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cmspecht at acsu.buffalo.edu cmspecht at acsu.buffalo.edu
Fri May 9 06:05:24 EST 1997

the question of whether or not we are deterministic is not meaningles.  i
can immediately think of two reasons why:

1)	a fundamental basis of many religious beliefs is that we have
	the capacity to make many decisions about our behavior

(and if that isn't enough),

2)	if you happen to study the brain (experimentally) you have to set
	any notions of free will aside (at least in your laboratory) - 
	for  one cannot suppose to understand the workings of the mind or
	any behavior if it is not physical and measurable.

intuitively, it is very difficult to think that our behavior is completely
mechanistic.  however, there is not a single documented case of a
non-physical (i.e. anti matter (free will if it did not have a physical
function as a neural outcome)) event conclusively determining a physical
event.  and yet there are a gazillion examples where physical events have
been shown to cause the non-physical.

the question is NOT a simple one, whether quantum mechanics is the law or
is not.  so far, it cannnot ultimately explain consciousness.

i would suggest to the original poster that this is more a question dealt
with by the philosophers (not that this precludes, by any means, a
scientist from attempting to understand it).

for some good, well-written work on the latest
scientific/cognitive/philosophical view (called cognitive revolution or
the mentalistic paradigm), i would suggest a book of essays by johnathan
searle (philosopher) entitled "minds, brains and science," or the late
writings on the subject (and experimental work in the visual system) by
francis crick.

colleen specht

 On 8 May 1997, Eugene Leitl wrote:

> On Thu, 8 May 1997 hefeng at cz3.nus.sg wrote:
> > Is there really free will?
> Does it really matter?
> > Many would answer yes. When someone said he made a decision, he meant that
> > he CHOSE to make that decision, there is nothing that could stop him if he
> > didn't want to stop.
> Introspection doesn't yield any scientific results. In most cases what's 
> happening under the hood is profoundly counterintuitive. I seem to recall 
> one study where a motoric reaction was already determined well before the 
> subject was aware of it. 
> I guess current consensus at a highly trivial level says the "I" is just a
> surfer over miles of murky depths of down below. The majority of what's
> happening is unaccessible to self, in a certain sense the self is a
> signature of deeply buried activity. 
> > This puzzles me a bit. Is the brain a deterministic machine at the neuro
> > level? If so, there will be no free will at all, our thoughts are all
> > results of physics laws! Maybe we think we can make whatever decisions we
> > feel like to but in fact we can't?
> This question is meaningless. Whether we are FSMs, or quantum systems,
> pseudorandom is fundamentallx indistinguishable from true random. We just
> can't tell. It doesn't make one iota of difference from the user front
> end. 
> > Maybe the brain is not deterministic and owns that to quantum mechanics?
> QM is not just a good idea, it's the law.
> > Or maybe the extreme complexity of the brain has something to do with the
> > apparent uncertainty in our thinking?
> Again, you are trying to gain knowledge from introspection. It's futile.
> > And do we really have control over our thoughts? Have you ever tried to
> > forget something?
> Such a trait does not appear to be meaningful in evolutionary context. 
> For what's this worth, one could probably make memories kinetically 
> inaccessible by autosuggestion. Not that I tried. What does the 
> literature say?
> ciao,
> 'gene

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