Fostering Ideas—Free Will

How to dodge free will to filter good and bad ideas

Having thoughts come into your head by a long chain of incidental contact, can give one the strangest ideas, sometimes harmful, sometimes brilliant. It is then our responsibility to either foster the idea, or reject it. How do we do that if free will is at such a premium?

Is it a good idea to foster an idea that has no proof in reality, but is seen by many as an overall benefit to the species?

Religion is the idea that keeps giving (and taking) with unintended outcomes, that, not only don’t work for the skeptic, but they don’t work for the believer either.

  • There are no miracles
  • Prayer is never answered by a god
  • The idea of peace on earth has never materialized even with a majority citizenry and leadership.
  • Love is still at a premium
  • Where’s the bliss? Isn’t it time to show me the money, after taking so much of mine for so long?

Collaboration outside of your circle of belief is critical to sound reasoning. Occasionally I’ll throw out an idea to the group to get validation. Sometimes the post gets a lot of comment, but nothing directed at the idea itself (you’re all too kind sometimes) but when that happens I go back to the drawing board to adjust my thinking.

We may not have the free will to generate our own ideas, but do we (I hope) have the ability to foster them, or filter them? Do we have that choice? Is this filtering ability the difference between a skeptic and a true believer—or psychopath?

Recalling, computing, pondering, is overwhelmed by the datas you foster. Those conscious choices, what you read and watch, have a profound impact on our output. One can rarely consider something they’ve never heard of. Choose wisely my fiends.

Author: jim-

One minute info blogs escaping the faith trap.

101 thoughts on “Fostering Ideas—Free Will”

  1. Free will is makes a meaningful and relevant distinction. A person may deliberately choose to commit a crime for his own profit. Or, he may be forced to participate in a crime because someone is holding a gun to his head.

    Back in 2013, the Tsarnaev brothers set off several homemade bombs at the Boston Marathon, and then hijacked a car, forcing the driver at gunpoint to assist them in getting to New York, where they planned to set off their remaining explosives.

    The driver was not charged with “aiding and abetting” the criminals in their escape, because he was not acting of his own free will. But the surviving brother was charged for his crime because he deliberately chose to build and explode the devices.

    The free will distinction is critical in choosing how we correct the behavior. To correct the driver’s behavior, all we had to do was remove the coercive threat. But to correct the bomber’s behavior requires changing how he thinks about what he did. And that’s not easy to fix.

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    1. There are many reasons to die for. They’re everywhere. Our minds get hijacked by others ideas. Whether it’s religious or political preferences or a hundred other option, they’re all wrong. I think we have an altruistic gene that has nothing to do anymore so it acts out or some dam thing. A better option, I would look for reasons to live for, and to live well.
      Great comment. Thank you and glad you came by.

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  2. I picked up on Humphreys when reading Richard Dawkins there is a lot to read in Dawkins off hand comments when he is not explaining something but just being himself. My dad used to call it ‘ reading between the lines ‘ a sort of second sense of how the writer feels.
    What Humphries is saying is not that the Self is real but that it is real to us as humans and is the very reason we have made such great strides in progress. I hesitate to use the word real otherwise we may trigger off a barrage of stuff about the real world.
    The old philosophical conundrum ‘ if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it does it make any sound ?’ leaves us tongue tied.

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    1. Things come in to view as we look at them. And maybe we did too? Just a thought, and maybe off topic, but the earliest known mirrors found in turkey, 6000 B.C., and Mesopotamia 4000 B.C. Being able to see yourself maybe impacting the fullness of self awareness? Or am I crazy?

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      1. Not at all off topic Jim you know the old saying ‘ out of sight out of mind ‘ and after all who ever caught sight of a bacteria before the microscope was invented , or the mountains of the moon without a telescope , and of course if you don’t like using these sense – enhancing instruments your stitched! The interesting thing is how far to those sense extenders go and just what do our brains make of them.
        When the wavelength of light limited the ordinary microscope with lenses the electron microscope gave us pictures ( if I can call them that) , of course pictures of molecules must be strange since the things are in continuous motion and held together by curious forces we have named bonds. I remember when I first read that an atom was not a solid object ( whatever that may be) but a nucleus surrounded by negative electrons I still have trouble understanding why those electrons don’t slow down and even more puzzling why they don’t simply fall into the positive nucleus . I must stop rambling Jim time for a walk on the beach hopefully on very solid stones.

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  3. The mirror test certainly proves that some higher mammals can recognise their own images but this does not mean they have a human sense of self and Humphries makes this point very forcefully. He makes a good case in his book ‘ Soul Dust ‘ let me quote :
    What was I before I came to self- consciousness ? The answer is the I did not exist , for I was not an I . Humphries goes on to point out this human fear of death and that non-human animals cannot travel mentally in time as we can.
    Another quote : Our distant ancestors were unconscious but fully sentient. He points out that the primary visual cortex in humans has an extra layer of cells that does not exist in monkeys or apes.

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  4. I find the best way to tell if my thinking is on target is to be asked to explain why I think it is correct. If I can do that rationally with facts OK, if not I have rethink why I believed it in the first place. Hugs

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  5. “Is it a good idea to foster an idea that has no proof in reality, but is seen by many as an overall benefit to the species?”

    No. If believers want to say it is beneficial to have religion in today’s society, they need to show example after example of how religion has done more good than bad. That’s an uphill climb. Some religious activities have been helpful such as doing food drives, helping with rehab for addicts, disaster relief and clothing the poor. But all of these things can be done without religion. Slapping a Jesus bumper sticker on something doesn’t make it pure or divinely-inspired. It’s just a way of trying to convince others (and yourself) that you are right and God is real. The negatives (genocide, bigotry, oppression, slavery, child abuse, rape, etc…) far outweigh the positives. The fact that religion is not based in reality just makes those crimes stand out even more. God-ordained crimes are not considered crimes by the religious, but rather holy acts that are approved by the Almighty. However, once you remove God (or recognize that he was never there to begin with) the people who commit them are exposed as just sick people who also happen to be delusional. Doing awful things in God’s name doesn’t cover up the terrible things you do. It just makes you seem more mentally ill and depraved. It shows the influence religion has on both the mind of individuals and on society as a whole.

    Excellent post, Jim.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you sir. I tend to agree with you. Counter to Swarns idea that some benefit may come to one from it, his skepticism leans toward positive reasoning. Which is good, and an inclusive like his core. But really after being in it, I can’t really see how it was helpful to me in many ways at all. It was really just a counterproductive waste of time that distracted me from real personal growth, or limited to ” thank god, god is good, when it was us all along…and the people around us that were doing their best.

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  6. Ooh!!! That’s a huge topic for me!!! I think I covered most of my feelings on the topic in the previous post or so… To sum it up on short: I think many people just don’t like the idea of us having less than we’d like because it would mean we’re not “special”. Also even if we didn’t have as much or (even none) it’s always been that way since day 1, and we STILL are the amazing species known for our insane intellect 🙂 Nothing truly changes expect one’s attitude knowing either way. You, free will or not, can to the exact same things you could do a second ago before the theoretical news was broken to you! That said, I think there’s a balance. I think we do have far more free will than other non-human species, but there’s much that we are not conscious of controlling our behavior than we’d like to admit 😉

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    1. The debate has gone over two thousand years. It was the fourth century the church adopted freewill as a stance. If the church says yes, I’ll at least question the motives. That brand of freewill, backed by threats of hell and forced conversion for a thousand years basically forced freewill to their liking. This all occurred about the same time Augustine started using force against the Donatists. Weird.

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      1. Jim: I think the church *had* to adopt the idea of free will because without free will there can be no sin. Sin is a person making a deliberate choice to do something immoral/illegal, a deliberate turning away from god’s will. That implies that the person must make the choice to sin him/herself. If there is no free will, then the person has no choice and the whole concept of sin falls apart, as does the whole reason for religion in the first place which, at its core, is to guide us to avoid sin and to act as an intermediary between us and god to forgive us for the sin. If free will does not exist, than neither does choice, and neither does sin, because then everything has been preordained by god, who therefore created us knowing in advance that we would sin and go to hell and, well, then this whole mess is pretty much pointless in the first place and we might as well not bother at all.

        To make things even more surreal, add in the concept of the multiverse and quantum theory which some believe implies that *all* choices are made. There are theories that if, for example, you have the choice to turn left or right or go straight at that stoplight, you actually do all three. And… Well now my brain is starting to hurt so I’m going to stop now.

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        1. Great comment up until you said “To make things even more surreal,Thanks. Lol. I know. The physics and human nature analogies are interesting but they don’t really add up in the end. Freewill is a must to invoke good behavior through guilt and sin. Makes perfect sense. Good play on human nature. I’m falling somewhere in the middle. I think you can direct it based on the things you decide to read and watch. Garbage in garbage out. We can delve into a wide variety of topics and make some personal progress.

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          1. The free will debate can be enormously entertaining and frustrating at the same time. When it comes down to it, I live my life as if I did have free will. Basically I don’t worry about it.

            But when I sit down and actually think about *why* I made a decision, trace back the train of thought that took me to that point, it often seems as if I had no choice at all. That decision was based on my experience, my personal moral code, my financial situation, the situation of my family and community and how I want to deal with that, my future needs, etc. When all of that is taken into consideration what I find is that I HAD to make that decision in order to get the outcome I wanted. I suspect that if someone could program a computer with my life history, my likes and dislikes, my goals, my feelings about family and community and all the other variables in my life, it could come up with a damned accurate prediction of how I would act in almost any given situation. So if my decisions are predictable with reasonable accuracy, does that mean I have free will or not?

            Well, I say predictable, but then I went out to buy a new truck one day and came home with a 200 MPH sports car, so I don’t know about the whole “predictable” thing…

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            1. Lol. My wife and I have a running joke—how did we get here??? And then it happens again. The best cars in the world are trucks, btw.

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            2. I do agree with you about trucks 🙂 I really was going to buy one. Really I was. I was looking to trade off my utterly ridiculous Jeep with the Skyjacker kit, winch, big knobby tires, etc. that got a whopping 12 MPG, on a new truck, which would also let me get rid of the ancient 1996 Dodge Ram we were using, so I’d have one less vehicle around here. And the next thing I knew my wife is giving me *that* look as she stares at the white convertible with the 600 hp engine and 6 speed transmission and racing tires and exhaust that sets off car alarms if you blip the throttle when rolling through downtown that is now sitting in our driveway and she just shakes her head because she already knows I’m missing a few screws to begin with…

              But OMG that thing is fun to drive. Terrifying but fun.

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            3. In the last, oh, 10 years or so, Chevy changed the Corvette from what had been little more than a joke of a car that was actually unsafe to even drive, into something approaching a true sports car, even rivaling the ‘super cars’ like Ferrari and Porsche, although I’m sure a lot of people will argue about that. Suspension, braking, engines, transmissions, all have been upgraded to turn it into an amazing vehicle. My wife and I take it out west when we travel and it’s a hoot up in the mountains. I’ve been told that mine could cruise all day at 150 mph and that top speed would be pushing 190+. Not, of course, that I’d ever drive that fast. Nope, wouldn’t do that. No sir.

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  7. (Just to tell you) The site address of Maddyz Physics has been moved to – maddyzphysics.com (I hope you would have a look on the new site)

    Yeah, Quantum Physics tells us that there is a free will, but according Relativity all the events happening were set in motion at the instant of the Big Bang, and these event can’t be changed.
    Integrating these two ideas we find that there’s is a free will but we live in this universe because we are choosing those options in our life which were set in motion by Big Bang.
    In simple words, there are many other universes with me, you and other people, but that universe is different as I in that universe had made another choices in life.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Thanks!

        One more thing –
        The new site is receiving very less traffic, I mean only 280 views in two months. I have invested for the domain and hosting but it is very disappointing that we have received only 280 views till now.
        So, I mean, if you would write a small post for the website.
        I will be thankful to you if you would do that.

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        1. I’ll steal a topic from your site and link you up. Give me a few days if you can. I’ll have to relate it by my ingenious connective abilities. Lol.

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    1. I picked up on these words, and quote: “Quantum Physics tells us that there is a free will, but according [to the theory of?] Relativity all the events happening were set in motion at the instant of the Big Bang, and these event[s] can’t be changed.
      Integrating these two ideas we find that there is a free will but we live in this universe because we are choosing those options in our life which were set in motion by [the] Big Bang.”

      Either I missed something here or this is a complete contradiction. On one hand this says that we are “choosing” to live in this [particular] universe which indicates absolute free will in that choice – meaning that we must pre exist our physical birth in order to make that choice (OK, I happen to know we do pre exist all our physical births, but that’s another pot of spaghetti…) Then it goes on to say we have a choice of non-choice…

      To me this is a sneaky pseudo scientific way to reintroduce the archaic concept of predestination. Round and round the mulberry bush we merrily go…

      Personal statement: I have free will and I also have self empowerment. It doesn’t matter to me what “events were set in motion by the Big Bang”that it is presupposed can’t be changed. I know that if I choose to change them, I will change them, for myself-I won’t make the claim for anyone else.

      There are “big ideas” and “little words with inflated meaning” that evolutionary science likes to bandy about, as much without proof as claims made by religion. Consider for a moment: events set in motion 14.5 billion years ago that cannot be changed? Every event specifically tailored to a specific entity such as myself, known by “the Big Bang” that inexorably ties me to that wheel of karma? Billions upon billions of entities unable to escape a fate set in stone billions of years ago by what would have to be an omniscient intelligence? Pray tell, in what way is that any different than what religionists claim for their deities, their idols?

      Can’t we get past fate and chance and become human beings, i.e., using our intelligence to determine how we live our own lives? Free will dependent upon, controlled by, arbitrary conditions set up prior to my ability to have any input in them is not free will. It’s binding, mind-enslaving programming by an invisible power or force and how can that possibly be any different than an imposition from a god? It’s even worse than religion; at least with religion you can have hope and faith, praying for change. It’s quite useless, but at least you have that, maybe better psychologically than this kind of dead end.
      Can’t we stop recreating the gods we claim to demote and leave behind? Using scientific theories to recreate divine prerogatives is not proof of mental evolution.

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  8. I think Grouchy Farmer’s perspective is probably the most realistic. We may have “free will” to choose the direction we want to take in our lives, but those very decisions are more often than not manipulated by outside forces.

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    1. Placing conscious effort into what you put in your head, will determine what overall directions your ideas pull out. I think we can direct our lack of free will if we are cognizant of that fact.

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  9. About free will, any individual has as much free will as she/he decides to exercise because we are free will creatures/entities/beings. Of course having free will means taking responsibility for all of one’s life and for most people it would seem that’s too much to ask. Free will means the ability to think for yourself and decide how and what to think about, how and what to say and how to act. I call it self empowerment. No matter your situation, whether you are the idolized entertainment sweetheart of a continent or sitting on death row a day away from your execution date, free will is fully available within your life’s parameters. It’s not chance, drug or miracle but a matter of choice. Yes, to me it is a chicken and egg conundrum but I choose to ignore the conundrum and proceed with free will/free choice. I have to do that every day, several times a day-endless reality check: is this going to support and upgrade who I have chosen to become? Oh yes, free will also means I am not just who I am but it is what I am ever becoming… by personal choice. You could say that I am the master and guide of my own spiritual and mental evolution.

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    1. Just too make you smile ( I’m pretty sure you do anyway) Sam Harris has added an extra layer of madness to his conclusion that the self and free will are illusions he has added the idea that the self and free will is an illusion is also an illusion !
      ‘ You are Old Father William , the young man said ,
      And your hair has become very white ,
      And yet you incessantly stand on your head–
      Do you think at your age it is right?

      In my youth Father William replied to his son,
      I feared it might injure the brain ;
      But , now that I’m perfectly sure I have none ,
      Why , I do it again and again.’

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    2. Thanks. Sounds like you are grounded in sound hypothesis…that resonates well with me. I’ve always been a doer and love exploration, getting lost, trying new things, while many sit and watch the world go by or stick their noses in pop culture or some other worthless vice. I choose to live fully. I just don’t think that free will is an ultimatum. In a way, without freewill much of my life, if it were absolute, I’d still be a believer. Make sense?

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      1. It makes total sense to me. Without free will I also would still be a mental slave of religion because without free will religion actually makes sense – it leaves one nothing else to make sense of so, like Kersten’s Father William, it leaves you brain dead.

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        1. I’m in a conversation with another Christian that tagged atheism. His accusations were completely false, fabricated parroting, so I asked him to show me some data to back his claim. He told me he isn’t required to prove anything. That was gods department. His freewill to think has been stripped by his belief. He addresses none of my points whatsoever. I’ve been polite, but it’s good to see what we’re up against when it comes to being reasonable. I’ll post a link. It’s an interesting display.

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          1. Your Christian interlocutor is either lazy, ignorant, obtuse or a deliberate liar. There are many injunctions in the bible to believers to defend their position with logical arguments. One could say that the entire New Testament is such. The one that jumped to my mind when reading your post is this one:
            1Pe. 3:15 … Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
            Modern day Western Christians are a spiritually and mentally slovenly, despicable breed, with few exceptions.

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  10. I listened to a few minutes of this Jim, and I had to turn it off. I will try again later, but up to the point he becomes the serial killer and therefore must kill his next victim, it sounds like poppycock to me. I may change my mind if I am able to listen to more later, but knowing myself as I do, I cannot give away responsibility for my actions. Even when I seem to act on the spur of the moment, I have cosidered such action previously at some time. I may act contrary to my being, but 99% of the time I will act as I believe I need to act. I do have a choice, and I will always have a choice. Barring brainwashing, I am the chooser of what I do with my life, if and when I have the time to choose. Not having the time to choose is an accident happening in realtime right now. Seeing an accident coming and having enough tome to avoid it or lessen its impact is enough time to choose. That is the power of free will, and I believe I have free will. And it is up to each of us if we are going to choose free will or not. Many people do not think my way. I do, and I am responsible. Only me.
    Maybe more later.

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    1. I think what you’ll see is you actual become more responsible, more compassionate, less hateful and more understanding. Where he is going with the serial killer, is with greater understanding it takes away the need for hate. I think if you see it through you’ll at least understand the argument. Whether you agree it or is your choice…maybe. Lol. In no way will it absolve anyone from their ability to function in society.

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    2. One other thing raw. Whose idea is freewill? Where does it come from? Have they been honest about one thing? This notion is well over 2000 years old and became part of the church in the 4th century. Same time frame as the manipulative ecumenical council at Nicea. Weird.

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      1. I am conflicted about the notion of free will. On the one hand yes, ultimately the choice between options 1 and 2 is ultimately up to me. But that being said, we are constantly being manipulated by outside factors that have considerable influence over the choices we make. Look at the simple act of shopping, for example. Yes, what product we buy is our choice, but this is a rigged game. Everything about that purchase is orchestrated to influence our decisions. Advertising isn’t hit or miss, it’s guided by scientific research into our psychology in order to influence us. Even a store isn’t just a store, it’s a marketing tool. Everything in that store from the color of the walls and floors to the design of the kiosks, to the shelving, to the way products are displayed, to the packaging of the products, even where the product is placed on the shelf, is all deliberately designed to influence your purchases, either to buy a specific product or to just buy something, anything.

        This manipulation extends into every aspect of life. When someone is manipulated this extensively, is any decision they make truly made by “free will”?

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        1. Great correlation there Grouchy. I get a chuckle out of people’s perception of self as well. We want to claim some type of “individuality” while choosing from 4-5 different styles. Advertising and professional marketing has made the world bland. From coast to coast and around the world, everywhere you go has the same stuff, same clothes, restaurants, shops, etc, the iconic display of herd behavior.
          We have the Bavarian village Leavenworth, here in the cascades. Lined with beautiful restaurants and shops where you can buy the same stuff as any department store or mini mart checkout kiosk. Mostly from china.

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          1. I know what you mean, Jim. I’ve traveled a lot in the last 15 years and I’ve noticed the same thing. Whether I’m out in Cody Wyoming or Portland Maine everything is so similar it’s kind of scary. I can look out a hotel room window and not know where I am because it will be the same chain store signs, same architecture, even the same town layout. I can go into a shop in South Dakota and see exactly the same tat that is being sold here in tourist traps like Door County, all made in China (although in some shops in SD it seemed to somehow lose the “made in China” tag and was being sold as “genuine hand crafted Native American art”. The dreadful sameness of it all is, I suppose, reassuring to some people, but I find it all very, very sad. It makes me think that we’ve sold our soul, so to speak, to the big corporations.

            When I get on the road I usually program the GPS to avoid the major highways and use the backroads. Yeah, it takes more time, sometimes a lot more time, but if you stick to the freeways and toll roads all you see is this artificial environment created by the same urban planners and the same restaurant chains, same motel chains, same retail chains. Might as well not bother.

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      2. You’ve gone in a lot of directions, Jim, and I have my ideas on all of them. But I tried, and I could not watch the video. I know I have told you in other comments that I was horribly physically abused as a child. If I had done as a lot of other abused children did, I would have become an abuser myself. Receive pain, give pain. It is the normal non-thinking egotistical thing to do. Two of my brothers took that route. They could not hurt my father, so they hurt others, including their families. How my other brothers did not become abusers themselves, I do not know. At least one of them swore he had never been abused, but no one believed him. My father told us he was the meanest “mother….” in the world, and he said it with more than natural pride. But before I was old enough to know about abuse being an unending cycle, maybe 5 years old, I remember making the “free-will” decision not to harm others, to always control my anger, and to always help others, no matter what. If this was my ego (brain) making this decision at that age, I will eat my brain for breakfast. And if I had become an abuser, I would have ended up with a perfect reason for doing so. Nurture made me do it, and probably nature as well. But I took responsibility for my actions, even at that young age, though I could never have explained it in those words at that time. I did not want to cause anyone the kind of pain and suffering my father had caused me. And I mostly kept my word. I found out I was not perfect in my 30s, when I moved in with my future wife, and then her two kids moved in with us. I am not proud of what I did, but two times I acted without forethought, and twice I caused a child pain. But I sat myself down the second time, and talked to myself, reminding myself of that long-ago decision, and it never happened again. That is the difference between non-free will and free will. We can do things no one would expect us to do, including controlling what other people call emotions.
        I do not believe anger to the point of violence is an emotion, it is the freedom to be an assinine bully and not take blame. That was my father. It is not me, because I choose it not to be. I have free will. No one can take that from me!

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        1. Nicely stated rawgod. I am not committed to either-or myself. The arguments are compelling for both sides. If I didn’t believe in freewill I’d still be carrying a bible and going to church every week. The church with its threats and guilt, I allowed them, I surrendered my right to it. Or else. True there is a lot of input we can’t control, but in the end we can direct our input, read the best variety of stuff out there, and then, when forced to make a choice we’re likely to recall the overload of good info we put there on purpose, instead of the unfilterable crap we grow up with. Great comment. This is the purpose of the post btw, to learn that we have the power to change and direct our lives. So glad you are here. A genuine pleasure as always.

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  11. This is one of the arguments raised against those neuroscientists who claim the brain decides our choice before we make it. The brain meditates all the time.
    Nicholas Humphrey suggests in the course of evolution self-consciousness was created to aid survival. The self of an adult human being has no equivalent in animals or human infants. We can enjoy our own existence and it is the driving force for the development of culture and civilisation. It’s the way we see the world and it may be bodies are perceived with qualities that do not belong to them.

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    1. That’s sort of the direction I was looking for myself. Not sure if you know my history, but deconverted about 4 years ago alone in the jungle. I’ve seen very little in the way of atheist publications. Never read an atheist book, but the more I do this, the more I see parallels to others thought.
      Most everything I write is my own idea, lol, but reached through reason. I have been accused several times of being a Dawkins/Ehrman disciple. But I’ve never read them. You can come to rational conclusions on your own, if you can take the time to look around. Thank you for the great comment.

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      1. You surprise me Jim , unlike you I look at the ideas of others in videos or books ; my argument for this system is there are much smarter brains out there than mine so it will help me to unwind the complex mass of ideas that the world presents.

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        1. For me this is a sort of experiment, as well as a way to learn and engage from real people. Here’s my thought… I wanted to see if my own observations would lead me to the same conclusions as the experts. I read, sure, a wide variety of science, literature, psychology, studies, etc, but I have steered away from atheist topics, with my own eye open for connections to truth. Most people live very busy lives and have a difficult time making time to observe the world around them. I live in nature, and I observe. Each day I come up with a new topic and try to make sense of it. I have a talent for connecting seemingly disparate topics and making sense of how it is all connected. I also solve problems in my dreams at night, and often go to bed with an idea in mind to work on.
          I did watch the Sam Harris video yesterday. That’s a total of maybe 5 videos in the past 4 years. I believe that most people could come to reasonable conclusions without being bombarded with ten different angles of nonsense, but few have that opportunity. Politics is another one I avoid as both sides are wrong and I can’t support that. Just as I could no longer support a religious belief. For peace of mind and also for integrity sake.

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          1. Sounds to me as if you are leading a very busy life even in dreams at night it’s just a more varied and different busyness from the average active type. I notice you use the term ‘ live in nature ‘ is that a sort of modern Waldenism ? but maybe not , his was a form of escape.
            I had little time to much other than work and bring up a family until I was getting towards sixty ; we had four children and it was a rocky ride.
            I took myself in hand and educated myself as best I could but soon realized knowledge is a deep moving sea impossible to fathom.
            Since then I splashed around , ruled out nothing , discovered quite a lot and filled my time.

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            1. Active self learning is a great approach. I can’t really tell you much about what I leaned in college, other than learning more of how to learn. I am not escaping, but found a happy spot. We feed the wild deer, turkeys, and other animals that feel comfortable here. My daughter, grandson and I spend hours a day in the forest learning about plants, roots, the trees and their medicinal uses. Been very fortunate to have lived most of my life observing the world around me. I was blinded by religious indoctrination for most of my life as well, then realized one day I had lived an independent life in every way…except religion. I took an indepth look at my beliefs and compared them to what we actually see. I was alone, three weeks in the Panama jungle where I came to my atheism. Not by reading opposing opinions, but by observations. That’s a little of the most of my story, but it took a jolt from another non believer to make me take a look.

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            2. Medicines originated from plants as did many of the drugs so often used to change our conscious awareness. It was a long time into chemical advances before such drugs could be synthesized in our laboratory’s and we began to understand the chemical structure of such substances. Perhaps one of the most useful substances ever known Penicillin was discovered by accident and the brilliant observation of Alexandra Fleming on molds.
              None of this truly surprising since we ourselves arose out of the plant world and contain many of the same genes and all of this is due to the remarkable properties of the carbon atom which enables it to connect to itself in long chains in ways no other atoms can.
              Of course the religious would be thrilled by this revelation , see they would say , how carefully God has put the world together , but we know that everything except abiogenesis can be explained by natural selection. One of the brightest and startling forest floor dwellers is the fly agaric ; my kids loved to find these when we had time to go for walks.

              Liked by 3 people

            3. We haven’t found fly agaric yet this year, but the first ones my daughter found yesterday was of the “shrooms” variety. We had a nice lesson, but no sampling.

              Like

        1. I don’t believe I’ve ever used that word. You have me confused with someone else. See, Loy, this is what I meant the other day. Have you added anything? What’s your thoughts on free will? I am not black and white, nor are my conclusions welded to a fantasy. I am seeking understanding while you, I have no idea.
          Like I mentioned to Sha, sheepherders get pretty bored, have a lot of free time to do nothing but wander in a void. The brain, when not properly fed will just create things—enter religion. A group of sheepherders? That’s the worst combination the world has ever had to deal with. Now others that live in that same void of knowledge are spreading the the ideas of lonely men that ideated how the world was made.

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    2. That idea promoted by some scientific studies is problematic. How does “your brain” know something before “you” know? Isn’t your brain part of you? The fact is that the studies give you two or three predetermined choices, so you may not be consciously aware of your decision, but YOU did make the decision. When you do not know the choices ahead of time, then this doesn’t work at all.

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      1. If you have an hour you’ll find this quite compelling and easy to understand. Part of the presentation you will be instructed to do some simple tasks. No one can explain it better than this.

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      2. I think what neuroscientists are saying is that there is a part of the brain that activates when you become consciously aware of something, and there is a part of the brain that activates when you’ve made a particular decision. In fMRI studies they found that the part of the brain that activates for a particular decision comes a fraction of a second before the part of the brain associated with consciousness. So you make a decision before you become consciously aware of it.

        The “you” here is in reference to your conscious mind. But you are correct it’s all in the brain, it’s just that we have this idea that there is a sort of separate self in our brains that is the author of our thoughts. A tenet of Buddhism which is being verified by neuroscience is that there is no “self” or no “you” in this sense. It’s all be the brain, and that’s the important part. 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

          1. This could well be. There is still a lot we don’t know about consciousness. It’s definitely a unique problem in science. In regards to free will I think it’s fairly clear that we don’t have it in an absolute sense. The choices we are going to make will be consistent with our nature and nurture in life.

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            1. Indeed! Certainly one can attempt to incorporate or consider the relevance of evolutionary sciences and behavioural sciences in the “problem of free will”. Some younger philosophers are beginning to take a more multidisciplinary approach. For example, upon being asked by me whether he has enlisted and/or consulted the findings of evolutionary sciences and behavioural sciences, Justin Caouette conveyed to me in October 10, 2012 that he has considered the relevance of the behavioural sciences, and that he was working on the intersection between neuroscience, psychology and philosophy on the assumption or belief that the more we understand about how the mind works the closer we shall approach answering the central questions in the debate on free will.

              I would also like to take the opportunity to include this quotation:

              The definition of Free Will used here is that of philosopher Gordon H. Clark (1961). Religion, reason, and revelation. Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co, p. 203. “Free will has been defined as the ability under given circumstances, to choose either of two courses of action. Whatever motives or inclinations a man might have, or whatever inducements may be laid before him, that might seem to turn him in a given direction, he may at a moment disregard them all and do the opposite.”

              Sam Harris’ book is devoted to demonstrating this definition is contrary to fact. He provides many examples to show that what we decide is affected by factors we are unaware of. He points out we are programmed by influences ranging from genes to our upbringing, and this programming affects our decisions. He points out that who we are today is not the same as yesterday for reasons that maybe nobody can determine, so our decisions today are not those we would make at another time.

              So we may conclude that the definition of Free Will above exaggerates our competence in decision making. “Free Will” is one of those terms that needs to be dumped in favor of a more realistic terminology.

              Sam Harris says: “There is no question that human beings can imagine and plan for the future, weigh competing desires, etc. – and that losing these capacities would greatly diminish us.” “However, these phenomena have nothing to do with free will.” He goes on through a personal example to suggest that the ability to be rational and formulate matters doesn’t mean you have the capacity to put the plan into action. Nonetheless, Sam Harris says, you can choose to do something: “Of course you can create a framework in which certain decisions are more likely than others – you can, for instance, purge your house of all sweets, making it very unlikely that you will eat dessert later in the evening – but you cannot know why you were able to submit to such a framework today when you weren’t yesterday.”

              So, Sam Harris seemingly believes that understanding our limitations can lead to better actions, which makes the reading of this book at least potentially useful. Apparently we have the freedom to analyze our situation, and somehow that analysis can change our programming, so our uncontrollable moment-by-moment responses become more in keeping with who we want to be, although not actually under our immediate control. If we can’t make this analysis and adjust our programming ourselves, society can do it for us and (for example) whack us into an AA program where we will be reprogrammed.

              Sam Harris suggests that: “You can do what you decide to do – but you cannot decide what you will decide to do.” “My choices matter – and there are paths toward making wiser ones – but I cannot choose what I choose.”

              These statements need semantic clean-up to make some sense.

              There are some unconnected dots here, and Sam Harris dumps it in the reader’s lap. Basically, framing the matter as free will (complete autonomy) versus no freedom at all is a false dichotomy, that is, a pretense that there are only two alternatives, when something in between is more accurate. What Sam Harris does here is to point out this fallacy, and outline our limitations.

              But unfortunately he doesn’t examine what freedom we do have with any clarity.

              By the way, I have discussed determinism and causality (as well as many other matters) in the concluding section of my post at https://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/soundeagle-in-best-moment-award-from-moment-matters/#Conclusion

              You are welcome to join the conversations there and offer your insight, doubt, opinion or the like.

              Liked by 3 people

            2. You basically have two very distinct definitions of free will. And you’ll find both in many dictionaries. Here are a few examples:

              Free Will
              Mirriam-Webster on-line:
              1: voluntary choice or decision ‘I do this of my own free will’
              2: freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention

              Short Oxford English Dictionary:
              1 Spontaneous will, inclination to act without suggestion from others.
              2 The power of directing one’s own actions unconstrained by necessity or fate.

              Wiktionary:
              1. A person’s natural inclination; unforced choice.
              2. (philosophy) The ability to choose one’s actions, or determine what reasons are acceptable motivation for actions, without predestination, fate etc.

              The first one I paraphrase as “a person deciding for themselves what they will do, free of coercion or other undue influence”. This is a pragmatic definition that makes the meaningful distinction between the case where a person deliberately chooses to do something, versus the case where a choice is being forced upon the person against their will. This is the definition used in matters of moral and legal responsibility.

              The second definition I paraphrase as “freedom from causal necessity/inevitability”. Determinism asserts universal causal necessity. So, if you happen to choose this definition then you must either discard free will or discard determinism. And since universal causal inevitability is a logical implication of perfectly reliable cause and effect, and we require reliable causation to be able to do anything, it turns out that ALL of our freedoms require reliable causation. So, “freedom from reliable causation” is a rather silly concept.

              The question is why would anyone ever choose the so-called “philosophical” definition of free will over the pragmatic definition of free will.

              The answer is that they must be viewing universal causal inevitability as some kind of constraint upon their freedom, despite the fact that every freedom we have requires it.

              What you will inevitably do is exactly identical to what you would have done anyway. What kind of “constraint” is that?

              Liked by 3 people

    3. Hi Kersten. It’s not completely clear to me that other animals don’t have self-consciousness. In fact there are some studies to suggest even plants have self-consciousness at least of a kind. But I do think that the research is pretty clear that organisms with brains at least as complex as dogs demonstrate evidence of self-consciousness. I think it might be more helpful to see self-consciousness as a matter of degree across a continuum of species rather than having or not having it. Sam Harris linked above, and one of those neuroscientists who says we don’t have free will, studies consciousness quite a bit and the idea of self-consciousness and the absence of free-will are in no way opposed to each other. In fact I just heard Sam Harris say the other day in a TED interview that “consciousness is the only thing in the universe we can actually be sure. We may be in a matrix like simulation, but the lights are on for conscious creatures and that’s the one thing we can be sure of.” I shouldn’t have used quotes as I can’t guarantee that’s the exact quote. lol

      I am not sure I understand Humphrey’s argument, at least the link isn’t completely obvious to me. I mean there are lots of factors here. I mean farming is the advance that gave a large portion of free time to a good portion of the population, and not having to spend most of your waking hours in the pursuit of food can help you put your mind to a lot of other things. Of course hunter-gatherers still have culture, but it’s not clear that all culture is for the purpose of enjoying existence. For instance you could argue that a complex religious ritual is part of culture, but the goal at least one time may have been to support a belief that seemed reasonable at the time given a lack of understanding of how the universe worked or based on certain nutritional limitation. For instance we could say that the cow being sacred is part of Indian culture, but it is more likely that people started suffering from calcium deficiency in a place that has always had a high population density, and knew of no other sources of sufficient calcium back then and so killing all the cows for meat wasn’t a smart play. Clearly there are aspects of culture that are purely for enjoyment, but the development of these things may have less to do with self-consciousness but ample free time. Jared Diamond, in his book The Third Chimpanzee talks about the production of art in other primates and argues that maybe the reason they don’t create art is because in the wild they have little time to do so. But evolutionary psychologists tend to even think that art may have some evolutionary advantages and that maybe strong artistic skill has some value when it comes to hierarchies or mating preferences.

      Sorry to interject in this great exchange here between you and Jim. As a side note to this conversation, I value both your desire to learn from experts, and also Jim’s self driven experiment in thought. I’m somewhere in the middle there. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. There is a lot to consider. Even at the end of this TED in the Q n A he was pretty clear on conscientiousness. The whole simulation thing is very unbelievable, but the evidence is supporting it in many ways. Weird. Part of some sadistic version of “The Game”. Lol. If so, whose pulling the strings? God? Or the universe itself?

        Liked by 2 people

        1. If it’s a simulation, I expect to be more like a computer program in which you create and just hit run and see what happens. It’s not sadism, it’s just a complex program and the results aren’t easily predictable. A being capable of creating such a program might understand the ingredients to create life but we know evolution involves both a random (non-deterministic) and a deterministic part so I don’t assume any intent on the part of the programmer outside of curiosity. As I said before, there is no guarantee that intelligent beings like ourselves would be created by evolution. The question is, if I was the creator of such a program and saw what was going on down here on Earth would I stop the program seeing the type of misery I created or would I let the program go to see what happens? If everything happens within physical laws, and there is no way around those physical laws, I am not sure what physical laws would need to be adjusted to produce less suffering in conscious beings. We have no physical law that encompasses biology although evidence suggests that biology is bound by them. Presumably the programmer knows this and could know what adjustments to make. Maybe this experiment is going better than the last one. Maybe the programmer did stop the last one and is letting this one go a little longer. For such a being time to that being is not what it is to us. It could also be that the programmer simply sees things as the best they can be, and also sees no reason to wipe fish out of existence just because a bunch of evolved primates don’t know what the fuck they are doing. It’s possible that there is life on other planets that is going quite well after a rough start and we will too. I still don’t really buy that we are living in a simulation, but I think that even if we are there are a lot of reasons why someone who created it is letting it all play out!

          Liked by 2 people

          1. A simulation would also help explain properties of light, time, and the acceleration of the expansion of the galaxy, defying what we expect to follow any rules. It’s almost funny. Just when we start to wrap our heads around something the rules change.

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            1. You tell me boss? Could be. Every time we find a new and improved way to look, it’s not what we thought at all. It is interesting though, after 100 years, how much General Relativity is coming to life, or is it just because that’s how we’re looking, trying to prove something we want to be true.

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            2. Certainly we get stuck in paradigms and that can be unhelpful in making advances, and we do often waste our time on things that we want to be true over just taking a step back and trying a new perspective…but we eventually get there, because such people do come along in science to move us in new directions. But I do think there is at least a sensible reason why we think a certain about how things work, because it is explaining a lot of what we see, but we can know that our theory is incomplete when it doesn’t explain all that we see, and so we have a choice. Are we incorrectly seeing the outliers as outliers, or is the theory wrong? I think that we tend to think the former is true than the latter. Both things of course have been true in science.

              For me the geocentric theory is a great example of all this. I mean at the time the theory was proposed the biggest line of evidence against the geocentric theory was retrograde motion of the planets. Well compared to the 1000s of stars that are visible a handful of planets are outliers. If literally everything else in the sky appears to revolving around us in the same direction, why think a few outliers aren’t actually outliers, but rather need to be viewed differently? Their answer to retrograde motion was epicycles and it’s actually kind of a brilliant solution. Wrong of course, but it took far more careful observations, and the telescope to prove them wrong.

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            3. I think one set of fresh eyes will change everything. My 7 year old grandson lives with us. He’s genius level in math and science comprehension. He’ll watch astrophysics videos all day long if he can. He actually gets it and offers his own ideas. If we could get more involvement our odds will go up that someone will see this in a way we’ve never thought of. And its probably not as complicated at we’re making it. Ancient civilizations understood things we can’t today. To them it was common knowledge.

              Liked by 3 people

            4. What knowledge did ancient civilizations understand that we can’t today?

              But I agree with you that progress comes when we have more people that are allowed to flourish. Think of all the people as talented as your grandson who are malnourished, living in poverty, are women so they don’t get educated. The amount of young talented brains that will never reach their potential is horrifying to think about?

              Liked by 2 people

            5. My first thought is the building processes in meso America and Egypt. The aquifers or the development of corn. Just a few things come to mind. They did some amazing things several thousand years ago by looking at things differently. Probably not that difficult, but different. Way smarter than they get credit for.

              Liked by 3 people

            6. Oh I agree that we tend to minimize the ingenuity and problem solving skills of ancient civilizations, but that’s a different argument than saying we can’t understand them. I think our eurocentric hubris is what leads us to minimize a lot of what other cultures did in the past. Perhaps it would simply make us look worse if we actually admitted they had good ideas after we committed genocide on them. It still makes me sad how fucked up colonialism was and how many people it killed and exploited.

              Liked by 2 people

  12. For once I want to comment without reading all the comments people have made before me. Often their comments turn me away from my intentions, and I write to them rather than your post. But not today. Today I will write to your post.
    We do have free will. We can think about anything we want to think about. We are only limited by ourselves, and what we think we can think about. This is a problem I do not often have. I try not to limit my own thinking–all thoughts are fair game. I give you my thoughts about responsible anarchy, and sex schools as two examples. I know these thoughts are far out in left field, but that does not stop me from thinking them, or considering them as possible cures to wrongs I see around me. But what limits thoughts such as these are not me, but those I try to give these thoughts to. I am told they cannot work in today’s world, that society will never accept them. This does not limit me from thinking them, but it does limit the idea from ever being tried.
    What frustrates me is that no one is willing to look at my ideas, and say, well maybe that won’t work, but maybe this will. I have had many ideas in my lifetime, I am an idea kind of guy. I am not a person who can see how to implement ideas, that takes another kind of mind altogether, a practical person. I am not practical, and never have been. What that says about me I do not know, but nor do I care. Like Bobby Kennedy once said, Look at the world around you, and ask what if? John Lennon was talking about the same thing in his song, Imagine. Imagine no religions, no nations, no wars. These are all things I have imagined. But it seems few other people want to go there. People are too negative, too lazy, too I-don’t-know-what! People need to believe, not in the negative, but in the positive. They need to believe change is possible.
    On this day of elections in the USA, when Trump may be given a mandate to keep on doing the stupid things he is doing, today is the kind of day one needs to look at American democracy and see that it is not working. It needs to change. But no one is looking at that. There will be cheating going on, is that really okay? People are being disenfranchised. Is that really okay? No! These things are not okay! But that is how your democracy works. Change it! If you cannot correct it, get rid of it! Don’t just sit there and sigh!
    I am just one person, I cannot do these things all on my own. But someone knows how to do these things, if only they believe they need to be done. Do you believe they need to be done? I hope so! I really honestly totally hope so! But I doubt they will be done, because society is not ready for it! Society is you! Do it! Just do it…

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Just a note, no freewill does not diminish us as people, it actually creates an understanding and compassion higher than what freewill can accomplish. I know it sounds crazy when we’re been deceived to thinking we gave it as part of a master plan. Take an hour raw, and see what you thing about this. Very clear and concise, and it resinates automatically when you understand it.

      Liked by 3 people

  13. Is it a good idea to foster an idea that has no proof in reality, but is seen by many as an overall benefit to the species?

    Interesting question for sure Jim. After my long discussion with Shatara I was discussing with my wife something similar about this topic, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say that that discussion is what has led to this post even if you don’t know it does…you know…because of your lack of free will. 🙂

    For instance Shatara is clearly a compassionate person, should it matter how she arrives at her compassion? I may know a lot about climate change, so should I care that there is a bunch of people who are on board with doing something about it simply because it is a cause of the political left and not because they truly understand the problem?

    I was telling my wife that if I had a vision and a talking frog told me that I should be kind and love people and started to do so, should that matter if it changes me for the better? In the short term it does perhaps, but in the end if I want other people to become more kind and compassionate, I have to convince people that the talking frog was real or I have to find other reasons for the benefits of being kind and compassionate that all people can connect to. To use frog only as my reason for being kind and compassionate is to accept that these concepts originate from authority and are without reasons. I am simply someone doing something because I have been essentially commanded to do it. I would argue that this is not a good way to build a society even if I have become more compassionate as a result of my experience. Now it could be that I had that experience because I was doing acid, was sleep deprived, or some other brain impacting malady and after a bit of research I might say, these experiences that allow you to experience different states of consciousness or important and so I might suggest that other people try a little acid, try meditation, a sweat lodge, etc as a way of experiencing these different states of consciousness that help you experience a sense of unity and love among all living creatures. Now that would be a better way to go.

    I think that good ideas that have overall benefit to species are ones that are also rooted in reality. The talking frog has a good idea, but that good idea can also be proved in reality. Is prayer a good idea? Well if it’s goal was to help oppressors give those they oppressed an out to put hope that God would change things miraculously on their behalf than it’s a bad idea. If prayer is a way to express your worries and fears to reflect contemplatively on the meaning of those worries, and enter to a silent meditative state than maybe it is a good idea. But we can prove that introspection has value in reality.

    Is God a good idea? I think that depends on what the intent of God as an idea was. The idea of God is so non-specific that it becomes hard to evaluate. If God is a place holder for things that we don’t understand, then God is not a good idea. If the idea of God was to make us feel humble in a vast universe we only barely comprehend and that life is full of elements beyond our control, then I think it is a good idea and I know for many people that is what God can represent to them. It can be proved in reality that many things are beyond our control and that there is much we don’t understand.

    So I do think that we need to look at these ideas and as was said above, not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Try to understand their value…because if there is value in them that value can also be arrived by other means, and will have evidence as being valuable through the mode of systematic investigative methods.

    Liked by 7 people

  14. Shelf fungus kills trees. Is that picture a deliberate illustration of how thinking kills Christianity? To grow faith, you need new ideas and controversy to mull over. Otherwise, you are just a non-thinking repeater.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. I hate to say this, but ‘as an atheist’ I think in dismissing any deity I may have tossed out some babies in the bath water. The fact that we exist is indeed a wonder of such proportion that I understand the need for creation until we have science. And even then, holy shit!
    Anomalous thoughts/things as well as many other ‘hard to believe’ possibilities are, in my opinion now, out there to be pondered and studied. As I look down at this book, “The fact was, we were all misinformed. So much for priding ourselves on judging by the evidence.” (from Extraordinary Knowing: Science, Skepticism, and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human Mind, E. L. Mayer)

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Exactly. Some say it so well it takes a little time to simmer, then grow through it. The evolution of thought, ideas, what we are capable of may be taking a giant turn, and be nothing what we expect. Great comment Bill. Always a pleasure.

      Liked by 3 people

        1. I woke up at 2:30 with this in my dream. Had to jot it down quickly. I work out problems in my sleep, then half the time forget the solution. Lol. Thanks buddy.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Just before I woke up at 4 a.m. I was about to dive into a pool and swim a length of butterfly. 😯 I guess I’m trying to solve the problem of aging and not being able to do the butterfly stroke anymore. It sure was a great feeling though as I realized I could . . . in my dream. 🙂

            Liked by 3 people

          2. One more comment about free will. This is a quote from ‘The Blank Slate’ by Steven Pinker. “The unfortunate wretch who is introverted, neurotic, narrow, selfish, and undependable is probably that way in part because of his genes, and so, most likely, are the rest of us who have tendencies in any of those directions as compared with our fellows.”

            Liked by 3 people

            1. Thanks. Anyone that’s had more than one kid knows there is a lottery at play. Some people are born bitter and others sweet. Some are forgiving by nature while others struggle and hold grudges—a long long time! It’s in the neuronic lottery of luck. Mitigation through self awareness and discovery can temper, but change is so hard for some.

              Liked by 4 people

  16. We may not have the free will to generate our own ideas, but do we (I hope) have the ability to foster them, or filter them?

    My dear man, I think you might have cracked that nut! I have no idea where the subject of free will is at (much past neurological experiments), but this little nugget of yours is an idea i’ve not seen before.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. It is my own Idea (I think) You know how I cook things. I’d like to ask Sam Harris or Dan Dennett that question. I think my abilities warrant the thought, but let’s see if someone can throw in a wrench.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. It appears to slot in very, very nicely with consciousness being truly nothing much more than a delayed feedback. (Of course, there’s more to it, but that’s the general idea). So, if that is consciousness (a secondary experience), then it seems to make sense that ‘self’ is this fostering (filtering).

        Liked by 3 people

  17. I think we have a lot less free will than we think we do. I think many arguments about free will are not scientific, but motivated by this idea that if we don’t have enough of it, then we’re not “special” which holds back a lot of things in the study of humanity… It doesn’t change, or shouldn’t at least our behavior nor our incredible specialness we possess now through our incredible intellect! After all, if we don’t have free will, we never had it this entire time humanity existed and we STILL achieved all we did! Or of we do have it then, cool… learning we have less than we would like changes ZERO of who we were 1 min. before the “bad news” 😂

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Being conscious of the fact that we do not originate the ideas that we have, is it reasonable to consider carefully the most important influences we have inadvertently acquired? Seems everyone has an agenda to seek validation, especially the supernatural ideations. Couple that with human gullibility, conscious awareness, skepticism must certainly be a first thought when we hear outlandish claims. Or is that statement just another idea I’m not originating? How to control the output after receiving random input, i would hope we at least have that ability.

      Liked by 4 people

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