Monday, April 30, 2018

Coyne veers above his leftist pay grade

Leftist-atheist-evolutionist-determinist professor Jerry Coyne is ranting against free will again. He is a hard-core determinist (altho maybe not a super-determinist), and he frequently argues against the possibility that determinism or quantum physics leave any room for free will. The problems with his approach are:

1. He says fundamental phyisics proves that human behavior is deterministic.
2. He often tells people what they ought to do, which seems impossible if there is no free will.
3. He is frustrated that the goals of leftist egalitarianism appear unachievable, if all success is due to unjust privileges.

I will detail these points in turn.
All three philosophers save Beebee are determinists: she argues that science is a long way from determining whether determinism is true, though I think she’s dead wrong here. As Sean Carroll notes, the laws of physics of everyday life are completely understood, and to me that means that determinism is correct (save for the possibility of true quantum indeterminacy, which can’t play a role in any meaningful notion of human agency, since we have no control over our electrons).

Both Beebee and Blackburn evince various degrees of “compatibilism”: that there are some notions of free will that are compatible with determinism. But none of the discussants espouse any form of contracausal free will: that at any time, you could have done something other than what you did. ...

In fact, virtually all philosophers, including compatibilists, are determinists with respect to human behavior, as there is no evidence to the contrary and, as Sean Carroll observes, the physics of everyday life is know pretty completely.
It is bizarre to deduce determinism from fundamental physics. Quantum mechanics is explicitly non-deterministic. Even classical mechanics is non-deterministic, if you take into account measurement error and chaos.

Sean M. Carroll's excuse is that he believes in the many-worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics. Thus he would say that a coin toss is not random, because the toss causes the world to split into two, one with heads and one with tails. If you think that you are making a free-will decision, all you are really doing is splitting your body and mind into multiple worlds, with each possible decision occurring in different worlds. He wrote a paper once claiming that it is still possible to believe in probabilities in MWI, but nobody accepts it.

Coyne's version of the anti-free-will argument is to say that all physical events are either determined by physical law, or left undetermined by quantum mechanics. If an event is undetermined by physics, then it cannot be determined by a free will decision either, as the mind is governed by physical law.

This argument is not really a scientific argument, as it does not depend on any scientific theories or facts. Ultimately, it is just a tricky way of trying to define away the possibility of free will. Believe it if you want, but there is no science behind it.

The fact is that we don't have a scientific theory of consciousness and free will. I do have everyday experience that convinces me that I have conscientiousness and free will, and there is no science to the contrary.
I’ve been accused, for instance, of being a compatibilist by using the word “ought”. But to me that the word is shorthand for the idea “if you want good consequence X, you should do action Y, and if you don’t, you can be called out.” I see no sense of agency in using that word, or that it plays a role in any form of free will that’s meaningful. Rather, using “ought” is just telling someone that actions have predictable consequences, and you can be shamed/punished/jailed for not doing something that promotes good consequences.
So it is his duty to go around shaming fully-programmed robots for doing what they are programmed to do?

Fine, let's shame fat people for eating too much. Let's shame homosexuals for risking GRIDS, as it used to be called. Is that what he is condoning here? He once called me out for being an idiot.

Rather than refute this view, I am just trying to grok it. How does one get thru life thinking that all his decisions are pre-determined somehow, and still have all these opinions about what other people ought to be doing?
The connection between determinism and the social-justice notion of “privilege” is one worth exploring, ...

This leads to an infinite-dimensional intersectionality in which all forms of undeserved “privilege” should be battled: not to make everybody’s life outcome in society equal, but to ensure that everybody gets the same chance to succeed. Why one form of privilege, say “whiteness” or “maleness” should get more attention than others depends on whether those traits are the most important in determining equal opportunity as opposed to, say, factors like parental wealth, intelligence social class.

That is all above my pay grade, but, as Burkemann notes, we’ll never have equality of outcome, for we’ll always have winners and losers. All we can do is ensure equal opportunity. But that in itself is a huge social task, and it must begin at birth.
Why does he want to give the un-privileged a chance to succeed, if they have no free will and their fates are determined anyway?

He's right that many traits influence success in life, and that we will never have equality of outcome. But then why is Coyne a leftist?

The main difference between right-wingers and left-wingers is that right-wingers accept that there are human differences that cannot be eliminated by public policy. Left-wingers just mindlessly deny knowledge on this subject, and pretend that public policy can perfect and equalize the human condition.

Coyne is amusing because all of the contradictions in his life philosophy are staring him in the face, and he doesn't know what to do about it. How could he, if he rejects free will?

1 comment:

  1. Roger,
    The key reason that so many on the left intrinsically fear/loath/reject the premise of free will is that by doing so they also sidestep ANY responsibility for ANYTHING they do.

    This is the core intent of such absurdist intellectualism.

    If there is no free will, there is also no accountability for the consequences of repeated failures that keep piling up at the feet of leftist ideology and orthodoxy. Oddly enough, by the same criteria the entire leftist raison d'etre implodes into a hypothetical black hole, as there is also no racism, various '-du jour-phobias' etc. possible, as a racist, homophobic, etc. has no real choice over what they think, feel, or do. How do you admonish a person for merely following their predetermined behavior? you can't.

    The result of such a philosophical position is that all individual thought is reduced to mere mindless programming...which might easily account for the left's overall inability to discern the concept of an education from indoctrination.

    What is the difference?

    An actual education allows for the individual to draw their own conclusions and to have a diverging opinion or outlook, while indoctrination does not.