'Biological Machines'

Sandycane
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'Biological Machines'

Someone, in another thread, used this phrase to describe humans.

Can you explain, in detail, why you think humans are biological machines and exactly what that means?

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Couldn't edit OP...

I found where it was said by Mellested in the 'What if..." thread:

Quote:
Most atheists think animals are biological machines.  We don't believe in souls.  Why is it wrong to cause pain to a biological machine?  With humans you can justify it because you want an environment where *you* won't be harmed, and so you are looking out for your own self interest.  Where is the motivation for animals?  Is it just empathy?  If empathy is the rational basis for morality you run into a lot of problems.

Are you including humans in the 'animals are biological machines' statement? If not, why? Humans are animals.

 

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Well, we were having a

Well, we were having a specific discussion, so I just mentioned, 'animals' in the context we were in.

Biologically, there isn't any reason to separate 'animals' from humans, so yes, I would consider humans to be biological machines.  So having said that, I'm just going to use the word humans below, but it includes...well, anything living when you get down to it, but for the sake of simplicity we'll just keep it to humans.

----------------------------

So there are two big groups of people when it comes to defining consciousness, or being able to think:

1) Believes that our bodies are being ridden, or driven, or manipulated, by something supernatural.  Call it a soul, a spirit, life force, whatever.  

When you make a decision, usually a decision about morality, they think this supernatural thing is the one actually making the choice.  This is also the part of, 'you' that most people think goes to heaven, or gets re-incarnated, or whatever.  What this means, is that we have free will.  We can decide between 'good' and 'evil' arbitrarily and since we have a real choice, we can be judged by that choice, usually by an ultimate arbiter.  

Most of these people think that humans are the only animals that get souls, every other living creature falls under #2.

The link between our brains and this supernatural stuff is mysterious, no-one can explain how it might work, but they still maintain it exists even though the brain has an obvious influence on behavior.

2) Believes that the only thing that makes us, 'us' is our brains.  Essentially, the argument is that there isn't anything supernatural about us, it is all just biology/chemistry/physics.  

When people die, they die, no afterlife.  When people make decisions, about morality or what to eat for lunch, what is happening is a complex reaction based on all the chemical and electrical signals in our brains, nothing more.  

Since everything is chemical and electrical, it is also cause and effect.  You ate the garden salad rather than the caesar salad because such and such happened and it made you crave it....and this chain of cause and effect travels all the way down to your atoms and quantum mechanical properties.  It also goes back in time, all the way to how you developed in the womb, and what your dad ate for lunch 9 months before you were born and how that impacted his sperm's chemical composition...all the way back to the big bang, and whatever was before that (if anything).  

This is called determinism, free will is an illusion since you are just the result of a bunch of matter following the physical laws of the universe.

---------------------------------

If you go for #2, then you could be called a biological machine.  Vastly complex, but when you get right down to it you do what you do because of a giant physics process and there is no 'real' choice.

 

 

I don't want to yack at you more, in case you are already familiar with this stuff.  If you want me to go on, just ask questions!

 

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Describing humans as

Describing humans as 'biological machines' is arguably addressing them at too low a level, like describing a computer as a collection of inter-connected silicon chips. It is true at that level of description, but doesn't address the functionality that the particular organization of the chips gives rise to. 

You could go further in the reductionist direction and describe us an assemblage of macro-molecules in a chemical matrix, and miss even more of our emergent attributes. Or we are collections of atoms...

Going the other way, we are living organisms, we are mammals, primates, with highly developed intelligence, all built upon complex biological components.

'Cause and effect' is the only way complex functionality like intelligence can be supported - the alternative is chaos and pure randomness.

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It's an interesting question this one.

 

My instinct is that we are purely physical organisms but like Bob I'm not convinced the word machine is adequate to describe the nature of any self replicating organism. When consciousness is brought into it - and this must be an emergent property of physical brains - things go up yet another level.

Even staying at the cellular level the numbers are awe inspiring. There are as many as 100 trillion cells in the human body. And virtually none of them knows who we are. Further, there are ten times as many bacteria and viral cells in and on the human body as there are human cells.

So we're not a machine. We're a community.

 

 

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BobSpence1 wrote:Describing

BobSpence1 wrote:

Describing humans as 'biological machines' is arguably addressing them at too low a level, like describing a computer as a collection of inter-connected silicon chips. It is true at that level of description, but doesn't address the functionality that the particular organization of the chips gives rise to. 

You could go further in the reductionist direction and describe us an assemblage of macro-molecules in a chemical matrix, and miss even more of our emergent attributes. Or we are collections of atoms...

Going the other way, we are living organisms, we are mammals, primates, with highly developed intelligence, all built upon complex biological components.

'Cause and effect' is the only way complex functionality like intelligence can be supported - the alternative is chaos and pure randomness.

Both of those labels would be accurate though, depending on what point you're trying to make.  In this case, the point was materialism.

Just because we have emergent and complex behavior, doesn't make it not so.  I know what you are getting at though.

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Atheistextremist wrote: My

Atheistextremist wrote:

 

My instinct is that we are purely physical organisms but like Bob I'm not convinced the word machine is adequate to describe the nature of any self replicating organism. When consciousness is brought into it - and this must be an emergent property of physical brains - things go up yet another level.

Even staying at the cellular level the numbers are awe inspiring. There are as many as 100 trillion cells in the human body. And virtually none of them knows who we are. Further, there are ten times as many bacteria and viral cells in and on the human body as there are human cells.

So we're not a machine. We're a community.

 

 

 

A community....of biological machines Smiling

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Oh - yeah

mellestad wrote:

Atheistextremist wrote:

 

My instinct is that we are purely physical organisms but like Bob I'm not convinced the word machine is adequate to describe the nature of any self replicating organism. When consciousness is brought into it - and this must be an emergent property of physical brains - things go up yet another level.

Even staying at the cellular level the numbers are awe inspiring. There are as many as 100 trillion cells in the human body. And virtually none of them knows who we are. Further, there are ten times as many bacteria and viral cells in and on the human body as there are human cells.

So we're not a machine. We're a community.

 

 

A community....of biological machines Smiling

 

As I was banging on my drum I was thinking the exact same thing...I think I just don't like the word.

An eggbeater is a machine. Having said that, when you think of genomic parasites tricking other proteins into replicating them at the molecular level there are fundamental basics to the nature of complex things.

Need to think more about this one. 

 

 

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I agree

I agree, in part, with all of your replies.

First, I can see why you use the term biological machine if you believe that life is strictly biological...our many biological parts work together as a machine.

Personally, I don't believe there is a part of life that lives on after the physical body dies - other than as the particular elements change form such as live wood burning to ash. The wood was alive, it changed form and is now non-living ash. I don't believe there is a congregation of individual spirits 'living' in another realm after the body expires. Dead is Dead.

As to free will, I started a thread on another forum a while back that never amounted to much...seems like we couldn't get past an agreed definition of exactly what 'free' and 'will' was. But, I found some interesting articles on the Internet and a googlebook written by Wegner called, 'The Illusion of Free Will'. I read what I could (they omit a lot of pages) and then bought the book. I'm reading it now. I agree 100% with what Wegner has to say on the subject: that the experience of making a free will conscious decision is an illusion and that the actual process of making the decision takes place well before we are aware of doing so.

That leads me to wonder though....

Nuts. Just checked the weather, storms about here, need to unplug my computer. I'll be back later.

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mellestad wrote:Both of

mellestad wrote:
Both of those labels would be accurate though, depending on what point you're trying to make.  In this case, the point was materialism.

Exactly. Any word only makes sense put into a context. The expression "biological machine" is clearly not meant to address emotionality or consciousness, but rather to point out the structural nature of organisms. Likewise, one wouldn't criticize the word "Woman" for saying nothing about moral standards, sensitivity or intellect. Because it simply isn't meant as a diagnosis of these aspects.

If someone tries to connect these things despite this, it only reveals his own convictions. In this case the conviction is "It is okay to inflict pain to something I classified as a machine." Note that this person does *not* see any relevance in the fact that such a machine can feel pain! He only asks whether the entity belongs to the same group as him; and if it doesn't (human vs. machine), then he sees no ground for empathy, even if it experiences suffering.


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Athene wrote: In this case

Athene wrote:

 In this case the conviction is "It is okay to inflict pain to something I classified as a machine." Note that this person does *not* see any relevance in the fact that such a machine can feel pain! He only asks whether the entity belongs to the same group as him; and if it doesn't (human vs. machine), then he sees no ground for empathy, even if it experiences suffering.

No, that was not the context.  If that were, then I would have been accepting human harm as acceptable.

 

In my context, biological machine was meant only to illustrate materialistic determinism.

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Machines

 

Strictly speaking a machine is a sort of physical transistor - you add a small force at one point and the machine is designed in such a way to use this small force to overcome a much larger force - a machine is an amplifier of force. Having said that, living cells consist of systems that do exactly the same things in a range of different ways. Cells also give rise to consciousness and emotions. So even if these complex projections have properties that aren't machines they are manufactured by them.

 

 

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Atheistextremist

Atheistextremist wrote:

 

Strictly speaking a machine is a sort of physical transistor - you add a small force at one point and the machine is designed in such a way to use this small force to overcome a much larger force - a machine is an amplifier of force. Having said that, living cells consist of systems that do exactly the same things in a range of different ways. Cells also give rise to consciousness and emotions. So even if these complex projections have properties that aren't machines they are manufactured by them.

 

 

Well, strictly speaking...well, I dunno.  I was going to say machines aren't, strictly speaking, ever anything but simple force, but engines are machines so that would include chemistry.  A nuke reactor is a machine.  Once you include chemistry, electricity and physical manipulation I think you've covered anything a biological component can do, so again the distinction would be purely based on complexity.

 

Lol, as a side note, we're all fairly sad if this is what we talk about.

 

From google, Define: Machine

any mechanical or electrical device that transmits or modifies energy to perform or assist in the performance of human tasks

an efficient person; "the boxer was a magnificent fighting machine"

an intricate organization that accomplishes its goals efficiently; "the war machine"

a device for overcoming resistance at one point by applying force at some other point

turn, shape, mold, or otherwise finish by machinery

a group that controls the activities of a political party; "he was endorsed by the Democratic machine"

make by machinery; "The Americans were machining while others still hand-made cars"

car: a motor vehicle with four wheels; usually propelled by an internal combustion engine; "he needs a car to get to work"

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mellestad wrote:Athene

mellestad wrote:

Athene wrote:

 In this case the conviction is "It is okay to inflict pain to something I classified as a machine." Note that this person does *not* see any relevance in the fact that such a machine can feel pain! He only asks whether the entity belongs to the same group as him; and if it doesn't (human vs. machine), then he sees no ground for empathy, even if it experiences suffering.

No, that was not the context.  If that were, then I would have been accepting human harm as acceptable.

In my context, biological machine was meant only to illustrate materialistic determinism.

Even a "supernatural" realm would be just as dependent, logically, on cause and effect to make sense - without cause and effect, choice still makes no more sense than a coin toss. A soul with no preferences, reasoning processes, urges or wants, would have no basis on which to make a 'free' choice.

"Supernatural", "immaterial",  do not allow us to bypass logic. You don't need to limit the concept to the 'material' realm.

"Biological" is just one way such complex 'mechanisms' can be realized, the minimum requirement is matter, or some equivalent in some alternative 'realm', to support a complex persistent structure, on which arbitrarily complex processes can 'run'.

A combination of determinism and some low-level random effects (a la Quantum Mechanics) seems to be what is 'necessary' for a complex Universe. That randomness could be the result of an underlying chaotic regime, like an indefinitely large number of interacting elementary particles, which would practically amount to the same thing.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

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Sandycane wrote:I agree,

Sandycane wrote:

I agree, in part, with all of your replies.

First, I can see why you use the term biological machine if you believe that life is strictly biological...our many biological parts work together as a machine.

Personally, I don't believe there is a part of life that lives on after the physical body dies - other than as the particular elements change form such as live wood burning to ash. The wood was alive, it changed form and is now non-living ash. I don't believe there is a congregation of individual spirits 'living' in another realm after the body expires. Dead is Dead.

As to free will, I started a thread on another forum a while back that never amounted to much...seems like we couldn't get past an agreed definition of exactly what 'free' and 'will' was. But, I found some interesting articles on the Internet and a googlebook written by Wegner called, 'The Illusion of Free Will'. I read what I could (they omit a lot of pages) and then bought the book. I'm reading it now. I agree 100% with what Wegner has to say on the subject: that the experience of making a free will conscious decision is an illusion and that the actual process of making the decision takes place well before we are aware of doing so.

That leads me to wonder though....

Nuts. Just checked the weather, storms about here, need to unplug my computer. I'll be back later.

False alarm. I'm good.

Mellested listed 2 possibilities. I think there is a third: It seems to me there is a something that makes each one of us unique, something besides our genetics and experiences. Sort of like  what some would call a soul but the something I'm talking about is a product of our genetics and experiences...that we are more than just the sum of all our body parts, like our consciousness has an identity. I think this something is totally of this world and not supernatural and I also think that science will soon identify what it is - just as they have been able to show that the experience of free will happens after the brain actually makes the decision.

I don't know...maybe I better just let the brains here discuss it and sit back and read what you all have to say about it.

'Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.' A. Einstein


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BobSpence1 wrote:mellestad

BobSpence1 wrote:

mellestad wrote:

Athene wrote:

 In this case the conviction is "It is okay to inflict pain to something I classified as a machine." Note that this person does *not* see any relevance in the fact that such a machine can feel pain! He only asks whether the entity belongs to the same group as him; and if it doesn't (human vs. machine), then he sees no ground for empathy, even if it experiences suffering.

No, that was not the context.  If that were, then I would have been accepting human harm as acceptable.

In my context, biological machine was meant only to illustrate materialistic determinism.

Even a "supernatural" realm would be just as dependent, logically, on cause and effect to make sense - without cause and effect, choice still makes no more sense than a coin toss. A soul with no preferences, reasoning processes, urges or wants, would have no basis on which to make a 'free' choice.

"Supernatural", "immaterial",  do not allow us to bypass logic. You don't need to limit the concept to the 'material' realm.

"Biological" is just one way such complex 'mechanisms' can be realized, the minimum requirement is matter, or some equivalent in some alternative 'realm', to support a complex persistent structure, on which arbitrarily complex processes can 'run'.

A combination of determinism and some low-level random effects (a la Quantum Mechanics) seems to be what is 'necessary' for a complex Universe. That randomness could be the result of an underlying chaotic regime, like an indefinitely large number of interacting elementary particles, which would practically amount to the same thing.

That's a good point, but once you've allowed for a supernatural soul in the first place, I think it *does* allow us to bypass logic, because the basic construct is non-logical.

At the very least, if someone is convinced they have a soul, they won't be convinced that such a thing is bound by any logical laws we can fathom.

Which is just another contradictory thing to add to the pile I guess.

Everything makes more sense now that I've stopped believing.


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Sandycane wrote:Sandycane

Sandycane wrote:

Sandycane wrote:

I agree, in part, with all of your replies.

First, I can see why you use the term biological machine if you believe that life is strictly biological...our many biological parts work together as a machine.

Personally, I don't believe there is a part of life that lives on after the physical body dies - other than as the particular elements change form such as live wood burning to ash. The wood was alive, it changed form and is now non-living ash. I don't believe there is a congregation of individual spirits 'living' in another realm after the body expires. Dead is Dead.

As to free will, I started a thread on another forum a while back that never amounted to much...seems like we couldn't get past an agreed definition of exactly what 'free' and 'will' was. But, I found some interesting articles on the Internet and a googlebook written by Wegner called, 'The Illusion of Free Will'. I read what I could (they omit a lot of pages) and then bought the book. I'm reading it now. I agree 100% with what Wegner has to say on the subject: that the experience of making a free will conscious decision is an illusion and that the actual process of making the decision takes place well before we are aware of doing so.

That leads me to wonder though....

Nuts. Just checked the weather, storms about here, need to unplug my computer. I'll be back later.

False alarm. I'm good.

Mellested listed 2 possibilities. I think there is a third: It seems to me there is a something that makes each one of us unique, something besides our genetics and experiences. Sort of like  what some would call a soul but the something I'm talking about is a product of our genetics and experiences...that we are more than just the sum of all our body parts, like our consciousness has an identity. I think this something is totally of this world and not supernatural and I also think that science will soon identify what it is - just as they have been able to show that the experience of free will happens after the brain actually makes the decision.

I don't know...maybe I better just let the brains here discuss it and sit back and read what you all have to say about it.

Regardless of if I agree with you or not: If it can be discovered, it is physical.  As part of the physical universe, it would be as, 'mechanical' as every other part.  We've discussed this enough now though, we can abandon the word mechanical.  This part would be as deterministic as any other part, as so it would still fall under type 2, right?

Everything makes more sense now that I've stopped believing.


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mellestad wrote:Regardless

mellestad wrote:

Regardless of if I agree with you or not: If it can be discovered, it is physical.  As part of the physical universe, it would be as, 'mechanical' as every other part.  We've discussed this enough now though, we can abandon the word mechanical.  This part would be as deterministic as any other part, as so it would still fall under type 2, right?

Right.

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Sandycane wrote:mellestad

Sandycane wrote:

mellestad wrote:

Regardless of if I agree with you or not: If it can be discovered, it is physical.  As part of the physical universe, it would be as, 'mechanical' as every other part.  We've discussed this enough now though, we can abandon the word mechanical.  This part would be as deterministic as any other part, as so it would still fall under type 2, right?

Right.

Can you elaborate on what you mean when you say what you said?  I'm not quite sure I know what you mean by,

wrote:
"I think there is a third: It seems to me there is a something that makes each one of us unique, something besides our genetics and experiences. Sort of like  what some would call a soul but the something I'm talking about is a product of our genetics and experiences...that we are more than just the sum of all our body parts, like our consciousness has an identity. I think this something is totally of this world and not supernatural and I also think that science will soon identify what it is - just as they have been able to show that the experience of free will happens after the brain actually makes the decision."

 

So, what makes you think there is such a thing, beyond what neuroscience currently speak about?

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 This seems to get to the

 This seems to get to the heart of what the OP is about, the implication that 'biological machines' would not have this 'uniqueness'.

But there is no reason apart from certain intuitive feelings that lead to such an idea of a unique essence of each person. Which means no actual justification in reality.

I certainly do not find the idea at all compelling. Can't recall ever having felt it.

So it is just an idea that people get hung up on.

From pure statistics and the number of internal and external factors determining the details and contents of any individual's memories and experience, it is extremely unlikely that any two people could be identical to that degree.

That sum of life experience and current knowledge is what constitutes the real uniqueness of each individual.

Of course, a 'biological machine' would still have life experience and current knowledge, so they would be just as 'unique'.

There is nothing to be gained, IMHO, by arguing for the reality of anything beyond this.

It is that tendency for some people to think in those terms that is the origin of ideas of the soul.

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mellestad wrote:No, that was

mellestad wrote:
No, that was not the context.  If that were, then I would have been accepting human harm as acceptable.

On the contrary. People who put down other groups most often do that to exalt the own one. The question "Why is it wrong to cause pain to a biological machine?" reveals that the feeling of pain alone is no argument for you. Otherwise you would have answered the question yourself by saying "D'oh, because it's pain, of course", wouldn't you? Eye-wink So which are the "lot of problems" that we run into with empathy?

 

mellestad wrote:
In my context, biological machine was meant only to illustrate materialistic determinism.

Determinism? Didn't you talk about ethics and empathy as a basis for it?


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Athene wrote:mellestad

Athene wrote:

mellestad wrote:
No, that was not the context.  If that were, then I would have been accepting human harm as acceptable.

On the contrary. People who put down other groups most often do that to exalt the own one. The question "Why is it wrong to cause pain to a biological machine?" reveals that the feeling of pain alone is no argument for you. Otherwise you would have answered the question yourself by saying "D'oh, because it's pain, of course", wouldn't you? Eye-wink So which are the "lot of problems" that we run into with empathy?

 

mellestad wrote:
In my context, biological machine was meant only to illustrate materialistic determinism.

Determinism? Didn't you talk about ethics and empathy as a basis for it?

I'm confused...are you trying to arguing with me about what I meant in my own post, or are you just wanting to discuss debate in the other thread in this thread?

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 Having read this thread, I

 

Having read this thread, I am thinking that part of the deal is defining certain aspects of the question too rigidly and then rejecting those things as not being valid. I am sure that there is a fallacy in there somewhere but I don't have the time to process that just now.

 

Rather, how shall we define the idea of a machine? If we consider it to be an assemblage of components that produces consistent actions, then nearly anything can be a machine. That is probably over broad but follow me on this.

 

Earlier in the thread, there were a couple of outright rejections of reductionism. However, it looks to me as if what was being rejected was based on too narrow definitions to be of actual use. Somewhere in between, we can probably attain some useful concepts.

 

OK, if I hand you the raw materials needed to make a car, that will not drive you to work. The same will be true if I hand you a complete set of car parts. The actual ability to drive to work can be thought of as emergent from all of the stuff being put together in some specific manner.

 

Something similar could be true for what animals consist of. Cans of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen are just going to sit on a table not doing much. The same material made into functional biological molecules also will not do much unless combined with each other in the specific ways needed to see actual life processes occur. When you get to the top level, you have real critters that operate in the context of a biosphere.

 

So if reductionism is invalid for humans, why is it reasonable for cars?

 

To put it another way, what is the functional difference between mitochondria and an alternator? Both take some input that otherwise would not be of much use at the larger organizational level and transform it into useful energy. Both are composed of yet smaller pieces that each have specific functions needed for the specific subsystem to perform it's task. Both exist in such a manner that when taken away, the whole emergent concept at the largest level will not have a useful function at the level that it operates at.

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mellestad wrote:I'm

mellestad wrote:
I'm confused...are you trying to arguing with me about what I meant in my own post, or are you just wanting to discuss debate in the other thread in this thread?

Don't confuse *me* Eye-wink I am referring to:

"Most atheists think animals are biological machines.  We don't believe in souls.  Why is it wrong to cause pain to a biological machine?  With humans you can justify it because you want an environment where *you* won't be harmed, and so you are looking out for your own self interest.  Where is the motivation for animals?  Is it just empathy?  If empathy is the rational basis for morality you run into a lot of problems."

And I am saying that from these lines, we can conclude that you don't see any relevance in the fact that such a machine can feel pain. Otherwise you would have answered the question "Why is it wrong to cause pain to a biological machine?" yourself by saying "D'oh, because it's pain, of course", wouldn't you? Eye-wink So again, which are the "lot of problems" that we run into with empathy?

An answer to this question doesn't request a stand on determinism or "free will" (whatever that's supposed to mean). It just needs a concept of "biological machine" and an idea of what is important about this classification. Note that I pointed out that connecting this to emotionality or consciousness would miss the point. I'm saying that because your question ("Why is it wrong to cause pain to a biological machine?" ) drew such a connection, implying that the classification as a biological machine would make an essential difference regarding the matter of causing pain.


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Athene wrote:mellestad

Athene wrote:

mellestad wrote:
I'm confused...are you trying to arguing with me about what I meant in my own post, or are you just wanting to discuss debate in the other thread in this thread?

Don't confuse *me* Eye-wink I am referring to:

"Most atheists think animals are biological machines.  We don't believe in souls.  Why is it wrong to cause pain to a biological machine?  With humans you can justify it because you want an environment where *you* won't be harmed, and so you are looking out for your own self interest.  Where is the motivation for animals?  Is it just empathy?  If empathy is the rational basis for morality you run into a lot of problems."

And I am saying that from these lines, we can conclude that you don't see any relevance in the fact that such a machine can feel pain. Otherwise you would have answered the question "Why is it wrong to cause pain to a biological machine?" yourself by saying "D'oh, because it's pain, of course", wouldn't you? Eye-wink So again, which are the "lot of problems" that we run into with empathy?

An answer to this question doesn't request a stand on determinism or "free will" (whatever that's supposed to mean). It just needs a concept of "biological machine" and an idea of what is important about this classification. Note that I pointed out that connecting this to emotionality or consciousness would miss the point. I'm saying that because your question ("Why is it wrong to cause pain to a biological machine?" ) drew such a connection, implying that the classification as a biological machine would make an essential difference regarding the matter of causing pain.

OK.

 

So go read the rest of the thread and see if your questions are answered.  I'm not going to talk about the same issue in two threads.

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mellestad wrote:So go read

mellestad wrote:
So go read the rest of the thread and see if your questions are answered.  I'm not going to talk about the same issue in two threads.

Well, what do you think is the topic of this thread then?


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Athene wrote:mellestad

Athene wrote:

mellestad wrote:
So go read the rest of the thread and see if your questions are answered.  I'm not going to talk about the same issue in two threads.

Well, what do you think is the topic of this thread then?

Sandycane wrote:
Someone, in another thread, used this phrase to describe humans.

Can you explain, in detail, why you think humans are biological machines and exactly what that means?

 

?

 

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Yeah, and exploring what you

Yeah, and exploring what you mean by "biological machines" fits to that. After all, that's what started the thread in the first place. As I said, an answer to my question doesn't request a stand on determinism or "free will". It just needs a concept of "biological machine" and an idea of what is important about this classification. You surely had both since you made that statement, so I'm wondering what they are. Anyway, if you think that's an entirely different question than the thread topic, then just disregard it.


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Fine.  I still don't see

Fine.  I still don't see why you don't just ask your question in the thread that actually contained the comments you're off about, but whatever works for you.  

Quote:
" So again, which are the "lot of problems" that we run into with empathy?"

We're already talking about this in the other thread.  The problem is you have to be arbitrary how to apply that, which creates a whole host of problems.  Either you wind up willfully hypocritical, or you shoot yourself and your corpse is eaten by wild badgers thus completing the circle of life.  Pure social contract also has problems.  I'm beginning to think there isn't any basis for morality that doesn't run into the same issue though, or turn out traditionally 'monstrous'.

Quote:
Anyway, if you think that's an entirely different question than the thread topic, then just disregard it.

Will do.

 

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Because I thought you might

Because I thought you might give a quick concise answer which would reveal the flaw in your concept of "biological machines". In the original context, in your opinion there is something about biological machines which seemingly makes it irrelevant whether they can feel pain or not. Now I'm asking, what is this "something"? Why isn't it enough that they can feel pain? What is it with biological machines that this isn't enough? Your explanation of "biological machine" does not throw light on this, so I'm inquiring.

Anyway, if I had knewn you would offer resistance all the way long, I hadn't asked in the first place Eye-wink


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Almost every thing I've seen

Almost every thing I've seen you post is aimed at trapping people so you can snipe at them while you fellate yourself frantically.  I'm not particularly interested in playing your games, so if you don't have a genuine question I'm not really interested in engaging you.  Also, adding a smiley to every post doesn't make you less of a prick.  

 

Edit: What I *meant* to say, is these questions are already/or have already been discussed in the other thread.  The OP had a simple request, and now she has a simple answer.  If you want to debate the foundational basis of morality do it in the other thread or better yet, start your own.

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mellestad wrote:Almost every

mellestad wrote:
Almost every thing I've seen you post is aimed at trapping people so you can snipe at them while you fellate yourself frantically.

Funny what effect rational questions do have on "certain people". Also, very interesting what you admit about your own motives if you were in - what you view as - my position. You want to play silly games, while I'm simply asking for arguments. Well, I don't blame you for seeing discussions as a fight for status, that is quite popular among "certain people".

And I'm adding smileys because it mildly amuses me to watch "certain people" losing their affected self-control Smiling They fall into a behavior they probably consider to be "quick-witted" or "tough", but in reality they just prove their low level of intelligence and manners. They are unintended walking caricatures of arrogance and stupidity, and that is a little entertaining to watch *gg* Of course I'd prefer substantial answers, for that would be a better use of my time. And I can say that there are intelligent people on this website from reading some articles. I just can't expect everyone to belong to that group and behave accordingly...but since I knew that before, I'm not disappointed.

Finally, to those who try to get some satisfaction out of insulting me, or begging others not to think about what I say, or revealing my "real" motives (*lol*): Acting like paranoid butthurt teenage boys is reaaaaally hard on me. And it so totally does *not* make *you* look immature or inferior. Yes, you know you are too clever to simply counter with calm good arguments - you have seen through me and realized that it is actually behaving like an ill-bred highschool kid which foils my evil plans!

 

To topic: Actually, I don't care about your fallacies in morality, otherwise I'd already answered in the other thread. But I see that you don't want to explain your concept of "biological machines" to that extent that the flaws in your reasoning becomes visible. Just thought I'd ask nevertheless, to give you at least the opportunity to give an answer with regards to contents. Have a nice day Smiling


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Athene wrote:mellestad

Athene wrote:

mellestad wrote:
Almost every thing I've seen you post is aimed at trapping people so you can snipe at them while you fellate yourself frantically.

Funny what effect rational questions do have on "certain people". Also, very interesting what you admit about your own motives if you were in - what you view as - my position. You want to play silly games, while I'm simply asking for arguments. Well, I don't blame you for seeing discussions as a fight for status, that is quite popular among "certain people".

And I'm adding smileys because it mildly amuses me to watch "certain people" losing their affected self-control Smiling They fall into a behavior they probably consider to be "quick-witted" or "tough", but in reality they just proof their low level of intelligence and manners. They are unintended walking caricatures of arrogance and stupidity, and that is a little entertaining to watch *gg* Of course I'd prefer substantial answers, for that would be a better use of my time. And I can say that there are intelligent people on this website from reading some articles. I just can't expect everyone to belong to that group and behave accordingly...but since I knew that before, I'm not disappointed.

Finally, to those who try to get some satisfaction out of insulting me, or begging others not to think about what I say, or revealing my "real" motives (*lol*): Acting like paranoid butthurt teenage boys is reaaaaally hard on me. And it so totally does *not* make *you* look immature or inferior. Yes, you know you are too clever to simply counter with calm good arguments - you have seen through me and realized that it is actually behaving like an ill-bred highschool kid which foils my evil plans!

 

To topic: Actually, I don't care about your fallacies in morality, otherwise I'd already answered in the other thread. But I see that you don't want to explain your concept of "biological machines" to that extent that the flaws in your reasoning becomes visible. Just thought I'd ask nevertheless, to give you at least the opportunity to give an answer with regards to contents. Have a nice day Smiling

Your usage of smileys is arguably at least as juvenile as you seem to regard our 'insulting' remarks. They seem to fill the same role as the remarks you so object to, a mild provocation, a lttle 'dig' at the person you are addressing.

You really are a great example of the inability to recognize, or refusal to acknowledge, your own quirks while making quite a point of pointing what is basically analogous behaviour in others. 

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Athene wrote:mellestad

Athene wrote:

mellestad wrote:
Almost every thing I've seen you post is aimed at trapping people so you can snipe at them while you fellate yourself frantically.

Funny what effect rational questions do have on "certain people". Also, very interesting what you admit about your own motives if you were in - what you view as - my position. You want to play silly games, while I'm simply asking for arguments. Well, I don't blame you for seeing discussions as a fight for status, that is quite popular among "certain people".

And I'm adding smileys because it mildly amuses me to watch "certain people" losing their affected self-control Smiling They fall into a behavior they probably consider to be "quick-witted" or "tough", but in reality they just prove their low level of intelligence and manners. They are unintended walking caricatures of arrogance and stupidity, and that is a little entertaining to watch *gg* Of course I'd prefer substantial answers, for that would be a better use of my time. And I can say that there are intelligent people on this website from reading some articles. I just can't expect everyone to belong to that group and behave accordingly...but since I knew that before, I'm not disappointed.

Finally, to those who try to get some satisfaction out of insulting me, or begging others not to think about what I say, or revealing my "real" motives (*lol*): Acting like paranoid butthurt teenage boys is reaaaaally hard on me. And it so totally does *not* make *you* look immature or inferior. Yes, you know you are too clever to simply counter with calm good arguments - you have seen through me and realized that it is actually behaving like an ill-bred highschool kid which foils my evil plans!

 

To topic: Actually, I don't care about your fallacies in morality, otherwise I'd already answered in the other thread. But I see that you don't want to explain your concept of "biological machines" to that extent that the flaws in your reasoning becomes visible. Just thought I'd ask nevertheless, to give you at least the opportunity to give an answer with regards to contents. Have a nice day Smiling

That's nice.  

I've told you many times if you want to discuss what we're *already discussing* then go to the thread where the discussion is taking place and discuss it and I'd be glad to answer whatever questions you ask.  I'm blowing you off because, since you can't follow such a simple directive, it is obvious you aren't interested in talking, you're only interested in propping up your own ego.

This line, "And I'm adding smileys because it mildly amuses me to watch "certain people" losing their affected self-control" is direct admission of guilt to the accusation you are only here to jerk people around.  That is *literally* the defining trait of an Internet troll.  We have people here who are genuinely interested in debate and intelligent discourse, and we'd like to keep things relatively clean so that can take place without assholes shitting on everything.

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BobSpence1 wrote:Your usage

BobSpence1 wrote:
Your usage of smileys is arguably at least as juvenile as you seem to regard our 'insulting' remarks.

A few hours ago you taunted "If you cannot handle that level of remark easily, you may have real problems interacting with many others on this site, and with many of the visitors we get", and now you are ranting because you feel hurt by my use of *smileys*? Jeez. You aren't used to people treating you even at least the way you behave towards others, are you? I *do* recognize that you and at least three other people act pretty paranoid and practice double standards; I just don't feel like giving it any consideration. I wish that if you aren't willing or able to react in a mature and intelligent way to me (not insulting, having an interest in the debate, being ready to question yourself etc), you would simply ignore me. I'm not looking for any other input than well-thought-out arguments reported with a minimum of politeness, and I won't miss those responses that don't meet these criteria. Honestly.

 

@ mellestad

An internet troll is a person who uses insults and postings without intelligent content or arguments to attract attention. So far, you are the person which would beg for my attention with this method. I for my part thought you would simply give a short answer regarding the topic, but you hijacked this thread to squeeze as much attention from me as possible. And now you accuse me of the motives and methods you use?

The next time you desperately feel the urge to comment, do this:

- If you don't understand the argument, ask politely.

- If you understand the argument and don't know a sufficient answer, be silent.

- If you understand the argument and know a sufficient answer, post politely.

 

But do not do one of these following:

- Insult the other person - only jerks do that Eye-wink

- Reveal the "real" motives - go to the 9/11 truth movement if you are a telepathi.

- Demand confession whether he is for you or against you - this may be a good enough mentality for the last U.S. President, but not even for a half-mature thinker.

- Haress the people who are genuinely interested in debate and intelligent discourse - if you can't contribute, just enjoy reading them.

 

In short: Stop trolling.

 

That's just a pro-tip from my side. Think about whether that's a good advice for you personally, and if yes, then you may even reflect if you have acted in accordance with these principles. If no, then ask yourself why it is not. If your answer to yourself (you don't need to post it) is something along "Because I'm one of the good guys and therefor can't be trolling!", then this whole post was a waste of time anyway. But again, as I said I am quite naive...

Concluding from the behavior you have shown so far, you may want to have the last word. So go for it. I won't reply in this thread to that, and I won't take it to another thread, because that's how mature people deal with quarrels they don't want to continue. That's by the way already more than what can be expected from another much more active and experienced user (not you). I'm raising the standards of this place, as it seems Eye-wink


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Athene wrote:I'm raising the

Athene wrote:

I'm raising the standards of this place, as it seems Eye-wink

Indeed.

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Back on topic...

back on topic....

Another question;

If humans are biological machines, products of cause and effect, where do feelings like love, compassion, hope and empathy come from?

'Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.' A. Einstein


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That question may suggest

That question may suggest that emotions pose a contradiction to machines/products of cause and effect. If it is meant that way, I would ask for evidence for this statement first. Alternatively, it may be comparing the objective structure of something and the subjective qualia of it and wondering why they seem so completely different. That would be a category error. Explaining the reasoning behind the question would clarify what it's aiming at.


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Sandycane wrote:back on

Sandycane wrote:

back on topic....

Another question;

If humans are biological machines, products of cause and effect, where do feelings like love, compassion, hope and empathy come from?

Emotions are physical, they are a product of the brain.  You can induce happiness or sadness with chemicals, physical trauma, etc.  You can see emotional reactions on brain scans.  Some humans don't have capacity for empathy, because of physical limits in their brains.  etc.

We can discuss that if you want, if that answers your question.

 

In another sense, emotions come from the evolutionary process because they are beneficial to have, that is the, 'why' question.  We can talk about that too.

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mellestad wrote:Sandycane

mellestad wrote:

Sandycane wrote:

back on topic....

Another question;

If humans are biological machines, products of cause and effect, where do feelings like love, compassion, hope and empathy come from?

Emotions are physical, they are a product of the brain.  You can induce happiness or sadness with chemicals, physical trauma, etc.  You can see emotional reactions on brain scans.  Some humans don't have capacity for empathy, because of physical limits in their brains.  etc.

We can discuss that if you want, if that answers your question.

 

In another sense, emotions come from the evolutionary process because they are beneficial to have, that is the, 'why' question.  We can talk about that too.

Okay. Let's focus on empathy for now...  http://www.answers.com/topic/empathy

Starting with the Wiki introduction:

Empathy is the capacity to, through consciousness rather than physically, share the sadness or happiness of another sentient being. Empathy develops the ability to have compassion towards other beings.

Why do you think possessing empathy is beneficial evolutionary trait and who benefits?

 

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Sandycane wrote:mellestad

Sandycane wrote:

mellestad wrote:

Sandycane wrote:

back on topic....

Another question;

If humans are biological machines, products of cause and effect, where do feelings like love, compassion, hope and empathy come from?

Emotions are physical, they are a product of the brain.  You can induce happiness or sadness with chemicals, physical trauma, etc.  You can see emotional reactions on brain scans.  Some humans don't have capacity for empathy, because of physical limits in their brains.  etc.

We can discuss that if you want, if that answers your question.

 

In another sense, emotions come from the evolutionary process because they are beneficial to have, that is the, 'why' question.  We can talk about that too.

Okay. Let's focus on empathy for now...  http://www.answers.com/topic/empathy

Starting with the Wiki introduction:

Empathy is the capacity to, through consciousness rather than physically, share the sadness or happiness of another sentient being. Empathy develops the ability to have compassion towards other beings.

Why do you think possessing empathy is beneficial evolutionary trait and who benefits?

 

It makes you more likely to help those close to you.  An environment where animals/people help each other is going to be, in most cases, far more successful than one that does not.  Because it makes the group stronger, the individual is more secure and more likely to raise children who can mate.

Empathy is very interesting, it came up some in the discussion about that poor fat man and the train in the other thread.

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Sandycane wrote:mellestad

Sandycane wrote:

mellestad wrote:

Sandycane wrote:

back on topic....

Another question;

If humans are biological machines, products of cause and effect, where do feelings like love, compassion, hope and empathy come from?

Emotions are physical, they are a product of the brain.  You can induce happiness or sadness with chemicals, physical trauma, etc.  You can see emotional reactions on brain scans.  Some humans don't have capacity for empathy, because of physical limits in their brains.  etc.

We can discuss that if you want, if that answers your question.

 

In another sense, emotions come from the evolutionary process because they are beneficial to have, that is the, 'why' question.  We can talk about that too.

Okay. Let's focus on empathy for now...  http://www.answers.com/topic/empathy

Starting with the Wiki introduction:

Empathy is the capacity to, through consciousness rather than physically, share the sadness or happiness of another sentient being. Empathy develops the ability to have compassion towards other beings.

Why do you think possessing empathy is beneficial evolutionary trait and who benefits?

This is an easy one.

Empathy is beneficial to the survival of a social animal, ie one that lives in groups, because it encourages mutual cooperation and assistance, and discourages conflict, so there is strong evolutionary advantage to it.

Parts of he 'biological mechanism' for empathy have even been located in the brain. There are cells called 'mirror neurones', since they seem to be involved in building up an image, a mental model, of what we unconsciously estimate to be the state of mind of those we are interacting with, including how we think they are regarding us.

This helps us decide how best to deal with them in a way most helpful to ourselves, to encourage them to help us, and not to harm us, which is obviously of direct survival benefit to ourselves, and therefore is why they would evolve.

 

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mellestad wrote:It makes you

mellestad wrote:

It makes you more likely to help those close to you.  An environment where animals/people help each other is going to be, in most cases, far more successful than one that does not.  Because it makes the group stronger, the individual is more secure and more likely to raise children who can mate.

Empathy is very interesting, it came up some in the discussion about that poor fat man and the train in the other thread.

Yeah, the poor fat man is who got me started thinking about this.  ...bare with me, I'm just thinking out loud and haven't nailed down my point yet. 

So, we are biological machines who act according to cause and effect, right?

Another beings suffering can cause some to feel empathy towards that being, right?

This feeling should also cause us to want to help that suffering being, right?

The act of helping beings who are suffering should cause the individual or group to be more successful, right?

Empathy is an emotion/ability that has evolved with humans and other beings for the purpose of more successful survival/co-habitation, right?

So, if this is true, the more empathy a person/group has, the more successful that group will be as far as it's survival is concerned, right?

In theory, this makes sense but, in the real world, it has not worked...every empathetic, peace-loving community is always crushed by an aggressive, selfish, greedy group. How is being empathetic conducive to survival in these cases? (Tibetan Buddhist monks come to mind)

 Seems like the strict biological machine is mostly self-serving and empathy is more of a hazard than a benefit - especially when the two clash.

Empathy seems like a two-edged sword: for the pacifist, it invokes compassion. In an aggresor, it is used to detect weakness, enabling an advantage of control.

On edit: Something else just occurred to me...I don't know if there's been any research done on this but, I'll bet this is at the root of abusive relationships - the victim of the abuse would be the empathetic pacifist and the abuser is the aggressor taking advantage of a perceived weakness.

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Sandycane wrote:mellestad

Sandycane wrote:

mellestad wrote:

It makes you more likely to help those close to you.  An environment where animals/people help each other is going to be, in most cases, far more successful than one that does not.  Because it makes the group stronger, the individual is more secure and more likely to raise children who can mate.

Empathy is very interesting, it came up some in the discussion about that poor fat man and the train in the other thread.

Yeah, the poor fat man is who got me started thinking about this.  ...bare with me, I'm just thinking out loud and haven't nailed down my point yet. 

So, we are biological machines who act according to cause and effect, right?

Another beings suffering can cause some to feel empathy towards that being, right?

This feeling should also cause us to want to help that suffering being, right?

The act of helping beings who are suffering should cause the individual or group to be more successful, right?

Empathy is an emotion/ability that has evolved with humans and other beings for the purpose of more successful survival/co-habitation, right?

So, if this is true, the more empathy a person/group has, the more successful that group will be as far as it's survival is concerned, right?

In theory, this makes sense but, in the real world, it has not worked...every empathetic, peace-loving community is always crushed by an aggressive, selfish, greedy group. How is being empathetic conducive to survival in these cases? (Tibetan Buddhist monks come to mind)

 Seems like the strict biological machine is mostly self-serving and empathy is more of a hazard than a benefit - especially when the two clash.

Empathy seems like a two-edged sword: for the pacifist, it invokes compassion. In an aggresor, it is used to detect weakness, enabling an advantage of control.

On edit: Something else just occurred to me...I don't know if there's been any research done on this but, I'll bet this is at the root of abusive relationships - the victim of the abuse would be the empathetic pacifist and the abuser is the aggressor taking advantage of a perceived weakness.

Well, like any other trait you can have too much of it.  If your group has tons of empathy and you feel a strong tie to any human you see, and another group only has enough empathy to feel tied to the immediate group, they might decide to kill you all and take what you have.  One of the things you notice is empathy tends to break down the more unfamiliar you are with the other person.  Not only that, but we easily rationalize people outside our own small groups as enemies.  Perhaps that balance was appropriate when humans were moer tribal, fighting over scarce resources?  Needless to say it causes a lot of problems now!

 

I wouldn't tie empathy as the direct opposite of aggressive, selfish and greedy though, that is probably too simplistic.  Again though, empathy isn't always going to be a good thing for personal survivability, but it *is* critical to have enough empathy to hold a group together.

Lots of interesting questions about this stuff though, lots of books out there too.  Maybe Capt. Pineapple or someone more well read than I am can give some recommendations.

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The empathy and cooperative

The empathy and cooperative urges work more strongly between individuals who live and work closely with each other, so empathy will also be helping the more aggressive group to work together among themselves to achieve their goal of dominance.

The dynamics of inter-group rivalry are another topic, as to how they emerged, and how they 'work' in an evolutionary sense.

We see wide variations in tendency to form such dominating groups - chimps are at least as 'bad' as we are in this respect, our other cousins, the bonobos, are dominated by 'make love not war'.

We seem to be somewhere in between.

The fact is that there is more than one 'evolutionarily stable strategy' - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionarily_stable_strategy for an introduction to this topic.

And in any 'world', in the philosophical sense, every event, choice, whatever, is either the result of the effect of one or more causes, or environmental states, or essentially random. Random may be a 'true' pure randomness, which Quantum Mechanics seems to show dominates at the lowest level of energy and scale, or the result of an extremely large number of interacting entities of equivalent scale and influence, like the molecules in the atmosphere, where it is effectively impossible to predict the path of any individual molecule.

In any system, once the number of things that interact with each other and affect any particular event gets sufficiently large, it is impossible to tell the difference between a strictly 'deterministic' (cause-effect) system, and one where choices are manifestations of individual 'free will'

I personally cannot envisage what 'free will', in the metaphysical sense, actually means. How do you make a deliberate choice in a vacuum, ie, not based on your preferences, beliefs, urges, emotional state, knowledge and memory, and whatever you a aware of in the world around you? These are all things which in turn are 'determined' by prior events, and so on. Without taking any of those things into account, you doing the mental equivalent of flipping a coin, ie a random choice.

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


Kapkao
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Sandycane wrote:Someone, in

Sandycane wrote:

Someone, in another thread, used this phrase to describe humans.

Can you explain, in detail, why you think humans are biological machines and exactly what that means?

As I've said so far, one doesn't have to look far in the sociology and psychology to realize nearly all of so-called morality is superfluous, and that we learn to attach special meanings to what we feel is "proper", otherwise no one would take our desires and feelings seriously.

It gives you a "bad feeling in your stomach" if this happens? Well, so what?

It takes a great deal of  emotional detachment but, ultimately, the only thing that truly separates from our barbaric, uncivilized 'natural blueprint' is our technology. Lo and behold. as our technology has increased, so has the complexity of the various moral dispositions in so many cultures.

Pure coincidence? I think not.

“A meritocratic society is one in which inequalities of wealth and social position solely reflect the unequal distribution of merit or skills amongst human beings, or are based upon factors beyond human control, for example luck or chance. Such a society is socially just because individuals are judged not by their gender, the colour of their skin or their religion, but according to their talents and willingness to work, or on what Martin Luther King called 'the content of their character'. By extension, social equality is unjust because it treats unequal individuals equally.” "Political Ideologies" by Andrew Heywood (2003)