stine and “Twilight”, it’s a must-watch for book fans and procrastinating writers.”

  330. says

    “Neil Gaiman’s Episode Of “The Simpsons” (VIDEO)”

    Thanks for the link ! Neil and Amanda Palmer are going to be hosting a special event for New Years Eve here in Melbourne, and I’m very tempted to go.

  331. says

    What you’re going to do in the next moment depends the vector between where everything is in this moment, and where everything was in the last moment. It doesn’t further depend on any prior moments. Just these two are sufficient to determine the third.

    That’s frightfully Newtonian of you, old boy.

  332. says

    I don’t even… what is this?

    Santorum Wants Schools to Undermine Teaching Evolution – (RWW)

    There are many on the left and in the scientific community, so to speak, who are afraid of that discussion because oh my goodness you might mention the word, God-forbid, “God” in the classroom, or “Creator,” or that there may be some things that are inexplainable by nature where there may be, where it’s better explained by a Creator, of course we can’t have that discussion. It’s very interesting that you have a situation that science will only allow things in the classroom that are consistent with a non-Creator idea of how we got here, as if somehow or another that’s scientific. Well maybe the science points to the fact that maybe science doesn’t explain all these things. And if it does point to that, why don’t you pursue that? But you can’t because it’s not science, but if science is pointing you there how can you say it’s not science? It’s worth the debate.

    No, you ignorant moron! If science doesn’t “explain all these things” you don’t throw up your hands and say “God did it!” You study, you research, you try to find what it is that you’re missing, and then you study more, research more, experiment more. Science will never end or explain everything all the time. Your god is getting stuck into smaller and smaller gaps though.

  333. says

    John,

    No, you really can’t; if you do grant that choosing is possible, then one can recurse by making the choice consist of whether to choose (to choose and so forth).

    This is wrong, and I’m surprised you didn’t do the substitution in your head already. Well, there’s two ways I can deal with this.

    1) I can just show the substitution: if free will exists, then it should be possible not only to have a quantum fluctuation, but to have a quantum fluctuation of whether to have another quantum fluctuation. The latter is complete nonsense. A quantum fluctuation is unpredictable, therefore the first cannot predict the second, cannot address it.
    2) I can give in to my suspicion that it was rhetorically ineffective to grant anything for the sake of argument. Rather, I should have gone forward by pointing out that people will mistake a quantum fluctuation for a choice, but this is always a mistake because a choice must be deliberate, which a quantum fluctuation cannot be. And I can’t hardly hope to prevent people from making that mistake; they’re highly motivated to do so; thus I should begin by pre-empting it. Schopenhauer got it rhetorically sound the first time: we may do what we will, but we may not will what we will.

    +++++
    Tethys,

    I choose to choose/not choose/

    Arguable.

    choose differently

    Impossible, because:

    The brain is not the only part of me that has input into my decisions, it’s just the only part with language capabilities.

    Doesn’t matter, has nothing to do with any claim.

    You are, at any moment, the physical position of all the matter and energy in your body including your brain, and this position is the outcome of physical laws acting upon the position of a moment before, which was the outcome of physical laws acting upon the position a moment before that…

    How could these physical positions of matter and energy ever choose differently?

    +++++
    Pteryxx,

    Mm, I’d say people (or portions thereof) have to *think* they can predict an outcome, or at least shift the odds of that outcome.

    This is incoherent. If a chaotic system is supposed to produce free will, then it’s the output which is supposed to be the free choice, for we already know the input is either deterministic or random.

    Prior to running the system, if you’ve got an intention to get a certain outcome, where did that intention come from? It couldn’t have been freely chosen yet, for if it could, what do you even need the chaotic system for anyway?

    if a system’s only completely predictable (as opposed to generally predictable) with effectively infinite information, then whether it’s actually determined or not seems to me like a moot point in the case of free will, because it’s always going to LOOK like free will until we’re telepaths or gods.

    Related to the uncertainty principle, universe is in fact indeterministic. Not just chaotic. Really, if you want unpredictability, you don’t have to go to chaos. Heisenberg will always get you there.

    It doesn’t “look like” free will if you bother to examine what it means to be deliberate or make a choice, though.

    (And even God cannot have free will; see #216.)

    my semi-subconscious meta mind, the part that does most of my artwork, sends up its laughter at all of us arguing with our conscious minds alone about whether or not we have free will. Not like we have much of a choice about consciously expressing our conscious thoughts, eh? (…I think it’s taunting me by saying conscious-me doesn’t have free will, but IT does. Darn troublemaker…)

    This is a typical sort of argument against Libet’s stuff, and if free will wasn’t already both philosophically impossible and physically impossible, it’d be a pretty good argument.

    +++++
    Alethea,

    That’s frightfully Newtonian of you, old boy.

    It’s also probably correct at human scale. Toss in the small randomnesses, and they will tend to cancel each other and leave the big Newtonian vectors. If they don’t cancel, they still haven’t done any work for free will (not that you said otherwise).

  334. says

    John,

    I too am not that fussed as to the reality; my subjective experience is what matters. To go by what we intellectually suspect rather than by what we subjectively experience is perverse, IMO.

    In one poll, about 23% of people give the wrong answer in the classic trolley problem. In a more promising poll (Marc Hauser’s, as reported here), only about 10% got it wrong. It is these at least 10% of people who are behaving perversely. They’re probably going by their subjective feeling, wouldn’t you guess?

  335. says

    Another huge problem for determinism is lies. Take creationists, they make decisions based on lies all the time, how can this be the outcome of a deterministic world ?

  336. says

    Another huge problem for determinism is lies. Take creationists, they make decisions based on lies all the time, how can this be the outcome of a deterministic world ?

    These are just, just amazing things you say.

    I really want to interview you at length on what you believe determinism is, and how you got to think this way.

    But it’s just so hard for me to even know where to begin. All I hear you saying is “tide goes in, tide goes out. Determinists can’t explain that.”

  337. John Morales says

    ahs,

    This is wrong, and I’m surprised you didn’t do the substitution in your head already. Well, there’s two ways I can deal with this.

    1) I can just show the substitution: if free will exists, then it should be possible not only to have a quantum fluctuation, but to have a quantum fluctuation of whether to have another quantum fluctuation. The latter is complete nonsense. A quantum fluctuation is unpredictable, therefore the first cannot predict the second, cannot address it.

    But I was addressing this specific claim: “Some people will say that the quantum fluctuation itself is the choice. I can grant this for the sake of argument”, not the free will argument per se.

    (That was not my claim, my claim was that it’s not possible to rule out the hypothetical case that, given identical circumstances to those applicable when previously making a choice, someone might make a different choice due to quantum uncertainty if the choice was finely-enough balanced)

    Anyway, if you grant that you can choose to have one quantum fluctuation and that the quantum fluctuation itself is the choice, then you are also saying that you have had a quantum fluctuation of whether to have another quantum fluctuation — which you characterise as nonsense (I agree with that) — so the recursion does apply.

    (What it boils down to is that you granted nonsense to start with)

    2) I can give in to my suspicion that it was rhetorically ineffective to grant anything for the sake of argument. Rather, I should have gone forward by pointing out that people will mistake a quantum fluctuation for a choice, but this is always a mistake because a choice must be deliberate, which a quantum fluctuation cannot be. And I can’t hardly hope to prevent people from making that mistake; they’re highly motivated to do so; thus I should begin by pre-empting it. Schopenhauer got it rhetorically sound the first time: we may do what we will, but we may not will what we will.

    Yes, much more meritorious. Shame I didn’t make that argument, eh?

  338. says

    Well, apart from your attempts to liken me to BillyO, what are your arguments ? People choose things based on factually wrong information, or just base their decisions on lies. How is that the result of a deterministic world ? And “the universe is structured thusly” is not going to cut it. How can lying, the principle, be possible in a deterministic world ?

  339. John Morales says

    ahs,

    In one poll, about 23% of people give the wrong answer in the classic trolley problem.

    Problem is that I don’t think there’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ when it comes to moral choices; there is only consistency or inconsistency with one’s professed code.

    (Me, I don’t hold that all lives are of equal value, for example)

  340. says

    Audley

    I’m sorry, I can’t get behind this. As it stands now,you’re effectively willing to take away someone’s job because you think they’re a shitty driver. No, no, no.

    The corollary of which is that you’re willing to risk injury and death, just for someone to get to their work.
    And that they apparently don’t value said job enough to improve their driving.
    ====
    Legowelt – Visions Fade
    Legowelt – Nuisance Lover
    Alexander Robotnick – Rationality The Only Way To Freedom
    Apropos of — of course — nothing.

  341. says

    Actually it’s not right to be Newtonian about neuron firing cascades. Quite clearly the world isn’t deterministic on an atomic scale, or even a larger molecular scale. This says nothing either way about “free will”, but it does knock out Newtonian clockwork determinism as a legitimate view of the universe. Quantum transitions are truly random, as far as we’ve ever managed to ascertain.

    So the argument isn’t free will vs determinism, it’s free will vs a more complex probabilistic model. And I’m leaving it there because I don’t feel competent to argue the philosophy. (Nor all that interested, I need to go slay some ogres or something.)

  342. says

    But I was addressing this specific claim: “Some people will say that the quantum fluctuation itself is the choice. I can grant this for the sake of argument”, not the free will argument per se.

    I know. I’m saying that even if we grant the first, recursion fails, due to the special nature of this “choice”.

    (That was not my claim, my claim was that it’s not possible to rule out the hypothetical case that, given identical circumstances to those applicable when previously making a choice, someone might make a different choice due to quantum uncertainty if the choice was finely-enough balanced)

    This seems to be the broboxley gambit.

    There exist alternate histories in which broboxley-B did not mention In Living Color [in July]. But their existence derives from quantum effects beyond any broboxley’s control. So broboxley-B could not have freely willed himself to be broboxley-A instead, and broboxley-A could not have freely willed himself to be broboxley-B.

    To your point, the “choice” resulting from a quantum fluctuation simply is not free will. I understand you’re just pointing out that I worded my argument in such a way to allow this objection about choosing differently, but even such a “choice” does not get anyone to free will.

    Anyway, if you grant that you can choose to have one quantum fluctuation

    I don’t think I granted this.

    and that the quantum fluctuation itself is the choice,

    This is what I thought I granted. Not that one could choose to have it, only that what it was could be, in natural language, construed as a choice (if the deliberate is not required for a choice).

    Yes, much more meritorious. Shame I didn’t make that argument, eh?

    Of course. But it’s convenient if my notes are public. I expect to have to use this again. Like I said, this is just what I should have done, not an expectation that you would have easily given the opportunity. ;)

  343. says

    Uh oh… now that we’re talking quanta, maybe it’s time to call Deepak.

    John:

    Problem is that I don’t think there’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ when it comes to moral choices; there is only consistency or inconsistency with one’s professed code.

    (Me, I don’t hold that all lives are of equal value, for example)

    But in the trolley problem, you kind of have to assume all the lives are equal.

  344. says

    rorschach ?

    Well, apart from your attempts to liken me to BillyO, what are your arguments ? People choose things based on factually wrong information, or just base their decisions on lies. How is that the result of a deterministic world ?

    How could it not be?

    And “the universe is structured thusly” is not going to cut it. How can lying, the principle, be possible in a deterministic world ?

    How can truth be possible in a deterministic world? How can lying be possible in an indeterministic world?

    I really just don’t understand the questions at all. They are amazing. You ask what my arguments are?

    I concede: I have no clue how to argue with someone who makes such astounding false dichotomies. Electroshock therapy comes to mind, but other than that, I’m stumped.

  345. says

    Actually it’s not right to be Newtonian about neuron firing cascades.

    Is this for sure? I’m asking; I really don’t know.

    I can just as well drop the Newtonian-at-human-scales stuff, but I hadn’t gotten the memo that I should.

  346. John Morales says

    ahs,

    I’m saying that even if we grant the first, recursion fails, due to the special nature of this “choice”.

    Yes, and I’m saying that, by granting the first, you perforce grant the succeeding ones; your claim that the first is “special” is, um, special pleading.

    To your point, the “choice” resulting from a quantum fluctuation simply is not free will. I understand you’re just pointing out that I worded my argument in such a way to allow this objection about choosing differently, but even such a “choice” does not get anyone to free will.

    Well, your second sentence addresses the retort I was formulating as I read your first. :)

    To add to it, I note that it does address the claim that no free-will necessarily involves only one possible outcome per person per choice, though.

    Anyway, if you grant that you can choose to have one quantum fluctuation

    I don’t think I granted this.

    and that the quantum fluctuation itself is the choice

    This is what I thought I granted.

    Here: “The best it allows you is to choose, in this quirk of natural language.”, where the substitution can be made thus “The best it allows you is to have one quantum fluctuation, in this quirk of natural language.”

  347. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    7 minutes for the download of Ep 7 of Season 2 of The Walking Dead to finish, so have a nice time, everyone, I’ve got stuff to do !

    It’s a good one. I liked the ending. Enjoy!

  348. says

    your claim that the first is “special” is, um, special pleading.

    I don’t see it. A person could call the first a choice by removing the requirement for it to be deliberate. So far so good, I thought. But if that’s done, it wouldn’t be possible to recurse by having a quantum fluctuation of whether to have another quantum fluctuation.

    I think it’s an actually-special case, not special pleading. It’s impossible to recurse because the first cannot predict or point to the second; even if the first “non-deliberate choice” is granted as a non-deliberate quantum fluctuation of whether to have another non-deliberate quantum fluctuation. But the first one seems, to me, like it still stands, if only on the stupid premise that a choice could be non-deliberate. It just seems that the first stupid premise could be granted while recursion is impossible.

    I’ll have to drop it soon, though. I don’t want to just repeat myself, which I’m afraid I’ll be doing soon. (At least this time I added some reason why I don’t regard it to be special pleading.)

  349. says

    crowepps

    Since if they’re not really making choices, and their behavior isn’t really something they control, the teacher is wasting her time?

    Well, the teacher isn’t making choices either (I’m just trying to rephrase it as I understand it, I’m not completely convinced of this being the case).
    The years of learning and experience have shaped the teacher’s brain in a way that means that the annoying toddler triggers the teacher into a certain response of positive or negative reinforcement. Those meassures over time change the kid’s brain so that their responses are altered.
    Of course, this discussion could alter the teacher’s brain in a way that they think “pfff, why should I give a fuck” and therefore the toddler would trigger a different response of ignorance. Kind of like a really complicated version of Pawlow.

  350. Cannabinaceae says

    All this free will discussion is quite interesting.

    I imagine Pharyngula to be a math of fraas and suurs participating in a multiverse-broad thousander chant operation. Thus, an emergence may be nigh.

    Or that all might just be the blithe talking.

  351. says

    werfen, warp

    in Old English weorpan meant “throw” too. Then, in the 13c, Old Norse kasta was borrowed, which is the basic word in the Scandinavian languages today (kästa, kaste etc). A little bit later you find the word throw “twist, turn” to shift in meaning too (German cognate drehen “turn”). The first time warp is found in the new meaning is in the 14c, so it looks all plausible to me.

    Norwegian law

    I’m no expert in Norwegian law, but pretty much all continental Western European legal systems don’t have consecutive sentences, the maximum is set in most systems to 10-15 years, even for life sentences. There are IMO only two avenues for locking someone up for life:

    a. security-lockup
    known as Sicherheitsverwahrung in Germany, and forvaring in Norway, where it was introduced in 2002. A criminal who has been deemed a danger to society (conditions usually include severity and impact of their crimes) can be locked up for longer than the maximum time usually permissible.

    According to the Pfft, a criminal who is sentenced to forvaring is first given a sentence that can’t exceed 21 years, and then given a reassessment every five years if they still pose a danger to society. Apparently there is also a minimum time of 10 years, so even if the criminal should pose no longer a danger to society, they’d need to spend at least 10 years behind bars (I wouldn’t be surprised if 10 years would be the normal life sentence).

    http://no.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forvaring

    b. insanity
    I think the specifics vary from jurisdiction from jurisdiction, but as far as Norway goes the same Wikipedia article says that persons who were legally insane at the time of their actions, cannot be sentenced to forvaring, but they can be committed involuntarily. I don’t enough of the details if that would mean that this might be the only chance Breivik has to ever be free again, as presumably if he was held accountable he would be a prime candidate to join the 94 Norwegians locked up under the forvaring system.

    But there also was a 230-page psychiatric review that deemed him legally insane, so it seems the judgement wasn’t taken lightly and not just for tactical reasons.

  352. says

    Notes, what I’ve learned this round:

    #419. There is a much better response to chaos than the ones I’ve been using.

    Some people will ask questions on par with “you don’t believe in God? then you have no objection to murdering children?” if you don’t continually emphasize that it is possible for future human behavior to be different from past human behavior, due to our actions influencing each other.

    To some people, “the state of the world” implies a tremendous momentum, which ought not to be alterable by a single human’s act. It is teleological, having a sense of fate, as though the whole universe or the muses conspired in some way. To be perfectly fair, I think I’ve grokked this when smoking weed, so I don’t expect it’ll be an unusual understanding. The rephrasing at #403, if presented initially, might sidestep this error.

    Schopenhauer got it right the first time. Focus on the inability to “will what we will” or “choose what we choose” rather than a single “could not have chosen differently”.

  353. Cannabinaceae says

    But, as I was going to say before the blithe cut in: I’m with the camp that’s saying the concept of “free will” is incoherent. Like everything else about consciousness, it is an illusion generated in the cerebral cortex as part of the brain’s contribution to the organism’s Feed and Breed project.

  354. says

    Newtonian at “human” scales, meaning stuff we can manipulate with our hands, sure, we are that. But if you’re looking at cajoling molecules into emitting electrons in certain circumstances, then you’re not at what we normally consider to be “human scale”.

    A photon is actually a quantum particle, and we have receptors for photons. Even where neurochemistry doesn’t get to obvious quantum effects, such as with emissions of larger molecules, it’s still chemistry, not mechanics that’s the model. And chemistry is just applied quantum mechanics. (Seriously, atomic bonding is all about the electron orbitals.)

    I admit I am pretty amateur, but I do have a physics degree and some experience with molecular modelling in my dim dark past. (And also I’m not claiming that it’s relevant to the free will argument, except tangentially.)

    OK, back to the ogres for a bit, then to bed.

  355. says

    I think the one major difference in Breivik being locked up between forvaring and involuntary commitment is that the former carries a 10 year minimum. He will not be released as long as he can be considered a risk to society.

  356. says

    This commentary says that in involuntary commitment is usually reassessed every three years.

    He also says while the insanity defence has been used in Norway since the Middle Ages and as such is a great tradition, the procedures should be reevaluated and a commission should review the review.

    (I don’t know much about Norwegian newspapers, but acc to Wiki it’s targeted at an agrarian audience, so I’d say it’s a conservative newspaper)

    http://www.nationen.no/2011/11/29/nyheter/kommentar/anders_behring_breivik/terror/7081141/

  357. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    rorschach,

    I can’t find it in the program for next week. Are they splitting the season?

  358. says

    I constantly wonder how and when I am going to introduce my son to movies, music and media I hold dear. Like, I’ve got “The magic of reality” on my bookshelf, but it’s not a book one can appreciate until the age of 10+. Same with movies, I want him to see Rocky Horror, The English Patient, 4 weddings and Bridges of Madison County, before he gets into watching all the other crap, the cynical Adam Sandler movies, or any violent stuff. I wnt him to read Lord of the Rings and Oscar Wilde’s short fiction before he reads the Twilight novels. It’s hard, there is so much violence and cynicism out there these days. Those values we thought mattered, we thought mattered for a reason. Anyway, off my lawn now !

  359. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    Wiki confirms it, we can expect the next episode on February 12. (link)

    There goes the only thing I was watching on tv these days. Time to find something new. I’ve heard about The American Horror Story. Is it any good?

  360. birgerjohansson says

    For those who have not yet browsed other Pharyngula threads,
    “Abstinence-only education does not lead to abstinent behavior”
    http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-11-abstinence-only-abstinent-behavior.html

    NB! Required reading for Republicans!
    “Want to defeat a proposed public policy? Just label supporters as ‘extreme'” http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-11-defeat-policy-extreme.html

    — — — — — —
    When Breivik’s status as legally insane was debated in Sweden, a legal expert said that that despite the pro forma reassessment every few years no one is going to risk releasing a man that has killed 77 human beings. If someone like that was released and killed again it would be the end of the careers of those who released him.

    More Norwegian news
    “Norwegian study finds opening bars longer increases violence” http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-11-norwegian-bars-longer-violence.html

  361. says

    Wiki confirms it, we can expect the next episode on February 12.

    Right. There goes my life. First girlfriend’s visa got rejected, and now that. Someone put me on a Propofol infusion until February.

  362. walton says

    @ Walton – so looking at this philosophical question from the practical point of view of a preschool teacher trying to socialize a toddler, one should jettison the idea of modifying their behavior by scolding and rewarding, accept that the toddler’s behavior is all predetermined by the state of the universe, and just let them act naturally. Since if they’re not really making choices, and their behavior isn’t really something they control, the teacher is wasting her time?

    No, that’s a misunderstanding of what I’m saying. (Which is probably my fault, as I don’t think I’ve done a good job of communicating this concept.)

    The fact that we have no free will does not mean that our behaviour cannot be conditioned by external stimuli. If you scold or reward a child, you are producing external stimuli which are acting on hir brain and affecting the outcomes of hir mental processes. (Just as a scientist might induce a lab rat to run one way through a maze rather than another by giving it electric shocks for running the wrong way. Human brains, like other animal brains, can be programmed by experience, and a human’s desire to seek pleasurable experiences and avoid painful ones can be used to condition hir behaviour. That doesn’t mean humans have “free will”, any more than lab rats do.)

    Don’t confuse philosophical determinism with genetic determinism; no one is saying that the course of your life is absolutely predetermined at birth by your genes, or that your experiences don’t affect it at all. Nor is anyone saying that rewards and punishments are necessarily ineffective as a means of changing a person’s behaviour. What determinism does mean is that there is no moral dimension to rewards or punishments; it makes no sense to suggest that anyone “deserves” a reward or punishment, any more than a lab rat “deserves” an electric shock for running the wrong way. It’s just a way of training people to behave in certain ways by manipulating their pleasure-seeking and pain-avoiding instincts.

    My argument is not, therefore, some kind of Calvinist predestination (which is what you and Rorschach both seem to be reading into it). This talk about the “state of the universe” (a phrase Rorschach introduced to the conversation) is misleading. Everything is part of the “state of the universe”, if you want to put it that way – including the inner workings of your own brain, and the external stimuli that affect your brain’s neurochemical responses. Of course your actions are determined by the “state of the universe”, because your brain is part of the physical universe, as is everything else that exists everywhere. This is trivially true, and doesn’t add anything to our understanding; hence why I find talk of the “state of the universe” to be confusing and misleading in this context.

    Rather, the important point is that there is no “self” or “will” separate from the physical activity of the brain. Your “choices” are the products of neurochemical processes inside your head. Your “choices” are thus determined by those neurochemical processes; empirically, we know that people who suffer brain injuries, or who take drugs that affect their brain chemistry, sometimes exhibit dramatic changes in personality and behaviour. And, of course, the responses of your brain are also affected by your environmental conditioning and by the external stimuli to which you are exposed – your “programming”, if you like. Human brains, like other animal brains, can be conditioned to act in certain ways by means of rewards and punishments. (Just as a computer can be programmed to act in certain ways, and changing its programming will change its responses.) It doesn’t mean that a human has “free will”, any more than a lab rat or a computer does. It just means that human brains are programmable objects.

  363. says

    Oh, this reminds me of something I wanted to share yesterday but forgot inthe whole discussion:

    The effect of religion on guilt.
    Last night I watched a documentary about the parents of children damaged by the drug Contergan (link to the Pfft if you’re unfamiliar with the scandal).
    The documentary let the parents, mostly the mothers, tell their experiences chronologically. How they felt during pregnancy, when they didn’t know that the child would be severely disabled, after birth, the reactions of others, how they coped, and went to the point when it was proven that the drug they’d been prescribed by their doc as safe and beneficial had indeed damaged their children.
    Most women told that they were very, very relieved. There wasn’t anything wrong with them or their husbands, it was not their fault, and they could look more positively into the future, especially when thinkig about having another child.
    But there was one woman who was religious and she related that she suddenly felt guilt. Before she knew, she’d ascribed it to “god’s plan, god’s will”, but now she had done something terrible that hurt the child (obviously god can work in misterious ways but not through a greedy pharmaceutical company).
    Truth and knowledge had the exact opposite effect on her than on anybody else.

  364. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    [META]

    Okay, I promised to stay out of any debate about free will, but I have to question something: Gyeong Hwa made, essentially, the same assertion that I did

    I don’t really care if we do have it or do not have free will. I really don’t because I’m more concerned with living a good morally upright life. I know it’s an emotionally based response to the whole question and it doesn’t prove it wrong or right, but I don’t pretend that it isn’t otherwise.

    (though, to be fair, he phrased it far better) and, from hir, that is a reasonable response, but from me it was mocked? I guess I really don’t know enough to know what I don’t understand.[/MEAI don’t really care if we do have it or do not have free will. I really don’t because I’m more concerned with living a good morally upright life. I know it’s an emotionally based response to the whole question and it doesn’t prove it wrong or right, but I don’t pretend that it isn’t otherwise.[/META]

  365. chigau (本当) says

    Thanks for that facinating free-will discussion.
    (really)
    It reminded me that I spend my life in a not-quite-real world.
    I live as though the earth is flat, the sun rises and sets and time passes the same whether I’m walking or in an airplane (among other things).
    I think I’ll just continue to pretend that I have free-will.

  366. walton says

    Gyeong and Ogvorbis: There is one major reason that leads me to think that the question of free will is important for our everyday lives. It’s important not for how we ourselves behave, but, rather, for how we judge others.

    I think it’s tremendously significant, and perhaps humbling, to contemplate the fact that people are products of their genes and their environmental conditioning, that the “self” is just the term we apply to some chemical reactions happening inside our skulls, and that everything we think and everything we do has a physical scientific explanation. It’s humbling to remember this when we’re busy labelling other people as “bad”, “evil”, “monsters” and the like because of the way they act; I find it helpful to remember that, like Jessica Rabbit, they’re just drawn that way.

    To illustrate this, consider the fact that a kind sweet-natured person can be transformed into a violent aggressive person, overnight, by suffering a particular kind of traumatic brain injury. It’s happened before. After all, the “self” is produced by the neurochemical activity of the brain, and changing the brain can thus change the personality.

    Is it the “fault” of the person thus transformed when xe goes on to commit acts of violence and aggression? Most of us would instinctively say no, since hir acts are directly ascribable to the injury xe suffered. But why, then, do we claim that it is someone’s “fault” when the neurological trait that makes him or her violent and abusive is the result of genetics or earlier experiences, rather than injury? From a moral perspective, what’s the difference? Why is one “to blame” for the way hir brain chemistry happens to work, while the other is not?

    Of course, perhaps the urge to sit in judgment on others is inevitable. It’s certainly something I do sometimes, even while knowing it to be irrational. Indeed, it has an instrumental explanation; humans are social animals, and publicly denouncing and shaming those who exhibit undesired traits is one of the forms of punishment that humans use to condition other humans’ reactions. But it’s no more a moral enterprise than training Pavlov’s dogs. And it’s very powerful and humbling, for me, to think about the people we decry as “monsters” and realize that the only difference between me and them is that my brain happens, by luck in the lottery of genes and experiences, to be wired differently.

  367. crowepps says

    Walton @ 474 — Thank you, I now understand it better, I think.

    From reading Oliver Sacks’ books, I already understood the ‘person’ was created by the brain. I just couldn’t figure out the disconnect between what I knew worked in the real world and what you were theorizing.

  368. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    Walton:

    That makes sense. Please note that I have never denied environmental or chemical constraints on free will. Having suffered from severe depression I really do know what chemical imbalances can do to the decision making process. And, having spent middle and high school in Appalachia, I am quite aware of cultural and economic constraints on free will. I still stand by my ridiculed statement that I have, and will continue to, approach life as if I have free will because I cannot see any other way live. Ridicule away, but that is how I see it. I do not impose that on anyone else, and I am more than willing to take into account environmental and chemical constraints for others when I view their actions.

  369. walton says

    I still stand by my ridiculed statement that I have, and will continue to, approach life as if I have free will because I cannot see any other way live. Ridicule away, but that is how I see it. I do not impose that on anyone else, and I am more than willing to take into account environmental and chemical constraints for others when I view their actions.

    Well, I didn’t ridicule your statement, and have no desire to do so. In fact, I think you’re right; in practical terms, we all have to go on living our lives as though we had free will. The question of free will doesn’t necessarily imply anything either way about how we should or shouldn’t behave, in itself.

    I think the last sentence is the most important bit, though. All too often, people don’t take into account those constraints, and are all too ready to condemn other people as “evil” or “monsters”.

  370. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    Walton:

    Sorry. The ‘ridicule’ part was from a comment last night. Not aimed at you. I just do not grok philosophy. At any level.

  371. Rey Fox says

    I mostly don’t see Sandler’s movies, but I liked a lot Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love and Funny People.

    Not exactly representative samples.

  372. walton says

    I just do not grok philosophy. At any level.

    Oh, neither do I, much of the time. (If I were feeling snarky, I’d suggest that no one really groks the issue we’re talking about, including philosophers.)

  373. says

    This Moment of Mormon Madness involves missionaries in Dublin.

    The LDS Church consistently says that their policy is to report sexual abuse to police immediately. However, actual practice differs, with church leaders often advising abused persons not to go to the police, but to let church leaders handle the issue. Why the disconnect? The LDS Church has created a system in which protecting the reputation of the institution and protecting the money-gathering capabilities of the institution are of paramount importance. And they seem incapable of admitting this, and even more incapable of correcting the situation.

    The Church has also fostered a society in which misogyny is the norm. This makes it difficult for them to take rape of females as seriously as they should.

    The head honchos in Salt Lake City act all surprised and outraged when someone finds them culpable for making it easier to abuse children. However, as in this present case, church leaders continue to be accessories to the crime. They tried to hide the male abuser in the USA by not cooperating with Dublin authorities when asked about his whereabouts. (Ironically, they claimed some sort of privacy issue, when the entire mormon community is infamous for invading the privacy of members and of potential members.)

    The story of the lawsuit does not appear in any of the official LDS newspapers or online sources. LDS Church leaders are attempting to hide the abuse story. If they can’t keep it out of the Dublin newspapers, they will at least keep it out of their own (and therefore out of the minds of the sheeple who read mostly official LDS sources).

    A young Irish woman is suing the Mormon Church for damages after she was abused when still a minor by one of its elders who has since fled to America….

    The Irish Times reports that the woman was still below the legal age for consensual sex when she was repeatedly abused by the Church elder who served as a missionary in Ireland for the Irish Association of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints Ltd….

    The woman also claims that ‘the church disregarded its own guidelines and advice that female elders were at all times to accompany young female members and had also failed to take any adequate steps to investigate these claims’.

    The man alleged to have abused the girl has since left Ireland. The Mormon Church refused to say where he is living due to data protection laws but her lawyers have now tracked him down to an address in America with the help of private investigators.

    He will now be served with High Court proceedings at his US address.

    The woman states in her claim that she converted to Mormonism in her teens. She alleges the abuse began in about March 2007 when the man took charge of her religious instruction and that the abuse took place at various locations outside Dublin where the man was serving as a missionary.

    The victim says that the man began with inappropriate touching before advancing to more serious forms of abuse including oral sex. She also states that the man had forcibly restrained and sexually abused her on one occasion while another church elder acted as sentry and alerted the man that other church members were approaching.

    The man told her that while it was a ‘sin for others to act in such a way’, it was not for him as he ‘worthy and had been chosen by God’. She also that he tried to convince her that ‘everything he did manifested through the holy spirit’.

    The missionary also told the girl that ‘dreadful things’ would happen to her if she told anyone of the abuse.

    The woman says that when she told senior church members what happened, they told her not to reveal it to her non-Mormon parents or police.

    Having left the church in 2008, the victim claims the alleged abuse had a terrible effect on her life. She says her health, wellbeing and relationships with others have suffered and she now suffers from self-harm, sleep deprivation and an eating disorder.

    Linkage

  374. theophontes, Hexanitrohexaazaisowurtzitane Wielding Tardigrade says

    @ David M.

    I have to mention that they actually have metric pounds (exactly half a kilo) in Germany. And only in Germany.

    Not true. The Dutch also deal in metric pounds (500 grams). And “ounces” too.

    (Does little jig, pretending to have caught out teh great Marjanović.)
    ………………..

    [free will]

    I once cycled on my own from Portsmouth to Bristol. As I had a lot of time on my hands, I took it slow and just followed my nose. South West England is amazing and the weather was light mist and cool – ideal for cycling through the countryside. I let myself get lost, as I wanted to explore and just chance upon things.

    Unfortunately of course I would come to forks in the road and, not being able to split in two, I would have to make a decision as to which country road to choose. Obviously every place name was completely unknown to me. My simple heuristic was to choose the direction to the strangest name. I have no idea what “compelled” me to do this, but it soon broke down anyhow. How does one choose between two places that are equally madly named. I resolved this by flipping a coin (the best way to make a decision anyway) and just following the outcome. At other times I would end up turning down a road with no discernible reason. It was a fascinating and picturesque journey that I cobbled together in this way.

    Was this a random walk cycle, or was I consciously guiding the process or was it all predetermined? Or a combination of these?

    (What on earth inspired me to post this?)

  375. Rey Fox says

    Wow the comments on the Siri articles are so predictable. “Just buy another phone”.

    I like how she specifically doesn’t call for a boycott of Apple, but still gets people all riled up. News to assholes: The only ones here getting “upset” and throwing around words like “conspiracy” are you.

  376. Rey Fox says

    Another meme I’d like to destroy: That any systematic problem with society or specific manifestation thereof has to be a “conspiracy”, presumably with a secret handshake among members.

  377. says

    Saw a really interesting thing on TV just now. A CNN poll is being done on their Facebook (I think??) about the War on Christmas, and someone’s response was (paraphrased:)

    A real war on Christmas is what the Puritans did in 1656. Wishing someone who’s not a Christian “Happy Holidays” is no war.

  378. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    I just discovered there is a Grilled Cheese food truck in my town. Uh, yes.

    I might just become a Food Truck Head and travel between them every day. Have yet to have a bad experience at any of the ones we have in Charleston.

  379. Serendipitydawg (gods are my minus one Kelvin) says

    Finally, Set® in under one minute… I just bet that my 49 seconds is 39 seconds longer than anyone else though.

  380. says

    [Ing:] It seems the only real definition of free will could be having a large number of internal mental stimuli that influence behavior in addition to external stimuli

    I don’t remember the discussion, but my view at the time is that that is the definition people are actually using for free will (which isn’t the contra-causal at all) without realizing it. Also one that would be useful for a Turing test like thing, what a artificial system needs to be considered ‘animate’

  381. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Walton*:

    I think the last sentence is the most important bit, though. All too often, people don’t take into account those constraints, and are all too ready to condemn other people as “evil” or “monsters”.

    This highlights to me what I see as a flaw in your thinking on this. How are the people sitting in judgement any different than those they judge? If criminal action can be said to be the result of determinism, so can condemnation, right?
    From my perspective, free will isn’t a coherent concept unless one accepts dualism…which I do not. I am not in control of my thoughts and actions, but I am my thoughts and actions. I’m not driving the meat car. I am the meat car.
    So it’s not that we don’t have free will; it’s that the concept makes no sense.
    Shit. I have to go again.
    *Sorry if you have already addressed this. I have been busy as a very busy person, and have only been able to peek in during rare moments of inurgency. I have been reading this discussion on and off for (what—two days now?), and I find it interesting.