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Name: Paul
Gender: Male
Hometown: Florida
Home country: USA
Member since: Wed Mar 31, 2010, 03:20 PM
Number of posts: 3,675

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Free will and consciousness

I consider free will impossible. Free will is an illusion, which is due to how consciousness works.

Free will means your decisions are made directly from your conscious brain. How can that be possible? Our brains are very complicated black boxes. We have no idea what’s going on up there while we are thinking. How can someone claim an ability, free will, when they can’t even begin to explain how they do it? The burden of proof is on those that claim they have this ability of free will.

Many people, especially among the religious, include in free will such things as our sexual preferences and our religious beliefs. These are all things we have no way of controlling. I believe something is true or find someone attractive, or I don’t. I have no choice. I can’t choose to believe in Santa Claus or god nor can I choose to be attracted to men.

We are all products of our genetics and environment, neither one of those we choose at birth. From then, we become what we are based on what we began with and how the environment made us. We have no choice. Any decision we make to affect our condition is based on who we are, which had been made by conditions outside of our control.

We experience inputs to our senses as our brains automatically interpret the inputs. We experience different levels of understanding of the world around us as our brains automatically interpret the world. And we also experience various good and bad feelings (emotions, pain, and pleasure, along with much more subtle feelings) which control our thoughts and actions. In practice, all conscious experience is a mixture of these three types of experiences (sensing, understanding, and feeling), including emotions, which are more complex than just raw feelings. That’s everything in consciousness and they are all only experiences.

Conscious animals make a connection of food with hunger; it may not be a profound understanding, but it is an understanding (or at least a connection) at some level. Driven by its feelings, assisted by its senses and memory, and enabled by its instincts and past learned behavior, the animal can find its food. The strength of the animal’s feelings-experience will determine how well it remembers and learns from the experience. For all animals, including humans, everything in this process is imposed on consciousness.

Conscious non-human animals also have the sensation of being in control. To various degrees, they operate very much like we do. They are all feelings driven. Do people claim that rats have free will?

Everything is imposed on consciousness inside our black boxes. We have no idea how anything is made conscious and we have no idea where our thoughts come from. We experience inputs to our consciousness and stuff happens. We are fooled into thinking we are in control due to the fact that our thoughts and actions are consistent with our feelings.

This process is a clue to the role feelings play and ultimately why we are conscious. I believe that feelings are a device that brains have evolved that force themselves to operate; enabling (and forcing) our brains to give attention to the issue of the moment, think, do, act as one unit, and give the brain criteria for learning and remembering through strength of experience. Without feelings in consciousness, is there another way for a brain to do all of that? So this one function of the brain (feelings in consciousness) kills multiple birds with one stone. Clearly evolution found consciousness very useful.

Feelings in consciousness is a motivational force, of sorts, that the brain itself can’t ignore, without which, complex animated critters would probably be impossible. Without feelings we would not have the capability to do anything at all. We are complete slaves to our feelings and feelings are imposed on our consciousness. It’s impossible to know how brains can create consciousness (seems impossible, but it’s clearly not), but we can recognize that feelings in consciousness are a powerful force.

So we experience feelings and stuff happens, driven by the feelings flywheel. But we can’t explain where our thoughts and decisions come from. When we think, stuff pops into our heads. Without knowing where the thoughts in our heads come from we have no real control of our decisions. We have no free will.

So it is clear to me that consciousness is important, but consciousness does far less than we think, including actually making the ultimate decisions. Without conscious free will, the concepts of heaven and hell make no sense, and retribution in the criminal justice system is immoral. It isn’t consciousness that makes the decisions but it’s consciousness that suffers the consequences. Without conscious free will, the ultimate crime, according to many believers, of believing in a different reality than them is no crime at all.

*edit: additions:

Free will: The thoughts that arise in our conscious minds originate from an unknown place, unchosen by our conscious minds - to choose a thought would mean to already have that thought in your mind, which would mean you didn't just choose your thought (infinite regress). The thought had to have originated from somewhere. It can't be your consciousness, since that would mean your very same consciousness already had that thought in mind.

You can't have a separate consciousness (which is also you) in your mind choosing your thoughts for your consciousness. It makes no sense. Thoughts have to originate from somewhere and it can't be from consciousness. Our conscious minds aren't the authors of our conscious thoughts. Thoughts pop into our conscious minds as we think. Words flow into our conscious minds as we write.

Stuff concerning feelings from: Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, Paperback by Anthony Damasio: professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California and an Adjunct Professor at the Salk Institute:

page 170 in the pdf in Demasio's book: Descartes Error::

More restricted in range than the emotional feelings described
previously, background feelings are neither too positive nor too
, although they can be perceived as mostly pleasant or
unpleasant. In all probability it is these feelings, rather than emotional
ones, that we experience most frequently in a lifetime. We are
only subtly aware of a background feeling,
but aware enough to be
able to report instantly on its quality. A background feeling is not
what we feel when we jump out of our skin for sheer joy, or when we
are despondent over lost love; both of these actions correspond to
emotional body states. A background feeling corresponds instead to
the body state prevailing between emotions. When we feel happiness,
anger, or another emotion, the background feeling has been
superseded by an emotional feeling. The background feeling is our
image of the body landscape when it is not shaken by emotion. The
concept of "mood," though related to that of background feeling,
does not exactly capture it. When background feelings are persistently
of the same type over hours and days, and do not change
quietly as thought contents ebb and flow, the collection of background
feelings probably contributes to a mood, good, bad, or

We always feel something. I believe the subtle variations through time of our (background) feelings are critical to the moment to moment operation of the conscious mind.

page 93 in the pdf in Demasio's book: Descartes Error:

Before leaving the subject of human brain lesions, I would like
to propose that there is a particular region in the human brain
where the systems concerned with emotion/feeling, attention, and
working memory interact so intimately that they constitute the
source for the energy of both external action (movement) and internal
action (thought animation, reasoning).
This fountainhead region
is the anterior cingulate cortex, another piece of the limbic system

Damage to this sector not only produces impairment
in movement, emotion, and attentiveness, but also causes a virtual
suspension of the animation of action and of thought process such
that reason is no longer viable.
The story of one of my patients in
whom there was such damage gives an idea of the impairment.

The stroke suffered by this patient, whom I will call Mrs. T,
produced extensive damage to the dorsal and medial regions of the
frontal lobe in both hemispheres. She suddenly became motionless
and speechless, and she would lie in bed with her eyes open but with
a blank facial expression; I have often used the term "neutral" to
convey the equanimity-or absence-of such an expression.
Her body was no more animated than her face. She might make a
normal movement with arm and hand, to pull her bed covers for
instance, but in general, her limbs were in repose. When asked
about her situation, she usually would remain silent, although after much
coaxing she might say her name, or the names of her husband and
children, or the name of the town where she lived. But she would not
tell you about her medical history, past or present, and she could
not describe the events leading to her admission to the hospital.
There was no way of knowing, then, whether she had no recollection
of those events or whether she had a recollection but was unwilling
or unable to talk about it. She never became upset with my insistent
questioning, never showed a flicker of worry about herself or anything
else. Months later, as she gradually emerged from this state of
mutism and akinesia (lack of movement), and began to answer
questions, she would clarify the mystery of her state of mind. Contrary
to what one might have thought, her mind had not been
imprisoned in the jail of her immobility. Instead it appeared that
there had not been much mind at all, no real thinking or reasoning.
The passivity in her face and body was the appropriate reflection of
her lack of mental animation. At this later date she was certain about
not having felt anguished by the absence of communication. Nothing
had forced her not to speak her mind. Rather, as she recalled,
"I really had nothing to say."

To my eyes Mrs. T had been unemotional. To her experience, all
the while, it appears she had had no feelings. To my eyes she had not
specifically attended to the external stimuli presented to her, nor had
she attended internally to their representation or to the representation
of correlated evocations. I would say her will had been preempted,
and that seems also to have been her reflection.

Reagan continued his attacks against Lebanese targets

that he had done before the Marines were killed. Reagan put the Marines in Lebanon while supporting Israel's destruction of much of Lebanon and while supporting one side of a civil war.

After the Marines were killed, the battleship USS New Jersey shelled Lebanese targets. I remember that well. I hated Reagan for those terrorist attacks. At least one member of US Congress blasted Reagan for his indiscriminate shelling of Lebanon, calling it immoral. I think it was US Senator John Glenn, but I can't find a link.

On June 6, 1982, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) initiated Operation "Peace for Galilee" and invaded Lebanon ostensibly to create a 40 km buffer zone between the PLO and Syrian forces in Lebanon and Israel. The Israeli invasion was tacitly approved by the U.S., and the U.S. provided overt military support to Israel in the form of arms and materiel. The U.S.' support for Israel's invasion of Lebanon taken in conjunction with U.S. support for Lebanese President Bachir Gemayel and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) alienated many. Bachir Gemayel was the legally elected president, but he was a partisan Maronite Christian and covert associate of Israel. These factors served to disaffect the Lebanese Muslim and Druze communities. This animosity was made worse by the Phalangist, a right-wing, largely Maronite-Lebanese militia force closely associated with President Gemayel. The Phalangist militia was responsible for multiple, bloody attacks against the Muslim and Druze communities in Lebanon and for the 1982 atrocities committed in the PLO refugee camps, Sabra and Shatila by Lebanese Forces (LF), while the IDF provided security and looked on. The Phalangist militia's attacks on Sabra and Shatila were purportedly a response to the September 14, 1982, assassination of President-elect Bachir Gemayel. Amine Gemayel, Bachir's brother, succeeded Bachir as the elected president of Lebanon, and Amine continued to represent and advance Maronite interests.

It has been estimated that as many as 8,000 civilians died during Israel's invasion of Lebanon, which destroyed large areas of Beirut, including shopping centers and apartment buildings. Marine commander Colonel James M. Mead was dismayed at the level of destruction he saw in the city, describing it as being “like pictures I’ve seen of Berlin at the end of World War II.” The Beirut newspaper An Nahar reported that 5,515 people, both military and civilian, were killed in the Beirut area alone, while 2,513 civilians were killed outside Beirut. How many of those civilians were killed by US military actions? No one knows, but it goes without saying that firing hundreds of shells in the vicinity of a major city like Beirut and its suburbs is bound to result in civilian deaths, not "peace."...

Here is a quick two-week chronology of the events that preceded the car-bombing attack that resulted in the deaths of 241 American marines:...

9/11/1983: The battleship USS New Jersey (BB-62) was alerted for rapid deployment to the Eastern Mediterranean.
9/12/1983: The USS New Jersey refueled in Colon, Panama, then began a high-speed run east, averaging 25 knots per hour.
9/12/1983: A Marine Amphibious Unit arrived off Lebanon and assumed a standby role.
9/16/1983: The destroyer USS John Rodgers (DD-983) and frigate USS Bowen fired five-inch shells into Syrian-controlled parts of Lebanon.
9/19/1983: The USS John Rodgers and USS Virginia (CGN-38) fired 338 five-inch shells at the Shouf Mountain village of Suq al Gharb.
9/20/1983: The USS John Rodgers and USS Virginia fired more shells.
9/21/1983: The USS John Rodgers and USS Arthur Radford (DD-968) fired more shells.
9/23/1983: The USS Virginia employed 155mm artillery fire and five-inch gunfire; French planes struck the Bekaa Valley.
9/25/1983: USS New Jersey arrived off the Lebanese coast.
9/26/1983: There was an immediate cease-fire, but the outgunned insurgents would soon resort to unconventional methods...

Someone else also strongly opposed American entry into the war, and its killing of civilians. Osama Bin Laden would later state that when he saw the results of the US shelling of Lebanon: "God knows it did not cross our minds to attack the towers. But after the situation became unbearable and we witnessed the injustice and tyranny of the American-Israeli alliance against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, I thought about it. And the events that affected me directly were that of 1982 and the events that followed—when America allowed the Israelis to invade Lebanon, helped by the US Sixth Fleet. In those difficult moments, many emotions came over me that are hard to describe, but that produced an overwhelming desire to reject injustice and a strong determination to punish the unjust. As I watched the destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me to punish the unjust the same way and to destroy towers in America so it could taste some of what we are tasting and stop killing our children and women."

What is this free will that you speak of?

We are the products of our genetics and environment, neither of which we have any choice at birth. After that, we think and act based on how our brains have developed in our environment. We don't design our own brains, so our conscious selves don't ultimately control our actions and thoughts. If you believe in a god, then this god is responsible for who we are.

Free will is an illusion. We don't understand how our brains work or how they come to their conclusions. Our heads are black boxes.

We experience inputs into our brains and we experience outputs from our brains. What our brains actually do, we can't know. We experience feelings associated with our thoughts and action. This gives us the illusion that our conscious selves actually made the decision. But our feelings only drive our thoughts and actions by forcing our (outside of conscious) brains to act.

Even when you use sequential logic, ultimately your thoughts come out of your black box.

There is no free will. That is just an excuse for this imaginary god for not being able to see the future and the flaws in creation. God says, the buck don't stop here.

It's not a crazy conspiracy theory,

it's just the basic corruption that dominates Washington DC. (I don't do crazy: Oswald did it, I support GMO's, truthers are kooks, an invisible man in the sky doesn't control the Universe, etc)

Most politicians don't care about any particular agenda. Most of them do at any particular moment what they believe will get them reelected. In the Bush administration, the Neocons set the agenda, with their targets of Iraq, Syria, Libya. and Iran, all nations that are enemies of the terrorists that committed 9-11. Neocons are open about their agenda to destroy those nations for the benefit of Israel. It's not a secret.

9-11 was a fortuitous gift to the Neocons, though a major terrorist attack was highly predictable due to US human rights abuses and atrocities in the ME that we had been committing for decades. I wasn't the least bit surprised on 9-11.

The Neocons are conspiracy kooks, and US foreign policy is what you get when conspiracy kooks get power in government. They were able to scam the US public to support an unprovoked attack against a random Muslim majority nation because they are part of a nefarious "axis of evil." Iraq was part of some great Muslim conspiracy.

The Neocons set the agenda, and now that they got the predictable results, most politicians are now doing what they think needs to be done with the current facts on the ground, which gives us permanent war.

Many politicians are also open about their threats against Iran for the benefit of Israel. We are supporting the terrorists against Syria because the Israel supporters care more about weakening Assad's power than the kooks that want to create a theocracy in Syria and Al Qaeda that attacked the US.

Washington DC is much more complicated than I can write in a few paragraphs, since there are so many agendas, but this is an important element of our war agenda.

Your god pushes the question of the beginning infinitely back in time with a magical being,

unless you believe your god had a creator. Then where did your god's creator come from?

You have the same problem of original creation, and you've created a much worse problem: how did this almost infinitely purposefully-complex critter get here?

My starting point is dumb matter and energy. Your starting point is an almost infinitely purposefully-complex critter with magical powers. We also have no evidence for your invisible magic-critter – or however you define your god.

No matter what view of reality you believe in, whether scientific or not, there is a reality that exists that didn't create itself. The scientific view is to simplify things down to their basic processes going back in time: the more complex comes from the less complex. The religious view is the complex is explained by the even more complex, which is explained by magic.

good links

US Airstrike Leaves At Least 73 Civilians Dead In Syria

The Neocon goal has been to systematically destroy the nations of Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Iran because they want to determine who is most powerful in the region. Their goals are being achieved so far and there is a good chance that things will get much worse.

The US has deliberately created a disaster area in much of the Middle East. It isn't a mistake. The Iraq War wasn't a mistake. We didn't starve the people in Iraq by mistake, which cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. We didn't help murder Qaddafi by mistake. The US Government hasn't supported the fundies against various secular governments by mistake. We're not supporting Saudi Arabia's slaughter against Yemen by mistake, etc.

At some level of the US Government this is all deliberate and these results are the goal. The rest of the politicians just play along, because they believe that's what their job demands, even if they just think they are just fighting those dirty terrorists.

We are far more collectively guilty for this disaster in the Middle East than Muslims are guilty for most of these terrorist attacks that we've been hearing about lately, since our Government officials act in our name (even though our government is corrupt and we as individuals have little power to stop any of this). Most Muslims have nothing to do with any of this crap.

War is the ultimate evil.

Nothing is worse. War is the worst manifestation of bigotry.

The US deliberately seeks out and arms the worst elements in the Middle East. Much of the Middle East had been much more secular and peaceful. Look at the history of the 20th century and who were the most violent then.

The US very much helped spread the ideology. The US armed the fundies to fight the commies. The US overthrew Saddam and helped overthrow Qaddafi. The US is currently supporting the fundies against Assad.

Most of the crazies were concentrated in US supported Saudi Arabia. With the constant US brutalization of the entire region, that set up an environment where conservative religious views can much more easily spread.

This “three-decade war for domination of the Middle East” becomes apparent when we consider how many Muslim countries the peace-loving United States and her “stalwart ally” Israel have bombed:...

Under Barack Obama, the U.S. is currently bombing Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya. According to some reports (see here and here), we can add Iran to this ever-expanding list.

Thanks to American arms and funding, our “stalwart ally” Israel has bombed every single one of its neighbors, including Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. Israel has also bombed Tunisia and Iraq (how many times can Americans and Israelis bomb this country?).

The total number of Muslim countries that America and Israel have bombed comes to fourteen: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Iran, Sudan, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Tunisia.

These very same people that the US has so badly abused are now being condemned on DU for being inferior. With this attitude that is so prevalent in the US, it should not be surprising that the US is the number one war mongering nation in the world.

War beget$ more war.

Such a war is guaranteed to be permanent since much of the terrorism would have never happened if we weren't conducting the wars in the first place, regardless of the ultimate reasons for the terrorist acts.

The bozo (Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens) who wrote the linked piece wrote about his support for the Iraq War (the world's worst crime this century) in 2005, well after only the worst war-mongers still supported that unprovoked disaster.

Without previous US atrocities in the ME by the US, 9-11 would have never happened. Osama made this fact clear.

Without US war-mongering since 9-11, most current Muslim terrorism would have never happened. With just one single terrorist operation on 9-11, the US used that as an excuse to obliterated much of the ME. It didn't take much to radicalize the US public.

With thousands of attacks against the ME over many decades, much of the ME is not surprisingly a disaster area, and many bad elements have taken control.

During the Vietnam War, the US obliterated much of Cambodia, massacring men, women and children. Ultimately the Khmer Rouge took power and they continued the slaughter. (The US then supported the Khmer Rouge when Vietnam intervened, like the US now supports some of the Jihadists against Assad.)

The alleged war on terror is driven by special interests with their own selfish agendas. The neocons have long desired the destruction of Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Iran for obvious reasons. Various war profiteers latch on to the neocons, since any war will do.

We should worry about our own behavior, since that is what we have control over, instead of looking down our noses at and interfering in any other nation's business. Inevitably we make things much worse.

Some people seem to enjoy watching the disaster that is the ME, since they like that fact that they can feel superior to the barbarians over there, and it makes some of them feel good about supporting more war. They have bad people over there and everywhere, but we should worry about the bad people over here.

Of all the major issues facing us, why are so many people so concerned about magic DNA?

The US is engaging in endless wars that are destroying the lives of so many people in this world, with no end in sight. Corruption is widespread in Washington DC, where the economic future of many low and middle income Americans are systematically being destroyed. But so many people are worked-up by this non-issue.

What's destroying the health of so many Americans is the quantity of pure junk they put in their shopping carts, not the method of DNA change. Science and logic is clear on this fact.

People want to take short cuts and ignore what science says on this issue. They think they know more than those with the intelligence, work ethic, and ability to produce science that passes peer review.

The fall-back for those that don't believe the science, whether it's evolution, global warming, or the safety of GMO's, is conspiracy. They all use the same argument.
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