Wednesday, August 18, 2010


The following is a response I entered on the Pantheism website in response to Ronhorgan's comment:

Ronhorgan said: The problem with the hot potato is that free will is both true and false. As a young man I could not escape the absolute truth that I was wholly predetermined; a very cheerless place to live.

My response was: I had the opposite experience. The exact moment that I decided in late-middle life that I was a robot, I was filled with an immediate sense of elation, and a paradoxical thought lept into my mind, I have never felt so free. As a youth I tried to believe in a sort of Freudian determinism, but all his explanations for human behavior (also Jung's explanations) seemed endlessly ambiguous and unsatisfying answers to what human consciousness labels cruelty and deceit. Actually no human act is cruel or deceitful; they are emotional labels consciousness, instructed by emotion, applies to the human brain doing its thing. A greater consciousness, an emotionless deterministic robot, observing from afar, would only see actions and not the emotions. It would be able to see how certain actions lead to certain results. It would even be able to quantify the results of the actions it observes. The funny thing is that good science is that distant and robotic observer. And evolutionary psychology is now putting human behavior under the microscope and it can quantify human behavior. For example, it reveals that the degree of kinship has a statistical correlation to the degree of favoritism that one human shows to another. Stuff like that.

When I began to read the works of evolutionary psychologists, every problem I had understanding human history disappeared. My understanding was complete, and I would never have to moan again, "Why O why, Lord?" The Lord is in there because consciousness brought with it dualism. As soon as the brain's auditory functions became complex enough to be multi-layered and recursive, there appeared in nature the brain speaking to itself and the brain directing the body's movements. The brain thinks and the brain that thinks (i.e. overhears its auditory bits rumbling along) has assigned God (the unknown and a concomitant conscious moral system) as an explanation for why the body is doing what it does. In a way, saying that Adam and Eve ate the apple is as good as any explanation for why one human animal harms another human animal as any other. The cause of the harm is buried in the purely physical body and is determined by electro/chemical activities which defy conscious control. Thus the label evil arises from a fairy tale.

Memories (synaptic memories of actions) are stored with emotions and emotions are also the trigger mechanisms for directing human behavior. Thus any act of the body has a memory in the synaptic patterns which are connected to the emotional captain of the ship. The emotional captain of the ship is separate from the rationalizing function of the brain which tries to explain and excuse every action that it has no control over except to rationalize and explain its behavior to itself and to its fellow chimps in the human network. Thinking is as deterministic as action is. Emotions, memories and thoughts swirl around each other, continuously stimulated by input from the environment. A certain emotion will stimulate a certain memory and vice versa.

An input from the environment will trigger an emotion which raises up memories of an action and an impulse to do that action, but that impulse to action (or thought) is then modulated by other emotions labeled as shame or guilt which are attached to other memories of past actions and events and results. Eventually, through that mixture of memory and their attached emotions an action is triggered by whichever chemical mixture wins the competition to act (or not act). From an array of potential actions one action has the chemical strength to cause the action to happen. The strength of an action is determined by the emotional (chemical) power that releases the action. Thus one man in a bar fight breaks a bottle and drives the shards of that bottle into his antagonist's face while another never goes beyond using his fists. His drive (emotional power) to do harm by his actions is modulated by other emotions (chemical determinants) that restrain his acts. The resolutions of his entire brain with all its emotions and memories just can't generate the emotional/chemical response that makes for a killing.

As usual, I wrote far more than I intended, but every avenue down which I follow determinism is endlessly fascinating. Writing about paradoxical stuff like conscious control as opposed to determinism constantly tantalizes me and causes words to flow.

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