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Thread: God's Will

  1. #1 God's Will 
    Time Lord zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    If God has a will then why do we need one, free or otherwise? Wouldn't everything ultimately result from God? Just heard about a young girl at a Christian Bible camp who was killed when she had an accident driving an ATV. The camp authority has basically shoved the incident aside, noting that it was God's will for this girl to die. If the victim used her free will to decide to ride a potentially lethal machine then how could her death be God's will? Just how does God will a death if we possess free will?

    What is God's will, really?


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    I think it is supposed to be what God let's happen without intervention as much as actively doing something.


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    One could ask the same question of a deterministic universe without recourse to god(s). Either our actions are entirely determined or we have an element of free will. The addition of god would not change this; either god determines all our actions or he doesn't determine all our actions. The options are mutually exclussive: if god's will determines everything we have no free will, if we have free will god's will does not determine everything.
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    Determinism and free will are not mutually exclusive.
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    So i've heard, but yet to receive a sufficient explanation.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Determinism and free will are not mutually exclusive.
    I don't see that. I'm going to need an explanation of how determinism and free will are not mutually exclusive.
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    Free will is usually defined as the ability to choose to do one action or other actions. But how do we choose? Our brain chooses based on prior experience, reason, emotions, genetics, our senses such as pain or pleasure, our conditioning, goals and other things. Faced with a decision to make we Could make any number of them, aka exhibit free will, so long as we Choose to do so, but we decide and act based the collection of all those things that influence our decision at that time.

    In some ways the way we think of free will, and hold people responsible for their bad decisions, depends on determinism. If the processes inside ones brain when he made a bad decision were subject to random indeterministic elements, than we couldn't reasonably hold that person accountable for their actions. Likewise it would be more difficult to reward people for good actions, since in a similar manner some indeterministic element might be responsible for his brain's good decision! The collection of all those things that influence our decision and what our brain does with them at that time Is Free Will, regardless of whether they are ultimately deterministic or not; but only if they are mostly deterministic can you hold the person accountable.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    My point is largely complex computers of any type, whether that be biological or not, include influences and internal processes that introduce apparent randomness that add variability to the outcome. Some of this is inherent in the way data is stored; for example computation of floating point operations are subject to rounding and truncation errors; I don't doubt that biological data storage is also prone to inherent inaccuracies. At some point computers, especially as part of the global networks most are now connected to, as well as human outcomes are best studied using stochastic models; a Google search will tend towards some grouping of outcomes much like a person's groupings of behaviors in response to a stimulus--neither is 100% predictable.
    Now, I will not state with certainty, that indeed, a stochastic element is the primary source of free will. If free will does in fact exist.
    But if free will does in fact exist, it exist's in a universe with an irreducible stochastic element.
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    Quote Originally Posted by GiantEvil View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    My point is largely complex computers of any type, whether that be biological or not, include influences and internal processes that introduce apparent randomness that add variability to the outcome. Some of this is inherent in the way data is stored; for example computation of floating point operations are subject to rounding and truncation errors; I don't doubt that biological data storage is also prone to inherent inaccuracies. At some point computers, especially as part of the global networks most are now connected to, as well as human outcomes are best studied using stochastic models; a Google search will tend towards some grouping of outcomes much like a person's groupings of behaviors in response to a stimulus--neither is 100% predictable.
    Now, I will not state with certainty, that indeed, a stochastic element is the primary source of free will. If free will does in fact exist.
    But if free will does in fact exist, it exist's in a universe with an irreducible stochastic element.
    Here's the good part....it would be best treated as stochastic even if everything was 100% deterministic--it's too complex to do otherwise.

    I think philosophers and laymen often get it wrong about freewill because for some confounded reason we try to separate our conscious thinking from our brains, while missing the point that freewill is our brain's ability to decide to act. Only in the event of some overwelming external force do we claim that freewill is removed, like someone being water boarded deciding whether to lie to their overly "patriotic" interrogator.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Free will is usually defined as the ability to choose to do one action or other actions. But how do we choose? Our brain chooses based on prior experience, reason, emotions, genetics, our senses such as pain or pleasure, our conditioning, goals and other things. Faced with a decision to make we Could make any number of them, aka exhibit free will, so long as we Choose to do so, but we decide and act based the collection of all those things that influence our decision at that time.

    As i understand your argument, Lynx, you are saying free-will resides in the fact that the brain is the object that does the choosing? Free-will, the 'choosing', is defined as the ability to choose one action or other actions. I agree that the brain 'chooses based on prior experience, reason, emotions, genetics...' But those 'experiences, reasons,emotions, genetics...' will all have physical corrleates. As you say free will is an attribute of the brain - a physical entity. As a physical entity it will be subject to Laplace's Demon:

    We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.
    This relates to causal determinism - there being several types in philosophy, but i think it's the one we're all talking about?

    Therefore i would only agree there is free-will if it is strictly defined as the causally determined process occuring in the brain, resulting in a action. This is not the same free-will most people imagine themselves to possess.

    If we except Laplace's Demon, it is not being able to know all antecedents which gives the illusion of free-will.

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    I would not term what we have "free will". I'd be more inclined to just call it "will". Since our decisions are determined by our past experiences and the state of our brains at that very moment, we can only ever make the same decision given the same set of influences. Even if some of our decisions have an element of true quantum randomness to it, we still don't have any control over it.

    Given this, I don't believe we possess the free will we think we do and we have to re-evaluate how we proportion blame to anti-social behaviour. This realisation is the main reason why the concept of Hell is so ridiculous to me. Sure, extreme perpetrators of anti-social behaviour must be removed from society and an attempt has to be made to rehabilitate them, but we can't really blame anyone for being who they are. These people are victims of circumstance, rather than harbingers of evil.
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER View Post
    I think it is supposed to be what God let's happen without intervention as much as actively doing something.
    I'd like to think it is supposed to be what God doesn't know what will happen if He keeps His nose out of it. But then that would mean God's omniscience is in question.

    How about sex and reproduction? If God allows a certain one of your father's sperm to conquer the egg produced by your mother then are you predetermined? I don't think God can will (or know)everything....there would be no randomness, only a perceived randomness.

    This past week I had two friends die in separate incidences about 36 hours apart. One had a heart attack and the other died from complications during routine surgery. People say there was no reason for this to happen other than its God's will. I personally understood that to mean God (if He exists) had no idea this was going to happen nor did He pull the trigger. So does it mean that if God allows it then He knows it, thus He has intervened? It seems to me that God would have two choices for my friends, live or die. Can allowing either event to just play out still be classified as non-intervention?
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    I am saddened to hear about your friend's zinjanthropos. My condolences.

    My original interest in this thread arose from the statement "Determinism and free will are not mutually exclusive."
    While it won't be within the scope of the argument I present to determine the truth value of determinism versus free will (particularly, within the context of human cognition and subsequent action), I do intend to show their mutual exclusivity.

    I will begin with the definition of determinism as strict causality. If A then B. Antecedent or set of antecedents, and then consequent or set of consequents.
    I would like to further clarify strict causality as being analogous to a mathematical function, that there is no ambiguity in which elements of the domain of the function map to which elements in the range of the function.

    Now I will define free will as choice. If A then B or C. To clarify, not(if A then B and C). In the case of choice, the antecedent or domain element does not unambiguously map to a specific range element or consequent.
    Therefore, there is a clear inequality between strict causality and choice.
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    I'll play along out of curiosity. (having no idea where it might lead)

    Quote Originally Posted by GiantEvil View Post
    I will begin with the definition of determinism as strict causality. If A then B. Antecedent or set of antecedents, and then consequent or set of consequents.
    I would like to further clarify strict causality as being analogous to a mathematical function, that there is no ambiguity in which elements of the domain of the function map to which elements in the range of the function.
    Would a formula count as determinism, where there are several possible outcomes based the same input?

    Perhaps more important to my point....lets say it IS analogous to a mathematical function, but here is the issue.

    Fox's brain function can be described like y = f(x); while Giant's brain function looks like y=g(x); Henry's brain function looks like y=h(x)
    In fact lets imagine that each of us has a unique function. Knowing each of us carries a unique function that others can't know with good fidelity, but that we as individuals are free to execute, is what we call free will.

    If the solution to g(x) is extremely beneficial to society, perhaps Giant gets a Noble Peace Prize (for cold fusion in a beer stein); and this happens with good confidence that there is only one g(x) even if Giant's brain was destined to arrive at the solution. Likewise if Henry's h(x) decided to use the same information to blow up the Worlds Cup, he'd end up the target of Seal Team 6, because his function and solution is unacceptable to society.

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    To Fox and Giant: on behalf of my departed friends I say thank you for the condolences.

    Back to topic: Let's look at conception. If my being (or anything living) is God's will then why is it necessary for the production of millions of sperm? Wouldn't one be enough? For me to be a product of God's will then God selected a certain one of my father's sperm to reach the egg. Again, why millions of the the little wigglers? I question how God's will operates. Why the appearance of randomness when He has set things in motion(predetermined)?
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    Because on Judgement Day, when you stand before the All Knowing God, He will tell you, He knew your name, ten generations before you were born, and you were one in a million. The strongest and best swimmer of your dad's seed. It was the free will of both your parents, to join together. Only by the design of God Almighty, could they do so, each having many seeds, the choice is God's, don't we thank Him, for the baby girl or boy, or twins, or more?
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldSage View Post
    Because on Judgement Day, when you stand before the All Knowing God, He will tell you, He knew your name, ten generations before you were born, and you were one in a million. The strongest and best swimmer of your dad's seed. It was the free will of both your parents, to join together. Only by the design of God Almighty, could they do so, each having many seeds, the choice is God's, don't we thank Him, for the baby girl or boy, or twins, or more?
    So your birth is predetermined but your parents having you is not? That makes no sense.
    If God exists as described, then he knows everything that has, is and will be. If this is the case then we do not have free will, because our every decision is predetermined. If our every decision is predetermined then every murderer out there, every rapist, pedophile, arsonist etc has done something that God knew, nay, designed him to do.
    So when 'judgement day' comes, God is going to judge us according to our lives, which he determined for us? How extremely illogical.
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    " Mother Nature herself imprinted God on the minds of man" Cicero

    If there is a "God" It has to exist outside of the Universe, or it is the Universe, and therefore is us, and the whole frewill, determinisn, debate is futile. We can never know the answer, and we just have to live with that! The mind/brain is a feedback system, within a Universe, that itself might be a closed loop or feedback system. Every thought changes the system, and vice versa.
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    @rock

    I would have to say I agree with you and Cicero. I have a quick thought I wanted an opinion on. Anyone who is familiar with string theory and the debate on dimensions, I ask you this.

    What is the ultimate dimension that encompasses all the rest?

    "I think, therefore I am." -Descartes

    Can anything exist if there is nothing to perceive its existence?

    Does it not stand as a logical argument, that for anything to exist, there must first be a perceiver?

    Would that first perceiver be God?

    If you answered yes to any of the last three questions, then is "God" the container of all sub-dimensions?

    If God is the perceiver, then what is "He/She/It" perceiving, itself?

    Just some food for thought...
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldSage View Post
    Because on Judgement Day, when you stand before the All Knowing God, He will tell you, He knew your name, ten generations before you were born, and you were one in a million. The strongest and best swimmer of your dad's seed. It was the free will of both your parents, to join together. Only by the design of God Almighty, could they do so, each having many seeds, the choice is God's, don't we thank Him, for the baby girl or boy, or twins, or more?
    Just the thought of the strongest swimming sperm, the ones responsible for an assortment of birth defects, being predetermined by God gives me the creeps.
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    Im a religious person, my belief in "god's will" is like this:
    Lets presume for the sake of argument that there is a god and that it is omnipotent. God created the universe with a set of rules (nature, biological etc) then the world is on its own. "Gods will" is that, it is just that the code that went into the initial creation.

    For those that are familiar with star trek, I like to compare it to the prime directive, after creation the world is more or less on its own. Any further interference would pose several problems for instance:

    If there is a "God's will" the how can we blame anyone for his / her actions.
    If there is a "God's will" how can there be free will
    If there is a "God's will" then when does it show ?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Teb View Post
    Im a religious person, my belief in "god's will" is like this:
    Lets presume for the sake of argument that there is a god and that it is omnipotent. God created the universe with a set of rules (nature, biological etc) then the world is on its own. "Gods will" is that, it is just that the code that went into the initial creation.

    For those that are familiar with star trek, I like to compare it to the prime directive, after creation the world is more or less on its own. Any further interference would pose several problems for instance:

    If there is a "God's will" the how can we blame anyone for his / her actions.
    If there is a "God's will" how can there be free will
    If there is a "God's will" then when does it show ?
    One may also ask as to why God created this universe? was he getting bored? If he was getting bored, he can't be God as boredom is a negative trait (especially in this case). God can't have any negative trait.

    One may also ask as to why God created life that is full of food chains of one or the other sort. Life eats life. Will God do such a thing? But still, we should belive in a perfectly just God and ask Him alone to answer such troubling questions. Have faith in God and he will answer all our questions ( may be after many lifetimes of faith).
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    This is not a debate on faith in god, but a debate on "god's will" we could use a number of terms and remove the religious undertone, say we call it universal predetermination or "destiny" as one could call it. As for your reply, I'm not sure what it has to do with predetermination could you elaborate on that ?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Teb View Post
    This is not a debate on faith in god, but a debate on "god's will" we could use a number of terms and remove the religious undertone, say we call it universal predetermination or "destiny" as one could call it.
    "Destiny" based on what if not god? The devil? The ghost in my closet? I don't think you can separate faith of god from "god's will."
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    I was merely stating that the topic at hand was about the philosophical nature of the subject rather then the theological. Destiny: predetermined course of events often held to be an irresistible power or agency. (MW)
    And as stated before i was referring to the fact that this was not a post on faith in god, rather then an effect in that context. i.e. not the merit of faith is discussed.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Would a formula count as determinism, where there are several possible outcomes based the same input?
    A formula provides a solution set for a particular equation. The elements of that solution set still need to be compared to the original equation to determine a truth condition which is unique for each element.
    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Fox's brain function can be described like y = f(x); while Giant's brain function looks like y=g(x); Henry's brain function looks like y=h(x)
    In fact lets imagine that each of us has a unique function. Knowing each of us carries a unique function that others can't know with good fidelity, but that we as individuals are free to execute, is what we call free will.
    Choice requires alternatives, from the basis of a single function, the only alternative to execution of the function is to not execute the function. Execute, or not execute, is a choice.

    I would say that I prefer a model of multiple functions per brain. And the choice for the brain is, "to execute which function?"
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    Quote Originally Posted by GiantEvil View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Choice requires alternatives, from the basis of a single function, the only alternative to execution of the function is to not execute the function. Execute, or not execute, is a choice.
    I would say that I prefer a model of multiple functions per brain. And the choice for the brain is, "to execute which function?"
    I know, but it's really not a necessary condition if we all have unique functions and rather avoids the messiness of trying to figure out why a person picks one internal function over another. It also well fits into our legal definitions where each person is allowed to make and responsible for their decisions--the only exceptions being if something like torture is being applied or we already know the persons decision making functions don't work such as in the case of the insane. This all works quite well even if individual decisions are 100% deterministic; heck it works best that way--the tacit assumption that individuals have deterministic free will is the underpinning of Western law.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    deterministic free will
    Is an oxymoron, the two words don't go together. They make word salad.

    We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.
    —Pierre Simon Laplace, A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities.

    Determinism has no "Maybe", choice requires "Maybe".
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    I know, but it's really not a necessary condition if we all have unique functions and rather avoids the messiness of trying to figure out why a person picks one internal function over another. It also well fits into our legal definitions where each person is allowed to make and responsible for their decisions--the only exceptions being if something like torture is being applied or we already know the persons decision making functions don't work such as in the case of the insane. This all works quite well even if individual decisions are 100% deterministic; heck it works best that way--the tacit assumption that individuals have deterministic free will is the underpinning of Western law.
    But I would rather not avoid the messiness. It is a given that, as you said, Western law is based on the idea that people are responsible for their actions in that they exercise free will to make them, but that in itself does not make it a truism.

    If a person can only act one way given an exact set of circumstances (make only a single choice), how can we hold them account for it in the way we have been? In this case there would only be an appearance of free will, because we don't know everything that impacted on the decision. In actual fact, only one choice could ever be made. How can anyone argue against this?
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

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  31. #30  
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER View Post
    If a person can only act one way given an exact set of circumstances (make only a single choice), how can we hold them account for it in the way we have been? In this case there would only be an appearance of free will, because we don't know everything that impacted on the decision. In actual fact, only one choice could ever be made. How can anyone argue against this?
    Because those circumstances include what's going in that person's brain, the perceptions his brain had, the weighing of risk and reward against different scenarios that went though his brain etc--a process unique to them. It is exactly the fact he could only act one way given his brain that allows us to hold him responsible.

    The whole nation of "appearance of freewill," even when it's clearly the person making the decision even if purely deterministic, makes the mistake of separating the decision maker from his brain or allowing for random chances withing that brain--something for which there's very little evidence and adds a unnecessary, illusionary layer--even if it seems counterintuitive to some.
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    It's possible that to meet the qualifications of free will does require some mechanism approaching Cartesian dualism, or not. I haven't thought that one through yet.
    If someone could provide a chain of logic which definitely states whether or not choice can follow from a non dualistic predicate, I would be most grateful.
    As KALSTER has pointed out, logically there is no concept of choice which may follow from a wholly deterministic predicate. It's what I've been saying all along.
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    It is exactly the fact he could only act one way given his brain that allows us to hold him responsible.
    I agree to the point that if someone does something, it is them that did it. But the distinction for me is between whether he can be blamed for actions he really didn't have any control over, in so far as exacting punishment (other than for the purpose of acting as a deterrent), as opposed to removing the individual from society and treating him as a victim of circumstance; one that should be helped, rather than vilified.

    It is built into us through evolutionary processes to hate and persecute those that exhibit anti-social behaviour, but I think we have the potential capacity to overcome these biases.

    The whole nation of "appearance of freewill," even when it's clearly the person making the decision even if purely deterministic, makes the mistake of separating the decision maker from his brain or allowing for random chances withing that brain--something for which there's very little evidence and adds a unnecessary, illusionary layer--even if it seems counterintuitive to some.
    I agree that a person's actions are entirely determined by the brain built by his genetics and its development in response to the environment through life. There is nothing else. Even if truly random processes have an effect, they are still not under the control of anybody. But the point I am making is that a person has at most simply "will", but it is not free, at least not in the sense where a person has the ability to choose between two alternatives equally. For me that element of choice is an illusion, since the choice is determined by all the different contributing factors culminating in that moment.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

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  34. #33  
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    Since our discussion has involved the human brain, a little primer on what is known about it is in order.
    Optimizing Brain Fitness: Free Video Lecture on How Your Brain Works

    The consideration of free will as either true or illusory is going to enter any data set under consideration, how do you think this effects the result?
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