November 27, 2006

Stone Tablet

I played the Ultimate Poker Challenge $340 on Saturday but got cold decked early with KK v. AA. They’re changing the schedule to Fri-Sat-Sun instead of Sat-Sun-Mon and moving the $660 event to Saturday. Both changes seem good to me. My dating counselor Michael Craig took fifth place for $20k+ in the Full Tilt $350k guarantee yesterday – good job! I got back too late to sweat him from dinner at Delmonico with a gambling buddy, his wife, and Carmen (yes, I know she’s hot, no need to post a comment). Delmonico used to be one of my favorite haunts but I rarely stay at the Venetian any more so it had been years. I was happy to see they still had the Foie Gras of the Day. I pointed it out to Carmen and she asked, “What’s Foie Gras of the Day?” I said, “It’s the Foie Gras du jour.” I ordered that and a filet mignon, hold the slab of butter. Both dishes were perfect. We started with a 1999 Veuve Cliquot Rosé Champagne and moved on to the 1997 L’Ermita Priorat, which was drinking spectacularly.

Scott Adams does a serious blog entry every Sunday and yesterday he wrote about free will:

Unfortunately, I can’t convince most people that free will doesn’t exist. I have
tried arguing that the laws of physics clearly apply to brains, and brains cause
your actions. That seems so obvious to me that belaboring it with additional
evidence would be overkill.

Unfortunately it’s not obvious. The laws of physics are models we use to try to understand the way things work, and different models are needed for different corners of the universe. Believing that the laws of physics as we understand them are engraved on a stone tablet is no more scientific than believing in Creationism. One model that works very well for living in society is that by and large people have control of, and are responsible for, their behavior. That is free will. While there may be a deterministic process that produces human behavior given some initial state, unless and until that state can be measured and the resultant behavior predicted, determinism is simply not a useful theory. Given the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, it seems unlikely such a precise measurement could ever take place.

More to the point, my beliefs are actually a major source of input to any such deterministic mechanism. That why religions have such a major effect on the world, for good or evil. If you believe people can do anything of value with their lives, evangelizing for determinism doesn’t seem like a good strategy for causing that to happen. If it were me, I’d instead write books illustrating the degree to which we get surreptitiously programmed and how to counteract that and live life to the fullest.

3 comments:

CarmenSinCity said...

Last night was fun!!!! Thanks again.

John said...

Mr. Brodie, I'm enjoying your blog. I too am a poker enthusiast. I did want to respond to your comments on "free will". I am surprised that the acclaimed authour of a book on memes would be a proponent of a "free will" ideology. Even if classical determinist ideology is to some extent, outdated, we can safely assume that a "will", with agency seperate from its environment, is an absurd concept. And that is, I assure you, the philosophical history of the term. Even the existentialist philosophers who claimed an extreme form of "freedom" as the penultimate human condition, distinguished themselves from "free will" ideolouges - as they defined freedom of the human animal within the context of his/her subjective consciousness. We've learned from evolutionary pschology that "group selection" is a principle of determining social orders. And that the wills of all species are the extention of DNA, which is the non-random, selective organizational property of the universe and, therefore, deterministic. How then can we speak of "will" outside of determination?
Thanks,
John Palmer

John said...

I've been thinking more about your free will vs. determinism arguments. I had a professor in school who used to say, "In the history of logic no 'is' has ever been succesfully used to prove a 'should'". The model that allows us to conscript a moral code of conduct has, for many centuries, been based on the idea of "free will". And yet moral codes of conduct existed prior to the concept of free will, and will, most likely exist in a post-free will universe. These arguments for free will are reminiscent of the arguments for the existence of god: "Without god there would be no sustainable moral code". And yet many of us continue to value ethics, integrity and morality without the belief in an omnicient/omnipotent creator, as those of us who believe that all of the universe is the result of causation (including human thoughts and actions) do not believe that morality should be negated. In fact, if anything, morality is enhanced by both atheism and anti-theism, as I believe it is enhanced by determinism. When we stopped believing, as the good book instructs, that stoning and enslaving people is a moral action our morality evolved. As such, when we stop believing that certain behaviours "could have been otherwise" we can stop punishing those who are fulfilling their causal destiny. I use "destiny" for a lack of a better term, as just because someones behaviour is "determined" it may not be "pre-determined", and there may be an element of randomness at the molecular or even genetic level.
Keep up the great blog!
John Palmer