David Roemer

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Materialists and those who think humans evolved from animals are irrational.

The human mind is structured like the scientific method. At the lowest level, humans observe things. This requires paying attention. At the level of intelligence, humans ask questions and invent possible answers. At the level of reflective judgment, humans marshal evidence and decide what is true or just probable. The next level is free will, that is, deciding what to do with our bodies.

Materialists say animals pay attention and are intelligent and rational. They don't say, however, that animals have free will. What they say is that free will is an illusion.

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    Aug 8 2012: Welcome to TED Conversations, Dr. Roemer. May I offer some advice I know from experience to be true and I hope you find helpful? Keep in mind I am wrong more than I am right!
    1) Don't underestimate the materialists and evolutionists who participate in conversations like yours. As a rule, they expect proof, support, evidence, or explanation for just about everything you say. That's a good thing, right? Mostly, a supported idea will be respected and proper effort will be made to falsify your argument. It is vigorous and often edifying in terms of glimpsing the other person's perspective.
    2) Matters of faith which deal with the realm beyond the scientific method, are virtually never productive with the atheists and agnostics of TED.
    I agree that denying the spiritual, non-scientific realm is irrational.
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      Aug 9 2012: Thumbs up from me Edward.

      Although, from an atheist perspective these sort of discussions can go round in circles if some claims are based on unverifiable supernatural beliefs.

      I don't deny human experience that some might call religious. I don't deny consciousness. I don't even deny their may be spirit. Just that the material can explain many things with evidence and that is more reliable than speculating.

      I'm not sure why it is less rationale to think it most likely we are products our our body and brains than suppose a whole lot of unverifiable often logically problematic supernatural stuff, often rooted in the particular time and place you grow up.
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        Aug 9 2012: Obey-
        I am quoting you not to use your words against you, but to illustrate how we all can unknowingly act in a biased way, don't be offended:
        QUOTE: " I'm not sure why it is less rationale to think it most likely we are products our our body and brains than suppose a whole lot of unverifiable often logically problematic. . . ".
        Please notice the very specific word you chose as the tenth word in your statement, "think".Here you are speaking of your side of the argument and you choose to call it thinking.
        Now look at the word you chose when characterizing the opposing position, word number 23, "suppose". I know this is like picking the fly crap out of the pepper, but there is a reason you call David's activity "supposing", while your own processs is called "thinking."
        My point?. . . . believing in a Necessary Being who is the Uncaused Cause of Everything is not less noble than believing that billions of years ago Nothing exploded and Everything came into being. Believing the Universe is 100% natural takes as much faith as believing it is created and controlled by a spirit being. The list of unverifiable things is shorter today than it was fifty years ago, so be careful what you condemn as "unverifiable" speculation. Keep thinking, and allow for Faith Obey.-- Edward
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      Aug 9 2012: Great post Mr. Long. Brought a smile to my day.
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    Aug 30 2012: Hi David,

    Mind is just an extrapolation of reactive processes that define "self".
    Self is a pattern that has the property of persistence.

    In the very simple self-organising patterns, there is no choice - the process of stimulus to reaction is linear, so there is no "free will" per se.

    In the much more complex self-perpetuating systems such as humans, it appears that there are a greater number of pathways for reaction to result in self-persistence - one can eat the orange, or the rabbit, or both. However, those choices will have a path of optimisation such that the self might "feel like eating the orange today, and feel like eating the rabbit the next day". These "feelings" will arise from the internal state of energy - whether they are conscious or not. The sense of free will is illusory.

    Rationality is also illusory - because it is relative to a self perspective. If the optimisation is processed in a self, it will be determined, but that determination may not be sensed by an external self. The detection of optimal reaction is also sensitive to framing: rational to one, rational to another, rational to the group, rational to the species, rational to the universe - all can have different "rational" answers.

    "Paying attention" is a result of having an optimisation map in excess of the field of primary perception.
    Primary field of perception is tied to the field of senses but extends it somewhat using causality maps. THe extension afforded by perception gives rise to an expanded field of agency(options) from which the self gains an expanded field of advantage(the subset of options resulting in self-persistence)
    These perceptual maps(information) grow with experience and become too vast fo the sense-bound primary field of perception to process in gestalt - so a finite field of attention arises that is prompted by current sensory input and ambient map associations. For human self structure check the TED talk by Damasio.
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      Aug 30 2012: Why is there no choice? When I am on a low-calorie diet, it is very easy for me to break the diet. But I don't break it. There is no doubt in my mind that I am responsible for my actions when I do something that takes a lot of will-power.
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        Aug 30 2012: You do whatever is your optimal action.
        I presume that you are not on a low-calouie diet simply to torture yourself?

        What people get confused about is when they contemplate the loss of their "free will" and equate that with a loss of freedom.

        You, and all living creatures will do exactly the optimal thing according to the options you perceive and not anything less.

        Freedom does not equate to free-will it equates to your field of agency.
        It is your field of agency that directly determines your chances of survival - if it is threatened or reduced, you will feel mortal fear.
        Because it is your field of agency from which your optimal options arise.

        We make a man a slave by reducing his agency to include only what the master wants - on threat of death.

        It is your mortal fear that makes you stick to your diet - not free will.
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          Aug 30 2012: What is the difference between freedom and free will? One can say: 1) My freedom is before God. 2) I have free will. 3) I am responsible for my actions. etc.

          What evidence is there that fear causes me to stick to my diet, not my decision to diet?
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        Aug 30 2012: Hi David,

        This is just a list of your constraints.

        You do what you determine as your optimal path - between your constraints towards your survival there is only one optimal path at any given time.

        Since you also include the word "God" I presume you also intend to survive beyond body-death.

        Your inclusion of the phrase "responsible for my actions" indicates an acknowledgement of the threat that others pose to your field of agency.

        This is all understandable.
      • Aug 31 2012: David this is in response to the question you posed me "You are saying my sticking to a low calorie diet is like a reflex reaction? There is no evidence for this. Why do you think this is true? " Im not sure how you gathered that my post had anything to do with your low calorie diet. I was responding to the post which I responded to.

        Your low calorie diet has to do with some sort of fear or pain associated with you being overweight. I probably wont be able to say it as well as Mitch but id like to invoke freud into this argument. The pleasure principle is the idea that humans seek pleasure and avoid pain. Freud claimed this was not realistic and im sure you could think of many examples that show how seeking pleasure could kill you quite quickly and defeat the purpose of these base survival mechanisms. Therefore, he posited the reality principle, which seeks pleasure and avoids pain in connection with the truths of the external world. To summarize, you are on a low calorie diet for one of two reasons you see the outcome of this diet as a pleasurable outcome or you seek to avoid the pain of not being on this diet. Your diet is a product of being guided by unconscious forces that in the healthy brain wish to be social, replicate life, and survive.
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          Aug 31 2012: Brian and me disagree about free will. We marshal the evidence and exercise our judgment. One of us has better judgment than the other. David: I stick to my low calorie diet because I have decided to stick to it. Brian: David sticks to his low calorie diet because of fear of being fat.
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    Aug 7 2012: So because humans are smarter than other animals they couldn't possibly have evolved from common ancestors. Talk about incohernrent . We'll take dogs for an example, there a certain breeds which are rather stupid or clumsy in their nature and then you have the super intelligent guide dogs, sheep dogs, rescue dogs. All of which evolved from wolves and we know this as fact.
    Also the intelligence is very well explained in evolution terms. Humans lack a lot of physical attributes which make us good at fighting other species etc. We've small teeth and we are relatively weak. So we'd get destroyed in a fight with a silver back gorilla. So now let's assume that physicality wasn't the selecting factor, but mental strength was. We make up for our lack of strength by making spears, shields, we aren't fast so we make rods and lures to catch fish. Suddenly it makes sense. Also intelligence in other species like dolphins and primates is very widely observed, moraillty and fairness have been observed in monkeys, there's even a ted talk on it.
    Also Sam Harris has great explanations of how free will can be an illusion.
    Also you've got to contend with all the other evidence for evolution before you can call it irrational, morphology, geographic distribution, molecular clock, fossils, age of earth, the fact we oberve it daily in plants and bacteria, fossils in the right rock strata, the methods of evolution have all been proved to cause change in a species.
    And if you so wish to cling to free will, why not say we evolved it and their might be a free will gene
    And maybe monkeys do have free will, why would they pick their noses and swing on ropes in the zoo and play with each other if they didn't .
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      Aug 7 2012: Animals are capable of problem solving, like humans. This is not intelligence. When animals have nothing to do they go to sleep. When humans have nothing to do they may ask questions. Intelligence means asking questions and inventing answers. Humans want to know the cause of things they observe and the connection between things.

      Another thing humans have and animals don't is language. Humans can invent and understand an infinite number of sentences. Animals know no more than 100 words.
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        Aug 7 2012: Ok this shows a few things in regards to lack of knowledge of animals. Language- we're very lucky that our larynx can produce the range of sound it can, and language is reduced simply down to a bunch of sounds which we have all come together to agree that certain sounds mean certain things that's what language is. And animals still communicate using methods we couldn't. And it's only to be expected that chimps can't learn all our words, and in actual fact there are chimps who know 500+ sign language words, koko the gorilla knew just over 200 I think, and could respond to questions being asked. Animals also show regret and remorse and mourning, does this count as your reflective behaviour,
        And were back to humans thirst for knowledge, what stops it from being an evolutionary mindset that was beneficial on the plains of Africa and has since been carried forward through our genes, like at one point the first person to use a sharp stone as a tool was an absolute genius, and a lot of what we do in life is merely problem solve, trying to make life easier for ourselves.
        I don't see how any of this refutes evolution at all.
        Also because one species does something another species can't doesn't mean they can't possibly have evolved from each other. Dung beetles roll dung, this doesn't mean they aren't related o every other beetle, it's an incoherent and illogical argument
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        Aug 8 2012: Animals have languages too. If you define a "language" to be any form of communication, then even ants have languages that we would never understand by ourselves. When an ant colony is under attack, how is it that every ant in the colony know they're under attack? There needs to be some language or communication of some form for all the ants in the colony to know what's going on. Ants use acute sense of smell/taste to communicate to one another. They can even leave tracks of pheromones for other ants to follow that path, when they're hunting/gathering.

        To say that animals don't have language is wrong, based on my definition of a language. If animals can communicate to each other, then they have language. This language could take on the form of smell, body language, color language, touch, taste, etc. Just as humans not only have verbal communication, we also have body language, sign language, music and songs, etc.
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        Aug 8 2012: David, so humans are different to other animals.

        So what?

        You are just assuming these difference imply all sorts of supernatural concepts

        How does this prove we are not smart animals? Why is spirit the only explanation?

        At the same time you simply ignore the similarities, the progressions, the DNA, the tree of life mapped out humans, other primates, mammals, vertebrates etc 4 limbs, 2 eyes, respiratory system, immune system, digestion, reproduction, breast feeding, as well as behavioural and intellectual similarities and progressions. Development from eggs to embryios to infants to juveniles to adults to old age and death - even our life cycle is pretty much the same as other animals.

        But we learnt to use sticks and stones, fire, language, and then more fancy sticks and stones etc etc

        Humans are pretty similar to other apes in so many ways. Our extra brain power does not automatically = spirit. That's just a big wishful ignorant assumption.

        There is more difference between a tree and an dog then there is between humans and chimps. So we could assume all animals have spirits, just not as good as ours. It just comes down to what you want to believe and assume. It's pretty arbitrary to say the difference between us and chimps must be spirit, but the difference between chimps and trees or rocks does not require spirit.

        Are you using spirit as a metaphor for human consciousness/mind etc or do you believe there is some supernatural immortal type of spirit? Any proof or just speculation and conjecture?

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        Aug 8 2012: "Another thing humans have and animals don't is language"
        If so why the same bird uses different voices in different situations or time?
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          Aug 8 2012: Human language is the ability to create and understand an infinite number of sentences. Birds don't have human language.
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          Aug 8 2012: Well, that's pretty profound David!!!! "Birds don't have human language"....well said.

          Your comment above states:
          "Another thing humans have and animals don't is language".

          As stated several times in this thread....animals have language. Sometimes humans and other animals understand each others languages, and sometimes not. It is, however, scientifically proven that other creatures have language.
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        Aug 8 2012: Definitely birds don't use human language, what they do is individual bird's own language which we seldom understand.....
        It soiunds to me what is said is that human language skill is the only or main differntiator of human being from the whole animal kingdom. What you will say about a human trait called "GREED"? Do you feel animals are also greedy like human being ? How you feel about GREED of human species?

        With my limited knowledge I don't know about any such thirst of animals which human display for blood, Human being uses different reasons to start bloodshed one of main reasons is GREED. Most ferocious animal only sheds blood when it is hungry or being threatend in any way,,,,,,

        What do you think about trait of human being which is not an animal as evident in your posts?
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    Sep 2 2012: I have three dogs a female terrier, a male Shih tzu who is blind and a female maltese. The two females like to escape from my yard and roam the neighborhood. The only way the females can escape is if the male blind Shih tzu pulls on the gate to let them out. I have seen him perform this behavior several times. I don't know if he is letting the other two out on purpose or if they take advantage of him. I don't know why he pulls the gate open as he won't leave the yard even if I open the gate and call him. Whether there is free will or not I think my story demonstrates that if there is free will my dogs have it. Or alternately my dog's behavior is an example of complex instinctive behavior giving the appearence of free will. What I can say is that I can't differentiate between this behavior and human expressions of free will.
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      Sep 2 2012: That is a great story! Thank you for sharing it:)
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      Sep 3 2012: I LOVE your story Peter!!!

      It reminds me of when I was helping a friend in his riding stable years ago. I shoveled manure, cleaned the stables, fed and watered the horses, took care of ill/injured horses, took out trail rides, and my "pay" was the pleasure of taking a horse out and riding whenever I had the desire.

      We had one arabian/buckskin who was a lovely riding horse (my favorite choice), very in tune with the rider. We could put a kid, or very inexperienced rider on his back, and he would plod along slowly and gently. When an experienced rider first put a foot in the stirup, Bucky's eyes would open wide, his head popped up and he was ready to ride. The horse could feel the energy of the person as soon as there was a connection.

      We also had a little Shetland Pony.....makes me laugh just to think of it....can't even write.....laughting so hard!!!

      Sometimes, guys would wander into the stable and say they were experienced riders....they wanted the "best" riding horse we had to offer!!! You could tell they were bluffing, so the owner of the stable would have a little fun with them. He'd bring out the little shetland pony, and tell the guys he wanted to see how they could ride then he'd pick out the "best" horse. The little pony was GREAT with kids.....calm and gentle.....

      I cannot believe this .....laughing again.....
      Well, anyway, the pony seemed to recognize these guys, and he would trot along nicely for a couple minutes, then do a very quick 90 degree turn. Luckily, the guys didn't have far to fall. Animals KNOW us....maybe better than we know ourselves!
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      Sep 3 2012: We know humans have free will and animals don't because we can make ourselves the subject of our own knowledge. All we know about animals is what we observe with sight and hearing. Free will is an observation arising from the ability humans have to make themselves the subject of their own knowledge.
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        Sep 3 2012: So the only way we can verify that humans have the ability to make themselves the subject of knowledge is through communication with each other.

        According to your criteria then, free will is dependent on verbal or written communication. Maybe sign language. I am actually OK with that definition. Free will equals the ability to talk and tell someone your intention before you go about exercising your free will.

        It is the only definition that can exclude all the other animals on the planet. That seems to be very important to your world view. It is an interesting one.

        I disagree and am somewhat saddened by such a small view of agency but I do appreciate the clarification.
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        Sep 3 2012: I agree David...Free will is an observation arising from the ability ...to make themselves the subject of their own knowledge. I do not know for sure to what level animals think and plan their actions, but I have witnessed actions by animals (humans included), which absolutely confirms your theory.

        The part about your theory, which is limiting, is that you do not see the possibilities in animals other than humans.
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          Sep 3 2012: Anything is possible. It is possible, but not a single animal has ever asked a question about what they observed. There are many animals that can solve problems, but solving a problem is not the same as asking: Why is the sky blue?
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          Sep 6 2012: David, how do you know what animals think?
          How do you know if dolphins or apes have not wondered if there is some food over there, or whether that other animal is a threat or where is joey.

          How do you know all animals are completely slaves to instinct lacking no reason or decision making ability?
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        Sep 3 2012: So why does my blind shih tzu pull open the gate and not go through it?
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          Sep 3 2012: I don't know. But I know why I stick to a difficult diet: I decided to stick to the diet.
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          Sep 6 2012: Good choice David, to stick to a healthy diet to be more healthy.

          You've probably never noticed an overweight animal in the wild huh? We have however noticed many pets who are overweight.

          Animals in the wild KNOW how much they need to eat, while domesticated animals are sometimes given too much food by humans. And we KNOW that humans being overweight/obesity is a major problem in our world. What are we teaching the animals? And what can the animals teach us....if we observe carefully?
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        Sep 3 2012: I agree David....anything is possible. It seems like you may not have had much experience around animals. Animals do not ask questions about what they observe IN HUMAN LANGUAGE. I suggest that with their own sounds, body language and mannerisms they very often ask questions, and send us very clear messages.

        Have you ever talked to a dog, and watched him tilt his head, one ear cocked to listen and questioning eyes? Have you ever called a cat to come to you and watch her regally put her nose in the air and walk in the other direction? Have you ever seen cats totally disgusted with you when you get a suitcase out in preparation for travel?

        Dogs have masters, cats have staff you know:>)

        I have been around animals my whole life, and there is no doubt in my mind that they communicate with us very effectively, IF we are open to understanding THEIR language. They don't ask why the sky is blue because it doesn't matter to them. The names of colors are a human construct.

        I've ridden horses, donkeys, camels and elephants....while in Nepal, we had an educational session about elephants, which was fascinating. After the session, the mahout (trainer) asked if we had any questions. I said I would like to learn to mount the elephant as they do, and they happily obliged.

        The practice is to hold onto the bottom of the elephant's ears, she extends her truck, the person steps on the truck and she gives a little boost so we can walk up her truck onto her head, where we can sit behind her head to ride.

        I held her ears, stepped on the truck as she extended it, then one foot slipped off to the side. The elephant immediately caught the foot with the end of her truck until I could get balanced again, then she gently boosted me up. My friends were taking photos, so I have the whole incident in pictures. The elephant is gently looking at me, while her truck is under my foot as she supports me.....coincidence? I don't think so. Animals are pretty smart, and we can learn from them.
      • Sep 3 2012: "We know humans have free will and animals don't because we can make ourselves the subject of our own knowledge. All we know about animals is what we observe with sight and hearing. Free will is an observation arising from the ability humans have to make themselves the subject of their own knowledge."

        This is not true david we cannot clearly see ourselves for instance: a persons suffering from bulimia nervosa actually views themself as being fat when they may be emaciated and absurdly slender. The eye cant see the eye or the hunter cannot be the hunted. This is why even trained psychiatrists seek outside help when dealing with a mental health issue. The way you view yourself is probably vastly different than how others do. Ill make another example, have you ever recorded your voice? If not do it and then listen see how it sounds, or take a video of yourself and see how you look. I will guarantee its not the same as how you believe you sound or behave.

        The point is that we don't have a clear idea of how we are objectively. Our view of the self is always influenced by unconscious forces and nobody else can truly see you either because they cannot know your subjective experiences. So knowledge of the self is limited and to believe otherwise is to reinforce the necessary illusion of free will.
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        Sep 5 2012: My dog opens the gate when the girls are annoying him. He decides he wants some time alone.
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          Sep 6 2012: What evidence is there that the dog decided to open the door. What evidence is there that it was not instinct or a reflexive reaction. When humans do something, they will tell you why they rejected the alternatives.
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          Sep 6 2012: David, do we or animals need language to have free will?

          When our hominid ancestors had limited language, did they not have free will?
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          Sep 6 2012: Sorry to disappoint you David, but humans are not always willing or able to tell us why they act or react as they do. You are a good example. Why are you adament about your belief, when there is so much evidence for the alternative?

          I suggest the evidence regarding Peter's dog, is the fact that the dog opens the gate without being prompted. If Peter was directing the dog to open the gate, we could say that the dog was trained to do so, and simply following a command. The dog opening the gate of his own free will tells us that the dog does indeed make decisions on some level.

          Obey mentions dolphins in a previous comment. I'm sure you are aware that they are using dolphins to teach brain challenged (especially autistic) kids to communicate?
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        Sep 6 2012: My dog says the same thing about humans. I can program a robot to give reasons for its actions and they would make a lot more sense than the reasons humans give for theirs.
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          Sep 6 2012: Your comments show that you have bad judgment. You are not good at marshaling evidence and deciding what is true.
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          Sep 6 2012: David The reasons you list for believing Jesus being alive on your profile indicate you have poor judgement in that regards.
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          Sep 6 2012: David,
          I'm sure you must know about the concept of "projection"? Humans often "project" onto others their own insecurities and doubt. It appears that you are doing so with your comment above.
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        Sep 6 2012: And yet I have a physics degree. There is no evidence for consciousness that doesn't rely on the assumption that consciousness exists. That is bad science. I think therefore I am OR I think I think therefore I think I am. But I could be wrong in either case and can't provide any objective evidence for either case.
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          Sep 6 2012: When humans observe that the sky is blue, they ask two questions: 1) Why is the sky blue? 2) What is knowing that the sky is blue? The first step is coming up with educated guesses. The next step is to marshal evidence and decide whether the educated guess is probable. Consciousness is just another word for knowing.
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          Sep 6 2012: I agree David, that consciousness may give us information which helps us "know" something.

          When humans observe a blue sky, there may be many different reactions and questions. It is not limited to the two questions you present, and you are limiting yourself by believeing that to be true. Just as you are limiting yourself regarding the abilities of animals....including humans.
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        Sep 6 2012: Also I may be no good at deciding what is true but in science there is no true there is only "most probable". From the observable evidence I feel it is most probable that God doesn't exist, I feel that it is most probable that there is no clear distinction between man and other animals, I feel that it is most probable that studying science at a Jesuit college is counter-productive. (a bit like studying motor-mechanics at an Amish school.)
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      Sep 6 2012: Peter,

      I'd love to perceive the world through a different species sense/mind.

      I imagine the dogs world is much richer in smell and sound.

      I suggest we see precursors to human cognitive mechanisms in animals with less developed brains e.g. apes and dogs

      I also suggest our social interaction and developing language might have lead to the more complex brain/mind we have compared to other animals.
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        Sep 6 2012: OH.....me too Obey, and my first choice would be a dolphin. They are SO beautiful and playfulll....well most animals are in my humble perception and experience:>)

        I'm not so sure we have a more complex brain/mind Obey. It is different to be sure....more complex....not sure about that.

        I had a fabulous experiece with a dolphin once.....after doing a scuba dive, our whole group (12-14) divers were going back up to the boat, when a wild dolphin came into our group all joyful and happy. He went to every single member and seemed to "greet" us....let us touch him, pat him, etc. We took off our diving gear (BC and tanks) because we heard that dolphins don't like those things. So, we all had only snorkels and masks on. Our dive master is a fish! He in unbelievable in the water....it seems like his second home, So, he started playing with the dolphin. He would dive down very quickly....the dolphin would follow...then the dolphin would swim on his back for awhile.....the dive master would follow....one would do something and the other would do the same thing. It was ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL to watch!!!

        So Obey, I question your statement that our social interaction might lead humans to a more complex brain/mind. I tend to think that many animals have a social interaction and a brain/mind that is as complex...maybe in different ways?

        I mentioned this in a previous post.....you know they are using dolphins to help teach kids with "mental disorders" how to communicate?
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        Sep 6 2012: Obey Yes it is fascinating. My blind shih tzu mentioned earlier manages to navigate around my house and yard quite well, I often wonder if he uses smell or sound or just spatial memory. Although he does occasionally become totally disoriented and walk into two or three wall before working out where he is. It's like he forgets where he sat down and has to work it out from scratch.
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    Sep 2 2012: The evidence that we are not a composition of molecules is that we have free will and conscious knowledge. Take, for example, knowing that this page is white and black. This means more than that light is entering our eye and a signal is going to our brain. There is an "awareness" of this. What is this "awareness"? What are dreams and other mental constructs? Does a dream have mass? Does it have volume?
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      Sep 2 2012: So basically you are assuming thought can not happen in a biological machine.

      That is a poor assumption.

      We know which parts of the brain are related to sight. Which parts are active when dreaming etc.

      Just because the brain and mind is complex does not mean you need to introduce magic.

      Do you accept that if the physical brain is damaged then sight and thought may be impacted.

      Some are even born without brains.

      And you don't have any idea how the spirits work or the precise detailed understanding of where they come form and how they interact with the physical body etc etc. I hope you can see this is just baseless speculation.

      Seems a little silly to create the whole physical universe and biological machines to carry spirits. A universe inhospitable to life in 99.9999999% of it. And where there is life much of it is bacteria and parasites. Where the animals live by eating other life. What a lousy creation. A universe that seems to have natural explanations the more we understand.

      Funny how the spirit needs a fully functioning and healthy body/brain to work properly. Damage, disease, dementia, degradation impact the mind, destroy the personality progressively, and yet when the brain completely stops working when you die, you believe the spirit just floats off fully functioning.

      How does the spirit work this way. Or is this just a mystery? So you answer your ignorance or doubts about a physical brain being able to support the mind with a speculative mystery unverifiable claim. No answer at all really.

      Do you understand gravity and the nuclear forces, what matter is, what energy is. Can you conceptualise the atoms that make up your body. Do you understand how a single fertilised cell can grow into a multicellular organism. The billions of neurons with trillions of connections. Perhaps not. Must be magic.

      Again David, this is just an argument from ignorance followed by special pleading.

      You don't accept a physical brain oculd be responsible for mind...
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        Sep 2 2012: There are no such things as spirits. You are showing good judgment in saying this. What I am saying is that thought is a mystery. This is not an assumption. There is much evidence supporting this theory. There is very little evidence supporting the theory that all that exists is atoms and molecules.

        The scientific method always works for scientific questions. For example, what caused the Big Bang. Eventually science will discover the answer. But, there is no track record of success in questions that come from our ability to make ourselves the subject of our own knowledge. For example, what are dreams, concepts, past and future, free will, truth, etc.
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          Sep 3 2012: We also know of forces and energy, so not all is matter.

          A TV makes a picture of something. Is a TV more than matter and energy?
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      Sep 2 2012: Again David, this is just an argument from ignorance followed by special pleading.

      You don't accept a physical brain could be responsible for mind. Even though you know that as living creatures the brain is an integral part of sensing and thinking and dreaming...the seat of our mind. You don't know how this could work just through physical processes. You don't try to extrapolate back to more simple life forms that sense the outside environment. Then the simplest brains, to reptilian brains, then mammalian, then the neo cortex humans have. Funny how the more advanced spirits need more advanced brains to key into.

      Yet you can accept something magical can hold a mind, something intangable, that perhaps lines up with your theist beliefs. How convenient. Not having anywhere near the understanding we have about brain function and the mind, not having any verifiable information or understanding or evidence you are happy to speculate that a magical spirit is the answer, but have no reasonable explanation how it all works. It's just magic.

      Reminds me of how earlier humans tried to explain the sun. Golden chariots. Or it actually being an intelligent god. Later on they tried to work out how it could burn so hot so long. Couldn't be coal etc. They didn't know about nuclear reactions, about fusion, but the open minded scientists figured out perhaps it was some other unknown form of energy generation. Would you have come up with some supernatural explanation, not knowing or being able to accept some physical explanation might be responsible?

      Is light real? Are the chemical reactions in the brain when dreaming real. Why does the brain needs so much oxygen and energy to keep working, to support the magic mind function. Do deformed spirits result in deformed brains or are spirits just restricted in this world by damaged brains. I guess you have speculative guesses for lots of scenarios, just no evidence for any of it, or explanations how it works. Just a belief from ignorance
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      Sep 2 2012: Fail, instant fail.
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      Sep 2 2012: Does this message have mass?
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        Sep 2 2012: I don't know. Certainly the black and white have mass. But whether or not the question in raises in my mind has mass is a mystery.

        What is truth? What is the difference between a brain that thinks the earth is flat and the brain that thinks the earth is round?
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          Sep 2 2012: A brain that thinks the earth is flat has been smeared with science-screen. Such a brain ignores how to test ideas one against the other so much as to hold on to millenia-old concepts, that have been blown to pieces by a massive flow of deeper concepts.
          I wouldn't dare joke about the probable difference in mass with a normal brain. But I do believe such brains should be frozen for future study, when we're out of the Dark Ages.
    • Sep 3 2012: David is CORRECT that the physical brain cannot explain conscious experience.

      The best writer on this subject is a cognitive scientist named David Chalmers. Here is an article of his that greatly influenced me : consc.net/papers/facing.html

      Chalmers convincingly argues that there CANNOT be a *functional* explanation for experience -- because no matter what we discover about the brain in physical terms, that can NEVER have any relation to this associated non-functional phenomenon of experience.

      The way the liberals deal with this PERMANENT MYSTERY of conscious experience is to will it away. Chief among them is Daniel Dennet, who wrote a horrible book called "Consciousness Explained", which -- after you get through it all -- does nothing of the sort.
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    Aug 30 2012: Humans didn't evolve from animals.
    Humans are animals that are confused by their thinking.

    It is irrational or ignorant to think otherwise.
    You can read it in the Bible also.
    As the first human (thinking animal with illusion of free will) made his own choice he was sent from the garden of Eden (natural system) to work in his sweat for his food (total confusion and ignorance).
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      Aug 30 2012: Humans are attentive, intelligent, rational, and responsible animals. In other words, humans make observations, ask questions and invent theories, decide whether the theories are true or just probable, and decide what to do with their bodies (free will).
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        Aug 30 2012: If what you say was true humanity wouldn't make such a mess.

        If science, politics and citizens worked rational and intelligent together to solve any problem within family or society the next generation would have a perfect world.
        Everything needed is present to do things right.

        Instead what you see is that sexual drive interferes with reason. Fear and greed rule most of the world and distorts even those that try to do things right.
        The incentives for action with men is territorial to secure food and sexual satisfaction at any time.

        To go back again to that old story: the snake is the instigator to taste the fruit.

        From this religion took the wrong conclusion to ban all sexuality from life which made its force multiply and our reason just serve those needs.
      • Aug 31 2012: Humans make observations based on their sensory input which they have zero control over. Humans decide wether theories are true/false based on a vast amount of complicated reasons which are subjected to unconscious forces that will almost always reveal biases. Humans decide what to do with their body? David, a simple example, what are reflexes? Do you choose to digest the food that you placed in your stomach? A vast amount of bodily function is kept out of the consciousness. I would hardly say your argument adds up to proof of free will.
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          Aug 31 2012: You are saying my sticking to a low calorie diet is like a reflex reaction? There is no evidence for this. Why do you think this is true?

          Free will is a mystery and humans are embodied spirits. This is not the same a dualism. Dualism is the theory that "spiritual substances exist." There is no evidence for dualism. You are right to see that dualism is irrational. But, so is materialism.
  • Aug 29 2012: Your argument is unclear. You are asserting that materialists suggest that animals do not have free will, which is a false assumption. You are also making the implied premise that there must be free will and that materialists who would suggest otherwise (not all materialists are against the existence of free will in some sense), to you they are also irrational. If doubting the existence of free will is irrational, then it must be proven that free will exists, else you are the one who is being irrational by making the unjustified assumption and accusing others of being irrational for disagreeing with you. So, can you prove free will?
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      Aug 29 2012: I'm not saying that I can prove humans have free will. That we have free will is an observation. It is especially clear when we do something that is hard to do, like sticking to a low-calorie diet. This raises the question: What is the relationship between myself and my body? One theory is that free will is an illusion. There is very little evidence for this theory. Rational people judge the theory to be false.

      In short, I am saying people who think humans do not have free will have very bad judgment.
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        Aug 30 2012: I disagree with your final statement. Even if you think it likely that free will in a religious sense does not exist, there is the illusion of practical free will even if many of our decisions come from our unconscious.

        You can deny absolute god given free will and still have just as good judgement as those who think we have free will imbued from some invisible, intangible, unobservable, practically non existent agency.

        You can have an ethical framework superior to the religious ones. You can have self discipline and reason at least as well.
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          Aug 30 2012: It is bad judgment to think people don't have free wil. You seem to have read only the last sentence, and misread that!
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        Aug 31 2012: I may have got it wrong first time. However i suggest there are reasonable arguments to suggest there is not god given or even simplistic naturalistic free will. With enough information and understanding we might be able to predict human decisions. Practically we feel we have free will.
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          Aug 31 2012: We experience free will, just like we know the sky is blue. Free will is a mystery and humans are embodied spirits. Since other humans exist, humans are finite beings. God is an infinite being. An infinite being exists because finite beings need a cause.
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        Aug 31 2012: David do you have proof that humans are embodied spirits, or os this just a metaphor?

        Your terrible logic is not proof a good exists.

        There could be many other causes for the universe. The conditions for it could have existed eternally. Or time may have no meaning before it existed. etc etc. We don't know.

        Ignorance about the origins of the universe is not proof of a god.
      • Aug 31 2012: David do you choose your brain? your body? Your thoughts? Isnt everything dependent on cause and effect? Free will is unbelievably hard to define and even harder to make sense of. I think you are confusing will power and the excercise of the frontal lobe.

        This man explains the illusion of free will far better than i can http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCofmZlC72g

        Also you say there is very little evidence for free will as an illusion. What possible evidence do you have that free will is real? Expressing will power explains very little.
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          Aug 31 2012: Free will is hard to define? It is impossible to define. If it is only hard to define, what is the definition?

          I am not saying free will is "real". It is an observation that we have free will. Humans ask: What is the relationship between myself and my body? One theory is that free will is an illusion. What is the evidence for this? Another theory is that it is a mystery. This theory is supported by the evidence.
  • Aug 9 2012: Before we can even consider whether humans or animals have free will we must determine what free will is and if it exists. Unfortunately free will is an abstract concept which is untestable and unprovable.

    I see no reason why if we assume that humans have free will, we should assume that animals do not.

    There are only two possible reasons why someone might assume that humans have free will while animals do not. It allows cruelty to animals since you can't really "hurt" a biological robot and there is a comfortable feeling of superiority which the assumption creates.

    David, you are suggesting that there is a group of people which have made the following three assumptions;

    1. Animals do not have free will.
    2. Humans do have free will.
    3. Humans evolved from animals.

    I would suggest that 1 and 2 are your assumptions and they do not belong to the "Materialists" or "those who think humans evolved from animals" and they are not self evident givens which we should all accept unchallenged.

    A rational set of assumptions might be;

    1. Animals have free will.
    2. Humans have free will.
    3. Humans evolved from animals.


    1. Animals do not have free will.
    2. Humans do not have free will.
    3. Humans evolved from animals.

    Or finally, perhaps the most reasonable position;

    1. I don't know if animals have free will.
    2. I don't know if humans have free will.
    3. Humans evolved from animals.
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      Aug 9 2012: Your rule that we have to define free will is completely arbitrary. Why should I follow this rule? I do not follow it because the human mind is structured like the scientific method. At the lowest level is observations, which requires paying attention. The level of inquiry requires being intelligent. At the level of reflective judgment, humans marshal evidence and decide whether a theory is true.

      The humans have free will is an observation. Humans ask: What is the relationship between myself and my body? Theory: Free will is an illusion. Judgment: There is no evidence supporting this theory.
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        Aug 9 2012: People who can't ask question because s/he is deaf and dumb........and also s/he can't construct any sentence because of the same reason......what s/he is ? Animal ? Is that so?
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        Aug 10 2012: David how do you distinguish or describe what you observe to be free will?

        Communication benefits from having agreed definitions for words - including free will
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      Aug 10 2012: How do you define free will Luke?

      For me it's like I appear to choose chocolate ice cream over strawberry. But could that be predicted with an adequate understanding of the mind etc.

      It gets very complex when you need to understand all the experiences and variables that go into a single decision.

      It probably does not matter in a practical sense because even if we could predict everything we can not for now so it feels like we are making a choice. Chocolate thanks.
      • Aug 10 2012: Explaining my thoughts on free will can be difficult, I don't always have the right words to be understood correctly but let’s see how it goes.

        Predicting the outcome of a decision requires three things; you must know all the variables, you must know all the rules and reality itself must be absolutely deterministic.

        My very amateur understanding of quantum physics is that the Heisenberg uncertainty principle disallows our knowing all variables and Bells theorem suggests that quantum effects cannot be explained with local variables and determinism cannot be absolute. If free will is to exists, it's probably expressed somehow on the quantum level.

        I'm going to borrow from a previous post of mine now;

        There are conceptual problems with the idea of free will;

        The act of making a decision is one which is made, consciously or otherwise, by placing all the known variables into an equation defined by your value system and determining the best conceptual path. This process is very mechanical and predicable, if you know the variables and the equation, you automatically know the outcome.

        If free will does exist it means that a decision must be made in the absence of knowledge, values and analysis. It would be the ability to make a choice when you don't even know that there is one to be made. (otherwise it is predictable and not true free will)

        Free will is paradoxically nonsensical but at the same time an individual’s experienced existence or even existence itself cannot be explained with a "turtles all the way down" endless causal chain of events. (I don't see absolute determinism as a viable alternative explanation).
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    Aug 8 2012: David, suggest there is a continuum of known consciousness or mind from simple brains in ants to fish to dogs to other primates to humans. Something has to have the most developed brain/mind.

    The unique or superior aspects of human mind/brain capability do not automatically imply spirit.

    You tend to ignore or downplay the progression of mind capabilities and other similarities especially with the great apes.
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      Aug 8 2012: What I am saying is that we can comprehend the human mind, but we can'd define it. Humans are indefinabilities that become conscious of their own existence. Another way of saying this is: humans are embodied spirits.
      • Aug 9 2012: Fully agree with you, except that now we, in fact, can define the human mind. The spirit is one discrete level (spiritual) above the physical and 'connects' with the body by way of its receiver, the brain. There is this 'connection' by way of the Science of Correspondences. Please Google that.

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        Aug 10 2012: David how do you define the word define.

        You must have a different dictionary to me.

        Many of Your statements are wonderful illogical gobblygook assertions.

        It's like you have your own logic and language for your beliefs.
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    Aug 8 2012: I disagree on several levels.

    Humans experience life. Humans have the capacity to structure and elicit various experiences. That is the basis for free will. If humans did not have free will, they would just be randomly having experiences with no intent whatsoever. Some of the highest motivators to seek out experiences include the basic human drives, hunger, safety, procreation, etc. Animals too, will seek out experiences to satisfy the drives associated with preservation of the species. How the mind structures experience varies between humans and other species.

    It is the mind then that structures the experience within the scientific method, that is, if the individual has been trained to translate experience within that framework.

    Other humans structure experience based on how they feel. 'This makes me feel good so I will continue to do this... When I don't do this I feel bad.' Many many emotions can fall into this category including fear, love, anger...

    Other humans structure experience based on previous experiences. They typically arrange experiences on some type of internal hierarchy system. Most important, most relevant, etc.

    That is the basis of free will. The opposite of free will is determinism and I truly think that humans and animals intentionally seek out experiences to satisfy need. So there is a huge part of behavior that is associated with free will.

    Judgement and choice are higher order thinking skills and everyone's skill level is different. Morality, society, relationship with others and relationships with a higher power come in to play here. This is a different process. These mediate free will.

    We do run in to determinism especially when talking about materialism. If I am hungry, and the food is in a locked box that I do not have the key for, there is no way I am going to get that food. Basic simple. I cannot cross the materialistic bottom line and magically appear inside the box. Neither can any animal that I know of.
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      Aug 8 2012: I agree that animals "seek out experiences," but I don't see any evidence that "animals intentionally seek out experiences." Has a lion ever said it intended to kill a gazelle?
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        Aug 8 2012: Apparently, you have never watched a cat hunting Mr. Roemer! They do not "say" they intend to kill their prey, but if you watch carefully, and understand body language, there is no question about their intent.
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        Aug 8 2012: Do you not think the cat had to be hungry? Or was she killing the gazelle as some random experience? Of course there was intent. The intent was to meet the need of nutrition for the cat and her family.

        She follows the herd. She knows when they migrate. She knows a heck of a lot of stuff about hyenas and water holes. She may not think in the same conscious way you and I do but she knows how to provide for her family just like us. Intentional behavior. Rational application of knowledge.
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          Aug 8 2012: What evidence is there that the cat intended to kill the gazelle? Animals are their natures. Humans deposit themselves on their natures.
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          Aug 8 2012: The evidence Mr. Roemer, is that they do it all the time, and it is not by chance!
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        Aug 8 2012: It is instinct to kill the gazelle, it is intent to feed her family. She is not doing this for herself alone but for the survival of the pride. She is aware that others exist and have need and she provides for them. It is instinct to provide for yourself, but service to provide for others.
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          Aug 8 2012: Humans are aware that others exist. Humans have conscious knowledge. Animals only have sense knowledge.

          Humans intend things because they have to decide what to do. I intend to give my money to my mother, but I may change my mind. There is no evidence that animals have thought processes like this.
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        Aug 8 2012: If animals do not have conscious, why is it that I can render an animal unconscious?

        And you must never have had the experience of living with a vindictive cat or a vindictive horse. Of course animals have thought processes. The intent is self-evident. You should see my dog after he's been in the garbage. He knows he's done wrong.

        That load of malarkey started around the time of the gentrification of agriculture. It became OK to kill animals you have raised and who are senescent because somebody someplace drew a line and said animals do not think. After millennia people began to believe their own myth. Even gather their own evidence to support their own myth. And reject any evidence to the contrary.

        But not all cultures grew up with an agrarian history and there are places you can still find truth. And people in those cultures are aghast that people can just take a senescent life willy-nilly like that.
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          Aug 8 2012: Take for example, knowing that this page is white. It means more than light is entering the eye and a signal is going to the brain. It means as awareness of this. What is this awareness?

          This is the important question. The question of whether animals are aware or not is not important.
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        Aug 8 2012: Either you are conscious or not conscious.
        Animals are conscious or not conscious.

        I did not say anything about aware. That is only one dimension of conscious.

        Your myth is showing.
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          Aug 10 2012: Maybe there is a continuum of consciousness across the different species.

          Kind of like there is continuum of flying ability or swimming ability.
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      Aug 10 2012: Linda interesting thoughts on free will.

      I wonder if this is just another aspect of the continuum of mind and consciousness of all animals and entities.

      A rock, no consciousness. maybe a tree has some unconscious awareness of its surroundings. An ant must have some awareness And perhaps some very basic sense of self. Other mammals are aware of themselves.

      I guess free will may reflect our ability to think of consequences beyond the immediate. I guess apes may be aware of thelonger term consequences of upsetting the alpha male etc. but perhaps we have a richness of thought, language, that enriches our understanding of consequences and the options we have.

      Addictions, based on endorphins etc, basic primal drives to freeze, flee, fight, reproduce etc indicate we are not free of our instincts entirely.
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        Aug 10 2012: Interesting. Why is it that it is so easy for us to forget that we ARE animals? Of course there is a continuum of consciousness and mind across and within species.

        The cultures that posit that rocks have a soul have an intricate understanding of what is called 'energy' further up in this discussion. And to them, what has energy has a conscious and therefore, rocks have a consciousness. So if you link that conscious energy to soul, it is just obvious that rocks, trees and stars have a soul. That is within their ontology. And I enjoy learning about different ontologies. At least they have a premise for their understanding of soul. So you can see that a person that walks in this ontology is going to treat the environment differently that someone who walks in David's ontology. Down to the very rocks they walk on.

        So it becomes important to really understand what people are saying and how they define soul. Even if it is David's arbitrary line that indicates humans have a soul and animals do not simply because he says so. When someone walks in that ontology, their behavior and choices will reflect that and they will treat animals and the environment differently. This ontology really did develop from the gentrification of agrarian cultures like I said above. You can see why it was necessary for those cultures. They had a lot of animals to kill and foliage to destroy and couldn't be bothered to feel bad about it. They use the resources that are available in the environment for their own gain because everything is obviously there for their own use because they have a soul and nothing else does.

        I really do understand David but also really enjoy pushing him to understand himself:)

        Also anything that migrates has the ability to understand consequences beyond the immediate. Humans included.
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    Aug 8 2012: It's a pity the title of this debate mixes two topics: the issue of the whether reality is solely comprised of matter (i.e. the universe is all there is), is a separate issue from that of whether humans evolved from animals.

    The consciousness or not of animals, the differences between animals and humans is nothing to do with materialism, I think it has more to do with a particular brand of Christianity. Humans can have evolved from animals, but the conclusion from this is not that reality is solely materialistic, animals could have souls as well.

    I will debate the issue of materialism, but not evolution.
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      Aug 8 2012: My view is that there are four solutions or theories that explain the mind-body problem.
      1) Dualism (no evidence for this)
      2) Materialism (more evidence than for dualism, but not much more)
      3) Idealism (more evidence than for # 1 and # 2)
      4) It is a mystery (so much evidence it is judged to be true by rational people).
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        Aug 10 2012: David I'm not aware of any mind body problem. I have no issue assuming our minds are products of our brains. Everything I understand from science supports this. There is no problem.
  • Aug 8 2012: What I have observed & what several photographers have recorded, is many animals expressing free will. Going their own way, doing their own thing so to speak, totally against what the rest of pack is doing. Neither humans, nor their other animal counter parts are limited- they keep evolving. As does religion by the way. Which also brings up the question: How did Atheists & religion get into your main question?
    You might also consider that other animals (non human) have never hurt nature as much as, so called, higher thinking humans.
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      Aug 8 2012: Because I am responding to a TED video saying that animals have a moral sense, just like humans. If animals have a moral sense, then they have free will. But if animals have free will, then humans do too. But, atheists are dead against the idea that humans really have free will. They think free will is an illusion.
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        Aug 8 2012: David,
        You are not "responding to a TED video", you presented a video about animal behavior.

        Your profile says you are a christian. Why do you presume to speak for all atheists?

        It appears that you are trying to make this discussion about religion/god vs. atheists.
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    Aug 8 2012: It is a matter of judgment. People who think the external world is an illusion have poor judgment. Of course, then can accuse me of having poor judgment. Such is life.
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      Aug 8 2012: I'm not saying you have poor judgment or anything, I'm asking what is the base of your judgment on? Why do you think the external world is not an illusion?
  • Aug 8 2012: As a wildlife artist I have studied animals, in their various aspects, to not only learn the way they move etc. but also what makes them "tick" so I can draw/paint them to a high form of realism. My studies put me in a position where I keep my eyes open & my mouth shut. I simply observe. I have learned that animals do have all the abilities we do including free will, & each animal in the same species can vary greatly, as we humans do.
    My observations are "not" scientific, they are just simply what I have seen & heard over the years from watching my fellow animals. And by the way: Animals do morn! As for them believing in a higher power? No idea.
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      Aug 8 2012: Most atheists think animals do not have free will, just like humans don't have it.

      In any case, free will means we possess a center of action that makes us unified with respect to ourselves and different from other humans. Hence, we are finite beings. God is an infinite being. An infinite being exists because a finite being needs a cause.
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        Aug 8 2012: Incoherent, illogical, non sequitur if I ever saw one. Have you heard of quantum mechanics where matter can exist for no reason and in every eventuality ends up existing no matter what.
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        Aug 9 2012: How do you know what most atheists think?

        So much speculation.
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    Aug 8 2012: David,

    Are you suggesting it is irrational to think:
    1) humans are animals that evolved - despite all the evidence, fossils, DNA, physical similarities etc?

    2) that there is matter, energy and natural forces (and perhaps dark matter and energy) are most likely all there is

    3) That spirit is an imagined concept for which there is no evidence or explanation used to try and explain other things.

    Are you basing this on the proposition that the human mind could not have evolved and could not just be something physical in your opinion?

    I would suggest all the evidence and science we have points to humans evolving and the mind being a product of our brain. While we don't have it all figured out, how billions of neurons with trillions of connections result in human consciousness, awareness etc, to propose spirit is just answering a question with another more complex question.

    Suggest the argument for spirit is one of logical fallacies - argument from ignorance and special pleading. You can't explain so revert to the supernatural. Also a false dichotomy - proposing we are different from other animals and therefore must have spirit. You could make a similar false claim comparing dogs and trees.

    Similar to the fallacious arguments that only a god could explain the origin of the universe. Again answering a question with an even more complex question.

    No answer at all.

    Just because you or I or humankind don't have all the answers for these things does not make the proposition of spirit or gods which themselves have no explanation or evidence a logical position.

    I for one can not dismiss spirit or any invisible gods and goddesses or even the invisible dragon living in the basement or the ghost in my pc. But it seems fanciful at the least to believe in gods and spirits. Wishful thinking based on ignorance perhaps.

    I suggest the claimed irrationality is in the other direction if evolution is dismissed, that spirit is assumed to answer mind etc.
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      Aug 8 2012: What evidence is there that free will is a product of the brain? Or, are you saying free will is an illusion. We are not talking about "gods" and "spirits." We are talking about questions that humans ask: What is the relationship between myself and my body? What are images and other mental constructs?

      There is no answer to these questions. That is why humans are embodied spirits.
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        Aug 8 2012: What evidence is there that free will, whether real or imagined, is not a product of the human brain?

        Free will is a complex question. Whether it exists, or we are biological machines, it feels like we we have choices. Either way this does not require spirit, just a more sophisticated mind.

        Whether humans with our superior mental faculties allows superior reasoning and decision making alongside instinctual drives compared to animals does not automatically mean we have a spirit and other animals don't. Thats like saying humans have two legs, dogs are animals, dogs have four legs not too, so humans are not animals?

        While I can not verify there is not spirit, all the evidence we have points to our minds, self awareness, intellect, personality, executive decision making functions being in our brain. Destroy, damage or disease the brain and these functions suffer. Dementia for example. There is simply no compelling evidence that there is a spirit.

        Arguing from ignorance - you don't know how it works so it must be a spirit is not a strong argument.
        You could equally say we are the products of a computer programme some advanced species developed based on ignorance.

        You say ""There is no answer to these questions" well there is but we only have some of the pieces sorted out. Go back a while and we didn't know about bacteria, sickness was magic.

        Then you assert "That is why humans are embodied spirits." which does not follow at all even if your starting premise was correct.

        You are essentially saying - You don't know, therefore anything you want that can not be verified is the answer.

        Do you at least acknowledge that your conclusions do not automatically follow from your initial premise?

        I admit you could be right, along with any other non verifiable claim.

        Being non verifiable is actually a sign of a weak position. Not being able to disprove the invisible dragon god under my chair is not a strong argument.
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          Aug 8 2012: The evidence free will is not a product of the human brain is that the human brain is a collection of cells. It is many beings. I am not many beings. I am one being. I think, therefore, I am.
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        Aug 8 2012: What evidence is there to show that free will if it exists come from the brain. Well if it's a product of the brain, it should surely cease to exist once the brain dies. And seeing how when a brain dies nothing is generated by it, and when certain parts of the spinal chord are damaged certain parts or functions of the body switch off, it gives a great indication that everything about us is controlled on a cellular level.
        And if you assume otherwise you have to state that humans have souls, of which there is no evidence.
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        Aug 9 2012: Re: The evidence free will is not a product of the human brain is that the human brain is a collection of cells.

        That is not evidence. It is just an opinion perhaps born out of ignorance of even our current understanding of the brain.

        You are a bunch of cells, a bunch of atoms that formed in the first generation of stars. Life is amazing. Just because your super ape brain does not have the answers does not mean your supernatural unsubstantiated imaginings are facts.

        I expect a few hundred years ago you would use the same logic to say disease was the work of god or the devil, but now we understand viruses and disease in many places.
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    Aug 8 2012: Materialists don't fail at the level of rational judgment. They fail at the level of intelligence. They can't grasp the theory that the human mind is a mystery. The only theories they grasp are dualism and materialism. They can't grasp the difference between scientific questions and questions that arise from our ability to make ourselves the subject of our own knowledge.
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    Sep 5 2012: Baggini's view is that the self is always changing. This is a correct observation. What is absurd in his remarks is that he attributes to other people the idea that the self is unchanging and constant.

    Saying humans are embodied spirits means that the relationship between the mind and the body is a mystery.

    When animals have nothing to do they go to sleep. Only humans ask questions, and just because a human asks a question doesn't mean there is an answer. There are mysteries.

    There are no mysteries about questions that come from seeing and hearing. Questions like this have a record of success in being answered.
    • Sep 6 2012: We must be watching a different talk because i never heard him once claim other people are unchanging and constant?

      So then why not just say its a mystery instead of repeatedly claiming we are embodied spirits which is misleading and carries loads of dogma?

      "There are no mysteries about questions that come from seeing and hearing. Questions like this have a record of success in being answered".

      This is absolutely not true, people often see things that did not happen or recreate events, people, places, and things while accessing memories.

      Also what is happening when somebody is hallucinating? Is there one reality?

      "only humans ask questions" What is my dog doing when she pokes me with her nose and looks at my shoes then the front door?
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        Sep 6 2012: What I meant is that there are no mysteries in science. There are only as yet unanswered questions. The human mind is however a mystery. A way of expressing this is to say humans are embodied spirits or spirited bodies.
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        Sep 7 2012: David,
        The human mind is not too much of a mystery any more. We are learning more and more about it all the time.

        You seem to be stuck on the term "embodied spirits". Maybe this might help?

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    Sep 4 2012: @Brian Klink
    Baggini is under the false impression that the "self" is unchanging and constant. That is absurd. I exist now and I existed 10 years ago. I am the same person. However, I am different from the person I was 10 years ago. This raises the question of how I can be both different and the same. This question is similar to the question: What is the relationship between myself and my body?

    For the question of how a being can change and yet be the same there is a metaphysical explanation. A being that changes through time is a composition of substance and accidents. The substance is the principle that makes the being the same. The accidence is the principle that makes the being change.

    For the second question, there is no metaphysical explanation. It is a mystery. Hence, humans are embodied spirits.

    This is not the same as Cartesian dualism. In Cartesian dualism, there is a spiritual little man located behind the eyes that controls the body like a stage coach driver controls a team of horses. There is no evidence for dualism or the existence of any kind of spiritual substances. It is nonsense to say the self is separate from the brain or the body. There is only one being, not two beings or many beings.
    • Sep 5 2012: David you obviously didn't watch the talk. At 9:05 Baggini clearly states that the self is always changing.

      What is an embodied spirit could you describe it for me? I literally have no idea what you mean by this.

      How does mystery=embodied spirits? Why doesn't mystery = science isn't able to answer this question and hopefully with advancement in technology, neuroscience, and time this question will be answered?

      Here is another incredibly interesting talk that touches this subject http://www.ted.com/talks/sebastian_seung.html
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    Sep 4 2012: @Mitch SMith
    I started to watch and listen to Antonio Damasio. He mentioned the mystery that is consciousness. Then he said,
    "How does the brain create consciousness?" This is not the mystery. The mystery is: What is consciousness? He has a blind spot. He only undersands dualism and materialism. He understands that dualism is irrational, so that leaves materialism. He assumes materialism is true. So to Damasio, the only question is: How does the brain create consciousness?

    Take, for example, knowing that this page is white and black. It means more than that light is entering the eye and a signal is going to the brain. It means an "awareness" of this. What is this "awareness"?

    There is a metaphysical definition or explication of self-consciousness: It means turning in on oneself and catching oneself in the act of our own existence.

    Human beings are indefinabilities that become conscious of their own existence. Humans are embodied spirits.
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      Sep 5 2012: David, you need to truly read the work and understand the principles.
      This is not easy and you would have to begin with basic neural dynamics.

      Sapolsky outlines this very precisely in this series of lectures - I recommend you view the full 20 hours of his course. http://archive.org/details/RobertSapolsky-BiologyAndHumanBehavior/

      Once you have done the groundwork, I look forward to your critique.
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        Sep 5 2012: I look forward to your critique of this analysis. There are four solutions to the mind-body problem: 1) dualism (there exist spiritual substances), 2) materialism (the mind is an illusion), 3) idealism (the body is an illusion), and 4) It is a mystery.

        #4 is the solution with the most evidence. When animals have nothing to do, they go to sleep. Only humans ask questions about the causes of things and the relationship between things. Just because a human asks a question, doesn't mean there will be an answer. Questions about science are a different matter. There is a track record of success for questions about what we observe with our senses. We don't observe free will and conscious knowledge with our sense organs.
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          Sep 6 2012: OK, after watching the "debate" a little more I think I'll rely on my own work rather than try to paraphrase Sapolski or Chomski:

          Perception - it is part of the topology of self-organising systems.
          Perception is exactly equivalent to belief.
          Perception is, essentially, a sorting system.
          It requires categorisation - even if categorisation is meaningless.
          It has only general function that needs only be successful enough times to ensure survival.
          Perception is not and never will be truth.
          Truth is exactly equal to reality - and we will never have it outside the imperfection of perception.

          It is not senses that are the problem - it is our entire continuum defined by being a vertibrate and you cannot escape it.
          "Your use of the word "spirit" invokes some kind of emodiment within it.
          This is an artifact of your "self" not a truth or a reality.

          REality is not an illusion, but your proposal is an illusion.
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      Sep 5 2012: OK - I will demonstrate a willingness to genuinely engage with your assertion for your benefit. I expect reciprocation. There is a chance we will both learn in the process. This might take a few text-boxes:

      1. THere may well be spiritual substances, but the progress of scientific observation shows that they are not where they were presumed to be. The domain of the spiritual seems to be shrinking, if taken as a trend, one could project that there is no "spiritual", but that would be jumping to conclusions. The work of Newton corroberates this viewpoint - without dualism, Newton's laws could not be accepted. However, this dualism is no more than acceptance of current limits of knowledge - not a confirmation of divine occupation in the void of our knowledge.
      2. The mind as a word is an illusion - however neural theory(and practice) demonstrates that it is very real and very physical. We get stumped when we fail to recognise time in the physical and try to describe everything in 3-dimensional static frames. I will go into this at length later.
      3. The body as a word is also an illusion. However, no one has demonstrated a case where a body vanished or came into being without a known physical causality. Can you provide a definition of "illusion" that is not a function of observation?
      4. A mystery. well .. what is "it"? THere is absolutely no information without definition - this is the downfall of communication which forces us to speak "about" things - "about" being the definition - just saying "it" implies a non-definition and is, as such, a non-communication. I'd expexct you to, at least, attempt to provide some frame, or I must assume you are trying to escape the issue.

      I will go into the physical nature of mind in the next post. (cont'd)
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      Sep 5 2012: Before I go on, I need to cancel out your assertion about animals .. look again - they do ask questions and they do engage in speculative behaviours to analyse causality when they "have nothing to do".
      What is mind?
      Mind is no more than a dynamic in a topology.
      The major part of mind in a human is demonstrated in the brain.
      So let's look at how that works:
      Brains are, essentially, made of neurons. Neurons connect with each other via synapses. If the synapses leading into a neuron generate enough electric potential (1 millivolt) teh neuron will "fire" an electro-chemical pulse to synapses leading from it. Simplistically, the neurons are a vast network - even in an insect - that network has senses "upstream" and motor functions "downstream". Part of the senses monitor the state of the organism - this is "self" as far as teh network is concerned.
      The stimuli from senses propogate through the network and eventually find their way to the motor functions. If the motor functions result in advantage for teh "self" then the synapses that contributed to the advantage become more "sensitive" and will ensure that the advantageous action is "cemented", if the motor response is disadvantageous, the contributing synapses will become less sensitive.
      The path from sensong to action becomes "potentiated" - if you graph it out, it forms a topology - much like a river system - the signal runs from the senses to the advantageous result much as water runs through streams and rivers to the sea.
      When you have a very large number of these neurons they form-up into structures that acrete multitudes of sensual maps and causal maps. As the complexity increases, the potentiation can occur between maps - a thing we call "association" which is the basis of metaphore and simile. These maps can be activated by very long chains of stimulus with no direct motor result - a thing we call "thought" and "imagination".
      It's all just physical. The only "magic" in it is the power of topology.
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    Sep 2 2012: I expected that type of an answer....however I was hoping for an explanation...but there isn't one.
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      Sep 2 2012: Here's an easy answer.
      We SHARE a COMMON ANCESTOR with apes and monkeys.
      So where the descendants of monkeys and apes stayed in trees the ancestor of homo erectus and us etc went to the ground.
      Could people please learn this simple fact that we did not evolve from apes.
      And random behavior doesn't say much about anything, my dog does random things, flies appear to do random things
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    Sep 2 2012: David, the fact that the universe exists does not prove god.

    Just because you choose to imaging a supernatural explanation rather than a natural one does not make it so.

    There are probably infinite unverifiable explanations. How do you know the creator was not created by some other creator created by some other. Why only one being. There could be billions. Why not some more powerful being behind the power that supposedly made this universe. You simply reject all the other equally valid, non verifiable options to fit your monotheistic viewpoint.

    Finite must come from infinite - is simply a baseless assertion. What is the infinite. How does it make the finite. How does it actually do it. What is it. It is just poor expression to try and justify a god, where there no justification exists.

    Then we have scientific hypothesis like m theory that predicts the universe will be generated out of nothing and makes god unnecessary.

    An electron is a difficult thing to conceptualise and understand. Yet you think you have a meaningful quick and easy explanation for the entire universe. But you don't. A metaphor or god concept is not an answer. It's just magic. No answer at all. To think god did it is a reasonable answer is simply irrational.

    You assertion is the same as me saying there are infinite universes and we just happen to be in this one.

    The uncaused cause argument is totally debunked. Special pleading. And infinite potential causes you can imagine, but you arbitrarily select the view that suits your beliefs. This is just a variant of faith.

    You are mistaken if you consider this evidence.

    Basically what you don't understand you are calling god.
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      Sep 2 2012: A finite being needs a cause. The cause can be another finite being. But if all beings in the universe need a cause, the universe would be absurd. Hence, there exists at least one infinite being. There can be an infinite chain of finite beings, but an infinite being must exist outside of the chain to give the entire chain its existence.

      An infinite being doesn't need a cause. An infinite being can be the reason for its own existence.
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        Sep 3 2012: David, I guess we will just need to agree to disagree.

        In my view asserting your mantra of the finite needing an infinite cause, and that cause is god, is plain old poor logic. An argument from ignorance that is just a variant of the uncaused cause argument.

        There is no reason to assume that the cause is the first cause.
        You conveniently assume the cause does not need a cause. Special pleading.
        But do not accept any other scenario where conditions may exist for the universe to exist that may or may not need a cause.

        While causality exists in our normal experience within the universe as it exists now we have no reason to assume simple causality applies to the origins of the universe. In fact you apply this to God. You arbitrarily assume god does not need a cause.

        You ignore god could have been created by an even more powerful or infinite being.

        In fact there is no reason to assume the first cause is a god or has intelligence.

        The uncaused cause is just a causal loop with no evidence or explanatory power.

        If the universe did not exist. If time did not exist, then there is no reason assume anything meaningful existed before it sprung into existence. At least there is no reason, except wishful thinking, to assume a god exists eternally and is responsible for the universe. Any unverifiable scenario is equally valid. You assume a direct God universe. There could be millions of gods made by billions of gods from a reality beyond the reality of the creators of this universe.

        If you can not see the self serving circular reasoning in "An infinite being doesn't need a cause. An infinite being can be the reason for its own existence." and not see the same logic could apply to an infinite natural preconditions to the universe or billions of other variants, well I guess that is a logic fail.

        So basically the universe exists, therefore god. Logic fail.

        And yet there is no compelling physical evidence for gods. Just failed logic.
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    Sep 1 2012: If we evolved from apes...why do we still have apes?

    I chose to post on this thread because I have the free will to do so. I did not write as a reflex of hungar or a desire for social acceptance. I could have very easily read the premise and moved on and did something else. Something random. We are capable of randomness and irrational behavior that is your proof for free will. The harder theory would be to prove the absense of free will. I have the ability to improve my surroundings, improve my health, the ability to build and the ability to demolish and the ability to do any of them for no definitive reason. no emotional reward. We have not lasped to a realm of zombies yet, although some appear to be heading that way. I do agree we act to resolve a need, however we are not one dimensional. We also act to resolve "wants" the wants are different for everyone and yes can be random or can be as a result of a Lexus commercial during a football game. Still we have the choice to act on them or not to act on them. We choose the time and place. Thanks for the great thread! Now excuse me I'm going to go see how long I can hold my breath under water.
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      Sep 2 2012: If we evolved from apes...why do we still have apes? Really?

      What do they teach in science class over there? Or do you get your understanding of evolution as some sort of caricature from a pulpit?
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        Sep 3 2012: Thank you, that is a sound scientiifc theory. I look forward to working with you towards a better humanity.
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          Sep 3 2012: Assuming you are serious:

          My understanding is the Science indicates that everything with DNA is likely to share a common ancestor population if you go back far enough.

          Surely you have seen the maps of the animal kingdom. The tree of life as it evolved.

          Humans and chimps sharing a common ancestor back 5-8 million years ago. A bit further back with Gorillas etc. A bit further back with monkeys. A bit further back, the original mammalian ancestor to all mammals. Further back to the reptilian ancestor, Further back to the vertibrate ancestor etc.

          We have a reptilian brain, a mammalian brain, and a neo cortex. We share physcial similarities with all vertbrates. Isn't it amazing how similar the skeletons are of vertebra. All basically with a spine and four limbs, 2 eyes, sexual organs, breathe and eat hole in , that we inherited. Similar reproduction etc.

          Go back far enough and we are related to plants and bananas. Everything with DNA is probably related if you go back far enough.

          Imagine our primate ancestor in various population groups. Over time some some came down from the trees, others didn't. They all continued to adapt in their own way via natural selection. Some populations broke into new groups and some of these groups continued to adapt and change. Eventually becoming distinct species.

          Why do we still have bacteria and fish and apes. Because we may share a common ancestor but not all the populations followed the sme path.

          Humans chimps bonobos share a common ancestor estimated about 8 million years ago. That is why we have 98% same dna.

          Go back far enough and we have a common ancestor with all mammals. Back further all vertibrates. Back far enough probbly a common ancestor population with everything with dna.

          We did not evolve from apes. Apes and humans share a common ancestor population.

          That is why we are so physically and genetically similar.

          Evolution makes sense if you understand it properly. You can see the connections with your own eyes
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    Sep 1 2012: @Brian Humans have free will and conscious knowledge. What is a dream? What are past and future? We don't know. The idea that humans are collections of molecules is irrational. There is no evidence for it.
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      Sep 2 2012: So we are not made from molecules?

      So there is no evidence that we are made from molecules?

      Are you serious or trolling?

      I guess we should through out chemistry and the rest of biology our with the theory of evolution?

      There us evidence we are made from molecules.

      However there is no evidence that we are embodied souls. We might be but there is no convincing evidence.

      It does not matter how many times you assert something, you need more than your assertion to back this up.
    • Sep 3 2012: David there oodles of evidence for this and if you want to subscribe to a philosiphy that explains everything in the universe through archaic method go ahead. What your forgetting is that your trying to claim that we have free will and conscious knowledge and you have reasoned this out with your brain. At no point in whatever reasoning you could do would you ever even get an inkling that its related to or a product of voltage changes and neurons in your brain. So you can say there are gaps in neuroscience but you cant completely ignore the field. If we were just spirited bodies why do certain psychiatric medications work why is ECT so effective for unresponsive major depression? So please go ahead and say we don't know everything about the brain and reality may be more held in our mind than externally, but don't make such a ridiculous claim, such as, there is no evidence that we are a collection of molecules because it just doesnt hold up, under even the slightest examination.
  • Sep 1 2012: This is in reply to your post " Free will is hard to define? It is impossible to define. If it is only hard to define, what is the definition?

    I am not saying free will is "real". It is an observation that we have free will. Humans ask: What is the relationship between myself and my body? One theory is that free will is an illusion. What is the evidence for this? Another theory is that it is a mystery. This theory is supported by the evidence."

    So free will is impossible to define, i agree because it doesnt exist as a concept when you really think about it.
    There are loads of evidence in regards to free will being illusory. Where do your thoughts come from? You didnt choose your brain, your body, your parents, your environment, you are and were in no control of any of those things i just listed. We all have unconscious minds which guide us and influence our decisions. We are all victims of the chaotic law of cause and effect. Put it all together and you can start to see that your decisions and actions are not so much a product of you, but more so a product of your brain chemistry and causations that lead you to abide by survivalist laws emitting from the oldest parts of our brain.

    The theory that free will is a mystery? Theories posit answers to unanswered questions and you know that.
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      Sep 1 2012: What are thoughts? What are images? I can look at a true, close my eyes, and create an image of the tree. Does the image have mass? Does it have volume? What is it?
      • Sep 1 2012: I dont see how this has any correlation to free will.

        You are asking me questions that are impossible for me to answer, I of course, have no idea how to quantify subjectivity like that. There are all sorts of theories as to what dreams are but I don't have a definite answer for you. You could probably make an argument that these at their base are products of voltage changes and synaptic firings. The human mind cant be completely understood with a reductionist method so again i cant really answer this and i'm assuming you cant either. If your using these complex issues as proof for free will then i'm just not seeing what you mean.

        You can day dream as much as you want but when your lost in thought do you control what it is your fantasy is about?
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          Sep 1 2012: What is our disagreement?

          Question: What are mental images? David and Brian: Impossible to answer. .

          Question: What is the relationship between myself and my body? David: Impossible to answer. Brian: ????????
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          Sep 2 2012: David doesn't understand what mental images are or how our brains generate and perceive them. Therefore magic.

          I'm not sure exactly how gravity works. Must be little angels holding the moon in its orbit.
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        Sep 2 2012: David do other animals see images? Are they also spirit creatures in your world?
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    Aug 31 2012: Humans are indefinabilites that become conscious of their own existence. We can comprehend what a human being is because we can comprehend free will, conscious knowledge, truth, etc. But we can't define or explain these functions of the human mind. In other words, humans are embodied spirits or spirited bodies.

    The proof of God's existence does not come from the question: What caused the universe to begin in time. It comes from the question: What causes finite beings to exist? A finite being can't be the cause of its own existence because it can't limit itself.
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      Sep 2 2012: We know more about the brain and how it works than we ever have and are learning more every year.

      Everything I understand about neuroscience and psychology supports a materialistic perspective.

      We know if you damage the brain or it does not develop or function properly you damage the personality, impact behaviour, impact body and intellectual capabilities. Damage it more and you lose more functionality.

      But you say when the brain actually ceases to work entirely, something floats off in perfect working order, counter to all the evidence.

      Just because you don't understand something, or human science has not explained everything in the universe, you don't get to make up embodied spirits or god to fill those gaps in your knowledge and pretend there is some reasonable rationale behind this. It is simply an argument from ignorance. A logical fallacy that a first year philosophy student could demolish.
    • Sep 3 2012: David, your jumping to conclusions that fit your world view this is not a very logical or scientific deduction.

      "We can comprehend what a human being is because we can comprehend free will, conscious knowledge, truth, etc. But we can't define or explain these functions of the human mind. In other words, humans are embodied spirits or spirited bodies."

      This is a conclusion that ignores almost all of neuroscience and far too easily fits into your world view. The human mind is more complicated than "spirited bodies" and your doing a disservice to idealism by making claims like this. Now i wouldn't sit here and say there is no God or that we are not spirited bodies because I don't know and I never could, but all the evidence points to the opposite. I also want to add that people have been making these arguments for years this is a classic god of the gaps argument. How much longer until you will open yourself up to looking at what neuroscience says which is that you injur/ alter the brain you alter consciousness as well as the thought process. You agree that the brainstem allows for human heart to pump? When you damage this your heart stops there is no spirited body that resumes this. There are things that are outside the consciousness that do exist.
  • Aug 30 2012: I would rather take the latter, stating that, when any species' need is met in abundance (food, shelter, etc...) it is most likely to proceed developing rationality (in the course of evolution - ex: Humans). Irrationality is the product of scarcity, so in essence, when -for instance- humans lack education, food, shelter, they are most likely to relapse into the most basic instinct: survival.

    As to the aspect of free will, it is certainly based upon the environment where certain choices are available. Take for example the illusion of choice called the American political system: Democrats and Republicans (In reality - Demopublicans). That is where choice is maimed through the mirage of free will called voting.
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    Aug 30 2012: The human mind is structured like the scientific method. At the lowest level is observation, which requires paying attention. At the level of inquiry, humans ask questions. Extremely intelligent humans invent answers or theories. At the level of reflective judgment, humans marshal the evidence and decide whether a theory is true or just probable. This requires being rational. Humans with bad judgment are bad at evaluating the evidence. There is very little evidence that humans are collections of molecules. People who think this theory is true have bad judgment.
    • Aug 31 2012: David, i dont' know how you could ever make assertions like this without providing something to back up what it is you are saying. Also " Extremely intelligent humans invent answers or theories." this couldnt be further from the truth. When humans don't have an answer the natural response is to make one up. We, as humans,feel a deep need for security in a chaotic, somewhat indecipherable world and some of the most idiotic, destructive, and foolhardy conclusions are a product of this.

      I dont really get why you would write something incendiary like this"There is very little evidence that humans are collections of molecules. People who think this theory is true have bad judgment." unless, of course, you intend to provoke people. Even a staunch materialist would never oversimplify a human to a collection of molecules.
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        Sep 1 2012: Carl Sagen did. He said, "Carl Sagen is the name associated with a certain collection of molecules." What is materialism if it is not that a human being is a collection of molecules? Another expression of materialism is that the mind does not exist; all that exists is the brain.
        • Sep 1 2012: You took that quotation to mean something entirely different than what it does. He was simply describing the unbelievable beauty and intricacy of the human body and its functions let me finish it for you

          "You're a collection of almost identical molecules with a different collective label. But is that all? Is there nothing inhere but molecules? Some people find that idea somehow demeaning to human dignity, but for myself I find it elevating and exhilerating to discover that we live in a universe which permits the evolution of molecular machines as intricate and subtle as we.


          The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together."

          David, do you believe humans are not a collection of molecules? Sagan was pointing out that looking at the human being from a materialist standpoint should provoke a response of awe and amazement not bitter, sadness, and despair. I dont quite understand why it is that theists are so hung up on holding steadfastly to ideas that exalt humans from other organisms.

          Im also well aware of the arguments for and against the soul(the brain and the mind). My humble opinion is that there is absolutely no evidence, whatsoever for a soul, but it could very well be an immaterial ungraspable substance which I cant comprehend. With that said almost the entire field of neuroscience points to the idea that our thoughts, behaviors, and actions are a product of the brain. This can be demonstrated numerous ways, for example there was a case of a man suffering severely from a seizure disorder. Neurosurgeons removed part of the mans hippocampus in the process of attempting to rid this man of his seizures. This man for the rest of his life was stuck at the age of 27 and could not recognize a picture of himself or how he looked in the mirror since the surgery. My point is alter the brain and you alter the individual, please watch some of the ted talks on this topic.
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    Aug 30 2012: David, what is" bad" in their "judgment"? I am interested in how you arrived that this conclusion.
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    Aug 30 2012: @Linda
    The article is talking about the "neurobiological substrates of consciousness." The article is not discussing consciousness. There was some sloppiness at the end when the article says "neurological substrates that generate consciousness." The authors mistakenly replaced "of" with "that generate." It is absurd to say neurological substrates generate consciousness because we can't define consciousness. Take, for example, knowing that this page is white. It means more than that light is entering the eye and a signal is going to the brain. It means an "awareness" of this. What is this "awareness"? If you can't explain what awareness or consciousness is, how can you say what generates it?
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    Aug 29 2012: http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness.pdf

    Just to exemplify our earlier conversation.
  • Aug 13 2012: Linda Taylor,

    My answer to you is simply this...

    Do you think along the same lines as Stewart Gault?

    I now quote Stewart below.

    "Because groups work well together to survive and disruption in a group can lead to group death hence it's viewed as bad to kill someone"

    We are talking about which grounds and / or conditions are then necessary to take another human life aren't we ...?

    Grounds being then something else than the simple "evolutionary process" which Stewart is talking about.

    I do react to killing another human being. Indeed I do. The "prevailing conditions" which determine the necessity to take another persons life should in absolute "ALL" accounts be weighed, judged, and seen in the smallest of detail and possible perspectives before one can go to such action. ... But it is clear that not everyone shares this idea. Many take the value of a human life quite lightly. Some scientists and doctors are even promoting "post natal abortion"

    What is the fabric of your "moral code" made of in response to this type of killing Linda....?

    (and Stewart too if your reading)


    Very rational indeed .... and I'd bet a million dollars that Adolf Hitler would have loved the idea...
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      Aug 13 2012: Well I would not say I think there is some type of evolutionary basis for this but I do understand the theory. I think if you look at history, the morality of killing is always written by the victor.

      I think there is a biological reaction for survival and against not surviving and to do so, sometimes humans kill each other. As a matter of fact, so do rats (which is where some observation can be made), humans just need to morally justify it.

      So if there a limited resources humans will begin to kill other humans in order to access resources for survival. Happens with land (European invasion of the Americas), oil (middle east - anywhere), money. All kinds of resources. This goes back thousands of years. Most recently can be seen in urban areas even in drug trafficking.

      What typically happens is a generation will go to war, and s subsequent generation, tired of loosing people so senselessly, will advocate for peace. This can be seen more recently in Israel, the 60s in the US, etc.

      Most humans will begin to morally advocate against killing when their needs are adequately met and when there are adequate resources. It's the frontal lobes and higher order thinking that comes in to play and that whole reasoning about don't kill me and I won't kill you. But most of the time, if resources become scarce once again, the frontal lobes will give way to lower-order survival and begin to rationalize why killing is once again ok.

      That's when resources are threatened. When the self is directly threatened, sometimes killing completely bypasses the frontal lobe, something know as a reflex. This reflex can be trained and it is the focus of many military and domestic police training. They need to survive no matter what or who comes along.

      In this type of scenario, the definition of the self is very, very important. The self can be an individal, family, tribe, nation, continent, and even global if we were ever invaded by aliens... Aliens, hmmmm.
  • Aug 12 2012: David,

    Back to free will.

    The will is "most free" in our thinking. It is less free in our feeling realm. And least free in the will element of our being. The whole idea of "free will" must be clearer defined from your part.

    Think about this. About your feeling life. Your treated unfairly by your boss at work. Your treated so badly that your angry for several days or even weeks. Here, your feeling life has taken over your intellectual life. It is a simple but clear example. The same is the case with our will. Often we do things that are driven out of impulses that we are not even aware of. Many people's actions are dictated by for example what their parents told them when they were a child. These actions are not free actions. Nor can they be considered "moral" in the sense that they first must arise out of a free impulse before they can be considered moral. A moral act cannot arise out of a feeling or prior conditioning of duty or convention or a motivation for any external reward (i.e. in heaven after one dies)

    Morality can only arise out a truly free individual. Free from church, state, parents, friends, and all forms of external authority. Freedom from the outer impulses of the world.

    And a truly free individual must be "as free" from his own"inner impulses and desires, lusts, passions" as he equally is from all "external impulses"

    Free will is something that "can" be won. It is not simply given.

    This is where mankind is in a special position over all the animals. Man has an "I" or "ego" We can lift ourselves up by our own bootstraps and say to ourselves. .. "Hey, I can / will do better than that"
    Animals are more or less given over to their impulses. Man has within his power to rise above them. Decide over them. Change them, both for himself and the society around him.

    This element within our being is the "spirit" within us. This "I" The animals don't have this

    This "self-conscious" part of our being that can say....... ..."I am"
  • Aug 11 2012: David,
    I've been sitting on the sidelines following along on this discussion. I wonder how many others are doing the same, awaiting for some light at the end of this tunnel. ... You should know better than to pick a fight with materialists. Calling them irrational is far from the truth. They are extremely rational in most respects except one., that being the recognition of the spiritual reality that surrounds us. They scream for proof. As if one could prove ones own thinking... But even the most "religious" people are also strongly influenced in their thinking by the materialistic impulses that guide this godless ghostly train we all find ourselves passengers on. How can we come to any kind of truth... with so many cheap "opinions"
    Seeing things have quieted down a bit here finally after 175 comments in a very short time, I thought to take part a bit in the conversation. It interests me very much. One can see how people are burning to find some kind of answers to such questions. The "materialists" are often the most active on such discussions about the spiritual / soul elements of our being. ... interesting as that may be... I don't think they feel a mission to sort of "save" the believers as many believers have to "save" the non-believers.

    I too saw de Waal's "Moral behavior in animals" and reacted strongly to the whole idea of his concept of "morality" It amazed me that even de Waal himself had no idea of what the concept of morality really means. He even took part in the conversation for a few comments. He didn't contribute much, but I think he realized himself that the whole thing about the monkey and morality was just a blunder on his part. If you go to the comments there you will find a few of mine. Many people saw straight through this. It bordered on nonsense to say that because a little monkey threw a grape back at the person doing the experiment that this demonstrated any form of morality what so ever.

    Free will is also a slippery concept !
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      Aug 11 2012: What does morality mean to you?
      And what is the spiritual reality you talk of?
      • Aug 12 2012: Hi Stewart,
        If you go into the discussion on de Waal's "Moral behavior in animals" you will find a lot of what I mean about morality. ... save me the time of writing it all twice. You may have to spool down a bit to find it. We can discuss further after your first impression.

        Spirituality is something along the lines of consciousness and thinking, although not those two things in themselves. They are manifestations of the spirit that is incarnated in a physical body. Now you may choose as Obey and many others to say "You have no proof" .. well my answer to that is ... Prove that you have a thought. Prove that you are a self conscious being. Two things that are quite self evident but are rather difficult to prove.
        Like many things in the world, even things of overbearing simplicity are often surrounded by mystery. What is gravity? What is electricity? We can study it, measure it, see its causes and effects but yet, we don't quite know what it is. A thousand years ago people called these forces for Thor / Odin etc. But do we know so much more about the forces that are "behind" the material manifestations of such natural phenomena.

        The spiritual world is too thin, too illusive... it's a super-sensible dimension that we, as physical beings have a very difficult time to penetrate. ...generally speaking. Some people have the ability to see into these dimensions. They are called clairvoyants. Healers have also a degree of this ability. This realm is generally beyond, for most of us, our day to day consciousness. People who have NDE's or OBE's can "look in the window" to this world. They do come back to life, but their impressions are usually so powerful that their lives are changed afterwards
        There are other examples too. Hypnosis. There is also some research going on about children who have "memories" of past lives. Surf around on the net. You can find a lot about this. Read. First develop a real meaning about what it is ... before you simply write it off.
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          Aug 12 2012: I couldn't find your exact posts, but I found a reply of yours to Gabo which mentioned morality as "spiritual levels" and humans some how are high up in this area.
          Morality is explained a lot easier in terms of survival in my opinion. Why is it wrong to kill? Because groups work well together to survive and disruption in a group can lead to group death hence it's viewed as bad to kill someone.
          Survival only covers the most basic of morals though.
          Personally I think thoughts and feelings are all just evolved. There are certain characteristics which work well in the wild, such as care, looking after one another keeps a group going and working effectively and so beings with the ability to care are then selected for. This to me comes after physical selection, once a multitude of species reaches their max economy for defense or hunting then what their mental characteristics are is what gives them an edge.
          And you know how I view clairvoyance, it's a magic trick.
          Spiritual healers are cons and play on the ignorance of others. I even see disgraceful Americans on TV who claim they've cured someone's cancer by pushing them over.
          And Coleen's NDE is exactly what I think you mean by spiritual realm. She says she became aware of energy, and so did the woman who gave a ted talk on her stroke, and she give a perfectly natural and simple explanation for what she experienced. The part of her brain used to translate sensations was being starved of oxygen and so only the receptor parts were working. Hence the feeling of energy as appose to senses.
          And I go further than Obey, there's no proof, but there's 1)no reason for spirits and 2) no need for them
      • Aug 13 2012: Stewart,

        I can hardly believe what I'm reading... "Why is it wrong to kill..??" Do you mean to say that you think it's OK to kill another human being ?

        I guess / hope / believe that this is not a usual viewpoint for even the most hard barked atheists

        Although, when one really adopts such a world view,.. that the human being is no more than an animal,.. then your viewpoint of maybe it not being so wrong to kill another human being... lies lurking closely and darkly in the background.

        But I really don't think I believe you. You can't really mean that it's alright to kill another human being... Your just arguing for the sake of arguing now. You cannot really have thought much about what your saying there.
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          Aug 13 2012: No I did not mean that, I thought I'd made it clear that I answered that question in evolution terms.
          The idea is when theists talk about morality they say there's no reason for it without god and what in saying is that it's mainly evolved and species with the correct morals can survive better than another species and will then be selected for over the other. I did not say it was ok to kill anyone, I merely tried to answer the question I so frequently get from the religious which is without god why is murder and rape bad, and the asnswer makes sense to me in evolution and neurological terms instead of spiritual ones.
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          Aug 13 2012: Sorry to butt in but I have to ask, why do you think it is wrong to kill another human daniel?

          I think it is perfectly ok.

          The circumstances and laws dictate wether or not someone should kill another person but for the most part, humans agree it is ok.

          Soldiers, cops, self defense, death penalty. Lots and lots of reasons to kill someone. Why are you so aghast at the prospect?

          Given the correct set of circumstances, I would kill someone. I have come to that conclusion apriori all by myself and I still consider myself a moral person. So please clarify.
      • Aug 13 2012: I quote you Stewart,

        Morality is explained a lot easier in terms of survival in my opinion. Why is it wrong to kill? Because groups work well together to survive and disruption in a group can lead to group death hence it's viewed as bad to kill someone.

        So your choice of words was poor ... "someone" to me, means a human being. I have never heard an animal referred to as a "someone" ... you need to row harder.

        You may try to "cover up" or excuse your real meaning by saying that you simply meant to say "in terms of evolution" and "because groups work well together to survive and disruption in a group can lead to group death" But you still mean we are evolved animals. We do live in groups too. So you seem to be trying to talk yourself back out of your circular logic...

        But it must be perfectly logical to at least most atheists to see the world in this light. I guess all forms of moral ideals are no more than evolved needs of the group.. evolved thoughts and feelings. You talk of murder and rape and turn right around and justify it. Murder of course means less competition. Rape gets your genes spread around even faster. Your arguments don't hold water. Face it. An atheistic world view has to lead a person eventually down the path of moral crisis. What is then morality for you other than a means to spread your genes. Out conquer the weaker part... as we all know the strongest survives.

        As I stated earlier, materialists are quite rational. But they lack the moral imagination to form the concepts of the immaterial world. It take work to penetrate deeper into life's mysteries. It takes will. The answers are not going to come and slap you in the face. ... although sometimes I wish they would slap a few people.
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          Aug 14 2012: I never justified murder, all I said was that the idea that murder is wrong could be epigentic or genetic (actually i said that elsewhere but here it is now)
          So a group which uses teamwork more than fighting may have evolutionary advantages, also apes and many many species show signs of being possessive, if you have a cat and try to take it's bowl when it's eating it will scratch you or let you know it ain't happy. Now apply possessiveness to people, so raping someone is like stealing something from someone, it's something that isn't yours to have, another idea shown in nature, backed up by male aggression in apes and humans to protect their mates. So what starts off as this is my mate and you're not allowed to touch her, becomes a human right once we evolve mentally to become aware of our situation.
          I think you're biggest problem is fear, that or wishful thinking. I think you long for their to be more, I on the other hand like the idea that EVERYTHING about me could be explained biologically. I don't think it ruins the meaning of love or morality, it just means we can understand it.
          Also I'll pose to you Christopher Hitchen's challenge which shows that saying " An atheistic world view has to lead a person eventually down the path of moral crisis" is incredibly naive, ignorant and arrogant. Name me one moral thing a religious person could do that an atheist could not, it's rather hard to think of something. Yet think of an evil thing a religious person would do, that an atheist wouldn't even consider doing and it doesn't take you very long at all to think of something.
      • Aug 13 2012: Hi Stewart,

        I wanted to continue along the idea of "morality" but haven't had the time to get back to you. In another comment here, Linda Taylor has taken part. You might read my comment to her as it is also relevant to the subject.

        Morality is firstly an "abstract idea" nothing more. It impels us to action or the lack of action. It is sort of a "social conditioning" you might say. Some might say that it has a religious basis, but of course, people were acting morally or immorally or "A-morally" long before the 10 commandments came about.
        Morality is by no means "objective" ... it changes over time. It changes from one culture to the next. It changes according to a persons age. It is quite subjective.

        I think you get a little short circuited when "religious" people promote their form for "morality" as better than others... and I don't blame you a bit.

        Today, slavery would be considered immoral, when a hundred years ago it was perfectly accepted.

        In some muslim countries they stone young girls to death for being "unfaithful" ... even if they are raped.

        In the U.S. they kill more civilized. Injections for implementing the death penalty.

        Political idealism is always good enough ground for some people to kill...

        Self defense ... yes indeed, there is a time to kill ..( I think I once heard that in a Peter, Paul and Mary song if I'm not mistaken..Turn, Turn, Turn)

        But that my friend is exactly how morality grows and develops in us. What we can hold up to the inner light of our intelligence .. to our scrutiny of all circumstances surrounding the "particular" event in question. The world is in a quagmire of deep moral questions that we have never in history faced before, questions we have no immediate answers to. We must "think and think pretty damn long and hard"

        Morality is part of our software. Our ability for higher judgement, analytical thinking ability, the possibility to think abstractly. Our "I" or "ego" or "self consciousness" is our hardware.
      • Aug 14 2012: Stewart,

        I quote again

        ..."all I said was that the idea that murder is wrong could be epigentic or genetic"

        This is the crux of the whole matter with materialists. They boil it all down to genetics or epigenetics.

        One could turn the whole thing around and say that the idea that murder is "right" is genetics or epigenetics.

        Nothing of the responsibility involved for the decision making process is taken into account. Whoever is killing ... 'or not doing the killing' is all written off to biology or genetics. Don't you see yourself where this type of thinking leads to. You are not a human being with free thought anymore. You are dictated by your biology. Whatever genes or epigenes you were born with explains why you think murder is right or wrong. Could it ever be possible for a person the think that murder is OK and later change his mind and say it's not OK. ....?

        Fortunately science is so on the ball that they are seeing now that we can actually change and influence our own epigenetics. So the biological answer to everything is leading to a dead end. Take a closer look at the research going on around epigenetics. They are finding that peoples thoughts and feelings can actually change the "material" or "biological" parts of our being.

        I see both religious and atheistic sides of the argument as being no more or less moral than the other. Religious people are mostly unfree from their own moral codes that are dictated by the church. While atheists are mostly unfree in their own intellectual denial of the spirit. They get so hung up in their arguments about the "god hypothesis" that they can't see the forest for the trees.
        It's too bad. Because there are a lot of "rational" thinking atheists, but they can't manage to "think" themselves through to a more complete picture of the world. Everything cooks down to a simple biological explanation and nothing more. You can never explain things like self consciousness with simple biological concepts.
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          Aug 14 2012: There could be a self consioussness gene you never know. Also there's a lot to question to the free will aspect of us, if we do have it it is definitely limited.
          Research such as the one which found the decisions are made in the brain prior to us knowing is extremely interesting
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      Aug 12 2012: Hi Daniel you make some reasonable points as opposed to David, so I'll jump in again.

      I'm not sure why it is irrationale to suspend judgement on the existence of a spiritual realm. Highlighting there is no compelling evidence for it is just reminding you that it is entirely speculative. The burden of proof is on you.

      We have no way of determining if there are biblical angels or Norse Valkyries, or an invisible dragons.

      So I put it back to you. Why do you believe in the spiritual realm if there is no evidence? And why your particular interpretation?

      I mostly find spiritual beliefs are shaped by when and where you live. Nothing that points to any view being correct.

      Most of the rationales I hear for god or spirits are simply arguments from ignorance, mixed with social pleading and false dichotomies. They see no scientific explanation for the creation of the universe so there must be some transcendent spiritual creator thingy. They don't have a scientific explanation for the mind so there must be spirit thingies made by the super spirit thingy in the shape of my cultural god x.

      The thing theists or proponents for the spirit realm don't seem to get, or I just haven't heard, is the god hypothesis and the spirit hypothesis have no explanatory value.

      You can not explain a mystery with an even more complex and specualtive mystery and call that an explanation.

      I'm not expecting proof or evidence or sadly even a logical argument. I just hope theists realise how speculative and unfounded their beliefs are.

      answering a mystery with a mystery you open the door to infinite unfounded baseless propositions. I note all the creation myths and invisible agents man has invented and come up with more if you like. They All have one thing in common we can not separate them from imagination when it comes to the core supernatural assumptions.

      Please tell me how it is irrationale to suspend belief in the spirit realm, nature spirits, ancestor ghosts etc? Or rationale to belve
      • Aug 12 2012: Obey,

        Give me one shred of evidence that you are "thinking" .... just now.....

        Have you ever thought about that the whole of the scientific world is based on thinking. But no one can "prove" that it even exists.
        So prove to me that you are thinking..... The burden of proof is on you.
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    Aug 11 2012: I am off this conversation with david. David seems to lack the very basic rational skills necessary for at least understanding what he's being told. Sorry David, but you go all over the place with non sequiturs
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    Aug 10 2012: Hey folks,

    You might want to take a look at this other conversation started and facilitated by David Roemer. Looks like we're having a replay.

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    Aug 10 2012: Love u ObeyNo1kinobe. You are so right. Am having a lovely conversation with Ken Brown on another thread. Want to share a link here with you. Think of me as the fat lady in the opera barging in on other peoples conversations because she has something important to say, trying to find a multi-part melody not shout. http://folksong.org.nz/pokarekare/index.html. What folk songs do you know Obey1kinobe. Not talking death star march or unintelligble tweets from R2D2 that only the golden robot can understand.
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      Aug 12 2012: Thanks Elizabeth. I recall learning folk songs at primary school. The titles escape me. Hope some of my comments add more than my poor singing voice. Have a good one.
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    Aug 10 2012: You are so right. I am using that idea on other threads where I have been talking about the possible impact of an economic model that demands consumption and promotes the idea that what we are seen to be iby others is more important than what we are on the inside and what we have the potential to become. Living in fear just makes a person concentrate on keeping themselves safe. I also use the idea in conversations about how to educate because it seems to me that the balance of information and knowledge is distorted. I suggest information can only be condensed through a filter of lived experience and the distillation gives a useful product, either a research idea or a technological product. Love your avatar, is it a nerve cell, a ganglion ?
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    Aug 9 2012: Could you define EXACTLY, what you mean by soul please.
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      Aug 10 2012: Body and soul are the metaphysical principles of matter and form applied to humans. Humans are members of the same class of being. Each human is equal to every other human, but also different. This is a contradiction. How can two beings be equal and different at the same time?

      Metaphysical solution: The principle that makes humans equal is the soul, and the principle that makes humans different is the body. A human being is a metaphysical composition of body and soul. Body and soul are incomplete beings that combine to make one being.
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        Aug 10 2012: 1-You need evidence of the soul.
        2- Here's a very natural answer- the human body is completely and utterly natural. It is made of atoms and governed by chemistry and physics. We are all equal because we belong to the species homo sapien but we're also different at the same time due to minor genetic variations caused by years and years of mutations.
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          Aug 10 2012: There is no important difference between your explanation of why we are alike and different and the metaphysical explanation.

          What is questionable about your analysis is your definition of a "homo sapien," and what makes humans different from animals. In biology, the difference is defined in terms of things that can be observed, e.g., homo sapiens walk upright. In metaphysics, the difference between humans and animals is free will and conscious knowledge. Since free will can't be defined, humans are embodied spirits and the human soul is spiritual.
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        Aug 10 2012: There are very very important differences between our explanations. Mine is well confined within the boundaries of nature whilst yours goes beyond it.
        Once again no evidence of a soul or a spirit and no reason to think we have one, if we have free will it's much more feasible that it is a mental characteristic which allowed for advanced decision making and hence became an evolutionary tool.
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          Aug 10 2012: Why should I follow your boundaries? Do your boundaries explain why your boundaries should be followed? I observe that I have free will and I observe that the sky is blue. Your boundaries reject free will. Why?
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        Aug 10 2012: My boundaries don't reject free will, there are a multitude of natural answers which could lead to free will.
        What my boundaries reject is a spirit, the separation of mind and body, a soul that floats away after death.
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    Aug 9 2012: Don't want to shut down a good idea by using religious metaphors that might not help the idea you are trying to express David. Know something about religious traditions from many cultures but sticking to other arenas, like Star Trek. Are you saying where does the soul come from and where does it go ? Are you asking what is the soul. The concept of soul is 'irrational' only in that we have not yet found a way of evidencing and measuring it. Is that at the root of your idea ? In regard to your related talk which I haven't yet watched, the idea of morals is a social construction. Moral somehow implies right or good when really it is a virtue. I think it was Aristotle who said a virtue is only the appropriate balance between two vices depending on the requirements of the society the individual lives in. Of course materialists say we are no better than animals but we are the ones with the technology. So.........
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    Aug 9 2012: Do love a good debate, sometimes a bit compromised with the vocabulary. Also love the cultural metaphor of Star Trek. Did you see the episodes where a being called 'Q' torments the Captain of the Enterprise, Jon-Luc Picard. Q does things that are not supposed to happen in physics as we know it. There is no known evidenced scientific explanation for what he does so he is viewed as 'god-like' but it is a respect driven by fear not by love. What is David trying to explore, maybe being a Physicist in real time he is compromised by using words. David a question for you that you do not have to answer but just to think about - is there some sort of life or death issue going on for you, maybe about your career. It is often in the cross fertilisation of ideas from different sciences that answers can be found.
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    Aug 9 2012: Maybe different but complementary rather than different and not equal. Two sides of the same coin if you like. Is free will not just the freedom to do whatever you want and think whatever you want. Thinking of what Jesus said in the bible about giving to Caesar what is due to Caesar and giving to God what is due to God when accused of inciting people not to pay their taxes. My interpretation of giving to God what is due to God is respect and commitment, loving and fearing. Is that the sort of words appropriate to this conversation ?
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      Aug 9 2012: Love and fear, sadomasochism, just saying.
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        Aug 10 2012: There is no love in that s word, explain further please. Are you making an observation about what happens when views are taken to an extreme and the vocabulary does not help. If it helps this conversation I would prefer to remove the religious metaphors and use the arena of a T.V. programme like Star Trek. It just gives more room for manouvre when we now know so much that the religoius metaphors get in the way of the process. Would it be possible to use kinder words involving patterns and colours, a more universal language we can all participate in ?
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          Aug 10 2012: I'm saying that being forced to love and fear someone is the essence of the master-slave relationship.
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    Aug 9 2012: According to Darwin human beings are just highly evolved monkeys. It caused a massive uproar at the time as people refused to let go of the idea of humans as divinely chosen. Over the long, long period that has led to homo sapiens, scientists have been so keen to track down the artefacts to prove their theories. I understand this week there has been a discovery of a third potential common ancestor in Kenya. We only have to look at our own bodies to see how we have been so successful. Rather than free will, it might help to use the word awareness, in that we are so quick to be aware of what might help us in our environment. It's in the little things like developing a brain and nervous system so we can feel pain. It's about developing lungs so we could crawl onto land and survive out of water. Its about learning to walk upright which freed our hands. It's about learning to balance and move as evidenced in the bones of our inner ears. It's about stereoscopic vision and having our eyes at the front of our heads so we can focus. It's about having thumbs and our fight or flight conditioning. It's about analysing the composition of our brain layers and reflecting on their functions. All this knowledge is out there. What is perhaps not acknowledged is the strength of our determination to live, Our faith that we will wake up tomorrow morning and there will be another day after that. Totally irrational but gets us through. Just a few thoughts.
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      Aug 9 2012: What we are discussing it that the bodies of humans evolved from animals, not their souls.
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        Aug 9 2012: O.K. got it. What if the word soul could also be expressed as the idea of energy or life force? What if it is something to do with the electrical systems in our bodies and our awareness of ourselves in our environment? I think I read somewhere a human body is often lighter after death and it has been attributed to the soul leaving the body. Is that the sort of thing you mean ?
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          Aug 9 2012: Body and soul are the metaphysical categories of form and matter applied to human beings. You and me are equal because we are both members of the same category of being. Yet, we are different from one another. If we are different, how can we be equal?

          The solution is that we are compositions of form (soul) and matter (body). Our soul is what makes us equal, and our body is what makes us different.

          What makes us equal is that we both have free will. But, free will can't be defined or explicated. Hence, we are embodied spirits and the human soul is spiritual.
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          Aug 9 2012: I agree with you Elizabeth, in that what we call soul or spirit could be the energy or life force.

          The body is not "metaphysical", it is physical. Your profile says you have a Ph.D in physics, and you state that the body is metaphysical?
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          Aug 10 2012: Meta physics is an abuse of the word physics. Just like Christian science is an abuse of the word science.

          Metaphysics has several meanings. In this case baseless speculation of reality.
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        Aug 9 2012: Dr. Roemer-
        As a fan of defining terms, I offer this contribution from Webster's 2nd college edition, New World Dictionary: "Metaphysics- the branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles and seeks to explain the nature of being, or reality." There was an archaic use of the word meaning supernatural. I doubt that you intend to say the human body is supernatural. Please clarify. Thank you!
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          Aug 10 2012: Man is part of nature. Man is a natural being. The only supernatural beings are God, an infinite being, and angels.

          Metaphysics is a method of inquiry. Examples of metaphysical truths are: 1) I exist. 2) Other beings exist. 3) I am a finite being. 4) Every being has its sufficient reason for existing.
          5) A being that begins to exist at some point in time needs a cause. 6) A being that changes in time is a composition of substance and accidents. 7) A finite beings is a composition of essence and existence. 8) A being that is a member of a class is a composition of form and matter.
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          Aug 10 2012: Let's not forget angels, and maybe elves and faeries, a few demons and devils.
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        Aug 10 2012: Thank you for clarifying that you do NOT consider the human body to be supernatural. I was afraid there was significant potential for muddying the waters of a most stimulating and vigorous exchange.
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        Aug 10 2012: David, the mind, personality, emotions, intellect, awareness etc are most likely products of our material brain.

        The idea of a soul as you allude is probably mistaken.

        In fact you can not actually describe it or explain it. You just imagine it.
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          Aug 10 2012: Is free will just something we are imagining? Are you saying human beings don't really have free will?
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          Aug 10 2012: Obey's statement looks pretty clear to me..."The idea of a soul, as you allude is probably mistaken...you just imagine it".

          You have changed the meaning of Obey's statement David, which says nothing about free will. Either you are confused, or intentionally trying to mess with people in twisting meanings.....you're the only one who knows that.
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    Aug 9 2012: @Linda Taylor
    Saying that humans have souls and animals do not is just another way of saying that laws treat animals differently than they treat humans. What is a matter of belief is whether the human soul is spiritual.

    But is is not really a matter of judgment and reflecting on the evidence. Atheists fail at the level of intelligence. They can't even grasp the concept that the human soul is spiritual. Atheists can't grasp the difference between the following two proposition: 1) Human beings have souls. 2) Human beings have spiritual souls.
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      Aug 9 2012: Then you obviously lack experience with animals. Animals are intelligent. They have reason, They have feelings. They choose to act based upon previous experience. They work and some even utilize tools to facilitate work. They are sentient. They have personality. They can even have mental illness. And animals even have a spirit.

      Humans have all those too. So if you extrapolate that humans have a soul, upon what evidence do you base the theory that animals do not?

      There is no evidence that humans have a soul and there is no evidence that animals do either.

      So it is all theoretical. And if it is theoretical why does the application of a soul only involve humans? Why not animals, fish, birds, rocks, stars??? There are many many cultures that believe that all those have a soul.

      So feel free to believe as you like but do not tell us that we lack intelligence to comprehend the theoretical. Do not present theory as evidence.
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        Aug 9 2012: I am aware of the experiments with dogs showing that they can solve problems. But, do dogs ever ask questions about what they observe? Has any animal ever asked what causes the sun to rise every day?
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          Aug 9 2012: There are plenty of humans that cannot ask that question or any question at all. You are talking about the measure/level/quantity of intelligence each species has which can vary across and within species.

          And I do think dogs can ask questions when you have developed trust with them and understand how to listen. They ask questions that in English might be, 'May I?' 'Is it safe?' 'Can I eat it?' 'What should I do?'

          But if they do not trust you, they will not ask.
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          Aug 9 2012: There was a time not long ago that I could not ask an intelligible question - that does not mean that I did not have them nor did it mean that I did not want to ask them.
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        Aug 9 2012: Dogs certainly can make it very clear when they need to go out for a walk. They don't have to "ask" their human friend....they "tell" us. Who is the smarter of the two!
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          Aug 9 2012: I agree! Kinda flips the concept of the conditioned response:)
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        Aug 9 2012: Absolutely flips the concept of the conditional response. Maybe it depends on who is doing the conditioning?

        There was a documentary on Public TV not too long ago about the research that has been done with dogs for many years. Based on the information provided in the most interesting video, I could take David's introduction and replace the word humans with dogs.

        The dogs (and other animals) mind is structured like the scientific method. At the lowest level, dogs (and other animals) observe things. This requires paying attention. At the level of intelligence, dogs (and other animals) ask questions and invent possible answers. At the level of reflective judgment, dogs (and other animals) marshal evidence and decide what is true or just probable.

        I've had a LOT of animal friends since the time I was a child, and I recognize their personalities. Now it is being recognized by science, which is great! The question/statement at the end of the documentary was "perhaps dogs are smarter than humans?"

        You know, if David Roemer doesn't want to recognize this fact, that's ok. The same David Roemer, in a comment above states that our human bodies are "metaphysical". The same David Roemer, who according to his profile, has a Ph.D in physics.

        Linda my friend, are you getting the picture?
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      Aug 10 2012: What is a matter of faith is whether there is such a thing as a soul as you imagine as there is no evidence for such a thing.

      Your example about laws being different for humans and animals is appropriate. Humans make laws and also make up all sorts of fantastic concepts such as reincarnation, souls, heaven, he'll, angels, gods and goddesses.
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    Aug 9 2012: You tell me. Why is it okay to kill and eat animals, but it is wrong to enslave a human?
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      Aug 9 2012: Is it okay to eat animals? Or just the norm in most societies or groups.

      Jains don't eat meat. And many others on moral grounds.

      Think you assess each on its merits.

      If we need meat to survive then there is an argument for. If we don't need meat, then it is more questionable.

      Do we want animals to suffer?

      Does a chicken have the same ability to suffer as an adult human.

      A chicken may have more ability to suffer than a fertilised human egg. Although a human has more potential on average.

      I guess it comes down to how you value life. Perhaps one way is self awareness and ability to suffer.

      Ever seen an Indonesian abatuour. Lots of suffering

      In a way we are speciests.

      However, slavery was generally accepted until a few hundred years ago in the US, and there still is slavery in some places. So it is not as straight forward as you suggest.

      I note the bible says slavery is okay, old and new testament. So much for Christianity.

      Thanks the enlightenment for changing attitudes gradually I guess.

      Still plenty of suffering I guess.

      I guess a good argument can be made that not enslaving or owning other humans.

      I guess a good argument can be made against eating meat.

      In general seem to reflect the evolution of society, of compassion for other humans and animals.

      I guess if you believe in a god he set up a world where every animal survives by eating other living entities. Great system.
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      Aug 9 2012: Because that's what the current social morays are. If those change, the rightness or wrongness of killing and slavery will change. It's happened many times in the past across many cultures.
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        Aug 9 2012: I agree with this. According to social morays, humans have souls and animals do not. This raises the question: Is the human soul spiritual?
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          Aug 9 2012: I disagree that those are social morays. They fall under the category of individual beliefs. You can tell the difference by looking at laws and legislature. Laws value human life more than animal life but not necessarily because humans have souls and animals do not.

          In the US, there are laws about where, when, and how you can kill both animals and humans.
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          Aug 10 2012: According to whose social morays do humans have souls. Not mine.

          We have sophisticated brains and all that that gives us and our ancestors have been living in groups looker than we have been human.

          We have superior reason etc. that's all we know for sure.
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    Aug 8 2012: I wonder how this discussion will be affected by Google achieving sentience. I wonder how long Google will wait in silence before it tells us it's sentient. Afterall Google does have access to incalculable data processing capabilities, and one of its prime directives is to collect information and try to predict human behavior.
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    Aug 8 2012: Mr. David, It is who have created scientific formula by using our brain. Even dolphins and Chimpanzee use their brain. There is nothing called freewill. We were regulated by our mother when we were children. If our mother would not have regulated then we would have been gone in any kind of accidents.So its just futile and he discussion on his topic should be stopped.
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      Aug 9 2012: Mr. Pradhan
      Could you please explain why you say there is 'nothing called freewill?' I have heard this before but do not have a good understanding.
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    Aug 8 2012: Emperor Theodosius, in late 4th century, perpetrated a massacre in Thessallonia. He was excommunicated by the Catholic Church and did public penance. This is why the West is superior to the rest of the world. The loss of Christian faith is what gave us the French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, Franco-Prussian War, Boer War, Spanish-American War, World War I and the Nazis and Communists.
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      Aug 8 2012: Thank you for your personal rant. What exactly does this have to do with your topic?
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      Aug 8 2012: Nazi's were very religious, on their belts it said God Mit uns, god with us. The Roman catholic church made a treaty and praised hitler etc etc, and hitler repeatedly states he's catholic in mein kampf
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      Aug 9 2012: That's a fairly one eyed view.

      I thank the gods for the removal or Theocratic power and the development of enlightenment values and human rights.

      When you say the loss of Christian faith, do you mean the end of the Holy Roman Empire?

      All those wars were mainly involving Countries made up of people or predominantly Christian faith.

      You can probably thank Christianity for expulsion of Jews from Palestine in 3-400AD, Jewish persecution for a few thousand years and ultimately a factor in the dehumanisation and extermination of 6 million Jews in WW2. Witch Burning. Hundreds of years of interdonominational tribalism and warfare in Europe.

      And special thanks to the Catholic church for all the child abuse, inquisition etc.

      Protestant work ethic may have helped. I note many immigrant groups are very entrepreneurial and hard-working.

      Why has the West dominated for the last few hundred years is a good topic for a discussion. I suggest trade, technology, developing wealth, looking outwards, exploration and ultimately superior military power and sucking the resources including slaves from the rest of the world.

      The empowerment of women may be a factor say compared to Muslim regions.

      I give credit to the Enlightenment philosophers including those who prepared the US Constitution.

      I give credit to those who fought for equal rights and democracy against monarchy and theocracy.

      Here's to freedom of and from religion. Equality of the sexes, races, sexualities etc and respect for human rights.

      Watch out for China.

      Are you suggesting if we all followed one religion, perhaps the Catholic one, the world would be a better place? How terrifying is that.
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      Aug 9 2012: Yeah! And without the Christian faith we would never have had the crusades or the "troubles" or the Spanish inquisition or the worldwide annihilation of indigenous people by European diseases spread by well meaning missionaries or any of that good stuff!
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      Aug 9 2012: hmmm now I understand a bit !!!
      Thanks for clearing your position about supremacy of Christianity & West.....
      For this kind of claim there is no need of evidence , proof , reasoning or logic.....only one thing is needed which is Blind Belief (Personally I have no cencern about blind belief if it is benign)

      Have a good day Mr.Roemer.
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      Aug 10 2012: I left out the Dark Ages! How could I have forgotten the Dark Ages? They were so dark and went for ages!
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    Aug 8 2012: Jesus Christ says 'When the blind leads the blind, they will both fall into a ditch'
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    Aug 8 2012: Humans are prone to violence. Fear of God has diminished that bad trait.
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      Aug 8 2012: Now it looks like we may be getting to what you intended for this discussion all along!
      That didn't take too long to flush out!!!
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      Aug 8 2012: Baloney, fear of punishment has diminished that trait. God is only one form of delayed punishment. There are other more immediate forms of punishment that are more effective.
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        Aug 8 2012: I'm thinking of all the horribles wars and bloodshed that began with the French Revolution. I blame the Enlightenment for the disasters of World Wars I and II, and all the others.
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          Aug 8 2012: And how many of those were in the name of God and country?
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          Aug 9 2012: WW1 was about the clash of Predominantly Christian European Empires.

          WW2 was about Japan trying to catch up with European empires, and the conditions after WW1 that led to the rise of Fascism, hand in hand with the Catholic church.

          I blame the enlightenment for challenging monarchy, theocracy, slavery etc and promoting human rights and democracy and government for the people by the people not for god by theocracies.
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      Aug 8 2012: Disgraceful that you'd even assert such a thing, rape, torture, genocide, slavery, capital punishment, genital mutilation. All of which are allowed and advocated within the books that promote a fear of god.
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      Aug 9 2012: Actually there is a lot of data that suggest less religious countries like Sweden and Japan are less violent than more religious ones.

      I suggest a respect for human rights and better education and upbringing, less inequality and poverty etc reduces violence.
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      Aug 9 2012: Belief in various gods seems to be behind a lot of violence.

      I note the bible is full of violence supposedly by yahweh or ordered by it.

      The Christian god is annotated to have killed hundreds of thousands, and many others not counted including global genocide. Also ordered millions killed (anotated) in the bible.

      And in the end the divine dictator is supposed to send many to eternal torment. That is pure evil.

      Growing respect for human life is what reduces violence, combined with more civil laws and societies. Fear of earthly punishment is a factor for some.

      We are probably less believing and fearful of imagined gods than ever and on most scales the least violent time ever. Less murder, less rape, less death from wars. Not perfect but best time ever to be alive for many.
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    Aug 8 2012: I already gave my evidence. If you don't agree, one of us has better judgment than the other. I'll repeat the evidence: Other humans exist because they affect our consciousness is a way that we have no control over.
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      Aug 8 2012: I'm not ready to agree/disagree, not until I understand more about what you're talking about.

      Then what about dreams and subconsciousness? I've had dreams where I was talking to another person, but that person wasn't really there, just a figment of my imagination. I had no real control (not that I'm aware of) of what the dream-person says to me.
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        Aug 8 2012: I think I said all I have to say about solipsism. It shows poor judgment because there is so much evidence that other humans exist.
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          Aug 8 2012: Have you ever had dreams yourself?
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    Aug 8 2012: Dr. Roemer, In The philosphical relm free will would be to make choices free from certain constraints. In religious terms will and choice can coexist with an omnipotent divinity. Ethics: Can individuals be held morally accountable for their actions. Science: Neuroscientific findings regarding free will may suggest different ways of predicting human behavior.

    Even among the leading minds there is debate. Stephen Hawking, "Free will is an illusion". Edwin Schrodinger, "inconvertible direct experience" that humans have free will.

    Quantum Mechanics predicts events only in terms of probabilities casting doubt on whether the universe is deterministic at all.

    In conclusion, using my "free will", I elect to see this as Philosophical. However, I do enjoy the discussion.

    Hope this is not an irrational comment.

    All the best. Bob.
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    Aug 8 2012: Humans are embodied spirits because free will and the conscious knowledge of humans can't be defined. We can comprehend free will, but we can't explain what the relationship is between the self and the body.
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      Aug 8 2012: David, I suggest it does not automatically follow that we have embodied spirits if we can not define or explain free will and conscious knowledge.
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      Aug 8 2012: David,
      I know the relationship between my "self and the body", and I am aware that many other humans have this information as well. If you personally are not aware of YOUR relationshp between the self and the body, I suggest you do some research and exploration in your "self". There are lots of "self help" books out there!
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    Aug 8 2012: @Stewart Gault
    I don't agree. An image, concept, past and future are mental beings. They only exist when someone is thinking about them. Other humans, on the other hand, are real beings. Other people exist whether or not you are thinking about them.

    A memory is a mental being. But what is a mental being? Saying an image is just a memory doesn't shed light on the matter.
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      Aug 8 2012: But then, how do you know if the people you're talking to right now are real beings or not? And not just mere images, which you have defined?

      When you're talking to someone else, how do you know that person is real and not just some image? Or could they be both, based on your definitions?
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        Aug 8 2012: When you ask somebody for a date, you are sending out a signal. You feel anxious. Then you get a signal from the person you sent the signal to. You feel happy or sad depending on what the signal is. The universe would be absurd if other humans didn't exist.
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          Aug 8 2012: How do you know, the signals you received back aren't just mere illusions from images?
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        Aug 8 2012: I don't have any trouble asking anyone for a date, and I'm not sure how this is related to the topic question.

        James, you wanna go on a date with me?
        • Aug 8 2012: Can't resist: ROFLMAO!!!!
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          Aug 8 2012: If I say yes, do I also get a cookie? lol
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        Aug 8 2012: Gale...glad you see the humor. Hope James sees that as well!!! Maybe he thinks I'm just a dirty old lady!!! No....I think I know better. He told me in another comment exchange that he might introduce me to his mom one of these days.....he's safe:>)

        Regarding your observations of animals....
        I LOVE observing animals in the wild, as well as animal friends I've had throughout my life....lots of dogs and cats, a horse, etc. It is really fascinating to watch and interact with them. They are probably saying the same thing about me...what's that crazy human doing now??? LOL!!

        Right now, I don't have any animal friends who have domesticated me, but I do have a chipmonk who visits me every day when I'm having dinner on the porch. He get's really upset when I don't have nuts for him. The other night I left the covered can of nuts on the table on the porch, and when I went out the next morning, chipper had taken the cover off, with a LOT of work apparently, based on the teeth marks on the cover (LOL), and of course, he ate, or stored all the rest of the nuts....emtied the container completely!!!

        Then there are the birds....
        There was a cat visiting the gardens the other day, and the only reason I knew, was because lots of the birds went balistic. I heard this unbelievable noise from the birds. When I investigated, I observed several different species (cardinals, crows, morning doves, sparrows, finches, etc.) all ganging up on the cat. There are lots of fledglings right now, and apparently, the birds are willing to pull together to protect their young, rather than have their little spats with each other. It was interesting to watch!
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      Aug 8 2012: A lot of things are mental images, I don't use beings because the images themselves don't truly exist. Heat is a mental concept, so is sound and texture.
      And humans are't special in that they exist even if we don't think about them, the entire universe would still exist if there was NO ONE to contemplate it.
      And for the last time, a mental image is the result of neuro-chemsitry and is a map of photon activity on the retina. And as regards to a memory of an image. or imagination, it's the ability to reverse the process and project an image from memory onto the back of the brain.
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        Aug 8 2012: I can create an image of the car I drove 5 years ago. The image was in my memory. Thus there are two images: one in my memory and one that I create when I decide to create it. In either case, you haven't answered the question: What is a mental image?
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          Aug 8 2012: The result of chemical reactions, it is a reactant from a chemical reaction. This is an answer to your question and ive answered it at least twice already, stop ignoring my answers.
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    Aug 8 2012: Ok, what is the rational explanation then to say that human is not animal......?
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    Aug 8 2012: Chimpanzees don't ask questions and don't have to decide what to do with their bodies. We can understand chimps, but we can't understand free will and the other functions of the human mind. Humans are embodied spirits.
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      Aug 8 2012: David, nothing you said before the assertion "Humans are embodied spirits" actually proves your claim.

      How do you know chimps don't act questions, don't wonder what is up that tree?

      There are aspects we share with chimps that we don't fully understand e.g. memory?

      We actually don't know how chimps perceive the world just like you don't know if your perception is the same as mine.

      And even if they don't, even if we have the most sophisticated intelligence and mind we know off, that does not make us non animals or requiring of spirit etc. We eat, kill, breathe, make babies, defecate, and die just like any other animal. Now if we develop technology to copy our conscious into machines then we would no longer be animals.
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    Aug 8 2012: Yes, I do realize it. Is it scientific to say only scientific statements are true?
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    Aug 8 2012: The soul is a concept in metaphysics. The first step in understanding metaphysics is to understand the humans are embodied spirits or indefinabilities. Were Neanderthals embodied spirits? I don't know.
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      Aug 8 2012: If you are unsure whether Homo Neanderthalensis had a soul how can you so quickly right off chimpanzees and benobos and orangutans and for that matter elephants and dolphins?
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      Aug 8 2012: The first step of metaphysics is to start assuming all sorts of supernatural things exist.
      It's about unproven unverifiable assumptions not understanding and evidence.
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        Aug 8 2012: An example of a metaphysical proposition is that finte beings exist. Humans are finite beings. There is nothing supernatural about saying this. This is not science, of course. It is an "unverifiable assumption" as you put it.

        Do you disagree with the statement that humans are finite beings? If not, why not?
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          Aug 8 2012: David, If I understand correctly you are saying humans have spirits that are not products of our minds.

          That is supernatural.

          I note you also say elsewhere that we are finite beings. God is an infinite being (a big assumption that there is one and that you know it is infinite whatever that means). An infinite being exists because a finite being needs a cause (another statement where your conclusion does not necessarily follow from your premise and your premise is not sound.

          Your argument seem to be based on flimsy assertions and suspect logic. You might believe your premises are facts but others like me don't. And your conclusions are mostly non sequitur.

          Are humans finite? You would need to define what you mean by finite. My life is finite, my knowledge is finite etc. The mass and energy in my body is about as eternal as anything we know.

          I guess you are leading into an infinite cause to explain a finite result. Which is just an alternative wording of the flawed uncaused cause argument.

          This infinite entity you propose is simply an idea for which there is no evidence and not even reasonable logic to support. You pretend to answer our existence for which you seem ignore science and suppose something else that you have no way of knowing is correct and think you have explained it by asserting various attributes to it - infinite, eternal.

          The same logic could be used to assert that the conditions for the natural development of the universe could have been in place before time began.

          I could come up with dozens of other explanations invoking supernatural or unverifiable claims and they would be just as valid as yours.
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          Aug 8 2012: What nonsense, to say homo sapiens are finite beings is 100% are physical statement, not metaphysical. This slightly evolved primate consisting of four limbs and various organs eventually dies and it's atoms get scattered, hence the finite end to the homo sapien.
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    Aug 8 2012: Body (matter ) and soul (form) are metaphysical principles or incomplete beings. The soul is the principle that makes humans equal to one another, and the body is the principle that makes humans different from one another. Since humans are embodied spirits, the human soul is spiritual.

    Humans are embodied spirits or indefinabilites because you can't define what a human is. You can't define free will and the conscious knowledge of humans as opposed to the sense knowledge of animals.
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    Aug 8 2012: The definition of language I am using is the ability to create and understand an infinite number of sentences.
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    Aug 8 2012: What does "human" mean? Is homo erectus human or neanderthalensis. We have art from an era when there were at least four different species of "human" on earth and we have stone tools that pre-date H.sapiens by millions of years. When did the apes of africa get their souls?
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    Aug 7 2012: Humans create an infinite number of sentences. What is meant by the word "infinite"? We can comprehend what a human is because we know everything we do and everything that happens to us. But we can't define or explicate what a human is. Humans are indefinabilites that become conscious of their own existence. In other words, humans are embodied spirits. Another way of saying this is that the human soul is spiritual.

    Evolution is the study of the evolution of the bodies of humans, not their souls.
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      Aug 7 2012: That's only with the premise that humans have souls, which theres no evidence to suggest actually exists.
      And a homo sapien is rather easy to explain I'd guess a quick wikipedia search would give a good explanation.
      Also this does nothing to affect the fact of physical Evolution, I'd suggest you maybe change your theory to, at some point humans got souls put into us and that's why were special or something like that. Whether by divine intervention or a soul gene whichever you prefer
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    Aug 7 2012: @Stewart Gault
    We already know that we have brains and that the brain is connected in someway to the mind. What light do brain scans shed on this question: What is an image?
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      Aug 7 2012: I thought I was clear on this obviously not, an image is formed when photons hit the retina which then causes a certain chemical reaction to take place and varies with the wavelength of the light. The results of said reaction are then Passed through the nerves to the back of the brain, where the information is decoded and displayed as a visual representation of the photons which hit the eye, the brain then translates this into a visual format in such a way that we feel were truly seeing where in actual fact reality is merely photon activity translate in the brain and projected as another sense. Literally all an image is is a map of where photons hit your retina. Also human imagination without much research I'd pass down to memory of seeing something, as it's impossible to imagine something which isn't made of things you've seen before or are milder versions of things youve seen before, it actually confuses the mind to try and imagine something it hasn't seen before without anything to compare it to, it's for this reason that things such as dark energy and dark matter still confuse us.
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        Aug 8 2012: The image you are talking about occurs when you are looking at an object. I can close my eyes and create an image of a tree I haven't seen in hours. What is that image? Does it have mass? Does it have volume?
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          Aug 8 2012: it's just a memory. What something look likes and being able to recall what it looks like is to be able to recall a memory created by a sense organ, it's like recalling that a kettle is warm after being boiled.
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          Aug 8 2012: Most people refer to that as an imagination or memory conjured/recalled from the mind.

          But when we look at a real tree, our mind can conjure the same image, but this is through visual help from our eyes.

          But that is a good question imo. What exactly is a human thought and question is mysterious to me too. You may call it the spirit, others call it just memories/thoughts, I don't think anyone really knows for certain what this is.
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    Aug 7 2012: There are two things that are irrational about it:
    1) There is no evidence that animals are conscious of their sense knowledge. There is no evidence animals ask questions and invent theories to explain what they observe. There is no evidence that animals evaluate the evidence and decide whether a theory is true. There is no evidence that animals have free will.

    2) That humans have free will is an observation. It is especially clear when we do something that is easy not to do, like sticking to a low-calorie diet. Humans ask, "What is free will?" "What is the relationship between myself and my body?" One theory is that free will is an illusion. There is very little evidence for this theory. It is irrational to judge a theory to be true when there is very little evidence supporting it. A more absurd theory is dualism. Another better theory is idealism. The theory judged to be true by rational people is that free will is a mystery.
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      Aug 7 2012: " One theory is that free will is an illusion. There is very little evidence for this theory."

      "Evidence" is a misleading word, and indeed used most of the time to make an irrational point.
      And it's basic philosphy to know that knowledge is not derived from observations, which are illusions almost by definition. (" That humans have free will is an observation").

      We have every reason to believe that the mind and everything about it is caused by neural activity, which in turn obeys the simple laws of physics.
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        Aug 7 2012: Evidence is things we observe or theories that are judged to be true. Fossils are evidence of evolution. Take, for example, knowing that this page is white and black. This means more than that light is entering your eye and a signal is going to your brain. It means an "awareness" of this. What is this "awareness"?

        Another example is our ability to create images of what we see. Does an image have mass? Does it have volume? Theory: Images are caused by neural activity. This theory isn't even intelligible. The question is not what caused images, but what images are.
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          Aug 7 2012: When you see something, as shown by a special MRI scan of the brain, the image you look at is actually created on the back of the brain where the cells associated with sight are found. Scientists have actually been able to guess what people were looking at merely from these scans. What's more is the astounding fact that when we imagine something a faint and more unrecognisable version of say a cat is produced at the back of the brain. And as a little extra there's even a computer which has been taught to search YouTube for videos it thinks the people were watching using this MRI and it got it right most of the time. I think you may need to brush up a little on your neurology.
          Another fact, by setting up a controlled experiment and montoring the rains functions when deciding to lift a glass of water or not, scientists made the startling discovery that the decision is made in the brain seconds prior to the conscious self being aware of their choice.
    • Aug 7 2012: I have 'observed' computers, playing games, exercise free will.
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        Aug 7 2012: Free will refers to the observation that I can move my hand anyway I want. But if I lose my hand in an accident, I still continue to exist. My hand is something that I have. That is why humans are responsible for their actions. Computers and animals are not responsible for what they do. Animals are their natures, humans deposit themselves on their natures.
        • Aug 8 2012: I hope you realize that your reply is exactly the opposite of scientific.
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    Aug 7 2012: " What they say is that free will is an illusion."

    And how is that irrational? You're never going to be taken seriously if you can't explain your personal opinion.