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How does Benjamin Libet's experiments provide evidence against Free will?

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  • How does Benjamin Libet's experiments provide evidence against Free will?

    Seriously, I want to know. Were they able to predict behavior with 100% (or very close to it) accuracy?
    -The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.
    Sir James Jeans

    -This most beautiful system (The Universe) could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.All variety of created objects which represent order and Life in the Universe could happen only by the willful reasoning of its original Creator, whom I call the Lord God.
    Sir Isaac Newton

  • #2
    Originally posted by Quantum Weirdness View Post
    Seriously, I want to know. Were they able to predict behavior with 100% (or very close to it) accuracy?
    Here are a couple of interesting links:

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/libet...nd-determinism


    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-s...ecision-making
    Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbnueb2OI4o&t=3s

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Quantum Weirdness View Post
      Seriously, I want to know. Were they able to predict behavior with 100% (or very close to it) accuracy?
      Primary sources please. I do not believe that the claim is predicting behavior 100% (sarcasm needle just pegged). First, his research was limited to certain predictive models only. Second you have to evaluate the research in total and not just Libet. Third, a great deal of our decision making behavior follows a chaos pattern with certain restraints. I advocate the view of limited free will. We have a will, but it is not necessarily free.
      Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
      Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
      But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

      go with the flow the river knows . . .

      Frank

      I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

      Comment


      • #4
        Most of the stuff that goes on in your brain is automatic and sub-conscious. When you use language, for example, you have no awareness of the work that your brain is doing to make sense of it. Your subconscious still belongs to you and it is reacting to input generated by your eyes, ears, skin and so on. Because the consciousness brain cannot interrogate the sub-consciousness brain it seems to be impossible even to say what instructions the subconscious brain is working with in these sorts of experiments. The subjects know, for example, that they are in an experiment so how does that knowledge prime the subconscious to act. I think we will find that the conscious brain has a veto over decisions that it decides it wants to monitor. If you put your own subconscious in a condition that it is ready to do something it might be that it is easily set off by any random input.

        I am sorry if some of you chaps don’t have free will. I certainly do.
        “I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.” ― Oscar Wilde
        “And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence” ― Bertrand Russell
        “not all there” - you know who you are

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by firstfloor View Post
          Most of the stuff that goes on in your brain is automatic and sub-conscious. When you use language, for example, you have no awareness of the work that your brain is doing to make sense of it. Your subconscious still belongs to you and it is reacting to input generated by your eyes, ears, skin and so on. Because the consciousness brain cannot interrogate the sub-consciousness brain it seems to be impossible even to say what instructions the subconscious brain is working with in these sorts of experiments. The subjects know, for example, that they are in an experiment so how does that knowledge prime the subconscious to act. I think we will find that the conscious brain has a veto over decisions that it decides it wants to monitor. If you put your own subconscious in a condition that it is ready to do something it might be that it is easily set off by any random input.

          I am sorry if some of you chaps don’t have free will. I certainly do.
          Actually, randomness is not an attribute of our macro world. It is observed in some cases in the Quantum world, but than again this is only observed randomness from the human perspective. In the macro world what we observe is a 'chaos' (fractal) property in the nature of the diversity of events and decisions in the world and, of course, human decision making process. Actually free will is a rather illusive phenomenon. Most of our decision making process is apparently limited in a range of possibilities that follow a chaotic model. There is a potential of free will decisions, but it is a tough one as asserting which decision we make is a free will decision.
          Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
          Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
          But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

          go with the flow the river knows . . .

          Frank

          I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by shunyadragon View Post
            Actually, randomness is not an attribute of our macro world...........
            By random input what I mean is a macroscopic random input like this (random as in it could be any old thing):
            You are in a situation where you know you are about to make a decision. Your sub-conscious brain knows it too but it does not speak to you or consult you in any way. It is also not as clever as you are but it is on a hair trigger. Your sub-conscious sees something through your own eyes that you are not even aware of and says lets go. Your conscious brain, sees the output from the sub-conscious as initiated by a decision it itself made and you announce your decision or veto it if there is a conflict.

            I have no idea if this is how it works in the brain but I have heard something along these lines.
            “I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.” ― Oscar Wilde
            “And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence” ― Bertrand Russell
            “not all there” - you know who you are

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by firstfloor View Post
              By random input what I mean is a macroscopic random input like this (random as in it could be any old thing):
              You are in a situation where you know you are about to make a decision. Your sub-conscious brain knows it too but it does not speak to you or consult you in any way. It is also not as clever as you are but it is on a hair trigger. Your sub-conscious sees something through your own eyes that you are not even aware of and says lets go. Your conscious brain, sees the output from the sub-conscious as initiated by a decision it itself made and you announce your decision or veto it if there is a conflict.

              I have no idea if this is how it works in the brain but I have heard something along these lines.
              It would help if you read Chaos by Gleick. What goes in or comes out follows a chaos model not randomness, Think of 'Chaos' as in the natural course of things, no two clouds will never be exactly alike, but all clouds will look like clouds. question: Given all the decisions we make in life 'How would you distinguish between a free will decision and one where your decision was one limited to select number of possibilities by circumstances of world around us? 'We have a will, but it is not necessarily free.'
              Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
              Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
              But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

              go with the flow the river knows . . .

              Frank

              I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by firstfloor View Post
                Most of the stuff that goes on in your brain is automatic and sub-conscious. When you use language, for example, you have no awareness of the work that your brain is doing to make sense of it. Your subconscious still belongs to you and it is reacting to input generated by your eyes, ears, skin and so on. Because the consciousness brain cannot interrogate the sub-consciousness brain it seems to be impossible even to say what instructions the subconscious brain is working with in these sorts of experiments. The subjects know, for example, that they are in an experiment so how does that knowledge prime the subconscious to act. I think we will find that the conscious brain has a veto over decisions that it decides it wants to monitor. If you put your own subconscious in a condition that it is ready to do something it might be that it is easily set off by any random input.

                I am sorry if some of you chaps don’t have free will. I certainly do.
                I think the bolded is Libet's interpretation of the experiment as well. Though I must ask, do you think consciousness is created by physical processes? (i.e. the mind is an emergent property of the brain?)

                If so, how do you hold to free will?
                Do deterministic processes create a non-deterministic mind?

                BTW moderators.
                Now that I think about it, should this thread stay in the Natural Sciences forum or go to the Philosophy forum?
                -The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.
                Sir James Jeans

                -This most beautiful system (The Universe) could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.All variety of created objects which represent order and Life in the Universe could happen only by the willful reasoning of its original Creator, whom I call the Lord God.
                Sir Isaac Newton

                Comment


                • #9
                  Thanks those are indeed interesting.
                  -The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.
                  Sir James Jeans

                  -This most beautiful system (The Universe) could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.All variety of created objects which represent order and Life in the Universe could happen only by the willful reasoning of its original Creator, whom I call the Lord God.
                  Sir Isaac Newton

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Quantum Weirdness View Post
                    I think the bolded is Libet's interpretation of the experiment as well. Though I must ask, do you think consciousness is created by physical processes? (i.e. the mind is an emergent property of the brain?)
                    If so, how do you hold to free will?
                    Do deterministic processes create a non-deterministic mind?
                    If you think that consciousness is not produced by physical brain activity, how would you explain drunkenness? You can alter your conscious state by altering brain chemistry and by playing about with electrodes and magnets.

                    The second part is too difficult for me. If you think deterministically you would have to say that the entire Universe is computing the future. Maybe it is but I am not sure how that would explain why I am able to raise my arm when I want to. Or at least it seems to be that way from my point of view. I think that is how I would define free will – by my perception of what is going on. Until some better explanation comes along.
                    Last edited by firstfloor; 01-28-2014, 04:09 AM.
                    “I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.” ― Oscar Wilde
                    “And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence” ― Bertrand Russell
                    “not all there” - you know who you are

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      BTW, this is where I go from brain science stuff:
                      http://brainsciencepodcast.com/episodes-page
                      If you scroll down to the bottom of the page you will find that the most recent 25 podcasts are available free of charge.
                      “I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.” ― Oscar Wilde
                      “And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence” ― Bertrand Russell
                      “not all there” - you know who you are

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by firstfloor View Post
                        If you think that consciousness is not produced by physical brain activity, how would you explain drunkenness? You can alter your conscious state by altering brain chemistry and by playing about with electrodes and magnets.
                        There's a neural correlate. I think that the mind lies within the brain but is not equal to it, so that's how I would explain it.

                        Originally posted by firstfloor View Post
                        The second part is too difficult for me. If you think deterministically you would have to say that the entire Universe is computing the future. Maybe it is but I am not sure how that would explain why I am able to raise my arm when I want to. Or at least it seems to be that way from my point of view. I think that is how I would define free will – by my perception of what is going on. Until some better explanation comes along.
                        Ever heard of Quantum Mind theory?
                        -The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.
                        Sir James Jeans

                        -This most beautiful system (The Universe) could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.All variety of created objects which represent order and Life in the Universe could happen only by the willful reasoning of its original Creator, whom I call the Lord God.
                        Sir Isaac Newton

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          "How does Benjamin Libet's experiments provide evidence against Free will?"

                          The philosopher Daniel Dennett is a hard eliminative materialist who has written a book called "Consciousness Explained" but which critics have apparently mockingly re-titled "Consciousness Ignored" and "Consciousness Explained Away"; and he is also a prominent New Atheist. These are reasons why we might expect him to conclude from the Libet experiment what Alec Welsh could not be budged from, namely the denial of free will; but Dennett does no such thing, and in his book, "Freedom Evolves" argues that no clear conclusion about volition can be derived from Benjamin Libet's experiments supposedly demonstrating the non-existence of conscious volition.

                          So a prominent hard-core eliminative materialist acknowledges the evidence is weak.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by David Hayward View Post
                            "How does Benjamin Libet's experiments provide evidence against Free will?"

                            The philosopher Daniel Dennett is a hard eliminative materialist who has written a book called "Consciousness Explained" but which critics have apparently mockingly re-titled "Consciousness Ignored" and "Consciousness Explained Away"; and he is also a prominent New Atheist. These are reasons why we might expect him to conclude from the Libet experiment what Alec Welsh could not be budged from, namely the denial of free will; but Dennett does no such thing, and in his book, "Freedom Evolves" argues that no clear conclusion about volition can be derived from Benjamin Libet's experiments supposedly demonstrating the non-existence of conscious volition.

                            So a prominent hard-core eliminative materialist acknowledges the evidence is weak.
                            Thanks David Hayward (or do you prefer your first name alone?)
                            -The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.
                            Sir James Jeans

                            -This most beautiful system (The Universe) could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.All variety of created objects which represent order and Life in the Universe could happen only by the willful reasoning of its original Creator, whom I call the Lord God.
                            Sir Isaac Newton

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Quantum Weirdness View Post
                              Ever heard of Quantum Mind theory?
                              I have heard of it, through Roger Penrose's books and the arguments therein. Essentially, he argues that human minds -- his, anyway, and his super-bright mathematician colleagues -- can achieve mathematical insights which are impossible to classical computers, because Penrose proves to his satisfaction that an Idealised Turing Computer could not in principle (hence not in practice) attain to those insights; therefore the human mind must work in a different way to a classical computer, and he argues that the human brain is probably wired to use quantum-mechanical effects.

                              Michael Shermer's "The Believing Brain" spends two and a half pages debunking this, roughly half of which is spent in an attempt to insinuate a link between Penrose (and Stuart Hameroff, who also had the idea) and a popular but trashy film that spouts the sort of New Age Quantum nonsense that the back pages of New Scientist magazine loves to take the mickey out of. So far as I can see from the text, from the footnote, and from the New Age website the footnote links to, Shermer's insinuation is insinuation, is distraction and trivialisation, and is a basically dishonest attempt to blacken by association.

                              The second half has more meat: Shermer quotes (the fellow rabid New Atheist, I note) Victor Stenger's claim that he has demonstrated "that for a system to be described quantum-mechanically the <product of the> system's typical mass, speed and distance must be on the order of Planck's constant", and that in the case of the brain connections this quantity is one thousand times too large for quantum effects to be influential. If you look at the interesting discussion at Appendix A (Page 17) in the paper "Quantum physics in neuroscience and psychology: a neurophysical model of mind–brain interaction" you will see that Max Tegmark calculates it as 10^12 times too large, so Shermer's/Stenger's 10^3 figure is actually quite generous. But I would caution that until only recently everyone would have been adamant that quantum effects could play no part in photosynthesis, so perhaps the idea that quantum effects cannot play a part in the brain is similarly a misconception; also, that quantum mechanics is, for all its much-vaunted accuracy and confirmation, not fully understood, and that Lawrence Krauss says, "...quantum theory predicts this <dark> energy is some 120 orders of magnitude greater than that calculated by cosmological observations. The energy of empty space should be roughly a gazillion times the energy of everything we see. That is the worst prediction in physics." Compared to a mis-prediction of quantum effects of 10^120 in cosmology, a mis-prediction of quantum effects of 10^3 or 10^12 in neuroscience looks like peanuts.

                              David

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