Intelligent Design Mind News

Can we measure free will—fq?

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From Aeon:

Like IQ or EQ, there should be FQ: a freedom quotient to show how much free will we have – and how to get more

It is often thought that science has shown that there is no such thing as free will. If all things are bound by the same impersonal cosmic laws, then (the story goes) our paths are no freer than those of rocks tumbling down a hill. But this is wrong. Science is giving us a very powerful and clear way to understand freedom of the will. We have just been looking for it in the wrong place. Instead of using an electron microscope or a brain-scanner, we should go to the zoo.

There we will find animals using a wide range of skills that give them options for what to do – skills that we share.

Author Stephen Cave sees free will as having evolved through natural selection for survival.

And we are starting to understand the cognitive abilities that underpin this behavioural freedom. Like most evolved capacities, they are a matter of degree. Take, for example, the ability to delay gratification. For a hungry cat, this means being able to hold back from pouncing until it is sure the sparrow is within range and looking the other way. Experimenters measure this ability by testing how long an animal can resist a small treat in return for a larger reward after a delay. Chickens, for example, can do this for six seconds. They can choose whether to wait for the juicier titbit or not – but only if that titbit comes very soon. A chimpanzee, on the other hand, can wait for a cool two minutes – or even up to eight minutes in some experiments. I am guessing that you could manage a lot longer.

One prevalent idea is that freedom requires a supernatural ability to transcend the laws of nature, because otherwise we would appear to be mere puppets of cause and effect. This makes free will into something mysterious, which would set us apart from the rest of creation. As this notion contradicts everything we know about the world, it is no surprise that ever more people are concluding that free will must be an illusion.

It contadicts everything Stephen Cave and his friends know about the world, but not what billion of other people know.

Yet all around us, every day, we see a very natural kind of freedom – one that is completely compatible with determinism. It is the kind that living things need to pursue their goals in a world that continually presents them with multiple possibilities. More.

Obviously, if free will is completely compatible with determinism, and Darwinism explains how, then all or some of the terms are nonsense.

But this is what naturalism (nature is all there is) has come to.

Note: Cave write,

Here again the comparison with intelligence is revealing. For much of the past 2,000 years in the West, intelligence was conceived in terms of a God-given faculty of reason that set humans wholly apart from other creatures. ‘Intellect’ and ‘will’ were seen by the medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas, for example, as the two pre-eminent faculties of the soul, which did not depend at all on the body.

More.

I’d be very surprised if Thomas believed that. Anyone can see that one’s capacity to exercise free will or intellect may be affected by many physical factors.* Let’s ask house philosopher Vincent Torley about it.

But expect to hear many more of these attempts to materialize entities that actually belong to the world of intelligence and information.

Note: Free will is back. See, for example,

How can we believe in naturalism if we have no choice?

I will. Free will means something after all

and

Will power is back in style — for three months maybe?

* Note: Many men die unnecessarily of heart attacks because the panic causes them to think it can’t really be happening to them. If readers find themselves in that position, it is recommended that they go to an emergency room “just to check.” (Bring your iPad and your toothbrush.)

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

9 Replies to “Can we measure free will—fq?

  1. 1
    leodp says:

    If you’ve ever taken a female kitten as a pet and watched the goings-on the first time she is in heat — Tom’s surrounding her in the yard and ripping each other fiercely for first rights — it’s neither peaceful or very pretty and it doesn’t seem much that’s truly volitional could be going on there on their part or hers.
    But when it comes to humans we are far less controlled by instincts and much freer to choose between alternative actions, and often for more abstract reasons (such as moral considerations), than this. I think Aquinas was right. At least much righter than my materialist friends. (And righter than my hyper-Calvinist friends as well 🙂 )

  2. 2

    Well I’m neither a hypercalvinist nor a friend, but defending Calvin and Jonathan Edwards on this score, the problem with free will isn’t simply Darwinism, it is the idea that we can partition consciousness into neat little modules. “I’ve got my will over there, shackled to the wall, my conscience is on the other side next to the blast furnace, and my rational intellect is in the throne room, and somewhere downstairs in the dungeon is my unconscious, having a conversation with my id.”

    If it sounds silly, maybe its because it is silly.

  3. 3
    vjtorley says:

    Hi News,

    St. Thomas Aquinas certainly did not believe that one’s capacity to exercise free will or intellect is totally independent of the body. Indeed, in his Summa Theologica I, q. 84, art. 8, he declares the contrary: “it is not possible for our intellect to form a perfect judgment, while the senses are suspended, through which sensible things are known to us.” He adds:

    Although the intellect is superior to the senses, nevertheless in a manner it receives from the senses, and its first and principal objects are founded in sensible things. And therefore suspension of the senses necessarily involves a hindrance to the judgment of the intellect. (Reply to Obj. 1)

    In his reply to Objection 2, Aquinas states that “if a man syllogizes while asleep, when he wakes up he invariably recognizes a flaw in some respect.”

    I think Stephen Cave needs to do a little more reading about Aquinas’ philosophy of mind.

    Thanks for an interesting post, News.

  4. 4
    bornagain says:

    A few notes: How free will and intelligent design intersect is highlighted in the following article,

    Algorithmic Information Theory, Free Will and the Turing Test – Douglas S. Robertson
    Excerpt: Chaitin’s Algorithmic Information Theory shows that information is conserved under formal mathematical operations and, equivalently, under computer operations. This conservation law puts a new perspective on many familiar problems related to artificial intelligence. For example, the famous “Turing test” for artificial intelligence could be defeated by simply asking for a new axiom in mathematics. Human mathematicians are able to create axioms, but a computer program cannot do this without violating information conservation. Creating new axioms and free will are shown to be different aspects of the same phenomena: the creation of new information.
    http://cires.colorado.edu/~dou...../info8.pdf

    Moreover, the materialistic argument against free will is self refuting. As well, determinism as a theory in quantum physics is dead:

    Sam Harris’s Free Will: The Medial Pre-Frontal Cortex Did It – Martin Cothran – November 9, 2012
    Excerpt: There is something ironic about the position of thinkers like Harris on issues like this: they claim that their position is the result of the irresistible necessity of logic (in fact, they pride themselves on their logic). Their belief is the consequent, in a ground/consequent relation between their evidence and their conclusion. But their very stated position is that any mental state — including their position on this issue — is the effect of a physical, not logical cause.
    By their own logic, it isn’t logic that demands their assent to the claim that free will is an illusion, but the prior chemical state of their brains. The only condition under which we could possibly find their argument convincing is if they are not true. The claim that free will is an illusion requires the possibility that minds have the freedom to assent to a logical argument, a freedom denied by the claim itself. It is an assent that must, in order to remain logical and not physiological, presume a perspective outside the physical order.
    per Evolution News and Views

    Podcast – Dr. Michael Egnor: Do Humans Have Free Will? Listen in as Dr. Egnor explains why the argument against free will is self-refuting and shows how determinism as a theory in quantum physics is dead.
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....8_01-08_00

    As to hyper-Calvinism, I like how Tim Keller, in the following video, resolves the issue of free will and predestination:

    Does God Control Everything – Tim Keller – (God’s sovereignty and our free will, how do they mesh?) – video (12:00 minute mark)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkQ6ld8dn7I

    In stark contrast to hyper-Calvinism and predestination, in the following video, at the 37:00 minute mark, Anton Zeilinger, a leading researcher in quantum teleportation with many breakthroughs under his belt, humorously reflects on just how deeply determinism has been undermined by quantum mechanics by saying that such a deep lack of determinism ‘may provide some of us a loop hole when they meet God on judgment day’.

    Prof Anton Zeilinger speaks on quantum physics. at UCT – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3ZPWW5NOrw

    Personally, I feel that such a deep undermining of determinism by quantum mechanics, far from providing a ‘loop hole’ on judgment day as Dr. Zeilinger stated, actually restores free will to its rightful place in the grand scheme of things, thus making God’s final judgments on men’s souls all the more fully binding, and the necessity of Christ’s atoning sacrifice all the more necessary, since man truly is a ‘free moral agent’ to the infinite extent possibly allowed.

    Interestingly, not long after Anton Zeilinger made that ‘loop hole’ statement, Zeilinger had a hand in the main experiment that established the transcendent nature of free will and undermined any possible materialistic explanation for free will.
    In the following experiment, the claim that past material states determine future conscious choices (determinism) is directly falsified by the fact that present conscious choices are, in fact, effecting past material states:

    Quantum physics mimics spooky action into the past – April 23, 2012
    Excerpt: The authors experimentally realized a “Gedankenexperiment” called “delayed-choice entanglement swapping”, formulated by Asher Peres in the year 2000. Two pairs of entangled photons are produced, and one photon from each pair is sent to a party called Victor. Of the two remaining photons, one photon is sent to the party Alice and one is sent to the party Bob. Victor can now choose between two kinds of measurements. If he decides to measure his two photons in a way such that they are forced to be in an entangled state, then also Alice’s and Bob’s photon pair becomes entangled. If Victor chooses to measure his particles individually, Alice’s and Bob’s photon pair ends up in a separable state. Modern quantum optics technology allowed the team to delay Victor’s choice and measurement with respect to the measurements which Alice and Bob perform on their photons. “We found that whether Alice’s and Bob’s photons are entangled and show quantum correlations or are separable and show classical correlations can be decided after they have been measured”, explains Xiao-song Ma, lead author of the study.
    According to the famous words of Albert Einstein, the effects of quantum entanglement appear as “spooky action at a distance”. The recent experiment has gone one remarkable step further. “Within a naïve classical world view, quantum mechanics can even mimic an influence of future actions on past events”, says Anton Zeilinger.
    http://phys.org/news/2012-04-q.....ction.html

    In other words, if my conscious choices really are just merely the result of whatever state the material particles in my brain happen to be in in the past (deterministic) how in blue blazes are my choices instantaneously effecting the state of material particles into the past? This experiment is simply completely impossible for any coherent materialistic explanation!

    As well, Antoine Suarez has also done some very fine work in this area of establishing free will’s primacy in Quantum Mechanics:

    Free will and nonlocality at detection: Basic principles of quantum physics – Antoine Suarez – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhMrrmlTXl4

    Of note: since our free will choices figure so prominently in how reality is actually found to be constructed in our understanding of quantum mechanics, I think a Christian perspective on just how important our choices are in this temporal life, in regards to our eternal destiny, is very fitting.
    Although free will is often thought of as allowing someone to choose between a veritable infinity of options, in a theistic view of reality that veritable infinity of options all boils down to just two options. Eternal life, (infinity if you will), with God, or Eternal life, (infinity again if you will), without God.

    “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.”
    – C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

    And exactly as would be expected on the Christian view of reality, we find two very different eternities in reality. An ‘infinitely destructive’ eternity associated with General Relativity and a extremely orderly eternity associated with Special Relativity:

    Special Relativity, General Relativity, Heaven and Hell
    Excerpt: “The laws of relativity have changed timeless existence from a theological claim to a physical reality. Light, you see, is outside of time, a fact of nature proven in thousands of experiments at hundreds of universities. I don’t pretend to know how tomorrow can exist simultaneously with today and yesterday. But at the speed of light they actually and rigorously do. Time does not pass.”
    Richard Swenson – More Than Meets The Eye, Chpt. 12

    ‘Earthly time has no meaning in the spirit realm. There is no concept of before or after. Everything – past, present, future – exists simultaneously.’
    – Kimberly Clark Sharp – NDE Experiencer

    ‘There is no way to tell whether minutes, hours or years go by. Existence is the only reality and it is inseparable from the eternal now.’
    – John Star – NDE Experiencer

    “Einstein’s equation predicts that, as the astronaut reaches the singularity (of the black-hole), the tidal forces grow infinitely strong, and their chaotic oscillations become infinitely rapid. The astronaut dies and the atoms which his body is made become infinitely and chaotically distorted and mixed-and then, at the moment when everything becomes infinite (the tidal strengths, the oscillation frequencies, the distortions, and the mixing), spacetime ceases to exist.”
    Kip S. Thorne – “Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy” pg. 476
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1_4cQ7MXq8bLkoFLYW0kq3Xq-Hkc3c7r-gTk0DYJQFSg/edit

    Verses, Propitiation, and music:

    John 8:23-24
    But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.

    Matthew 10:28
    “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

    G.O.S.P.E.L. – (the grace of propitiation) – poetry slam – video
    https://vimeo.com/20960385

    Colossians 1:15-20
    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

    Evanescence – The Other Side (Music-Lyric Video)
    http://www.vevo.com/watch/evan.....tantsearch

  5. 5
    Davem says:

    If I don’t eat, I die.
    Most of us choose to eat.
    Is that free will?

  6. 6
    bornagain says:

    podcast – Dr. Michael Egnor: The Consequences of Denying Free Will
    Posted on October 19, 2015

    On this episode of ID the Future, hear more of Dr. Michael Egnor and Casey Luskin’s discussion on free will. If there is no free will, and humans are merely following our chemical instructions, than how can we recognize evil and good? Tune in as Dr. Egnor explores the societal and political consequences of denying free will.
    http://www.discovery.org/multi.....#more-3401

  7. 7
    johnnyb says:

    I don’t doubt that animals have some form of free will. However, I am not sure how declaring that more of the animals we share the earth with have a spiritual component somehow lessens the concept of natural spirituality, and makes us all determinists. Shouldn’t that make us *less* of determinists?

  8. 8
    JDH says:

    What I like about the debate about free will is how even though the anti-free-will position can be shown to be logically impossible (see ba@4), it is somehow still believed.

    To me it just supports the wisdom of the quote attributed to Chesterton.

    “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”

    This gives us two truly amazing phenomena.

    1. The Creator gave man a seemingly useless ability to be able to maintain belief in something even if it can be by pure logic alone shown to be impossible.
    2. There are intelligent people who demonstrate reasonable thinking skills, yet still choose to practice this seemingly useless ability.

  9. 9
    leodp says:

    BA @ #4, Col 1:
    Preeminent

    Thanks, BA, as always for your informative links. (I think I freely chose to say that, but then, I could be wrong 🙂 )

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