Emergence (Evolution)

by dhw, Thursday, October 11, 2018, 12:46 (378 days ago)

Under “Natural wonders: …soldier ants.."

QUOTE: The researchers also discovered that the colony as a whole maintains the balance between soldiers and minor workers by regulating the growth of the rudimentary wing discs in larvae.

DAVID:: This shows an automatic control over soldier numbers by a pheramone release. I can predict the next finding: the ant colony estimates the ratio of soldiers by analyzing the concentration of a pheramone the soldiers release within the colony and adjust fetal ratios appropriately. A great example of design.

Thank you once more for a fascinating article about these wonderful creatures. We need to delve deeper, though. You and the authors talk of the colony maintaining the balance and estimating the ratio, but what is the colony? It’s a collection of individual ants. And the ants cooperate to produce every action they perform. Of course you can argue that 3.8 billion years ago your God programmed every aspect of ant society, or that he stepped in to adjust the programme whenever there was a problem. But another possibility is that individual ants pooled their (perhaps God-given) intelligence to invent all the techniques which they now use to enable their society to run as smoothly and efficiently as it does now. In other words, another great example of ant design.

Under "Big brain evolution":

QUOTES: “microglia, immune cells that live in the brain, prune back unwanted synapses by engulfing or "eating" them.
"The findings add fuel to the idea that the brain has a balance of opposing factors that help fine-tune its connections—a yin/yang of sorts.

An interesting parallel to the ant procedure. Again we talk of the brain as a unit, like the ant colony, but it’s made up of cooperating individuals. We never think of it that way, but if we do, we come back to the concept of emergence, which Wikipedia describes as follows:

"In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence occurs when "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts," meaning the whole has properties its parts do not have. These properties come about because of interactions among the parts."

This fits in neatly with the "Theory of Intelligence" I tried to develop elsewhere, and also with Sheldrake’s morphic fields. It may be possible (emphasis on "may") that interactions among the parts of the brain can produce the immaterial intelligent self which dualists call the "soul".

Emergence: not understood

by David Turell @, Sunday, January 20, 2019, 19:24 (276 days ago) @ dhw

Life is an emergent phenomenon, but emergence is not understood, but this article makes an attempt:

https://www.quantamagazine.org/emergence-how-complex-wholes-emerge-from-simple-parts-20...

"You could spend a lifetime studying an individual water molecule and never deduce the precise hardness or slipperiness of ice. Watch a lone ant under a microscope for as long as you like, and you still couldn’t predict that thousands of them might collaboratively build bridges with their bodies to span gaps. Scrutinize the birds in a flock or the fish in a school and you wouldn’t find one that’s orchestrating the movements of all the others.

"Nature is filled with such examples of complex behaviors that arise spontaneously from relatively simple elements. Researchers have even coined the term “emergence” to describe these puzzling manifestations of self-organization, which can seem, at first blush, inexplicable. Where does the extra injection of complex order suddenly come from?

"Answers are starting to come into view. One is that these emergent phenomena can be understood only as collective behaviors — there is no way to make sense of them without looking at dozens, hundreds, thousands or more of the contributing elements en masse. These wholes are indeed greater than the sums of their parts.

"Another is that even when the elements continue to follow the same rules of individual behavior, external considerations can change the collective outcome of their actions. For instance, ice doesn’t form at zero degrees Celsius because the water molecules suddenly become stickier to one another. Rather, the average kinetic energy of the molecules drops low enough for the repulsive and attractive forces among them to fall into a new, more springy balance. That liquid-to-solid transition is such a useful comparison for scientists studying emergence that they often characterize emergent phenomena as phase changes.

"Spooky as emergence can seem, a formal understanding of it might be within reach. Some researchers are looking for universal rules that would describe emergent phenomena in any system. Statistical procedures like renormalization can identify precisely when and how collective phenomena start to become more significant.

"As a scientific concept, emergence has its critics, who find it too slippery and too uninformative to be useful. But if nothing else, emergence helps to illustrate why scientists find hierarchies of physical laws and processes operating at different scales throughout nature."

Comment: It is not 'spooky'. We know how ice works. We enjoy a symphony from 50+ coordinating members of an orchestra. What emerges is what we hear. Of course it emerges. Life emerges from all of the coordinated activity by all its cells, but we still don't understand its 'conductor'.

Emergence: not understood

by dhw, Monday, January 21, 2019, 13:43 (276 days ago) @ David Turell

DAVID: Life is an emergent phenomenon, but emergence is not understood, but this article makes an attempt:

https://www.quantamagazine.org/emergence-how-complex-wholes-emerge-from-simple-parts-20...

QUOTES: "Nature is filled with such examples of complex behaviors that arise spontaneously from relatively simple elements. Researchers have even coined the term “emergence” to describe these puzzling manifestations of self-organization, which can seem, at first blush, inexplicable. Where does the extra injection of complex order suddenly come from?"

"Answers are starting to come into view. One is that these emergent phenomena can be understood only as collective behaviors — there is no way to make sense of them without looking at dozens, hundreds, thousands or more of the contributing elements en masse. These wholes are indeed greater than the sums of their parts."

This is not an answer, it is a definition of emergence!

DAVID:: It is not 'spooky'. We know how ice works. We enjoy a symphony from 50+ coordinating members of an orchestra. What emerges is what we hear. Of course it emerges. Life emerges from all of the coordinated activity by all its cells, but we still don't understand its 'conductor'.

Precisely. Nobody knows how ‘emergence’ works. These extracts (thank you editing the article) give us no answers at all, but I do think emergence is ‘spooky’, because we can’t see a conductor that coordinates the actions of all the intelligent players, and we don’t know who composed the symphony in the first place.

Emergence: not understood

by David Turell @, Monday, January 21, 2019, 15:35 (276 days ago) @ dhw

DAVID: Life is an emergent phenomenon, but emergence is not understood, but this article makes an attempt:

https://www.quantamagazine.org/emergence-how-complex-wholes-emerge-from-simple-parts-20...

QUOTES: "Nature is filled with such examples of complex behaviors that arise spontaneously from relatively simple elements. Researchers have even coined the term “emergence” to describe these puzzling manifestations of self-organization, which can seem, at first blush, inexplicable. Where does the extra injection of complex order suddenly come from?"

"Answers are starting to come into view. One is that these emergent phenomena can be understood only as collective behaviors — there is no way to make sense of them without looking at dozens, hundreds, thousands or more of the contributing elements en masse. These wholes are indeed greater than the sums of their parts."

This is not an answer, it is a definition of emergence!

DAVID:: It is not 'spooky'. We know how ice works. We enjoy a symphony from 50+ coordinating members of an orchestra. What emerges is what we hear. Of course it emerges. Life emerges from all of the coordinated activity by all its cells, but we still don't understand its 'conductor'.

dhw: Precisely. Nobody knows how ‘emergence’ works. These extracts (thank you editing the article) give us no answers at all, but I do think emergence is ‘spooky’, because we can’t see a conductor that coordinates the actions of all the intelligent players, and we don’t know who composed the symphony in the first place.

It just brings up God as conductor

Emergence: not understood

by dhw, Tuesday, January 22, 2019, 11:22 (275 days ago) @ David Turell

DAVID: Life is an emergent phenomenon, but emergence is not understood, but this article makes an attempt:
https://www.quantamagazine.org/emergence-how-complex-wholes-emerge-from-simple-parts-20...

QUOTES: "Nature is filled with such examples of complex behaviors that arise spontaneously from relatively simple elements. Researchers have even coined the term “emergence” to describe these puzzling manifestations of self-organization, which can seem, at first blush, inexplicable. Where does the extra injection of complex order suddenly come from?"
"Answers are starting to come into view. One is that these emergent phenomena can be understood only as collective behaviors — there is no way to make sense of them without looking at dozens, hundreds, thousands or more of the contributing elements en masse. These wholes are indeed greater than the sums of their parts.
"

dhw: This is not an answer, it is a definition of emergence!

DAVID:: It is not 'spooky'. We know how ice works. We enjoy a symphony from 50+ coordinating members of an orchestra. What emerges is what we hear. Of course it emerges. Life emerges from all of the coordinated activity by all its cells, but we still don't understand its 'conductor'.

dhw: Precisely. Nobody knows how ‘emergence’ works. These extracts (thank you editing the article) give us no answers at all, but I do think emergence is ‘spooky’, because we can’t see a conductor that coordinates the actions of all the intelligent players, and we don’t know who composed the symphony in the first place.

DAVID: It just brings up God as conductor.

Ugh, this image is becoming too laboured! I’ll stick to the fact that nobody knows how emergence works!

Emergence: not understood

by David Turell @, Tuesday, January 22, 2019, 16:59 (274 days ago) @ dhw

DAVID: Life is an emergent phenomenon, but emergence is not understood, but this article makes an attempt:
https://www.quantamagazine.org/emergence-how-complex-wholes-emerge-from-simple-parts-20...

QUOTES: "Nature is filled with such examples of complex behaviors that arise spontaneously from relatively simple elements. Researchers have even coined the term “emergence” to describe these puzzling manifestations of self-organization, which can seem, at first blush, inexplicable. Where does the extra injection of complex order suddenly come from?"
"Answers are starting to come into view. One is that these emergent phenomena can be understood only as collective behaviors — there is no way to make sense of them without looking at dozens, hundreds, thousands or more of the contributing elements en masse. These wholes are indeed greater than the sums of their parts.
"

dhw: This is not an answer, it is a definition of emergence!

DAVID:: It is not 'spooky'. We know how ice works. We enjoy a symphony from 50+ coordinating members of an orchestra. What emerges is what we hear. Of course it emerges. Life emerges from all of the coordinated activity by all its cells, but we still don't understand its 'conductor'.

dhw: Precisely. Nobody knows how ‘emergence’ works. These extracts (thank you editing the article) give us no answers at all, but I do think emergence is ‘spooky’, because we can’t see a conductor that coordinates the actions of all the intelligent players, and we don’t know who composed the symphony in the first place.

DAVID: It just brings up God as conductor.

dhw: Ugh, this image is becoming too laboured! I’ll stick to the fact that nobody knows how emergence works!

Ah! I bring up God and you run. All of the biological simultaneous reactions in coordination create life. We can stop with that.

Emergence: not understood

by dhw, Wednesday, January 23, 2019, 13:12 (274 days ago) @ David Turell

DAVID:: It [emergence]is not 'spooky'. We know how ice works. We enjoy a symphony from 50+ coordinating members of an orchestra. What emerges is what we hear. Of course it emerges. Life emerges from all of the coordinated activity by all its cells, but we still don't understand its 'conductor'.

dhw: Precisely. Nobody knows how ‘emergence’ works. These extracts (thank you editing the article) give us no answers at all, but I do think emergence is ‘spooky’, because we can’t see a conductor that coordinates the actions of all the intelligent players, and we don’t know who composed the symphony in the first place.

DAVID: It just brings up God as conductor.

dhw: Ugh, this image is becoming too laboured! I’ll stick to the fact that nobody knows how emergence works!

DAVID: Ah! I bring up God and you run. All of the biological simultaneous reactions in coordination create life. We can stop with that.

No, it is the orchestral image I run from. We have intelligent players (but you don’t believe in intelligent cells), we have a known and visible conductor (not visible or known in cell coordination), and we have an unseen composer who created all the instructions (a nice image for your God, but you think God is the conductor). Too messy.

Emergence: not understood

by David Turell @, Wednesday, January 23, 2019, 15:45 (274 days ago) @ dhw

DAVID:: It [emergence]is not 'spooky'. We know how ice works. We enjoy a symphony from 50+ coordinating members of an orchestra. What emerges is what we hear. Of course it emerges. Life emerges from all of the coordinated activity by all its cells, but we still don't understand its 'conductor'.

dhw: Precisely. Nobody knows how ‘emergence’ works. These extracts (thank you editing the article) give us no answers at all, but I do think emergence is ‘spooky’, because we can’t see a conductor that coordinates the actions of all the intelligent players, and we don’t know who composed the symphony in the first place.

DAVID: It just brings up God as conductor.

dhw: Ugh, this image is becoming too laboured! I’ll stick to the fact that nobody knows how emergence works!

DAVID: Ah! I bring up God and you run. All of the biological simultaneous reactions in coordination create life. We can stop with that.

dhw: No, it is the orchestral image I run from. We have intelligent players (but you don’t believe in intelligent cells), we have a known and visible conductor (not visible or known in cell coordination), and we have an unseen composer who created all the instructions (a nice image for your God, but you think God is the conductor). Too messy.

Messy is your vision of God enjoying the spectacle of the bush of life and inventing that bush just so He could watch the spectacle of everyone eating each other.

Emergence: not understood

by dhw, Thursday, January 24, 2019, 10:14 (273 days ago) @ David Turell

dhw: Ugh, this image is becoming too laboured! I’ll stick to the fact that nobody knows how emergence works!

DAVID: Ah! I bring up God and you run. All of the biological simultaneous reactions in coordination create life. We can stop with that.

dhw: No, it is the orchestral image I run from. We have intelligent players (but you don’t believe in intelligent cells), we have a known and visible conductor (not visible or known in cell coordination), and we have an unseen composer who created all the instructions (a nice image for your God, but you think God is the conductor). Too messy.

DAVID: Messy is your vision of God enjoying the spectacle of the bush of life and inventing that bush just so He could watch the spectacle of everyone eating each other.

It is you who insist that the purpose of the spectacle is simply to create organisms to eat one another until 3.5+ billion years have passed. Personally, I see a great deal more in the spectacle: I see sheer beauty as well as sheer horror; I see love as well as suffering (and I’m not just talking about the human world); I see astonishing feats of ingenuity. And you yourself have expressed the view that your hidden God watches it all with interest. Why do you find this messy?

Emergence: not understood

by David Turell @, Thursday, January 24, 2019, 20:25 (272 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: Ugh, this image is becoming too laboured! I’ll stick to the fact that nobody knows how emergence works!

DAVID: Ah! I bring up God and you run. All of the biological simultaneous reactions in coordination create life. We can stop with that.

dhw: No, it is the orchestral image I run from. We have intelligent players (but you don’t believe in intelligent cells), we have a known and visible conductor (not visible or known in cell coordination), and we have an unseen composer who created all the instructions (a nice image for your God, but you think God is the conductor). Too messy.

DAVID: Messy is your vision of God enjoying the spectacle of the bush of life and inventing that bush just so He could watch the spectacle of everyone eating each other.

dhw: It is you who insist that the purpose of the spectacle is simply to create organisms to eat one another until 3.5+ billion years have passed. Personally, I see a great deal more in the spectacle: I see sheer beauty as well as sheer horror; I see love as well as suffering (and I’m not just talking about the human world); I see astonishing feats of ingenuity. And you yourself have expressed the view that your hidden God watches it all with interest. Why do you find this messy?

What is messy is your constant humanizing God's thinking in your interpretation. As I've noted all along is, if evolution has to last 3.5-8 billion years, as God's choice of method of creation of organisms, then everyone has to be present and in balance to supply the food. I have agreed that God watches with interest as He evolves everyone, but with involved interest as a creator, not a spectator.

Emergence: not understood

by dhw, Friday, January 25, 2019, 10:24 (272 days ago) @ David Turell

DAVID: Messy is your vision of God enjoying the spectacle of the bush of life and inventing that bush just so He could watch the spectacle of everyone eating each other.

dhw: It is you who insist that the purpose of the spectacle is simply to create organisms to eat one another until 3.5+ billion years have passed. Personally, I see a great deal more in the spectacle: I see sheer beauty as well as sheer horror; I see love as well as suffering (and I’m not just talking about the human world); I see astonishing feats of ingenuity. And you yourself have expressed the view that your hidden God watches it all with interest. Why do you find this messy?

DAVID: What is messy is your constant humanizing God's thinking in your interpretation. As I've noted all along is, if evolution has to last 3.5-8 billion years, as God's choice of method of creation of organisms, then everyone has to be present and in balance to supply the food. I have agreed that God watches with interest as He evolves everyone, but with involved interest as a creator, not a spectator.

As regards “humanizing”, see my post under “Big brain evolution”. You keep talking as if evolution has finished, which is your assumption, and it is not your God’s choice of method of creating organisms that is the problem: you keep telling us that it was God’s choice to take 3.5+ billion years to create us, and so he created millions of other life forms so that they could eat one another before he created us. If God exists, then of course he is the creator, but what makes you think a creator cannot also be a spectator watching the spectacle he creates?

Emergence: not understood

by David Turell @, Friday, January 25, 2019, 21:21 (271 days ago) @ dhw

DAVID: Messy is your vision of God enjoying the spectacle of the bush of life and inventing that bush just so He could watch the spectacle of everyone eating each other.

dhw: It is you who insist that the purpose of the spectacle is simply to create organisms to eat one another until 3.5+ billion years have passed. Personally, I see a great deal more in the spectacle: I see sheer beauty as well as sheer horror; I see love as well as suffering (and I’m not just talking about the human world); I see astonishing feats of ingenuity. And you yourself have expressed the view that your hidden God watches it all with interest. Why do you find this messy?

DAVID: What is messy is your constant humanizing God's thinking in your interpretation. As I've noted all along is, if evolution has to last 3.5-8 billion years, as God's choice of method of creation of organisms, then everyone has to be present and in balance to supply the food. I have agreed that God watches with interest as He evolves everyone, but with involved interest as a creator, not a spectator.

dhw: As regards “humanizing”, see my post under “Big brain evolution”. You keep talking as if evolution has finished, which is your assumption, and it is not your God’s choice of method of creating organisms that is the problem: you keep telling us that it was God’s choice to take 3.5+ billion years to create us, and so he created millions of other life forms so that they could eat one another before he created us. If God exists, then of course he is the creator, but what makes you think a creator cannot also be a spectator watching the spectacle he creates?

Of course He is a spectator to His creation, but there is no evidence He desired a spectacle for His 'enjoyment', one of your favorite humanizing suppositions about God. I'm simply in interpreting what history shows us.

Emergence: not understood

by romansh ⌂ @, Tuesday, August 13, 2019, 16:54 (71 days ago) @ David Turell

Just popped by to say hello … Hello
It has been fairly quiet at AI.org for a while now.

Anyway … I can't help thinking emergence is an over-rated concept.

In the quiet times I have started a blog and here is my take on emergence wrt free will (there's a surprise).

my blog …. https://romscorner.home.blog/2019/04/02/emergence/

Have fun guys

rom

Emergence: not understood

by dhw, Wednesday, August 14, 2019, 13:38 (71 days ago) @ romansh

ROMANSH: Just popped by to say hello … Hello
It has been fairly quiet at AI.org for a while now.
Anyway … I can't help thinking emergence is an over-rated concept.
In the quiet times I have started a blog and here is my take on emergence wrt free will (there's a surprise).

my blog …. https://romscorner.home.blog/2019/04/02/emergence/
Have fun guys

Hi Romansh. Great to hear from you again, and to see that you yourself are still so active, even if AI.org is not. And I see you are still preoccupied with the subject of free will. I must - as always - admire your breadth of learning, but frankly I have never known anyone who claimed that motor cars, snowflakes and billiard balls had free will. Why don’t you simply relate emergence to the subject itself: namely, how humans come to make their decisions. (I remember we had long discussions on the definition of free will, and this was always linked to the ability to make decisions when given a choice.) Some people claim that the mind/consciousness “emerges” from the interplay between the various cell communities that make up the brain and the rest of the body, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, much like an ant colony producing structures no single ant could ever design. (I am only putting the materialist case, because dualism does not require consciousness to emerge; it is simply there and uses the cells as providers and receivers.) It could be argued, then, that all our decisions are predetermined by our cells. Other factors prohibiting free will have nothing to do with emergence as such, apart from the influence they have on what emerges from our cells: environment, upbringing, chance etc., all of which are beyond our control. One might even trace these influences back to the beginning of life, in a seamless process of cause and effect. No free will, then. A counter to these arguments is that the cells, regardless of their provenance and all the influences exercised upon them, are what constitute “me”, and this me and nobody and nothing else, makes my decisions. Obviously, though, this ability only operates within the confines of possibility. I am not free to decide to flap my ears and fly. Identity itself (“me”) could be called an emergent process, since it emerges from ongoing interaction between ourselves and the world, but again I can’t see how this proves that we do or don’t have the ability to make our own decisions once we are confronted with a choice, regardless of whether we are dualists or materialists.

Emergence: not understood

by romansh ⌂ @, Thursday, August 15, 2019, 01:19 (70 days ago) @ dhw

dhw Some people claim that the mind/consciousness “emerges” from the interplay between the various cell communities that make up the brain and the rest of the body, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, much like an ant colony producing structures no single ant could ever design.

How about ...
Some people claim that the mind/consciousness results from the interplay between the various cell communities

Greater than the sum of the parts ... Is this this us having an incorrect model, in fact do we even have a model for being greater than the sum of the parts?

dhw It could be argued, then, that all our decisions are predetermined by our cells. Other factors prohibiting free will have nothing to do with emergence as such, apart from the influence they have on what emerges from our cells ...

Personally I would not go as far as predetermined ... just determined [caused] will suffice.

dhw A counter to these arguments is that the cells, regardless of their provenance and all the influences exercised upon them, are what constitute “me”, and this me and nobody and nothing else, makes my decisions.

This is fair enough but the question remains ... could 'my' cells have done otherwise? Assuming we live in a causal universe and those causes could be deterministic or perhaps indeterministic. My cells by definition do not control the indeterministic causes.

dhw but again I can’t see how this proves that we do or don’t have the ability to make our own decisions once we are confronted with a choice, regardless of whether we are dualists or materialists.

We don't deal with proof in a scientific sense. We certainly appear to make choices, but it's the properties of those choices that I find interesting. Also how we might end up handling our actions in a no free will context also becomes interesting.

To me its a little bit like the agnostic conundrum. I don't understand I can't have knowledge of God, but I can simply lack belief or perhaps I have been caused to believe in god regardless. I am in a similar position regarding free will, I understand I can't know whether I have free will, but the concept of free will is itself such a shemozzle I can't help but lack belief.

But if you have a model of how we might get around this shemozzle, I am all ears. (But please not by changing the definition of free will, as compatibilists are want to do).

Emergence: not understood

by David Turell @, Thursday, August 15, 2019, 02:20 (70 days ago) @ romansh

dhw Some people claim that the mind/consciousness “emerges” from the interplay between the various cell communities that make up the brain and the rest of the body, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, much like an ant colony producing structures no single ant could ever design.

How about ...
Some people claim that the mind/consciousness results from the interplay between the various cell communities

Greater than the sum of the parts ... Is this this us having an incorrect model, in fact do we even have a model for being greater than the sum of the parts?

dhw It could be argued, then, that all our decisions are predetermined by our cells. Other factors prohibiting free will have nothing to do with emergence as such, apart from the influence they have on what emerges from our cells ...

Personally I would not go as far as predetermined ... just determined [caused] will suffice.

dhw A counter to these arguments is that the cells, regardless of their provenance and all the influences exercised upon them, are what constitute “me”, and this me and nobody and nothing else, makes my decisions.

This is fair enough but the question remains ... could 'my' cells have done otherwise? Assuming we live in a causal universe and those causes could be deterministic or perhaps indeterministic. My cells by definition do not control the indeterministic causes.

dhw but again I can’t see how this proves that we do or don’t have the ability to make our own decisions once we are confronted with a choice, regardless of whether we are dualists or materialists.

We don't deal with proof in a scientific sense. We certainly appear to make choices, but it's the properties of those choices that I find interesting. Also how we might end up handling our actions in a no free will context also becomes interesting.

Romansh: To me its a little bit like the agnostic conundrum. I don't understand I can't have knowledge of God, but I can simply lack belief or perhaps I have been caused to believe in god regardless. I am in a similar position regarding free will, I understand I can't know whether I have free will, but the concept of free will is itself such a shemozzle I can't help but lack belief.

But if you have a model of how we might get around this shemozzle, I am all ears. (But please not by changing the definition of free will, as compatibilists are want to do).

When was shemozzle stolen from the Yiddish? Amazing how many words have been.

Emergence: not understood

by dhw, Thursday, August 15, 2019, 10:14 (70 days ago) @ romansh

dhw Some people claim that the mind/consciousness “emerges” from the interplay between the various cell communities that make up the brain and the rest of the body, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, much like an ant colony producing structures no single ant could ever design.

ROMANSH: How about ...
Some people claim that the mind/consciousness results from the interplay between the various cell communities
Greater than the sum of the parts ... Is this this us having an incorrect model, in fact do we even have a model for being greater than the sum of the parts?

I suggested the ant colony as an example. And I’d take life itself to be something that emerges from the combination of all my separate bits and pieces. It only takes one bit to go wrong, and life then ceases to emerge from the sum of the parts.

dhw It could be argued, then, that all our decisions are predetermined by our cells. Other factors prohibiting free will have nothing to do with emergence as such, apart from the influence they have on what emerges from our cells ...

ROMANSH: Personally I would not go as far as predetermined ... just determined [caused] will suffice.

OK.

dhw A counter to these arguments is that the cells, regardless of their provenance and all the influences exercised upon them, are what constitute “me”, and this me and nobody and nothing else, makes my decisions.

ROMANSH: This is fair enough but the question remains ... could 'my' cells have done otherwise? Assuming we live in a causal universe and those causes could be deterministic or perhaps indeterministic. My cells by definition do not control the indeterministic causes.

You are simply repeating my own argument against free will. If my point is fair enough, why repeat the argument which it is meant to counter?

dhw: ... but again I can’t see how this proves that we do or don’t have the ability to make our own decisions once we are confronted with a choice, regardless of whether we are dualists or materialists.

ROMANSH: We don't deal with proof in a scientific sense. We certainly appear to make choices, but it's the properties of those choices that I find interesting. Also how we might end up handling our actions in a no free will context also becomes interesting.

It’s all “interesting”. I was simply asking you where “emergence” fitted in, and I tried to explain the two sides of the argument, which together leave me sitting on my usual fence.

ROMANSH: To me its a little bit like the agnostic conundrum. I don't understand I can't have knowledge of God, but I can simply lack belief or perhaps I have been caused to believe in god regardless. I am in a similar position regarding free will, I understand I can't know whether I have free will, but the concept of free will is itself such a shemozzle I can't help but lack belief.
But if you have a model of how we might get around this shemozzle, I am all ears. (But please not by changing the definition of free will, as compatibilists are want to do).

No, I don’t have a model, but I would point out that lack of belief is very different from disbelief. I am an agnostic because I neither believe nor disbelieve in a God. Ditto free will. There are clear arguments for and against both God and free will, and I can’t choose between them. However, your point about definition is crucial. I vaguely remember you coming up with one that automatically precluded free will: something along the lines of decision-making that is independent of the universe. I don’t know what you mean by “changing the definition” anyway – we must agree on a definition before we even begin a discussion. I wish I could remember my own, which I know I modified after our discussions. Perhaps something like: an individual’s ability to make choices and decisions independently of external constraints and influences. At least that would provide a starting point. Then we would enter into all the pros and cons we have already discussed.

Emergence: not understood

by romansh ⌂ @, Saturday, August 17, 2019, 00:27 (68 days ago) @ dhw

dhw It’s all “interesting”. I was simply asking you where “emergence” fitted in, and I tried to explain the two sides of the argument, which together leave me sitting on my usual fence. My point was not clear … how is "emergence" more than "results in"?

dhw No, I don’t have a model,

Then how can you say something is more than the sum of the parts … if there is no model?

dhw but I would point out that lack of belief is very different from disbelief. I am an agnostic because I neither believe nor disbelieve in a God. Ditto free will.

First part … you lack belief in god … unless of course you are an agnostic theist.

dhw There are clear arguments for and against both God and free will, and I can’t choose between them.

Yet you will behave as though there is or is not certain flavours of God. Similarly for free will. For example do you find yourself thinking "so and so" should not have done that and could have done otherwise?

dhw However, your point about definition is crucial. I vaguely remember you coming up with one that automatically precluded free will: something along the lines of decision-making that is independent of the universe.

Similar … yet people do believe their decision making can be somehow independent of all the causal influences that rain down upon them.

dhw I don’t know what you mean by “changing the definition” anyway

This is what compatibilists tend to do.

dhw – we must agree on a definition before we even begin a discussion. I wish I could remember my own, which I know I modified after our discussions. Perhaps something like: an individual’s ability to make choices and decisions independently of external constraints and influences.

when you say external constraints doe this include the way the behaviour of matter is constrained by say physics?

dhw At least that would provide a starting point. Then we would enter into all the pros and cons we have already discussed.

We could define free will into existence, and we'll find all sorts of things could have free will. Also it will miss out on the consequences of matter being constrained by the way it tends to behave.

Emergence: not understood

by dhw, Saturday, August 17, 2019, 11:25 (68 days ago) @ romansh

dhw: No, I don’t have a model.

ROMANSH: Then how can you say something is more than the sum of the parts … if there is no model?

There is no model which can prove that consciousness emerges from the individual cells of the brain! All we can do is draw analogies that seem to point to this being a possible process (I'm neutral on the subject). I offered the ant colony and life itself. Do you want me to call them models? OK, then, they are models. What does that prove?

dhw: ...but I would point out that lack of belief is very different from disbelief. I am an agnostic because I neither believe nor disbelieve in a God. Ditto free will.

ROMANSH: First part … you lack belief in god … unless of course you are an agnostic theist.

Yes, I lack belief in God. I also lack disbelief in God. I also lack belief in a blind, unthinking universe that can produce all the complexities of life. But I also lack disbelief in such a universe. I have explained my agnosticism to you, as follows:
dhw There are clear arguments for and against both God and free will, and I can’t choose between them.

ROMANSH: Yet you will behave as though there is or is not certain flavours of God.

Behave? Not sure what you mean by “flavours” either, but in my discussions with David, a theist, of course I consider different versions of his God’s possible nature, purpose and methods. Not knowing whether God exists or not doesn’t stop anyone from speculating on these matters.

DAVID: Similarly for free will. For example do you find yourself thinking "so and so" should not have done that and could have done otherwise?

Of course I do. The choices are always there – that is essential to the whole concept of free will. But then I have to ask myself whether so and so was capable of doing otherwise, i.e. whether the principle of cause and effect is such that he/she had no choice, or the sum of causes and effects has produced his/her unique and individual identity and so his/her choice of action was entirely his/her own and nobody else's and was NOT forced upon him/her by any external constraints or influences. It’s a common problem, sometimes even in law, when the degree of responsibility becomes an issue.

dhw However, your point about definition is crucial. I vaguely remember you coming up with one that automatically precluded free will: something along the lines of decision-making that is independent of the universe.

ROMANSH: Similar … yet people do believe their decision making can be somehow independent of all the causal influences that rain down upon them.

Round we go in our circle: we can say that our cells and our upbringing etc., and the fact that we wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t a universe, have forced us into our decision (no free will), or we know all these things made us what we are, but what we are is us and no one else, and no one and nothing else forced us to make the decision, and so the decision was ours alone (free will).

dhw: I don’t know what you mean by “changing the definition” anyway.

ROMANSH: This is what compatibilists tend to do.

Please tell us your version of the one and only, objectively correct definition of “free will”.

dhw – we must agree on a definition before we even begin a discussion. I wish I could remember my own, which I know I modified after our discussions. Perhaps something like: an individual’s ability to make choices and decisions independently of external constraints and influences.

ROMANSH: when you say external constraints doe this include the way the behaviour of matter is constrained by say physics?

You might as well ask me whether it includes the fact that without a universe I would not be alive and therefore the existence of the universe is a constraint. By implication, you are therefore trying to defining free will out of existence, just as you accuse compatibilists of trying to define it into existence. Your question is fair enough, though, so let's run around the circle again. If my answer is yes, my definition will lead to the conclusion that there is no such thing as free will. If my answer is no, because I do not regard general physical laws or the existence of the universe to have had any direct influence on my choice of action in a particular given situation, then my definition will lead to the conclusion that there is such a thing as free will. In my own personal case, my definition leads to the conclusion that I do not know if there is such a thing as free will, because I do not know which of these two answers is objectively correct.

dhw: At least that would provide a starting point. Then we would enter into all the pros and cons we have already discussed.

ROMANSH: We could define free will into existence, and we'll find all sorts of things could have free will. Also it will miss out on the consequences of matter being constrained by the way it tends to behave.

We should make sure that our definition is neutral. So what is yours?

Emergence

by romansh ⌂ @, Monday, August 19, 2019, 16:18 (66 days ago) @ dhw
edited by romansh, Monday, August 19, 2019, 16:58

dhw There is no model which can prove that consciousness emerges from the individual cells of the brain! All we can do is draw analogies that seem to point to this being a possible process (I'm neutral on the subject). I offered the ant colony and life itself. Do you want me to call them models? OK, then, they are models. What does that prove?

There is nothing to prove ... when dealing with the universe all we can do is induce. But I am willing listen to evaluate evidence. If you are saying complex systems can result in complex patterns of behaviour, then I would agree.

dhw Yes, I lack belief in God. I also lack disbelief in God. I also lack belief in a blind, unthinking universe that can produce all the complexities of life. But I also lack disbelief in such a universe. I have explained my agnosticism to you, as follows:

  • There are clear arguments for and against both God and free will, and I can’t choose between them.

Yes this is all fine. By modern definitions of "atheist" you could well be defined as one.

rom Yet you will behave as though there is or is not certain flavours of God.

dhw Behave? Not sure what you mean by “flavours”

By behave, I mean do you pray or worship to some deity on the odd occasion (other than any goddesses we may be attached to). Give thanks etc. Or do you go about your daily life as though there is no deity? Or perhaps you think this deity is in effect blind and uncaring, and to all and intents and purposes does not meddle in our lives?

My point is if someone put a gun to your head to force you to make a bet which way would you bet? Personally I would bet for "blind, unthinking universe that can produce all the complexities of life".

dhw You might as well ask me whether it includes the fact that without a universe I would not be alive and therefore the existence of the universe is a constraint. By implication, you are therefore trying to defining free will out of existence, just as you accuse compatibilists of trying to define it into existence.

My point remains there are people who believe [libertarians] (not necessarily the political kind) we can make decisions etc independently of the causal mesh we find ourselves in. Compatibilists do define free will into existence, it is not an accusation. Compatibilists are determinists too, so they fully accept the causal mesh we find ourselves in. But they do have interesting semantic debates on how we "could do otherwise" using the causal mesh. If you can have a go at this it would me much appreciated.

dhw We should make sure that our definition is neutral. So what is yours?

In the words of the famous sailor, Captain Haddock, "Balderdash!"
We should make sure our definitions match the phenomena we are trying describe. Not some half way house that might give a concept a fighting chance in a philosophical debate. If we and our wills are a product of the causal mesh we find ourselves in what way are we free? Only in the trivial sense we do not have a gun to our heads, tumours etc. If cause is false, then I cannot be responsible for anything. Now if we find ourselves thinking we are partially free from this causal mesh how can we be sure our thought is not brought about by our ignorance of the causal mesh?

my link to what I think free will is, I should update it a bit.

And my take on agnosticism

Emergence

by dhw, Tuesday, August 20, 2019, 08:54 (65 days ago) @ romansh

ROMANSH: […] If you are saying complex systems can result in complex patterns of behaviour, then I would agree.

You raised the subject of emergence in the context of free will, under the title “Emergence: not understood”. Free will would be impossible without consciousness, and I have tried to explain what I understand by consciousness emerging from the cells. I still don’t see what this has to do with the existence or otherwise of free will.

dhw Yes, I lack belief in God. I also lack disbelief in God. I also lack belief in a blind, unthinking universe that can produce all the complexities of life. But I also lack disbelief in such a universe. I have explained my agnosticism to you, as follows:
There are clear arguments for and against both God and free will, and I can’t choose between them.

ROMANSH: Yes this is all fine. By modern definitions of "atheist" you could well be defined as one.

Atheism: the belief that God does not exist. Theism: belief in the existence of God or gods. (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English) I have neither belief. What is your point?

ROMANSH: Yet you will behave as though there is or is not certain flavours of God.

dhw Behave? Not sure what you mean by “flavours”.

ROMANSH: By behave, I mean do you pray or worship to some deity on the odd occasion (other than any goddesses we may be attached to). Give thanks etc. Or do you go about your daily life as though there is no deity? Or perhaps you think this deity is in effect blind and uncaring, and to all and intents and purposes does not meddle in our lives?

I do not pray or give thanks to any deity. I simply do not know if there is such a thing. If there is, it may well be blind and uncaring. What is your point?

ROMANSH: My point is if someone put a gun to your head to force you to make a bet which way would you bet? Personally I would bet for "blind, unthinking universe that can produce all the complexities of life".

Then you are more atheist than theist. Now shoot me. I still don’t know what is your point! Back we go to free will:

ROMANSH: […] [Compatibilists] do define free will into existence […] But they do have interesting semantic debates on how we "could do otherwise" using the causal mesh. If you can have a go at this it would be much appreciated.

I have already done so, and you said my argument (see below for summary) was “fair enough” and then proceeded to ignore it and went straight back into your argument that there is no escaping the causal mesh.

dhw We should make sure that our definition is neutral. So what is yours?

ROMANSH: In the words of the famous sailor, Captain Haddock, "Balderdash!"
We should make sure our definitions match the phenomena we are trying describe. Not some half way house that might give a concept a fighting chance in a philosophical debate.

So you want to define free will out of existence and stop the debate!

ROMANSH: If we and our wills are a product of the causal mesh we find ourselves in what way are we free? Only in the trivial sense we do not have a gun to our heads, tumours etc. If cause is false, then I cannot be responsible for anything. Now if we find ourselves thinking we are partially free from this causal mesh how can we be sure our thought is not brought about by our ignorance of the causal mesh?

my link to what I think free will is, I should update it a bit.

You have defined free will as: The ability to act or to make choices independently of the environment or of the universe.

In the word you have quoted from the famous sailor Captain Haddock: “Balderdash!” You have indeed defined free will out of existence. You might as well say that if we had never existed (no universe, no life), or if there was nothing to choose from (no environment), we could not have had free will, and so free will does not exist. And yet you claim that compatibilists “change the definition” as if your definition was “the” definition. The basic premise before we even begin such a discussion is that we do exist and there are choices. Each of these is specific to an existing situation, and the question is whether we are or are not able to choose independently of external influences that force us into making one particular choice. I find your argument perfectly valid – we cannot escape the “causal mesh”, in which case there is no free will. You found my argument “fair enough” – all the influences that have made me what I am come together to form the “me” that takes the decision, and so it is “I” and no one and nothing else that makes the choice. Then there is free will. The issue is controversial, and a definition should not exclude one side or the other.

Emergence

by romansh ⌂ @, Tuesday, August 20, 2019, 18:12 (64 days ago) @ dhw

dhw You raised the subject of emergence in the context of free will, under the title “Emergence: not understood”. Free will would be impossible without consciousness, and I have tried to explain what I understand by consciousness emerging from the cells. I still don’t see what this has to do with the existence or otherwise of free will.

If I raised the free will subject in this thread it was just the link in my argument for "emergence" not being understood.

dhw Atheism: the belief that God does not exist. Theism: belief in the existence of God or gods. (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English) I have neither belief. What is your point?

Yes that is a definition ... but perhaps this wiki article might help.
Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is the rejection of belief that any deities exist In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.
And if you recall this this was part of the discussion of how lacking a belief in free will is similar to lacking a belief in god. We nevertheless go about behaving as these things are true of false (as the case maybe).

dhw I do not pray or give thanks to any deity. I simply do not know if there is such a thing. If there is, it may well be blind and uncaring. What is your point?

My point is by some common uses of the word you behave as an atheist. ie lack belief in a god.

dhw I still don’t know what is your point!

I don't know which horse is going to win a race but I have been known to make a bet.
Are you seriously telling me if someone but a gun to your head and said make bet or else you would not come down on one side or the other?

dhw So you want to define free will out of existence and stop the debate!

And that is like saying you just want to continue the debate. Really dhw?

dhw You have indeed defined free will out of existence.

Only if that were true ... there is the god given free will that people believe in and the libertarian free will ... eg Kant and James. Incidentally Kant described compatibilism as "word jugglery" and a "a wretched subterfuge" and James thought of it as "quagmire of evasion".

dhw You might as well say that if we had never existed (no universe, no life), or if there was nothing to choose from (no environment), we could not have had free will, and so free will does not exist. And yet you claim that compatibilists “change the definition” as if your definition was “the” definition.

Your rhetoric escapes me here.

dhw The basic premise before we even begin such a discussion is that we do exist and there are choices.

Yes and its the nature of our existence and choices that is under discussion.

dhw ... so it is “I” and no one and nothing else that makes the choice.

I don't think this bit necessarily follows. Where do you draw a line around yourself? When you say "I" what exactly do you mean by that? Is it some ephemeral soul, is it the bacteria speaking to you from your stomach?

dhw The issue is controversial, and a definition should not exclude one side or the other.

In what way is it controversial? Most people seem to believe that at least in part they can exist outside of the causal mesh. Even though they believe they can use the very same mesh to get things done. If we believe we are immersed in the causal mesh, then we have to come to the conclusion that our thoughts and actions are a product of that mesh. Unless of course we believe we are are somehow separate from that mesh.

Emergence

by dhw, Wednesday, August 21, 2019, 11:27 (64 days ago) @ romansh

dhw Atheism: the belief that God does not exist. Theism: belief in the existence of God or gods. (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English) I have neither belief. What is your point?

ROMANSH: Yes that is a definition ... but perhaps this wiki article might help.
Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is the rejection of belief that any deities exist In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.
And if you recall this this was part of the discussion of how lacking a belief in free will is similar to lacking a belief in god.
[…]

It doesn’t help. I agree that lacking belief in God/free will means the same: but it is not the same as disbelieving. What is your point?

dhw I do not pray or give thanks to any deity. I simply do not know if there is such a thing. If there is, it may well be blind and uncaring. What is your point?

ROMANSH: […] Are you seriously telling me if someone but a gun to your head and said make bet or else you would not come down on one side or the other?

To save my life, I might tell a lie. But the truth is, I am split 50/50. Again, what is your point?

dhw So you want to define free will out of existence and stop the debate!

ROMANSH: And that is like saying you just want to continue the debate. Really dhw?

It was you who raised the subject! So are you now saying you don’t want to discuss it?

dhw You have indeed defined free will out of existence.

ROMANSH: Only if that were true ... there is the god given free will that people believe in and the libertarian free will ... etc.

Yes, there are other definitions.

dhw: You might as well say that if we had never existed (no universe, no life), or if there was nothing to choose from (no environment), we could not have had free will, and so free will does not exist. And yet you claim that compatibilists “change the definition” as if your definition was “the” definition.

ROMANSH: Your rhetoric escapes me here.

No decision can be independent of the universe (without which we would not be here) or of the environment (without which there would be no choice for our will to make). That is how your own highly personal definition removes the possibility of free will. But you accuse compatibilists of “changing the definition”. Which definition?

dhw: The basic premise before we even begin such a discussion is that we do exist and there are choices.

ROMANSH: Yes and its the nature of our existence and choices that is under discussion.

Of course.

dhw ... so it is “I” and no one and nothing else that makes the choice.

ROMANSH: I don't think this bit necessarily follows. Where do you draw a line around yourself? When you say "I" what exactly do you mean by that? Is it some ephemeral soul, is it the bacteria speaking to you from your stomach?

I don’t draw a line. You simply haven’t grasped the fact that I am neutral on the subject! I don’t know if I consist solely of cells, bacteria etc., or if I have an immaterial self, or if my material self produces an identity that is greater than the sum of my parts (emergence). But because you wish to define free will out of existence, you oblige me to tell you why I reject your definition and why I think free will is a possibility.

dhw: The issue is controversial, and a definition should not exclude one side or the other.

ROMANSH: In what way is it controversial?

Because some people believe we have free will, and some people believe we haven’t.

ROMANSH: Most people seem to believe that at least in part they can exist outside of the causal mesh. Even though they believe they can use the very same mesh to get things done. If we believe we are immersed in the causal mesh, then we have to come to the conclusion that our thoughts and actions are a product of that mesh. Unless of course we believe we are somehow separate from that mesh.

A fair summary. It means those who believe we cannot make decisions outside the "causal mesh" disbelieve in free will, and those who believe we can make decisions outside the "causal mesh" believe in free will. But your personal definition of free will is the ability to make decisions outside the causal mesh (i.e. the inescapable factors of the universe and the environment) and therefore free will does not exist. I offer a different definition which means that free will may or may not exist.

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