Determinism Vs. Free Will Part 2

neuralpathways

The above picture is taken from neuroscientists tracking the different pathways in the brain.   It is fairly obvious that most of them head to the brainstem, but as you can see, towards the edges you have these flaps that connect with other areas of the brain.  Plus there could be some pathways touching others on their way to the brainstem.  This goes all around the brain.  I thought this picture was really cool and really enlightening as to the physical routes that these neural pathways travel.

And finally, comes my second post on this subject because I finished my book.  Determinists believe that the neural pathways that you see at the top of the post, can all be described by a set of algorithms.  That literally, since a brain is composed of biochemical processes and that they follow the laws of physics, that eventually neuroscientists with added knowledge will be able to describe different brains with different mathematics.  The implication of this, is that your thoughts, including your conscious thoughts, are just part of a system.  The conscious is just an illusion created by the brain.  The author does not go into why determinists think we have a conscious in the first place.  If conscious thought is too influenced by subconscious thought, then why do we have the experience of being us?  The best answer that I can give you, has to be one of survival.  With this view, I think subconscious and conscious thought to be part of a two core processor.  And it allows us to multitask within our thinking.  We could be sharpening an arrow head, but be thinking about what needs to be done next at the same time.  The sharpening of the arrow head would be in the subconscious networks, but the person wouldn’t really be thinking about it that hard and yet they are doing it.  The deliberation on what to do next is purely on the conscious networks.  And the conscious networks is able to probe so many different areas of the brain, that it helps ensure the most logical decision for what is known.  A different example would be having to bring livestock in when it is getting really stormy.  You are consciously trying to tie out the knots as fast as possible, but your subconscious is telling you to hurry up, forcing your conscious thoughts to center around untieing knots as quickly as you can and to do it as calmly as you can.   There is no doubt that after reading this book I have a much more appreciation for the subconscious.  It has much more influence on our decisions than we think.  And I think this influence, is enough to influence our free will that we should be truthful to ourselves and recognize that our decisions have both a conscious and unconscious component.  That our free will is not as much as pure as we would like to think.  I think right now with the experiments that were cited in this book, this is an okay assumption.

One experiment that I thought was very strong, was done with non-precise methods, so there is some intrinsic error.  However, I believe that there have been newer attempts at this methodology with better technology.  There just has to be, given the importance of this discovery.  And if it hasn’t been done already, trust me, it is going to be done.  I will show you why.

The scientist hooked up subjects to an EKG, which basically record electrical signals on the scalp, a way to record brain activity.  Then he asked his subjects to flick their wrist.  The EKG showed there was considerable amount of brain activity just before the flicking of the wrist.  So, he took the experiment a little further and had the subjects say when they were consciously flicking the wrist and he would record the time when they said it.  He found that there was heightened brain activity before the subject consciously made the decision.  Therefore, the subconscious made the decision.

The author said the experiment had a lot of intrinsic error.  It did on the precise times, but it was very clear that the subconscious was first and the conscious was second.  He then stated that we don’t know what that subconscious activity really was, that it could be anything else.  To me this is desperation at trying to discredit a pivotal experiment.  The EKG also records baseline activity, and when a certain task was presented, the activity went up followed by the conscious activity.  It is very safe to say that the subconscious activity was activity tailored towards the flicking of the wrist.  Considering the implications of this experiment, I would not be surprised if a group of scientists updated the methodology and redid the experiment.  I understand that the recording of times was not done in a very precise way.  But the scientist was able to clearly distinct the beginning of electrical impulses following by the conscious decision to flick the wrist.  To me that is good enough evidence.

And this book was a broken record.  He would come up with fictional story after fictional story to describe the moral deliberations that some of us have to make.  To show us that no algorithm can describe a “boundless” problem; therefore, we have free will.  It is true that these experiments (there are two more but they aren’t worth mentioning in my opinion) only have to do with very basic decisions.  So going to the grocery store and picking ham or bacon is probably a subconscious decision.  Or going holiday shopping and picking a dress for your daughter is subconscious as well.  But the author focused on moral problems because if you guys don’t remember, the first post on this is that if there is no free will, we have no moral responsibility.  But I think the author missed the mark on how scientists would create a algorithmic system of the brain.  He thought they would have to literally create each an every moral rule.  Killing trumps stealing, and etc.  So I guess you could make a very simple moral rule and it would be something like:  K > S .  And there would be hundreds upon hundreds of conditions, that would only deal with morality.  Computers are powerful.  But if you were to set up these “algorithms” for the entire brain, that is a lot of power a computer has to have.  Which is why I think there is a more efficient way to go about it.  And it has everything to do with the picture I showed you at the beginning of this post.

The first step would be to mathematically map the brain.  What I mean by that, is to describe neural networks in 3D space.  And, certain regions of the brain would be excited by the resultant of certain networks, which could therefore be calculated.  Eventually, scientists would be able to have the fundamental networks, or mathematical map, of the brain.  And through the mathematical interaction of these networks, they could calculate the resulting network that would be stimulated.  Therefore, from those fundamental equations, you could run them to get every possible segment if you really wanted to.  They would have a complete map of the brain.  They would have algorithms (the author said that some of the brain works algorithmically) describing the entire brain.  So I think technically determinism is true.  But that is half the battle.  How would we derive meaning or thoughts from those mathematics?  If you had a subject look at a picture of a sunset, and you saw and were able to predict the brain activity, what exactly was the subject thinking?  Ultimately I do not think it wold be possible for us to go that far.  I think that is a limit to where this science can go.  Do I think the brain can be mathematically mapped?  Yes.  Does that mean the brain works deterministically?  Yes.  Will we ever be able to predict with supreme accuracy what someone is thinking or doing?  No.  It just isn’t possible.

If you take these moral situations that this author wrote out, it became apparent to me that there is a common strategy.  First, think of all possible alternatives.  And, once the deterministic brain looks for all the possible alternatives, it makes the most logical choice given all the information.  He was looking at how the brain would be mathematically described in a completely wrong view in my opinion.  The computer power needed would be tedious and asinine.  If scientists were able to describe the pathways with equations, that would be much easier to compute than hundreds upon hundreds of rules just for morality.

The brain is influenced by genetics, environment, and past experiences.  Environment, can even change the expression of genes.  Meaning the gene stays the same, but the protein that comes out of it is different.  And past experiences the brain is able to learn from.  I firmly believe our brains follow the laws of nature, and that even our conscious is determined.  Our trail of thinking can be recorded mathematically and later predicted, but a scientist would never be able to predict a conscious deliberation, but that does not mean that determinism is not true.  I believe the conscious and subconscious are ways to multitask.  For example, thinking while walking, or thinking while doing anything.  Our subconscious is like our firmware, deeply programmed and is able to influence conscious thought.  Does that mean conscious thought can influence subconscious thought?  I am not sure because we are talking about he subconscious, but I will infer that yes it does.  But this is how perfect our system is.  Humans evolved with these huge brains that have both subconscious and conscious thoughts among other powerful things.  The separate consciousness naturally help us survive.  Of course homo-sapiens had to fend off many species of human, and I don’t know exactly how.  But still, I think it is a beautiful thing.  That a few rearrangement of genes provides the building blocks of something so complex as the human mind.  

In short, I am a determinist.  I think we all do things for a reason, and our brain works like a machine, and works by what it was designed to do.  But skeptics are going to want more and more proof, and over time there will be more and more studies and experiments.  I think in order for these experiments to have any more merit, they have to record brain activity doing more complex decisions.  The advancement of technology is there, but essentially they would have to wear functional MRI magnets on a portable apparatus that can be fit around the head.  The results have to be sent wirelessly.  Only then, will we get the definite data that the skeptics will require.  And you never know, I could very well be wrong here, and they prove that there is a free will.

Only time will tell, but free will is losing.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: