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  #21  
Old 12-15-2005, 12:33 AM
maurile maurile is offline
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Default Re: Why is Randomness so Hard to Prove?

Randomness is impossible to prove because it's impossible to rule out the possibility that there's an underlying pattern which we just haven't discovered yet.

(Likewise, non-randomness is also impossible to prove. Whatever pattern we observe, it's impossible to rule out the possibility that it was just a coincidence.)
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  #22  
Old 12-15-2005, 12:48 AM
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Default Re: Why is Randomness so Hard to Prove?

If it makes you feel better (I bet it won't) I have an equally difficult time accepting it. Intellectually I have come to the conclusion that I do not see any other options but fundamentally in the pit of my stomach it smells wrong.
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  #23  
Old 12-15-2005, 01:52 AM
atrifix atrifix is offline
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Default Re: Why is Randomness so Hard to Prove?

Well, I don't think motion is a requisite, but I get what you're saying. The car is a bad example, though, because although it's "stopped", it's still in motion. There are forces acting on it, the most important being gravity, which keeps it from floating away. And it moves at approximately the speed of the earth, whether you're driving it or stopped at a red light.

Maybe this will help you grasp determinism: imagine (assume) that your body is made up entirely of fundamental particles which are atoms. All cells, synapses, beliefs, motions, choices, are reducible to a big, finite number of atoms. Each atom doesn't have free will--it's influenced entirely by the laws of physics (causal or probabilistic). What determinism says is that the whole cannot be larger than the sum of its parts. If you're made up of atoms, you follow the same physical laws atoms follow. Since the atoms don't have free will, you don't have free will.

If that doesn't help, this is how I would formulate determinism logically: Let H be a true proposition expressing a state of the world at some time t0 before any agents existed, let L be the set of all true conjoined natural laws, and let P be a true proposition which describes the state of the world now. Determinism says that (necessarily) (H & L -> P). From this, along with a few other assumptions, you can deduce that you have no choice about P.

You may still disagree, but I hope that at least makes determinism clear.
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  #24  
Old 12-15-2005, 02:49 AM
purnell purnell is offline
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Default Re: Why is Randomness so Hard to Prove?

Lestat, I (and probably everyone else here) understand your difficulty with accepting determinism. Don't let it worry you- it's merely the logical result of refusing to believe in supernatural entities. None of us can do anything other than pretend that we have free will.
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  #25  
Old 12-15-2005, 08:07 AM
Darryl_P Darryl_P is offline
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Default Re: Why is Randomness so Hard to Prove?

I think you might find my approach to this question appealing...

I believe determinism and free will can coexist. The reason is that humans and other living beings have a soul (or consciousness if you prefer) which operates in a different dimension from what we observe in the physical (non-living) world.

It is possible that the world of the soul does have free will while the non-living world is deterministic. Some say QM proves that the physical world is not deterministic, but only the Copenhagen interpretation does that. The many-worlds interpretation is both widely believed by leading physicists and compatible with determinism, so the question is far from resolved.
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  #26  
Old 12-15-2005, 10:56 AM
Lestat Lestat is offline
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Default Re: Why is Randomness so Hard to Prove?

My motion example was due to someone else's example of a billiard break (which did make sense to me). Basically, I understood it to mean that when you break a rack of billiard balls, it is impossible (and hence seemingly random), to determine where the balls will all finish up. Yet there can be no doubt that once the cue ball was struck, only one outcome was possible and could be no other way. This makes perfect sense to me!

So once the big bang occurs everything is set in motion and can be no other way. Ok, fine. Got it... So each new state is caused by an antecedent state or event. But what happens when something within the primary event stops? Such as tossing a ball up in the air and catching it? Now of course, I realize the ball hasn't really stopped, but the initial energy which caused the ball to briefly act against the forces of gravity has stopped. The only only way the ball can rise again is if the neurons inside my brain fire (my FREE WILL), in order to toss it again.

Now determinism would say that the neurons which fired inside my brain causing the ball to rise the 2nd time were already set in motion and couldn't have been stopped. In other words, it could've been no other way. However, I see this as two SEPERATE events which acted independently from the primary event (the big bang or whatever), because something within the antedecent event STOPPED and then started again! This disengages the agent momentarily from the primary event.

Of course, this is all a very sophomoric attempt to explain something I don't understand in the first place. But this is why I currently believe in free will. I'm thinking this belief might very well change as I come to understand determinism. But for now all the arguments I've heard in favor of determinism seem no more plausible than arguments for a god. If I open a window how can you prove this was a deterministic act? Of course, I can't prove it wasn't, but why should I have to? I wanted the window open so I opened it!
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  #27  
Old 12-15-2005, 07:18 PM
Bork Bork is offline
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Default Re: Why is Randomness so Hard to Prove?

Determinists assume that the Principle of Sufficient Reason is true. They think a causal chain goes to back to the first event, hence everything is determined.

Leibnizís Formulation of the Principle of Sufficient Reason:
No fact can be real or existing and no statement true unless it has a sufficient reason why it should be thus and not otherwise.

This is a poor assumption. Here is a short excerpt from a paper I wrote this last quarter that explains why:

Many things do appear to have sufficient reasons but that does not justify the belief that all positive facts have a sufficient reason. People are inclined to believe PSR because our brains are built to identify patterns and relationships. When we observe a phenomenon we assume that there is an explanation or reason for it. We do this not for any good reason, but because that is how we are wired. It is a useful survival trait to believe everything has a reason, because it leads us to search for reasons. In our quest for reasons we often make useful discoveries.
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  #28  
Old 12-15-2005, 08:13 PM
atrifix atrifix is offline
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Default Re: Why is Randomness so Hard to Prove?

[ QUOTE ]
The only only way the ball can rise again is if the neurons inside my brain fire (my FREE WILL), in order to toss it again.

[/ QUOTE ]
But why are the neurons firing in your brain free? Don't we consider neurons to be just as entangled in the laws of physics as anything else? What causes them to fire?

[ QUOTE ]
Now determinism would say that the neurons which fired inside my brain causing the ball to rise the 2nd time were already set in motion and couldn't have been stopped. In other words, it could've been no other way. However, I see this as two SEPERATE events which acted independently from the primary event (the big bang or whatever), because something within the antedecent event STOPPED and then started again! This disengages the agent momentarily from the primary event.

[/ QUOTE ]
Momentarily, yes. I think I understand what you are saying, but stop me if this is a mischaracterization of your position. What you are saying is that causation is not transitive, and I agree. The big bang doesn't cause the ball to rise any more than a butterfly in India causes you to post on a message board. However, transitivity of causation isn't necessary for determinism--all that is necessary is a causal chain. E.g., the big bang causes some other state, which causes some other state, which causes the ball to rise. The big bang doesn't cause the ball to rise, but it does initiate the causal chain. In that sense, causation is not transitive, but having no choice is.


[ QUOTE ]
I'm thinking this belief might very well change as I come to understand determinism. But for now all the arguments I've heard in favor of determinism seem no more plausible than arguments for a god.

[/ QUOTE ]
Perhaps you just disagree with determinism, which is perfectly acceptable. I am just trying to get you to understand it. However, most libertarian positions these days are extremely weak. It's really not doing so well; but of course, that has no bearing on its truth or falsity.
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  #29  
Old 12-15-2005, 08:20 PM
atrifix atrifix is offline
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Default Re: Why is Randomness so Hard to Prove?

Okay, this is a good objection to determinism, but your excerpt doesn't explain why PSR is a poor objection. What it does is explain our psychological motivation for assuming PSR. To conclude from this that it is a poor assumption is an ad hominem fallacy.

What does a denial of PSR entail? To me, it just entails randomness, because non-randomness leads back to PSR. But randomness is not free, it's just random. So either way, we don't have free will. Maybe there's a denial of PSR that doesn't entail randomness, but I don't know what it is.
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  #30  
Old 12-15-2005, 08:32 PM
Lestat Lestat is offline
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Default Re: Why is Randomness so Hard to Prove?

Thanks atrifix -

I really do appreciate your efforts in trying to help me understand determinism. You've been a BIG help!

Yes, I guess what I was saying is that causation is not transitive. And now I see what you're saying that it doesn't have to be. I need to think much more about this.

I take it libertarian position means free will? This is what has me so confused. The impression I'm getting is that determinism is a popular atheistic view, while free will is a religious one. Would you agree with this, or do I have that wrong? This is why I'm trying so hard to understand it. If you read my posts, you know I am not a religious believer. I'm trying to find out if my beliefs are conflicting. Thanks again!
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