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Old 2017-01-13, 23:50   #1
jasong
 
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Mar 2005

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Default Free will and Christianity(ultra-nerdy)

Oops, thought those we threads, rather than forums. Guess I might as well have used the Soap Box.

In Christianity, we define free will as a gift from God and the thing that puts us above the animals. People have free will, but generally we think of a person as a human being, but this doesn't really make sense when we talk about the Trinity. Christ came down as a human being, but He was a person before He became a human being. Not only that, but God the Father and the Holy Spirit are also people according to the Bible.

So I would argue that a person is anything that has free will. Our laws only apply to what we have on the planet, but I would think we should redefine person in our laws as meaning anything with free will, with special qualifiers for non-human persons.

So then, the question becomes "How do you define free will in a technical sense?" What is the simplest definition of free will that covers everyone that actually has free will? Ants and bees have a hive-mind type structure, but if we encounter an intelligent race that also has a hive-mind structure, do we treat them like intelligent animals or accept them as people according to the expanded definition?

I would argue that there are at least 4 things required for free will, sense of self, sense of time, awareness of the actual passage of time and the ability to manipulate things based on our knowledge of the passage of time.

Sense of self is pretty straightforward, you have an understanding that you exist as separate from others and you can contemplate your own contemplation. (Meta-contemplation? Is that a good word for it?)

The more complex problem is the awareness of the passage of time and the ability to manipulate things based on that knowledge. My dogs have an awareness of walk and eating times, but I don't think that counts as knowing about the PASSAGE of time. Cats are sometimes very creative in how they do things, but I believe they use rote memory to accomplish things. For instance, some cats know that if they whine to their owner, follow on the owners heels and then put their paws on their legs when they hear the can opener, then follow again on the owners heels to the bowl, if they then put their head directly over the bowl, food will then fall off their head and mostly land in the bowl. So the cat has a way to "create" food, but no way to remove unnecessary steps without starting over.

So if we encountered other beings on other planets, how would we spot free will? Could we reliably spot it in things that think vastly differently from us? (Like liberals, for instance ;) just kidding)

Could we even create machines with free will?

Last fiddled with by jasong on 2017-01-13 at 23:54 Reason: I'm an idiot.
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Old 2017-01-14, 07:36   #2
xilman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jasong View Post
Oops, thought those we threads, rather than forums. Guess I might as well have used the Soap Box.

In Christianity, we define free will as a gift from God and the thing that puts us above the animals. People have free will, but generally we think of a person as a human being, but this doesn't really make sense when we talk about the Trinity. Christ came down as a human being, but He was a person before He became a human being. Not only that, but God the Father and the Holy Spirit are also people according to the Bible.

So I would argue that a person is anything that has free will. Our laws only apply to what we have on the planet, but I would think we should redefine person in our laws as meaning anything with free will, with special qualifiers for non-human persons.

So then, the question becomes "How do you define free will in a technical sense?" What is the simplest definition of free will that covers everyone that actually has free will? Ants and bees have a hive-mind type structure, but if we encounter an intelligent race that also has a hive-mind structure, do we treat them like intelligent animals or accept them as people according to the expanded definition?

I would argue that there are at least 4 things required for free will, sense of self, sense of time, awareness of the actual passage of time and the ability to manipulate things based on our knowledge of the passage of time.

Sense of self is pretty straightforward, you have an understanding that you exist as separate from others and you can contemplate your own contemplation. (Meta-contemplation? Is that a good word for it?)

The more complex problem is the awareness of the passage of time and the ability to manipulate things based on that knowledge. My dogs have an awareness of walk and eating times, but I don't think that counts as knowing about the PASSAGE of time. Cats are sometimes very creative in how they do things, but I believe they use rote memory to accomplish things. For instance, some cats know that if they whine to their owner, follow on the owners heels and then put their paws on their legs when they hear the can opener, then follow again on the owners heels to the bowl, if they then put their head directly over the bowl, food will then fall off their head and mostly land in the bowl. So the cat has a way to "create" food, but no way to remove unnecessary steps without starting over.

So if we encountered other beings on other planets, how would we spot free will? Could we reliably spot it in things that think vastly differently from us? (Like liberals, for instance ;) just kidding)

Could we even create machines with free will?
This fits well in this forum but could just as easily fit into the AI thread I created recently.

I invite you to consider the time sense(s) of the other great apes and of elephants. All have been extensively studied in recent years and quite a bit (though not enough IMO) is now known about them. All undoubtedly have some knowledge of self. All clearly have some notion of time.

Some birds are self-aware in that they pass the mirror test. New Caledonian crows, African grey parrots and the European magpie are examples. Domestic fowl have at least a rudimentary grasp of some aspect of time in that a recent report (backed by my informal observations of our small flock) that they recognized delayed gratification --- it is better to wait for a second piece of food before eating the first, otherwise the second isn't offered to them. AFAIK, they fail the mirror test.

Many software systems have a very good grasp of time indeed, much better than ours in many cases. As an example, my machines use NTP to know the time to millisecond precision 24/7. They can remember to do things, tell me I have a medical appointment for instance, with near 100% reliability and to within a second of the correct time even though the event may have been scheduled months in advance. I certainly can't do any of those things by myself.

I truly don't know whether any are self-aware, though I suspect it of very few, if any. I'm not sure I know how to apply a mirror test to Google, for example. It (the software) would surely recognize a picture of its (the company's) headquarters or its financial accounts for 2104 but is that sufficient? My guess, and it is only a guess, is that Google is not (yet) self-aware but I'd have immense trouble proving the assertion.
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Old 2017-01-14, 10:19   #3
Nick
 
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Views on free will differ in various branches of Christian thinking:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calvin...ng_Protestants
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