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Commitments - Choice Behavior

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  • Clarence Williams
    Tom s The Commitments of Naturalism - A Dialog is interesting, but I noted something in Gabriel Mihalache s opening questions that was not addressed by
    Message 1 of 11 , Sep 16, 2005
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      Tom's "The Commitments of Naturalism - A Dialog" is interesting, but
      I noted something in Gabriel Mihalache's opening questions that was
      not addressed by Carrier or Macarthur. Mihalache asked, "What does
      it mean that 'we ought to do this and that' considering that there's
      no authentic choice?"

      Ah, but Gabriel, choice behavior does exist! Naturalism has
      deterministic foundations and rejects contra-causal free will (or
      libertarian free will), but we accept scientific evidence regarding
      choice behavior. Everything the mind does, including making
      choices, is dependent on antecedent determinants; nothing the mind
      does is made of "whole cloth." See the Naturalism.org web site,
      specifically the sections titled, "Naturalism and Choice," and "A
      Naturalistic Lexicon of Responsibility" for more discussion of
      choice.

      There are some within the deterministic family of philosophers who
      make statements like this: If conditions are identical, then the
      exact same outcome will result. That's well and good, but identical
      conditions simply don't exist in nature. Sure, we'd all behave
      exactly the same way... if conditions were the same, say, tomorrow,
      next week, or a year later. But that's an impossible occurence in
      nature, so why even discuss it? In fact, man's very nature, our
      evolutionary leap forward, so to speak, is a mind with enormous
      learning capacity. We were born to learn and change, so in the case
      of man, this capacity for learning is sufficient to make it
      impossible for the exact conditions to recur in nature.

      Naturalists celebrate choice behavior because understanding all the
      antecedant determinants that caused a particular behavioral choice
      is at the heart of naturalism.
    • TWClark
      Yes, the dialog didn t get to everything Gabriel asked about, including the question of how we justify ought statements (that is, values) if we don t have
      Message 2 of 11 , Sep 16, 2005
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        Yes, the dialog didn't get to everything Gabriel asked about, including the question of how we
        justify ought statements (that is, values) if we don't have contra-causal free will.   But the meaning of "you ought to do this" is straightforward under determinism.  We have basic needs and values that constitute us as sentient creatures - we can't take them less seriously simply because we discover we're determined to have them.  And as part of having our values we will be led to argue for them, ending up in such statements as "Given the situation, and what we agree is right, you ought to do x."  The arguments function as determinants of behavior, and so are essential for implementing ethics.  If we had the sort of "authentic choice" Gabriel implies is necessary for justifying ought statements, those very statements couldn't have the same determining power they actually have over us, and morality would be impossible.  We could just choose to ignore social norms and the arguments people addressed to us.  Another good reason to be thankful we aren't little gods. 
         
        Tom
        ----- Original Message -----
        Sent: Friday, September 16, 2005 9:54 AM
        Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Commitments - Choice Behavior

        Tom's "The Commitments of Naturalism - A Dialog" is interesting, but
        I noted something in Gabriel Mihalache's opening questions that was
        not addressed by Carrier or Macarthur.  Mihalache asked, "What does
        it mean that 'we ought to do this and that' considering that there's
        no authentic choice?"

        Ah, but Gabriel, choice behavior does exist!  Naturalism has
        deterministic foundations and rejects contra-causal free will (or
        libertarian free will), but we accept scientific evidence regarding
        choice behavior.  Everything the mind does, including making
        choices, is dependent on antecedent determinants; nothing the mind
        does is made of "whole cloth."  See the Naturalism.org web site,
        specifically the sections titled, "Naturalism and Choice," and "A
        Naturalistic Lexicon of Responsibility" for more discussion of
        choice.

        There are some within the deterministic family of philosophers who
        make statements like this: If conditions are identical, then the
        exact same outcome will result.  That's well and good, but identical
        conditions simply don't exist in nature.  Sure, we'd all behave
        exactly the same way... if conditions were the same, say, tomorrow,
        next week, or a year later.  But that's an impossible occurence in
        nature, so why even discuss it?  In fact, man's very nature, our
        evolutionary leap forward, so to speak, is a mind with enormous
        learning capacity.  We were born to learn and change, so in the case
        of man, this capacity for learning is sufficient to make it
        impossible for the exact conditions to recur in nature.

        Naturalists celebrate choice behavior because understanding all the
        antecedant determinants that caused a particular behavioral choice
        is at the heart of naturalism.


      • Phil Knight
        Tom, You know I am moved to ask what I am about to ask. When you wrote, Another good reason to be thankful we aren t little gods , just what did you mean?
        Message 3 of 11 , Sep 16, 2005
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          Tom,
           
          You know I am moved to ask what I am about to ask. When you wrote, "Another good reason to be thankful we aren't little gods", just what did you mean?

          "Even if there is a God, He would not have free will either." - srs

          Steve

           

           


          TWClark <twc@...> wrote:
          Yes, the dialog didn't get to everything Gabriel asked about, including the question of how we
          justify ought statements (that is, values) if we don't have contra-causal free will.   But the meaning of "you ought to do this" is straightforward under determinism.  We have basic needs and values that constitute us as sentient creatures - we can't take them less seriously simply because we discover we're determined to have them.  And as part of having our values we will be led to argue for them, ending up in such statements as "Given the situation, and what we agree is right, you ought to do x."  The arguments function as determinants of behavior, and so are essential for implementing ethics.  If we had the sort of "authentic choice" Gabriel implies is necessary for justifying ought statements, those very statements couldn't have the same determining power they actually have over us, and morality would be impossible.  We could just choose to ignore social norms and the arguments people addressed to us.  Another good reason to be thankful we aren't little gods. 
           
          Tom
           

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        • TWClark
          I meant that we don t have contra-causal free will. To think we might have such free will would set us up as causally privileged over the rest of nature, just
          Message 4 of 11 , Sep 16, 2005
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            I meant that we don't have contra-causal free will.  To think we might have such free will would set us up as causally privileged over the rest of nature, just like god is supposed to be causally privileged over his creation.  He gets to cause things, but not be caused in turn.  So to say we are "little gods" is another way of saying we have contra-causal freedom.  Bob Miller may or may not have coined this term, but I got it from him. 
             
            Tom
            ----- Original Message -----
            Sent: Friday, September 16, 2005 11:52 AM
            Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Being a god (little or otherwise)

            Tom,
             
            You know I am moved to ask what I am about to ask. When you wrote, "Another good reason to be thankful we aren't little gods", just what did you mean?

            "Even if there is a God, He would not have free will either." - srs

            Steve

             

             


            TWClark <twc@...> wrote:
            Yes, the dialog didn't get to everything Gabriel asked about, including the question of how we
            justify ought statements (that is, values) if we don't have contra-causal free will.   But the meaning of "you ought to do this" is straightforward under determinism.  We have basic needs and values that constitute us as sentient creatures - we can't take them less seriously simply because we discover we're determined to have them.  And as part of having our values we will be led to argue for them, ending up in such statements as "Given the situation, and what we agree is right, you ought to do x."  The arguments function as determinants of behavior, and so are essential for implementing ethics.  If we had the sort of "authentic choice" Gabriel implies is necessary for justifying ought statements, those very statements couldn't have the same determining power they actually have over us, and morality would be impossible.  We could just choose to ignore social norms and the arguments people addressed to us.  Another good reason to be thankful we aren't little gods. 
             
            Tom
             

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          • Phil Knight
            Tom, Yeah, that s what I thought was meant. But for the very same reasons that man s free will is an impossibility, it is impossible for any god to have
            Message 5 of 11 , Sep 16, 2005
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              Tom,
               
              Yeah, that's what I thought was meant. But for the very same reasons that man's "free" will is an impossibility, it is impossible for any "god" to have free will either.
               
              FWists are not only wrong about man having a will that is free, they are also wrong about the ability of any supernatural dieties to have a "free" will either. I wonder what the heck Bob Miller has in mind?
               
              Steve


              TWClark <twc@...> wrote:
               
              I meant that we don't have contra-causal free will.  To think we might have such free will would set us up as causally privileged over the rest of nature, just like god is supposed to be causally privileged over his creation.  He gets to cause things, but not be caused in turn.  So to say we are "little gods" is another way of saying we have contra-causal freedom.  Bob Miller may or may not have coined this term, but I got it from him. 
               
              Tom
               
               

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            • Ken Batts
              Gods, Choice Steve: You make a good point that we somehow assume that the very idea of a god with free will is a coherent concept. I think free will is like a
              Message 6 of 11 , Sep 17, 2005
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                Gods, Choice

                Steve: You make a good point that we somehow assume that the very idea of a god with
                free will is a coherent concept. I think free will is like a four-sided triangle, something
                which can't even be rigorously defined. My guess is that Bob had in mind the common
                belief in such a creature (a god with free will), not any vote of confidence that such a
                creature does or even could exist.

                Sonny: An example of how we have choice is picking what we want to eat in a restaurant.
                There are many items on the menu, we think about it and pick one. If we chose the
                lobster, we had to choose it. There's no other sort of choosing; it's a subroutine, like all
                other human activities, fully determined in it's code and execution.

                Saying things couldn't have been otherwise is one of our best ways of describing our lack
                of free will. Since it's always true (things could not have been otherwise), and the common
                belief is that it's never true, it's important for us to point out.

                Ken
              • Sonny Williams
                Ken, Choice behavior is, indeed, a fully-determined cognitive process. I wouldn t call it a subroutine because that implies it is somehow linked or even
                Message 7 of 11 , Sep 18, 2005
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                  Ken,
                   
                  Choice behavior is, indeed, a fully-determined cognitive process.  I wouldn't call it a "subroutine" because that implies it is somehow linked or even dependent on another cognitive routine, and I can't imagine what that might be.
                   
                  Saying "things couldn't have been otherwise" is a commonly understood way of describing a fully determined cognitive process, one that is free of contra-causal control.  I have no quarrel with synthesized versions of difficult subjects, shortened ones designed for popular appeal, but it begs explanation lest it be considered fatalistic and it requires the caveat that all determinants, which are innumerable, must be identical, an impractical, nay, impossible assertion in a natural environment.
                   
                  I also remind you that neuroscientists do not yet fully understand choice behavior; there are competing theories on how mental deliberations result in a choice (cost/benefit analysis, strong versus weak synapses, "dominant neuron," etc).  And, most importantly to naturalists, one of the current theories is that some choices are random, "that stochastic variation in molecular and biochemical reactions could account for . . . variation . . .," that "the stress response system [a specific type of choice behavior] of Caenorhabditis elegans is subject to an underlying physiological randomness that affects how it copes with environmental insults."  (Source: Nat. Genet. 10.1038/ng 1608, as cited in Science magazine, 5 August 2005, Vol 309).
                   
                  This scientific research into the mechanics of choice behavior must, I believe, be incorporated into any naturalistic philosophy.  After all, how can we say we are informed by science if we attempt to ignore new scientific findings that might alter one of our tenets, that random forces might be at work?  Even if random forces are at work, they are still a part of nature, another determinant.  Random events are not supernatural ones, so I'm not uncomfortable in saying we don't fully understand choice behavior, and randomness might be a part of it.
                   
                  Sonny Williams
                  ----- Original Message -----
                  From: Ken Batts
                  Sent: Saturday, September 17, 2005 11:12 AM
                  Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Being a god (little or otherwise)

                  Gods, Choice

                  Steve: You make a good point that we somehow assume that the very idea of a god with
                  free will is a coherent concept. I think free will is like a four-sided triangle, something
                  which can't even be rigorously defined. My guess is that Bob had in mind the common
                  belief in such a creature (a god with free will), not any vote of confidence that such a
                  creature does or even could exist.

                  Sonny: An example of how we have choice is picking what we want to eat in a restaurant.
                  There are many items on the menu, we think about it and pick one. If we chose the
                  lobster, we had to choose it. I personally am glad that we can, in theory, There's no other
                  sort of choosing; it's a subroutine, like all other human activities, fully determined in it's
                  code and execution.

                  Saying things couldn't have been otherwise is one of our best ways of describing our lack
                  of free will. Since it's always true (things could not have been otherwise), and the common
                  belief is that it's never true, it's important for us to point out.

                  Ken


                • Phil Knight
                  Sonny, I don t understand what you are trying to say when you say, all determinants, which are innumerable, must be identical, an impractical, nay, impossible
                  Message 8 of 11 , Sep 18, 2005
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                    Sonny,
                     
                    I don't understand what you are trying to say when you say, "all determinants, which are innumerable, must be identical, an impractical, nay, impossible assertion in a natural environment." Identical to what?
                     
                    Steve


                    Sonny Williams <sonnyw@...> wrote:
                    Ken,
                     
                    Choice behavior is, indeed, a fully-determined cognitive process.  I wouldn't call it a "subroutine" because that implies it is somehow linked or even dependent on another cognitive routine, and I can't imagine what that might be.
                     
                    Saying "things couldn't have been otherwise" is a commonly understood way of describing a fully determined cognitive process, one that is free of contra-causal control.  I have no quarrel with synthesized versions of difficult subjects, shortened ones designed for popular appeal, but it begs explanation lest it be considered fatalistic and it requires the caveat that all determinants, which are innumerable, must be identical, an impractical, nay, impossible assertion in a natural environment.
                     
                    I also remind you that neuroscientists do not yet fully understand choice behavior; there are competing theories on how mental deliberations result in a choice (cost/benefit analysis, strong versus weak synapses, "dominant neuron," etc).  And, most importantly to naturalists, one of the current theories is that some choices are random, "that stochastic variation in molecular and biochemical reactions could account for . . . variation . . .," that "the stress response system [a specific type of choice behavior] of Caenorhabditis elegans is subject to an underlying physiological randomness that affects how it copes with environmental insults."  (Source: Nat. Genet. 10.1038/ng 1608, as cited in Science magazine, 5 August 2005, Vol 309).
                     
                    This scientific research into the mechanics of choice behavior must, I believe, be incorporated into any naturalistic philosophy.  After all, how can we say we are informed by science if we attempt to ignore new scientific findings that might alter one of our tenets, that random forces might be at work?  Even if random forces are at work, they are still a part of nature, another determinant.  Random events are not supernatural ones, so I'm not uncomfortable in saying we don't fully understand choice behavior, and randomness might be a part of it.
                     
                    Sonny Williams
                     

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                  • Ken Batts
                    Sonny: The precise nature of choice behavior may be of some interest, I m not denying that. I don t think it affects our basic ideas, after all no one here
                    Message 9 of 11 , Sep 18, 2005
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                      Sonny: The precise nature of choice behavior may be of some interest, I'm not denying
                      that. I don't think it affects our basic ideas, after all no one here will probably deny the
                      possibility that there might be a degree of randomness in nature. That doesn't lead us to
                      free will or freedom of any kind, if anything it decreases our ability to predict outcomes
                      and control our actions.

                      Choice is linked to and is interdependent on all other neural activity, so I think the analogy
                      to a subroutine is sound. Something causes us to make a choice, and to choose what we
                      choose.

                      I think we know enough about choice (that it doesn't involve free will) to comfortably
                      overturn the prevailing misconceptions of the dominant culture, I don't think new
                      neurological research is needed to make our basic, revolutionary point.

                      Ken





                      --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "Sonny Williams" <sonnyw@m...>
                      wrote:
                      > Ken,
                      >
                      > Choice behavior is, indeed, a fully-determined cognitive process. I wouldn't call it a
                      "subroutine" because that implies it is somehow linked or even dependent on another
                      cognitive routine, and I can't imagine what that might be.
                      >
                      > Saying "things couldn't have been otherwise" is a commonly understood way of
                      describing a fully determined cognitive process, one that is free of contra-causal control. I
                      have no quarrel with synthesized versions of difficult subjects, shortened ones designed
                      for popular appeal, but it begs explanation lest it be considered fatalistic and it requires
                      the caveat that all determinants, which are innumerable, must be identical, an impractical,
                      nay, impossible assertion in a natural environment.
                      >
                      > I also remind you that neuroscientists do not yet fully understand choice behavior; there
                      are competing theories on how mental deliberations result in a choice (cost/benefit
                      analysis, strong versus weak synapses, "dominant neuron," etc). And, most importantly to
                      naturalists, one of the current theories is that some choices are random, "that stochastic
                      variation in molecular and biochemical reactions could account for . . . variation . . .," that
                      "the stress response system [a specific type of choice behavior] of Caenorhabditis elegans
                      is subject to an underlying physiological randomness that affects how it copes with
                      environmental insults." (Source: Nat. Genet. 10.1038/ng 1608, as cited in Science
                      magazine, 5 August 2005, Vol 309).
                      >
                      > This scientific research into the mechanics of choice behavior must, I believe, be
                      incorporated into any naturalistic philosophy. After all, how can we say we are informed
                      by science if we attempt to ignore new scientific findings that might alter one of our
                      tenets, that random forces might be at work? Even if random forces are at work, they are
                      still a part of nature, another determinant. Random events are not supernatural ones, so
                      I'm not uncomfortable in saying we don't fully understand choice behavior, and
                      randomness might be a part of it.
                      >
                      > Sonny Williams
                      > ----- Original Message -----
                      > From: Ken Batts<mailto:ken@k...>
                      > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com<mailto:
                      naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com>
                      > Sent: Saturday, September 17, 2005 11:12 AM
                      > Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Being a god (little or otherwise)
                      >
                      >
                      > Gods, Choice
                      >
                      > Steve: You make a good point that we somehow assume that the very idea of a god
                      with
                      > free will is a coherent concept. I think free will is like a four-sided triangle, something
                      > which can't even be rigorously defined. My guess is that Bob had in mind the common
                      > belief in such a creature (a god with free will), not any vote of confidence that such a
                      > creature does or even could exist.
                      >
                      > Sonny: An example of how we have choice is picking what we want to eat in a
                      restaurant.
                      > There are many items on the menu, we think about it and pick one. If we chose the
                      > lobster, we had to choose it. I personally am glad that we can, in theory, There's no
                      other
                      > sort of choosing; it's a subroutine, like all other human activities, fully determined in
                      it's
                      > code and execution.
                      >
                      > Saying things couldn't have been otherwise is one of our best ways of describing our
                      lack
                      > of free will. Since it's always true (things could not have been otherwise), and the
                      common
                      > belief is that it's never true, it's important for us to point out.
                      >
                      > Ken
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      >
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                    • Ken Batts
                      Steve: I agree that CNHDO is vital to an understanding of what we re talking about. One little place where the could not have done otherwise condition is
                      Message 10 of 11 , Sep 22, 2005
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                        Steve: I agree that CNHDO is vital to an understanding of what we're talking about. One
                        "little" place where the "could not have done otherwise" condition is so central that one
                        could say the entire enterprise is based on it: SCIENCE! Experimental science wouldn't
                        work without that assumption; what would the results be worth if some other time under
                        identical conditions the results were different? If two sets of results differ, scientists
                        conclude (and need to conclude) that there was some difference between starting
                        conditions.

                        Ken




                        --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, Phil Knight
                        <philosopherknight@y...> wrote:
                        > Sonny,
                        >
                        > I don't understand what you are trying to say when you say, "all determinants, which are
                        innumerable, must be identical, an impractical, nay, impossible assertion in a natural
                        environment." Identical to what?
                        >
                        > Steve
                        >
                        >
                        > Sonny Williams <sonnyw@m...> wrote:
                        > Ken,
                        >
                        > Choice behavior is, indeed, a fully-determined cognitive process. I wouldn't call it a
                        "subroutine" because that implies it is somehow linked or even dependent on another
                        cognitive routine, and I can't imagine what that might be.
                        >
                        > Saying "things couldn't have been otherwise" is a commonly understood way of
                        describing a fully determined cognitive process, one that is free of contra-causal control. I
                        have no quarrel with synthesized versions of difficult subjects, shortened ones designed
                        for popular appeal, but it begs explanation lest it be considered fatalistic and it requires
                        the caveat that all determinants, which are innumerable, must be identical, an impractical,
                        nay, impossible assertion in a natural environment.
                        >
                        > I also remind you that neuroscientists do not yet fully understand choice behavior; there
                        are competing theories on how mental deliberations result in a choice (cost/benefit
                        analysis, strong versus weak synapses, "dominant neuron," etc). And, most importantly to
                        naturalists, one of the current theories is that some choices are random, "that stochastic
                        variation in molecular and biochemical reactions could account for . . . variation . . .," that
                        "the stress response system [a specific type of choice behavior] of Caenorhabditis elegans
                        is subject to an underlying physiological randomness that affects how it copes with
                        environmental insults." (Source: Nat. Genet. 10.1038/ng 1608, as cited in Science
                        magazine, 5 August 2005, Vol 309).
                        >
                        > This scientific research into the mechanics of choice behavior must, I believe, be
                        incorporated into any naturalistic philosophy. After all, how can we say we are informed
                        by science if we attempt to ignore new scientific findings that might alter one of our
                        tenets, that random forces might be at work? Even if random forces are at work, they are
                        still a part of nature, another determinant. Random events are not supernatural ones, so
                        I'm not uncomfortable in saying we don't fully understand choice behavior, and
                        randomness might be a part of it.
                        >
                        > Sonny Williams
                        >
                        >
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                      • TWClark
                        Yes, nice point Ken. The whole notion of explanation at the macro level is tied to the idea of lawful causation in which the same conditions would produce the
                        Message 11 of 11 , Sep 22, 2005
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                          Yes, nice point Ken.  The whole notion of explanation at the macro level is tied to the idea of lawful causation in which the same conditions would produce the same outcomes, even if we can't in practice ever reproduce the exact same conditions.  Empirically discovered causal laws are, after all, regularities.
                          ----- Original Message -----
                          From: Ken Batts
                          Sent: Thursday, September 22, 2005 10:33 PM
                          Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Being a god (little or otherwise)

                          Steve: I agree that CNHDO is vital to an understanding of what we're talking about. One
                          "little" place where the "could not have done otherwise" condition is so central  that one
                          could say the entire enterprise is based on it: SCIENCE!  Experimental science wouldn't
                          work without that assumption; what would the results be worth if some other time under
                          identical conditions the results were different? If two sets of results differ, scientists
                          conclude (and need to conclude) that there was some difference between starting
                          conditions.

                          Ken




                          --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, Phil Knight
                          <philosopherknight@y...> wrote:
                          > Sonny,

                          > I don't understand what you are trying to say when you say, "all determinants, which are
                          innumerable, must be identical, an impractical, nay, impossible assertion in a natural
                          environment." Identical to what?

                          > Steve
                          >
                          >
                          > Sonny Williams <sonnyw@m...> wrote:
                          > Ken,

                          > Choice behavior is, indeed, a fully-determined cognitive process.  I wouldn't call it a
                          "subroutine" because that implies it is somehow linked or even dependent on another
                          cognitive routine, and I can't imagine what that might be.

                          > Saying "things couldn't have been otherwise" is a commonly understood way of
                          describing a fully determined cognitive process, one that is free of contra-causal control.  I
                          have no quarrel with synthesized versions of difficult subjects, shortened ones designed
                          for popular appeal, but it begs explanation lest it be considered fatalistic and it requires
                          the caveat that all determinants, which are innumerable, must be identical, an impractical,
                          nay, impossible assertion in a natural environment.

                          > I also remind you that neuroscientists do not yet fully understand choice behavior; there
                          are competing theories on how mental deliberations result in a choice (cost/benefit
                          analysis, strong versus weak synapses, "dominant neuron," etc).  And, most importantly to
                          naturalists, one of the current theories is that some choices are random, "that stochastic
                          variation in molecular and biochemical reactions could account for . . . variation . . .," that
                          "the stress response system [a specific type of choice behavior] of Caenorhabditis elegans
                          is subject to an underlying physiological randomness that affects how it copes with
                          environmental insults."  (Source: Nat. Genet. 10.1038/ng 1608, as cited in Science
                          magazine, 5 August 2005, Vol 309).

                          > This scientific research into the mechanics of choice behavior must, I believe, be
                          incorporated into any naturalistic philosophy.  After all, how can we say we are informed
                          by science if we attempt to ignore new scientific findings that might alter one of our
                          tenets, that random forces might be at work?  Even if random forces are at work, they are
                          still a part of nature, another determinant.  Random events are not supernatural ones, so
                          I'm not uncomfortable in saying we don't fully understand choice behavior, and
                          randomness might be a part of it.

                          > Sonny Williams

                          >
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