Measured Against Reality

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Free Will Contest Update

I’ve slightly changed my mind about how the Free Will Contest will work.

Originally I said the winner would have to prove free will. That’s pretty much impossible. There are many reasons, here’s one: we can’t rule out dualism. Any mind/body duality means that free will could still exist, but be supernatural in origin. Yes, that’s not particularly convincing, and I’d typically ignore it, but it’s a still a problem. Besides, “proving” something is almost impossible, even when you ignore things that are ridiculous.

Another problem is that, as an entry pointed out, I didn’t define free will. What I mean is that I (whatever that means) have the ability to control my actions. They are not determined by anything else, whether that anything be God, fairies, chemicals and electricity in my brain, quantum interactions, or whatever. Basically, I mean the common-sense definition, as most reasonable people would give it.

The final problem is that I would be a bad judge. It would take a fairly significant discovery to sway me either way, and the evidence just isn’t there. However, good cases can be made.

Also, the people who demanded prizes usually just mentioned cookies, which made me think that they’re really what people want.

So taking all of this into consideration, here’s what’s going to happen. I’ll be soliciting entries for the contest until at least the end of Thanksgiving Break (the 26th). Anyone can enter, although only once. You can enter by E-mailing me (stupac2 at gmail dot com) or leaving a comment at either post. At the end of the time period, I will make a voting website, where readers will score essays. Every entry can receive a score of 0 to 10, 0 being totally unconvincing and 10 being pretty darn good. After a certain amount of time voting will close and the highest ranked entries will receive the prize. The number of winners will depend on the number of entries, if I get 5 there will only be one winner, but if I get 30 or more there will be 3.

The prize will be a package of cookies shipped directly to your door. The winner can choose, but if they don’t I’ll send Nabisco Chips Ahoy - Chewy:

I think these are absolutely delicious cookies, the best that come prepackaged.

I’ll need the addresses of the winners, so either provide it to me when you enter or pay attention as the contest develops (subscribe to my RSS feed! Muahaha!). If you win and I don’t have an address, you won’t get cookies. Which would be a cryin’ shame. Also, you should probably title your post. I’m not entirely sure how the website will work (I’m going to try to follow the Blogger SAT Challenge that a couple of Sciencebloggers did a while back), but a distinct possibility is that it will have a list of linked titles, and the voting past that link. I’m not sure if that’s exactly how it will be, but a good title could never hurt.

So you really have nothing to lose. In the next couple of weeks come up with your best “proof” or “disproof” of free will, and maybe win cookies!

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  • If the free will contest were predetermined by a will greater than Stu's, wouldn't he have introduced the contest in its perfected form?

    Have you really "changed your mind" or are you just blindly following the 'will' (to put a metaphysical force in human terms) of a force beyond your own? If so, wouldn't the 'force' already know not only the outcome, but the events leading up to it?

    So then the nature of the force itself comes into question: is this force an actively planning deity, an infinite and infinitely interdependent series of causes and effects, or a social force (like Hegel's historical dialectic or Adam Smith's 'invisible hand' of the free market)?

    The third is anthropocentric, and an anthropocentric universe is statistically improbable. It also calls for a designer with an active intent to design a universe for the express purpose of having Stu launch a contest to prove free will.

    The second is unfalsifiable and obvious: it's not an argument, it's a platitude. It too calls for a designer to have set the rules of the game (natural laws) and to have put the game in motion.

    The first is the logical conclusion of the other two AND does not rule out the possibility of free will. Free will vs. determinism is a false choice: both options and the choice itself present internal contradictions that can be ruled out in dialectical analysis.

    Either way, why would we have the Earth and the universe and ourselves if we weren't put here to learn all we can about them?

    By Blogger Mr. Fantastic!, at 8:11 PM, November 17, 2006  

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