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Posted by: ontheDownLow ( )
Date: December 15, 2011 11:38AM

I was hoping I could stimulate some great comments from you all on this subject. What do you all think now after mormonism? Are we governed by our own free will or are we determined to make choices by behavioral and physical/biological mechanisms?

I am still leaning to the view that ppl are accountible for their actions irregardless of religion and being a product of their environment, but I am hoping you all have any good research on this.

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Posted by: Stray Mutt ( )
Date: December 15, 2011 11:44AM

We have far greater choices, but the decisions we make, and the things that are possible, are influenced by so many internal and external forces.

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Posted by: AKA Alma ( )
Date: December 15, 2011 12:02PM

I am very much on the fence about "free will". The only thing keeping me from abandoning the concept is that I am unwilling to accept what that does to my concept of morality.

The simplified version of what keeps me from completely accepting free will:
The brain is a complex electro-chemical machine and thoughts are electrical impulses that travel along the "circuitry". The circuitry forms/changes over the course of our lives, but it is still a machine. Same inputs - same output.

The thoughts you have at this very moment are the result of every stimuli you've experienced over the course of your life. Your free will is an illusion.

That isn't to say there is destiny, just no free will.

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Posted by: ontheDownLow ( )
Date: December 15, 2011 12:10PM

That sounds like a Thomas Watson theory. The father of behaviorism.

Of course, we can also scrutinize the definition of "Morales" and how it varies from one culture to another. What is Morality and is there one moral standard to live by?

I just don't like the idea of being a robot to my own mechanisms in my body.

However, there is a strong argument on this part. Look at how harmones impact functions in our body and our emotions.

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Posted by: Dave the Atheist ( )
Date: December 15, 2011 12:07PM

You do not have free will to not accept.

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Posted by: Mia ( )
Date: December 15, 2011 12:25PM

I think we are creatures of free will.

We make rules in our societies to avoid chaos.

I'm not a scientist. Not really my thing, even though I find it extremely interesting. If you want to know details there are scientist out there that have written volumes on this topic.

However, I think our body has all sorts of built in mechanisms that can affect some of our free will. There are some things that can't be helped.

Starting with being born male or female. While there are some anomalies, I'm sticking with the male female model for this example. We have different hormonal circumstances that rule the way we think, act, and look. IF you don't think so, spend a week with a woman suffering from PMS.There is a huge spectrum that has a way of making us all different.

Then there is DNA. Studies have been done, and are being done to see exactly how our DNA rules us. DNA affects and rules us in ways that we don't totally understand, but they are working on it. Huge strides have been made in the field of DNA in the last few years. It is a fascinating topic. There are quite a few articles online if you are interested in reading about it.

Then we have to consider the nature or nurture argument. That one hasn't been settled. There are a lot of studies that have been done about it though. They like to study twins that haven't been raised together. That helps to sort out which is which.

I'm sure there are other factors that play into our lives that interfere or enhance our free agency. There is no black and white answer. That is where I believe I ran into trouble with the mormon church. The black and white thinking of right and wrong didn't blend well with my hormones, DNA, culture, and my learning style. We were not a match made in heaven!

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Posted by: Jesus Smith ( )
Date: December 15, 2011 12:28PM

Where is free will located, or where does it come from? If it is in the brain, then it is just part of the electro-chemical & biological machinery of the brain. As such it is governed by the laws of biophysics (i.e., reducible to known and probabilistic pathways that are predictable). It would not truly be free to choose outside of the brain's programmed stimulus/response within a given environment. In other words, if free will is in the brain, it is an illusion and actually fairly deterministic (with perhaps a tiny amount of randomness implied by quantum/statistical events).

If free will is not an illusion and comes from outside the brain, in what some would call generally a soul/spirit, it suggests there is something not regulated by the laws of biophysics. (Again, if it falls under the laws of science, it is calculable at least in a probabilistic if not deterministic manner.) If the soul/free will are not physical, then how do they influence the brain/body which clearly are physical? If not physical, it could be suggested that this endures death (but not necessarily). Without free will (and/or a soul) nothing of our thoughts endures past death.

Not that the afterlife is a necessary outcome of free will. There could be free will and no spirit and no afterlife.

Interestingly, if there is an afterlife, there would probably be true free will which is produced by a (mostly) non-physical entity such as a "soul". If there is nothing beyond the physical, then the life dies with the brain, and free will is likely an illusion of the dance between determined complex stimuli/response in various environments with a dash of quantum randomness thrown in.

You may find Daniel C Dennett's book Freedom Evolves very interesting and on topic.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/15/2011 12:32PM by Jesus Smith.

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Posted by: dthenonreligious ( )
Date: December 15, 2011 12:41PM

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Posted by: JoD3:360 ( )
Date: December 15, 2011 12:41PM

We seem to be freewill, and we like to think of ourselves as freewilled but look at how easily groups of humans can be swayed. Set up the right conditions and you can make groups of normally sedate people riot or burn books or even donate large sums to the needy.

Mormons like to talk about free agency, but when a popular authority starts saying something as simple as, "...even, Jesus Christ... they all start repeating that phrase in their own prayers and closings. They like to say that they are wonderful and openminded but get a few together and they all fall into lockstep and fight whatever cause they are told to rally against.

They have the notion of free agency, but they act and react according to established pattern.

Mormons like to say they are not a cult of robot followers, but when you leave the church, it is like their reactions are copy/pasted into each other. Alleged friends and familiar faces at church will suddenly put their hands in the pockets and look away, almost as if on cue. Family will immediately turn on you- not just mom and dad, but favorite aunt, sister and brother alike. Then almost like a flock of blackbirds they will uniformly change from attack mode to shun.

Nice people suddenly fall into a seperate role, just like reserved acting people at church will suddenly move as a group smiling and touching new visitors trying to befriend them. When we were new to the church after her very first visit, the first thing my nonmember wife said was "I felt like I was in a cult with all those people swarming over me".

We've been to a lot of different churches, and none of them ever act as suffocating or welcoming as the LDS do.

Anyone who thinks that mormonism is not a cult of lockstep followers has obviously never left or investigated the LDS church.

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Posted by: Mia ( )
Date: December 15, 2011 12:44PM


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Posted by: blindmag ( )
Date: December 15, 2011 12:55PM

Think about it this way. Perhaps if we dont have freewill and our brains are just bags of chemicals and electrical impulses then perhaps you can be swayed to like or not like something just with a drug. I've seen it with some of my ADD friends who changed thair medication and suddenly thair color prefrences changed to the point one of them who made clothes had to remake her intire wardrobe.

If so then if some mormons are right then not likeing the church is just a mental defect. The right drug can make you like the abuses you take.

That thought terrifies me. but then again is that terror a defect that should be corrected what is normal and healthy?

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Posted by: imaworkinonit ( )
Date: December 15, 2011 01:07PM

We are strongly affected by our genes, our past experiences, our beliefs, our hormones, our moods.

Mood example: I was pretty dang grumpy a few minutes ago. Then I ate something, and then got the opportunity to opt off the calling list for a stupid cruise telemarketing recording that keeps autodialing me. All of the sudden I realized I was in a much better mood.

Could I have CHOSEN to be less cranky before I ate, or before I permanently eliminated that telemarketer from my life? Probably not. I could have FAKED nicer, but my brain just doesn't work right when my blood sugar is low. (BTW, nobody's brain works right w/out food. That's why fasting is such an effective facilitator for 'spiritual' experiences--except for people like me who get really pissed off when they are hungry).

So anyway, I changed my brain by eating. But I also changed my thoughts/attitude by DOING something that I believed would remove an irritation from my life . . . that stupid cruise telemarketer.

The thoughts we think affect our brain chemistry. We can flood ourselves with stress hormones and adrenaline by brooding over stuff that makes us depressed, mad, or scared, or we can try to switch more positive by doing something that makes us feel good: Maybe listening to good music, or eating chocolate, lighting a scented candle, or turning on the Christmas lights. I feel better when after I eliminate some irritating task that has been hanging over my head.

Telling a persistent telemarketer to piss off also helps. ;-)

I think rising above what I would naturally would do involves challenging habits, thoughts and beliefs so I can live more my conscious choice.

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Posted by: Makurosu ( )
Date: December 15, 2011 01:09PM

For example, religions often teach that homosexuality is a choice, which it isn't. Why teach that? Anyone who is gay or who has known someone who is gay knows that isn't true. It's at odds with the science too. Maybe these religions want people to believe that there is something wrong with them so that the religion can sell them the solution. If you can't change, then you're not trying hard enough to do what they say. If you appear to change, then you're a poster child for the program. It's like that with some motivational and self-help programs too. They use an illusion that you have free will to enslave you through your own failure and disillusionment.

I don't know what the balance is between determinism and free will, but I find that it's more freeing to admit that there are some things you can't change about yourself. It's better just to accept who you are and work on the things you can change.

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 12/15/2011 01:12PM by Makurosu.

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Posted by: Holy the Ghost ( )
Date: December 15, 2011 01:46PM

I would choose to believe that we are free agents, but rationally, I can't justify it.

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Posted by: tapir_whisperer ( )
Date: December 15, 2011 02:36PM

At issue is the presumption of what “free agency” implies.

I was never satisfied with the theological construct of free agency as used by TBMs. Its presumptive use is to justify why different people make different choices (usually discussed in the context of choosing “good versus evil”). I disagree. Free agency only provides the freedom for independent choice. It does not provide the underlying motivations of why there’s independent choice.

The fundamental logical fallacy (with the theological construct of “free agency”) is the tacit presumption that humans exercise their agency based on a cognitive state of equivalency. However, no two people have identical cognitive states. Each has a unique cognitive state in consequence of unique genes combined with unique cumulative stimuli experienced in life.

I agree with "strivingforbalance" that free will is an illusion as it is always used in the context to explain why.

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Posted by: baura ( )
Date: December 15, 2011 03:40PM

OK, let's look at this in a Mormon setting:

You are righteous but I Sin. Why?

Well, it's because I CHOOSE to sin.

But why do I CHOOSE to sin?

Well, it's because I used my free agency to choose evil over good.

But WHY did I choose evil over good?

Well, I had lost the Light of Christ and was suceptible to the buffetings of Satan.

But HOW did I lose the light of Christ?

Well, it was by disregarding God and being worldly.

But, WHY did I disregard God and become worldly?

Well, it was because I valued worldy things over spiritual things.

But WHY did I value . . . .

OK, this can go on forever. In the Mormon scheme of things we were "intelligence" then "intelligences" then "spirits" then we became united with a body down here in a test of something.

Those who pass the test go on to eternal glory, The rest of us end up weeping, wailing and gnashing our teeth for eternity. So where does our goodness or badness come from ORIGINALLY?

Why does one spirit decide to follow the straight and narrow and another decide to go over to the dark side? Was it something different in our original makeup? In that case it's not our fault how we were made. Was it something different in our environment? We are not responsible for our environment. So how can we be eternally responsible for how we are if we didn't make ourselves? Was it just pure randomness? Should we be punished for how the dice fall?

The whole idea of free will and "free agency" makes no sense to me at all. I've been thinking about this for about 50 years. The more I think about it the less sense it makes.

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Posted by: GNPE ( )
Date: December 15, 2011 03:56PM

back to the OLD environment or heredity eh?

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Posted by: ontheDownLow ( )
Date: December 18, 2011 12:28AM

well, if you take free will out of the equation, then we are really just determined which means we are not accountable for our actions. I guess we should not punish anyone except ourselves for creating the monsters of the world who do bad things. We needs to cure them through reconditioning and prescription that what we are really saying?

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Posted by: SusieQ#1 ( )
Date: December 18, 2011 01:51AM

When we choose the action, we choose the consequence, and sometimes those are severe, illegal, etc.

Mormonism teaches that Agency is the freedom to choose between good and evil.
(This notion of Agency is not found in any dictionary. One does wonder if Joseph Smith Jr either didn't understand the word, or made up a new religious meaning).

Official teaching -- REFERENCE: Gospel Principles
C h a p t e r 4

"Thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee" (Moses 3:17).

God has told us through his prophets that we are free to choose between good and evil. We may choose liberty and eternal life by following Jesus Christ. We are also free to choose captivity and death by following Satan.
(See 2 Nephi 2:27.) The right to choose between good and evil is called agency.

Agency Is an Eternal Principle,4945,11-1-13-7,00.html

This is the odd definition that Mormons use. Choose the Right is the only real choice other wise you are choosing evil.

Not so in the world outside Mormonism. We can be "determined", "free agents" (other than football!), and exercise free will within the confines of our environment/culture/ laws, etc. and not be concerned about religious definitions of evil/agency/etc.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/18/2011 02:21AM by SusieQ#1.

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Posted by: ontheDownLow ( )
Date: December 18, 2011 08:57PM

SusieQ#1: I like your response, however, the rules of society are also apart of the equation. Its not just the biological neurons firing off in your mind, but its your logic, reasoning, fears, risk tolerance, opportunities, weather, culture, education, religion, eco system, food etc... I can go on and on.

Thomas B. Watson, the father of Behaviorism Psychology said that if he could possibly know or create a mathmatical equation that can factor in every possible variable that influences your choices/behavior, then he can guess your exact next move.

Its really deep stuff. Again, are we determined or free agents?

Its sort of scary to think about (especially from a legal stand point) now that JS is really a clown con man and the bible is bronze age myths... Something to think about.

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Posted by: SusieQ#1 ( )
Date: December 19, 2011 01:37PM

ontheDownLow Wrote:
> Yes! We are by our nature of being human beings in a particular societal environment limited as free agents. I agree. It's impossible to get past those controls in most cases.

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Posted by: Troy ( )
Date: December 18, 2011 02:37AM

The idea of determinism strikes me as a brick wall preventing further speculation or analysis. In philosophy, we are in the business of gaining as much wisdom as possible and I've found that certain dead-end ideas are useless to this profession. I'm unable to mine any further wisdom out of the idea that we are pre-determined and have no free will. It's a philosophical dead-end, if you ask me. We aren't going to gain any new information about the matter, but it makes for a fascinating metaphysics class.

Determinism has the effect of making ethics pointless and quite frankly, that would turn my whole world upside-down. When students bring up determinism in ethics classes, I typically recommend dropping the course until they can get their minds around the metaphysics. Otherwise they'll just be confused and probably irritated too. Determinism has no place in ethics.

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Posted by: ontheDownLow ( )
Date: December 18, 2011 09:01PM

Sorry, I have to disagree with this one. Watch the movie Les Miserables and understand the message in it. It has everything to do with who we are and how we operate as a society. Are we products of our environment or are we random choice makers?

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Posted by: Anony ( )
Date: December 18, 2011 02:50AM

I think we are largely driven to function on auto-pilot....which we can escape from but one has to have concrete goals in life as to what they truly want and stay focused and driven in pursuit of those goals...

Then, you might be able to break free from an average existence that is largely just determined by genetics/personality/upbringing.

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Posted by: presbyterian ( )
Date: December 18, 2011 07:11PM

I thought this was going to be about predestination.

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Posted by: lulu ( )
Date: December 18, 2011 07:39PM

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Posted by: lulu ( )
Date: December 18, 2011 07:50PM

or a Sunday morning news show politician (which is worse?)

The question you should have asked is In what ways do we have free will and in what ways are we ruled by determinism?

During a convulsion how does the patient exercise free will?

If I choose to practice a meditation technique I can observably change my brain waves, lower my heart rate and blood presure. How is that deterministic?

This is neither high philosophy nor academic psychology, but in life we need serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference.

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Posted by: ontheDownLow ( )
Date: December 18, 2011 09:05PM

True, but by learning to change your brain waves has created another variable in your equation that allows you another option or added action.

Each thing you learn or experience makes your mathematical equation more complex as it creates additional variables that interact with your choices, moods, desires etc...

If we are determined, then we are the most complex mechanisms in the environment unless I am neglecting something.

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Posted by: lulu ( )
Date: December 18, 2011 09:21PM

ontheDownLow Wrote:
> Each thing you learn or experience makes your
> mathematical equation more complex as it creates
> additional variables that interact with your
> choices, moods, desires etc...

Oh, yes, and the individuals and society with which you interacted keep changing too. If cosmology and particle physics are complicated, just try human beings.

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Posted by: blackholesun ( )
Date: December 18, 2011 10:06PM

Let me rephrase the question,

Are all our thoughts and actions reducible ultimately to the laws of physics? Can we be completely described in terms of mathematics (in principle at least)?

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Posted by: lulu ( )
Date: December 18, 2011 10:47PM

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Posted by: Mia ( )
Date: December 18, 2011 10:18PM

I've done a fair amount of study on this topic. I wouldn't really call it research. Just out of my own curiosity. Also took several college classes related to these topics. Every thing from psychology to physiology. My own conclusion, is that it is a mix.
There is no absolute one or the other. Being alive brings about exposure to nurture vs. nature experience. A debate that has been going on forever. Which one affects what in each individual can become an endless study in math, science, human psychology,human anatomy, and probably a few other things. That is my very unscientific conclusion.

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Posted by: ontheDownLow ( )
Date: December 19, 2011 12:14PM

I have an undergrad in Psych. What turned me off from pursuing a career as a psych was the fact that the underlying premise behind all the schools of psych, and basically science on the whole, is that we are determined.

This was something I rejected as I was TBM at the time going to BYU. I fully subscribed to Free Agency as taught by the Morg. But now, after discovering JS's fraud and the invalidity of the Bible this year, I am struggling to understand our nature as humans.

Are we just complex Logarithms (walking smart phones) that advance with experience, time, and learning?

If this is the truth, then how can we justify certain laws or exclude ourselves as part of an environmental problem that may or may not lead to some violent outcome?

Personally, I would rather believe we are free agents, but that is the same part of me that wishes the Christ of the New Testament is real.

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Posted by: blackholesun ( )
Date: December 19, 2011 01:07PM

It is not clear to me that our mental life is reducible to a complicated set of algorithms. Although it has many critics, the Lucas-Penrose argument, based on Gödel’s work in mathematical logic, is that the human mind must be more than algorithmic. One possible way around their argument is to acknowledge that the human mind is fundamentally inconsistent. But if that is the case, then the whole human enterprise of rationality is in deep trouble.

But even if our minds are entirely algorithmic in nature an argument can still be made for laws, rewards, and punishments. Those things could modify behavior even in the absence of free will in the same way we can modify the behavior of animals or change the course of a river by building a dam. What would be more questionable would be whether the idea of moral culpability still makes sense. What we would be holding responsible for bad behavior? Faulty organic computer code? Can we assign moral blame to a machine? Bad computer, bad! Like in 2001 - ‘Open the pod bay doors, HAL’. But it wasn’t really HAL’s fault; it was given conflicting objectives by its programmers right? (Sounds like the Mormon version of the Garden of Eden story). But it couldn’t really be HAL’s programmers fault either; they were just operating according to the dictates of their own software.

‘I know I've made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal.’

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Posted by: AngelCowgirl ( )
Date: December 19, 2011 12:35PM

Intriguing question.

I'm another who thinks it's a combination. The specific ratio will vary from person to person, depending again on a mix of factors. Some may value religious views more, others perhaps their familial or cultural background, etc.

After one of my children was born, I had severe post-partum depression that included very strong suicidal thoughts... but I did not *act* on these thoughts. The PPD was, of course, biological in origin. What about my choice to not act on the results of the biological anomaly? Was it because of my upbringing? My religion? Love for my children? A cultural inacceptance of suicide? It was a mix of these, actually.

I've always been intrigued by accounts of people who displayed drastic personality changes after experiencing some sort of brain injury. I think free will is definitely a factor but it is often limited by biological boundaries. The trick is finding a way to believe in free will so that people "man up" and are responsible for their actions without unfairly damning those who are suffering from issues beyond their control (ie - mental illness). It's a slippery slope.

And that's my two cents. :)

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