Why the MBT does not survive close scrutiny...

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Specialis Sapientia
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Re: Why the MBT does not survive close scrutiny...

Post by Specialis Sapientia »

This question has been addressed on the forum before. See this thead:
Please explain serial rapists, serial killers, pedophiles.

Lisa: "My question is very specific. How would you, and your BT, explain that ½ of 1%? How can the universe create people with a built-in desire to torture? How can a victim's soul grow spiritually by being chained, beaten, stabbed, and raped, sometimes for months or years on end? At some point, doesn't the universe say, "enough is enough?" These are really tough questions, and the best answers the experts can give seems to be "no one knows why." Please help me understand."

Tom: "Such dysfunction is not one dimensional, there are many possible contributing factors. That it only happens to 1/2 of 1 % of the "bad guys" (a probability of 0.005 -- thus perhaps a probability of only 0.00005 within the general population) tells you that it is the result of an extremely unlikely combination of factors.

1) A large portion of our personality, how we interpret data, and what rings our bell (drives us to action, turns us on, upsets us, encourages our attitudes, set us off, piques our interest, captures our attention, makes us feel good or feel bad) is biologically influenced. A consciousness gets a body/brain that must exists and develop according to the PMR rule set. Within that physical process there is much randomness (notice 6 billion people and they are all different). There is interactive feedback between the environment and the body/brain -- each changing the other. The brain modifies how the entity interprets its reality while the environment causes the brain to modify itself in adaptation to the environment. In other words, the brain changes the perceived environment and the perceived environment [both experience based (love, trauma, fear, etc) and bio chemically based (drugs, pollution, food additives, allergens, glandular dysfunction, etc.) changes the functioning of the brain. Sometimes that randomness (which includes the possibility of combining just the wrong series of environment-brain interactions at just the wrong series of times) produces a dysfunctional being who has a much higher potential than normal to become a monster. Bottom line: it is not just a corrosive environment that raises one's potential to become a monster. The environment is usually not even the dominate influence. Environment, biology and chance conspire to only very occasionally produce a seriously elevated potential to become a monster. It is not surprising that some of these monsters come from what appears to be a very benign environment (at least it appears that way from a very coarse, after-the-fact examination that must necessarily miss (because of the passage of time) most of the important developmental detail). In fact, it would be very strange indeed if none of these monsters came from benign (good) environments.

2) The consciousness that inhabits the body/brain must work with what it gets from these random interactions -- once committed it is in for the duration of the experience packet -- however long or short that might be. If an entity gets dealt a bad hand by chance, then, all the more the challenge -- and at worse, hey, it's not often you will draw a 1 in 20,000 card .... and it's just one experience packet -- there are a thousand more of those where that one came from -- no big deal, just do the best you can with what you get, maybe next time you will get a piece of cake. In evaluating your score, the system allows for the difficulty of the game you are playing. You know, suck it up....cookies sometimes crumble. Now a more evolved consciousness will be able to deal more effectively with the challenge -- it might be able to reprogram the brain and apply great inner strength to resist and nullify the dysfunctional proclivities that come with the body/brain. Unfortunately, because of the elementary school nature of PMR, highly evolved consciousnesses are a rare breed and with a little more bad luck (more of that chance we were talking about in 1 above) a real weak low life individuated unit of consciousness (already failing to learn or perhaps de-evolving in previous packets) happens to get connected with this high monster potential. The environment may actually be all peace and light but this ill prepared puppy is all but doomed to go bad no matter how much "guidance" and help it gets. That's free will and chance in the PMR game -- you gotta let it unravel however it does and do the best you can. Outside interference in the game once the game has started is a no-no. Rules are rules.

3) So the 0.00005 (1 in 20,000 of the general population) monster is loose -- what about the rest of us? The fact is, such a person generates lots of lessons for hundreds if not thousands of the rest of us as he leaves destruction in his wake. And what about those hurt or destroyed? The answer is just the other side of that same crumbling cookie the perpetrator had to accept. For highly developed consciousnesses there is a difficult but high gain lesson to maintain fearlessness and a loving, caring intent and turn the encounter with the monster into something positive in the big picture. [Because that is hard to imagine, here is an example: read Victor Frankel's book, "Man's Search For Meaning". As a Jew in Auschwitz and other death-camps, he received an up close and personal encounter with a multitude of five star monsters as well as having to deal with the murder of his wife and family. He turned all that into a positive personal learning experience and eventually used that experience to help many others.] For less evolved individuated units of consciousness, the trauma is mitigated to the extent possible by those in NPMR so as to minimize lasting effects. Again, keep in mind that this is just one experience packet among thousands and it fades to dream status very quickly under normal circumstances and even quicker than that under the help received in NPMR. Being terminated from PMR by some monster would be similar to waking up from a barely remembered nightmare. It would be a little inconvenient (a minor waste of time) if one's experience packet was ended prematurely but, there's always another. Just like the perpetrator, the victim must also accept that sometimes the cookie crumbles, suck up the misfortune of drawing a 1 in 20,000 card, and go on. Jeez, for crying out loud, it's just a simulator for gaining experience. You are jarred to your bones by such a horrific tragedy because of your little picture PMR perspective -- which is good -- that's the perspective you are supposed to have while in PMR.

Now combine all three paragraphs in various amounts and degrees of each and you get a Big Picture of an unpleasant set of circumstances that must play themselves out because that is how PMR must work in order to be effective. After you have read all three books, this discussion will probably make more sense and be much clearer. Hope this helps."

Tom also wrote this as an response to a different question along the same lines (years ago, on Facebook I think, so no link):

Tom: "We put huge importance on what happens to us within a given experience packet while we are in that experience packet. Once out of that packet, the memory of it quickly fades like a dream whether that dream was idyllic or a nightmare -- all the horror or joy of it disappears leaving behind only what was learned, accumulating the growth attained, the entropy lost. The experience itself is not as important as what one gains or loses, in an evolutionary sense, from that experience. Some experiences are very difficult, some easy, some joyful, and some painful. Some of the experiences that come to you are exactly what you need and are custom fit to your growth needs. Others are unplanned products of chance and how the free will actions of others interact with your own free will actions. Free will is free will, if we allow only "nice" free will, it is no longer free will and free will is necessary for the system to work. An old saying that understands the uncertainty of our existence describes life like this: Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you". We who are sharing this experience in PMR, live in a place of much uncertainty and of great extremes (the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly) because that is the way we are -- it represents us (collectively) perfectly because it is our creation. The solution to the bear problem is not to hunt down and get rid of all who look to you like bears, or put them all in zoos.. You cannot directly change anybody but yourself. The solution is to raise the general quality of consciousness so that we generate fewer bears in our culture. You can most optimally accomplish this goal by raising the quality of your own consciousness. Ranting (a major ego attachment) about the evil bears does nothing to solve the real problem. In fact, it exacerbates the problem by ratcheting up fear -- the very thing that creates bears in the first place. This doesn't mean that we should pretend that bears don't exist and act foolishly and stupidly, only that we should focus on becoming part of the solution (by changing ourselves -- getting rid of our personal fear, ego, and anger) while avoiding being part of the problem (adding to the collective fear, ego, and anger).

This doesn't mean that we should pretend that bears don't exist and act foolishly and stupidly, only that we should focus on becoming part of the solution (by changing ourselves -- getting rid of our personal fear, ego, and anger) while avoiding being part of the problem (adding to the collective fear, ego, and anger)". It would be foolish to think that "it doesn't really matter" and both foolish and stupid (and immoral) to stand by and watch others be terrorized or hurt if there was something you could do to stop it."


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IvanD, read it a few times and see if it answers your question.
pteria
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Re: Why the MBT does not survive close scrutiny...

Post by pteria »

Hi IvanD,

I just wanted to reply to your comments on the topic of free will, because it's a subject that intrigues me.

I recently became interested in the topic of free will when I heard Sam Harris talking about it on his 'Waking Up' podcast. So I watched a number of Youtube videos in which Sam Harris was either giving presentations (including the Sydney Opera House talk that you provided a link to), or video interviews with him on this topic. I also listened to his audiobook entitled Free Will. The essential arguments in his book are basically repeated in each of the different video presentations, with some minor variations here and there.

I went into this topic in an open minded way, as I was just interested to see what Harris had to say. But I have to say, I was not impressed at all with his arguments. I found them weak and unconvincing, and even a little false at times. This surprised me, because I went into it thinking that maybe Sam Harris was going to blow my mind with some information that might change my view of how I think I make choices.

You said in your first post that you were not merely “referring to some trivial experiments that were done some decades ago and show that the brain seems to make choices before we become aware of our choosing.Unfortunately, the problem is deeper than that.” However, you 'strongly recommend' Sam Harris's discussions on this topic. Well the problem there is, Sam Harris relies very heavily on those 'trivial experiments' to support his case against free will. Sam Harris has a few core arguments that he repeats in all his talks. His first and most central argument refers to the evidence provided by neuro-imaging experiments that show that neural activity in the brain is recorded some seconds before a subject registers that they have made a choice. The reason why he always begins with this argument is because he can refer to some scientific data to draw his conclusions from. Now you refer us to Sam Harris, yet you discount the importance of the neuro-imaging experiments that Harris refers to. There is a fundamental contradiction here. So what's it going to be, do you support and recommend Harris's views or not?

I'm going to say a few words about why that part of Harris's argument on no free will is not at all credible for the sake of people who may read this and wonder what it is all about. Those experiments and the data they gathered are extremely problematic and controversial. It’s been argued that the brain activity measures used in the studies are insufficient and too crude to draw wide-ranging conclusions from. In fact, there is no established brain-function measure of the conscious generation of decisions that has been corroborated and agreed upon by researchers in this field. That fact alone means that any conclusions drawn from these experiments are debatable, as it is not yet clear what exactly they represent.

The experiments in question began in the mid 80s with the work of Libet. The data from the experiments shows that there is antecedent neural activity prior to decision making, but the question is how the data should be interpreted. There are a number of questions that have been raised by scientists in this field about these tests. I would recommend taking a look at the review paper on this subject by W.R. Klemm, Free Will Debates in Advances in Cognitive Psychology, 2010; 6: 47–65.

The Libet-type studies rely on a limited set of neurophysiological data. The premise is that monitoring a small piece of brain, such as the motor cortex, can serve as the indicator for conscious decisions. To start with, it is not actually known what exactly the neural activity in the brain they registered actually signifies. There are assumptions going on. They claim that activity to be the moment that the decision is made, but that has not been shown to be true. They also don't know whether there is activity going on elsewhere in the brain at the same time that may be relevant.

The second point that we can make about those experiments is that they are looking at subjects who are asked to do things like spontaneously decide whether to move their left or right finger and register when they have made the decision as they make it. There are potentially a number of things going on in the minds of the subjects during the experiments. The subjects know that as soon as one trial is over that another is beginning. So, the pre-movement increased brain activity could actually reflect conscious processing in the subject of different things, such as: choosing to make a button-press movement, choosing to press either right or left, noticing the letters on the screen and holding them in working memory, and making a decision to press and remembering which letter was present on the screen when the decision was made. Given that these processes are going on in the brain, it raises the question of whether there is any single electrophysiological marker of when a decision is made, conscious or otherwise. And if there is, where is it?

More recent investigators have found that increased brain activity occurs in other parts of the brain prior to the increased motor cortex activity, and these include areas that are not normally associated with movement. Therefore we can’t conclude that a movement is caused by an instantaneous burst of firing from one place in the brain. We also don’t know that the instant in time that Libet and others have chosen to observe was the only moment or even the key moment at which the decision to move the fingers was made, and we don’t know where in the brain such decisions are made. Ultimately, nobody knows if there is a place in the brain where the conscious self is, much less where intentions are first initiated.

Let's now consider these experiments from another viewpoint. Let's suppose for arguments sake that they actually do show that the decisions made by the subjects in the experiments really were made before they were conscious of making them. Even if that were so, how does one extrapolate from that to saying that there is no free will?

And here we come to a great flaw in Harris's arguments; and that is that he doesn't even attempt to differentiate at all between the different kinds of decisions that people make during their lives. So what does Harris actually mean by the term ’free will’ ? He should probably at least attempt to give a definition before launching into such a debate, because when you think about it, there are many kinds of decision making situations. The neurobiological experiments referred to deal with a very limited type of decision making, such as whether to randomly decide to move your left or right finger. Harris makes the bold sweeping statement that these experiments show that we don't have free will because 'oh look, we can see the choice to move his finger happened before he became aware of it'. That's a dubious claim to begin with, but the extrapolation made from it is truly breathtaking in its absurdity.

Clearly, we do not only make spontaneous and trivial decisions such as whether to move our left or right finger! Depending on the circumstances, a decision may be rapid and spontaneous, or we may ponder a decision over a long time period before arriving at a firm decision. Long term evaluations, such as whether to undertake a university course, to make a career change, to get married, or to start a business, require us to weigh up complex multiple factors over time. In these sorts of cases the conviction to act might be arrived at gradually over time, without a specific decision making instant. Consider for instance, if we might be thinking about whether or not to marry someone that we are in a relationship with. We might consider that over many months or even years as we gather information, analyzing our feelings for that person, considering what kind of a spouse they would make, wondering whether it would actually be a good idea to get married to anybody in the first place, and taking into consideration how our decision might affect others and what their opinion might be, and on and on... A complex decision like that probably doesn't have a single moment in which it is made. It can be arrived at slowly over time as we develop an inner sense of conviction about what is the best course of action to take. But for Harris, we are just moist robots, and our brain chemistry determines what decision we'll make. He even goes so far as to say somewhere that we can have a situation where a person decides to marry their partner potentially as a result of what they've had for lunch, because of the effect on their brain chemistry caused by the food at the moment the decision was taken. This is an absurd notion.

There are some habitual actions, like locking our front door as we leave the house, that are based on considerations that were made beforehand and then adhered to automatically over a period of time without any further need for conscious or reflective thought. Locking your door is an important decision, because it can have serious consequences, but you don’t have to think about it every time you do it because you already worked that out some time ago and then it is a habitual action. So in a case such as this, would there be activity in a certain place in the brain every time you lock the door? Maybe not.

Sudden decisions, on the other hand, can be made in a split second based on an urgent need to act to avoid imminent danger, or to act in order to take advantage of a sudden opportunity. We might for example, be walking along the street and suddenly notice a situation in which we need to act, such as darting out of our way to save a child from walking out in front of an oncoming car. All of these examples I've given are different from each other, but they are all clearly more complex than deciding to randomly move a finger. They are examples of how decisions can have consequences, and that obviously can affect our level of involvement in the decision making process. The neurobiology experiments are not able to analyze what is going on in the brain for these kinds of decisions and how such decisions are made. And yet these simple neurobiology experiments, with all their simplistic limitations, are used as evidence to rule out the possibility that we exercise free will? That is an absurd extrapolation to make from such a limited set of experimental data.

In fact during an interview on the Joe Rogan Experience, Rogan points out that making a random decision to move our left or right finger isn’t the same as making an important choice that affects our lives. In other words, he points out that Harris is inflating the significance of the neurobiology tests to well beyond what they might actually show. Harris's response is rather false and misleading. He responds with: “If I can write down everything that you’re going to say in a paragraph on this pad, and then wait for you to say it and then hold this piece of paper up to you… if we can predict what you’re going to think before you think it, where is your free will?” To which Rogan replies: “But you are not actually able to do that.” And Harris responds, “No, but we can do it in a very simple paradigm.” Really? What nonsense! It has not been done, and there's no evidence that it ever will be done, so why pretend that such a thing is possible? Harris tries to pass off the notion that it was somehow actually possible to know everything a person was going to say before they said it. As we have already seen, those experiments do not provide reliable evidence that random right or left finger movements are predetermined, let alone do they show that we could predict everything a person was going to say before they said it.

Now, I have given some reasons why I believe the data from these experiments do not provide evidence that there is no free will. Then there are other faulty arguments made by Harris. After talking about the neurobiology experiments, Harris usually goes on to talk about making random choices, and he argues that these show that we don't have free will. For instance, when talking with Rogan, he asks him to choose any city at random. (In his book he talks about choosing to drink orange juice instead of beer.) In the interview, Rogan chooses Chicago. Harris then asks “Were you really free to think of another city?” He says that in a deterministic universe Rogan was not free to think of another city. That would not have been possible because “the universe would have had to have been in a different state.” In other words, the physical state of everything being what it was at the moment of choosing Chicago, Rogan had to name that city because all the predetermining factors led him to make that choice. It was not something that he was in control of. That's a big claim from Harris, but how do we know that's the case? There's no evidence. It's just a claim.

Rogan raises the point that a random choice such as naming any city is basically inconsequential, and so you can’t really compare that to making real life decisions that are important to us. All Harris can respond with is that making choices is basically a 'mysterious process'. The decisions we make, the words we use when we speak, it all just 'comes out of a darkness'. But why I ask, does that mean that we don't actually make choices based on our free will? Does the idea that decisions appear ultimately to be made in a way that seems to be mysterious, prove that we don't make the decisions? No it doesn't. That is just an observation, or an opinion. Why should it convince anybody that the decision was not ours? Sure, we might agree that the micro-processes going on in the mind are mysterious to us. There's a lot that we don't know about ourselves. I mean, what is the mind anyway? Is the mind located somewhere in our brain? These are legitimate questions. But it's not a logical step to say that how we make choices is ultimately mysterious and so therefore we don't have any free will.

If you think about it, making a random choice like choosing any city is rather akin to randomly deciding to move your left or right finger; it’s a choice without consequences. Therefore if it doesn’t require you to make any evaluation whatsoever and if you allow your subconscious to toss up whatever city comes to mind, then obviously that’s a situation where you are allowing influential factors to take over, whether conscious or subconscious. So why then would you point to making a random choice as demonstrative of a lack of free will? It doesn’t make sense. A random choice is precisely the kind of choice in which we freely relinquish any decision making capability. In such a case, obviously we don’t necessarily know or care what comes to mind, because it’s of no consequence. One allows associations, suggestions or memory to influence our choice. Perhaps Rogan had just been watching a TV series that is set in Chicago. Perhaps he heard Frank Sinatra singing the song ‘Chicago’ that morning. Or maybe he just happens to like that city. In fact Rogan goes on to say that Chicago was a city that he particularly liked and that he had spent time there. Any number of things could have influenced that choice. But the point is, if you want to demonstrate that we don’t have free will, then you don’t it by talking about random choices.

On the other hand, if Harris had said: ‘Here are two cities in America - Chicago and New Orleans. Choose which city you would prefer to live in and tell me why.’ And if he gave Rogan some time to think it over, and perhaps he could add some criteria to consider; such as job prospects, vicinity to family, climate and the cost of living, then perhaps Rogan could have given an answer and some reasons for his choice. But then that scenario would not have suggested that there was a lack of free will would it? So maybe that’s why Harris didn’t ask Rogan that question, or a question like that.

Harris then usually goes on to talk about some anomalous cases like Charles Whitman, the 1966 clock tower shooter, and how he shot all of these people one day, and then afterwards they found that there was a tumour in his brain that was pressing against his amygdala, and later a commission of neurosurgeons, psychiatrists and pathologists stated that the tumour may have contributed to Whitman’s inability to control his emotions and actions. For Harris we are all essentially like Charles Whitman, because like him, we are all fundamentally subject to the whims of our neurobiological condition. But hey, guess what? Most of us don't have brain tumours that are applying pressure on our brain and causing us to feel unduly agitated, aggressive and irrational. So we don't go around randomly deciding to kill people. We can make better decisions than that, based on rational thinking, or on our feelings, but we make those choices for a reason. I think we should also add that while Charles Whitman had a brain condition that obviously did affect him, that doesn't necessarily mean that he had no choice whatsoever. The tumour may have reduced his ability to make sane, rational choices, but he knew what he was doing was wrong and he struggled against it and he also wrote about it. In the end he failed to control his impulses, but that doesn't necessarily mean that there was no possibility of choosing not to do what he did. We just don't know, and Sam Harris certainly doesn't know either. And most of us are certainly not like Charles Whitman. It's just another absurd and illogical argument from Harris.

Along the same lines, Harris also often brings up the case of Uday Hussein. He talks about how Uday grew up in a violent place at a violent time and he was the son of a cruel and sadistic dictator and how all these circumstances, combined with his genes, his environment, his biochemistry and all of that resulted in him becoming a cruel and sadistic person with access to power that allowed him to behave in any way that he liked. Harris tries to argue that Uday wasn't ultimately responsible for what he did. Uday didn’t have any choice in the matter, because all the biological and environmental factors of his personal history made him do it. He even argues that anybody else born in Uday’s place, with exactly the same neurobiological make up that he had and the same genes and the same parents and environment and all the rest of it, would have acted the same way as Uday. That is merely meaningless word play, because that 'anybody else' that he's talking about would actually BE Uday Hussein, not somebody else, so what is the point in saying that at all?

Clearly, Uday must have been influenced by all the factors affecting him, but that doesn't rule out the possibility that he could have made different choices. And some different choices made earlier on in his life could have affected his future choices more positively, if he had made them. So his gradual degeneration into a cruel and sociopathic individual could have been avoided if he had exercised his free will in a more positive way at some earlier point in his life. By the way, Uday's brother on the other hand, didn't choose to behave in the same way. But then Harris would probably say that he had different genes you see and that allowed him to behave differently. The point is that Uday, like Charles Whitman, was an extreme case in rather unusual circumstances, which does not reflect the way most of us behave nor the conditions that we live under. Sure, if you take any person and stick a brain tumour in their head, or you give them unlimited power and put them in a violent and lawless society, then it's very likely that they are going to do some bad things. But that doesn't mean that the rest of us don't have free will to exercise judgement in our daily lives. It just doesn't compute Harris.

I should add that your statements IvanD, about there being no free will were equally unconvincing to me. As I've already pointed out, you refer constantly back to Sam Harris, and if he is your baseline position, then that is problematic to start with.

You also stated that for the 'great philosophers' such as Kant, Schopenhauer, Marx and others, that the non existence of free will was a 'trivial truth.' Well, they may have thought that, but that doesn't explain to us, the people who read your post, why they thought that. So based on what they argued, can you present a convincing argument ? If it's a valid truth, you ought to be able to summarize it clearly. After referring to these philosophers, you go on to say that you are 'not just repeating what the great philosophers say' – but it seems to me that you are doing just that. You need to back up what you say with something more convincing. A logical argument or some evidence of some kind. It's not good enough to merely say that the non existence of free will is a 'trivial truth.' How is that so? Can you demonstrate that?

You also repeated a number of times in your posts that:

“A mental process is like every other process - it is a succession of changes of state. A change of state can happen either causally (determinism) or randomly (randomness). There is no third way. Neither of those theoretical possibilities gives you "free will". And here it does not even matter whether consciousness is fundamental or not. Just take a moment to think about it - and try to be unbiased...“ 

„Each and every choice we make can only be either part of a causal chain of events (determinism) or a random event (randomness).“

Again, that argument does not have anything to back it up. To be convincing you need to explain that and show us why that should be the case. What evidence can you provide that a mental process can only be changed by determinism or randomness? Where is it shown that there are only these two possibilities? You should explain why you believe that to be so, and why that eliminates the possibility of free will. For my part, I don't see why there are only these two possibilities. But if that were the case, and we are conscious decision makers, then my consciousness could be the causal factor that determines the change, couldn't it?

You said also, that:

If you were the author of your own thoughts, you would have to think them before you actually think them… Thoughts, feelings and emotions go through your mind. They “pop in”. You are not their creator, your mind is simply a space for them to arise. In other words, your mental processes simply take place without you doing anything except for “witnessing” them.

That doesn't necessarily follow. Why would that be the case? Please provide a rational explanation. I don't see why I would have to 'think my thoughts before I think them.' My thoughts arise in my mind as I think them and they are mine. How does that mean that they are not my thoughts? If I am conscious and I have thoughts and feelings and these arise in my mind, how am I not the creator or the 'author' of my thoughts? You are making the same mistake as Harris. He keeps on repeating that our thoughts are 'mysterious'. He constantly says that they 'come out of nowhere'. Well, so what? If you choose to believe in materialism and determinism, then thoughts come out of nowhere. But that doesn't make your view correct. You've just taken up a position. And when you take that position, you ignore all the evidence to show that the mind, awareness and consciousness are real.

To me, my thoughts come out of my conscious mind. Yes, I am witness to my thoughts you could say; they appear in my mind as I think them. You may say that's mysterious. Well the mind IS 'mysterious' isn't it? And consciousness is also 'mysterious' as well, right? In fact, nobody knows where they are located. But that's not surprising. Many things in this world are very mysterious to us. Like where this world came from in the first place and what gravity is and why electrons seem to be nowhere in particular, and why the speed of light is a constant and so on and so on... These questions and many others ALL pose mysteries and last time I looked, the materialist scientists couldn't provide any answers to these questions. So why be so sure of yourself and say that free will is an illusion? You can be sceptical about it, but you ought to keep an open mind. Why believe in the narrow materialist view of the world when they simply haven't got the answers yet? Remain open minded and look at the evidence that's available.

There is evidence out there to support the notion that consciousness is real. How much have you looked into the double slit experiments? Have you understood what those experiments and all their variations signify? You referred to the great philosophers and how they believed that the non existence of free will was a 'trivial truth', yet no evidence was presented to back that up, not even a summary of why they held that view. Well, the double slit experiments do provide some evidence to show that physical matter is not what it seems. Mainstream science ignores these issues, because most scientists just want to get on with doing things and they don't want to get stuck with the problems that arise from those experiments. Problems that contradict the objective materialist view of reality. Problems that they have no answer for. But the likes of Neils Bohr, Albert Einstein, Max Planck, Eugene Wigner, Richard Fynman, Edward Fredkin and others all agreed that the results of the double slit experiments pointed to the fact that the content of consciousness is the ultimate universal reality. If you haven't looked into this topic, I suggest that you do so, because it raises some very important questions about the nature of reality that have not been resolved, but it was considered to be fundamentally important by some of the brightest minds of the 20th Century.

I'd like to say something about the idea of determinism. Sam Harris has stated repeatedly that if we knew the exact condition and state of all the molecules in the physical universe then we could logically derive what was going to happen next and what everyone was going to think and do next. But to me, this raises the question, if all is just molecules and neurons and chemical states in our brain, why would our choices seemingly reflect our interests and our learning processes? Why would an indifferent and purely materialistic phenomena behave in that way? Most people believe they are making choices based on the options that they can see as available to them and they are constantly receiving feedback and experiencing the consequences of those choices, both good and bad, and hence we are able to learn from our decisions. This happens constantly every day. It is born out by the evidence of our daily experience, throughout our entire lives. We are in a hurry for instance and we drive through a red light. A police car then pulls us over and delivers a hefty fine. So we think twice about doing that again. We do these kinds of things all the time; we make a choice, it brings about an consequence, which in this case is undesired, so we may choose to change our behaviour accordingly. That makes sense. Our direct experience provides subjective evidence to suggest that free will is a faculty that we possess. My personal experience shows me that my ability to make choices is not an illusion. I'm constantly faced with the results brought about by my decisions, and I constantly review my decisions accordingly and I can also learn from them. To me that shows me that I am an active participant in the process. But the determinists say that is a mere illusion. But where is the evidence for that claim? And can you explain why indifferent physical matter would be making choices on my behalf that reflect my interests? What are its motives?


I also want to finish IvanD by saying that I started off being open minded either way about this debate. I did not have a pre-set view, but when I explored Harris's arguments I felt that he wasn't convincing at all. I started to research the topic of consciousness and from there I came across Tom Campbell's videos and I downloaded his book as well. After listening to Tom's explanations about free will I found that they made logical sense to me. However, since there isn't going to be any real incontrovertible evidence out there either way, the only thing we can use as a guide for now is logical argument. It seems quite obvious to me that I am a conscious individual, who has perception and an ability to evaluate situations and make decisions and to learn from the consequences of those decisions. People like yourself argue that's an illusion, but I still haven't come across any argument that convinces me of that.
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Re: Why the MBT does not survive close scrutiny...

Post by VirtualBrain »

Excellent post pteria,

Yea, I mean it’s just patently obvious that we have free will. Free will dosent mean you get to do anything you want without consequences. It doesn’t mean that your omnipotent and all powerful or incapable of making mistakes. You have free will within your decision space and/or you have free will to react to the information you get/have access to. Free will is not unlimited and it’s the responsibility of the individual whether or not they grow their decision space(have more free will) by making good decisions or not.

In my opinion it is a VERY, VERY bad idea to deny the existence of free will. Doing so leads one on the path of victimization and self destruction. I exercise my free will and give Sam Harris the benefit of the doubt by assuming that he’s just an ignorant intellectual giving out bad information.

What really intrigues me is how and why there are those who when offered a way out of their self created hell refuse to take the offer. Maybe it’s just fear and stubborn belief, anyway I wish I could help but I know that I don’t know how. Maybe you are more convincing. I hope so. :)
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Re: Why the MBT does not survive close scrutiny...

Post by pteria »

Hi Virtual Brain,
When I wrote the post I hadn't realized how far the debate with IvanD had gone awry because I had only looked at the first page - if I had seen some of the other stuff that came later I probably wouldn't have jumped in! But it would be interesting to hear a genuine attempt to answer some of the questions that have been put to IvanD. Just repeating lines from Sam Harris or pasting links to his videos doesn't cut it at all. If IvanD truly understands what he's talking about, he should answer those questions in his own words. I get the impression some people just take what Harris says as gospel because they think he's infallible or something. They just don't seem to question what he says enough. If you read some of the comments after the Joe Rogan interview, many people posted sniggering remarks about what a chump Rogan is for not being able to understand what Harris was saying, which is simply not true. As for Harris and others like him, I assume he's convinced his view is right, but I would like to see somebody seriously challenge him on some of the assumptions he makes when he talks about free will.
Cheers :)
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Re: Why the MBT does not survive close scrutiny...

Post by not_TC »

Victor Frankel
I'm so tired of hearing about this. If you yourself can choose how you feel about something then it obviously wasn't that horrible.
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Re: Why the MBT does not survive close scrutiny...

Post by jbaxter »

IvanD :

"Now, I want to say something to all of you. To put it mildly, I am quite disappointed in this forum. And not only because there are clowns like Human+ around here. It’s the general attitude that is being expressed towards people with differing views. It appears to me like quite a cultish place. Sadly, the only thing Sainbury and I agree on, is that I should move on. And that’s what I will do. I have posted now my question in the Fireside thread.
Please, don’t bother to write any more about “free will” or my other critique of the MBT. I am leaving for good and I won’t even read the next post here. After all, my whole stay seems a complete waste of time… Anyway, bye to everyone civilized here. Peace."

While I can see flaws in Sam Harris' free will postulation, in which IvanD clearly holds so much faith, I nevertheless find the balance of reasoning on the opposite sides quite fascinating and certainly worthy of calm reflection/discussion.

That aside, I can also see why IvanD decided to leave the room and why he finds the evangelical approach of some of the hard-core members of this forum most unappealing. A year or two ago, I too drifted away for the very same reason.

In short, there's nothing 'low entropy' about the general approach directed here towards those who retain a healthy skepticism with regard to Tom's MBT model. My feeling, for what it's worth, is that the more genuine 'seekers' among you might, out of respect for Tom, do well to give a moment or two's thought to this observation.

Best,
Julie
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Re: Why the MBT does not survive close scrutiny...

Post by VirtualBrain »

not_TC wrote: Tue May 26, 2020 12:04 am
Victor Frankel
I'm so tired of hearing about this. If you yourself can choose how you feel about something then it obviously wasn't that horrible.
It’s not about how horrible or wonderful something or some situation is/was. It’s about what you choose to do with that experience moving forward. Anything can be used as an excuse to justify whatever you wish good or bad, you get to choose.

Hi jbaxter. Your puppy appears to be interested in the subject of free will. :)
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Re: Why the MBT does not survive close scrutiny...

Post by Jdjr »

Here is Campbell's position:


For the last several months, I have been thinking about continuity planning for MBT in all of its many expressions. Making sure that MBT will grow and expand both now and in the future. This line of thinking has lead me to start a few new initiatives and make some changes in what was already in place. One of these changes directly affects the forum.

This forum is a very important part of the over all MBT strategy. Besides leading the forum, Ted has undertaken several projects (such as creating an MBT wiki, and extending MBT theory) that are also important. Others can run the forum, but only Ted can finish his many projects. The result is that Runi (Specialis Sapientia), a young man from Denmark who is well versed in MBT theory and understanding, and a forum moderator for some time, is now the leader of the forum. Ted will be spending his time working on special projects for me. Linda, has requested some well earned R&R (rest and relaxation) and will be taking a break from the forum for a while. I will be in and out of the forum over the next few months to see how the transition is coming along. Runi is very knowledgeable and great guy... and I am confident that you will enjoy interacting with him. Ted, who brought this forum from almost nothing to what it is today, and who has an unparalleled in-depth and detailed knowledge of MBT theory, is impossible to replace, but I need him to move on to more critical things at this time.

Before I leave you to begin experiencing the forum under new management, I would like to share my vision of the MBT forum: It has two main goals of equal importance.

The forum's scope is limited to things directly related to MBT. The first goal is to create an environment that facilitates learning through useful discussions of topics relating to MBT. This environment should be collegial, friendly, polite, encouraging, helpful, understanding, and focused on learning. Pertinent personal experience, questions, problems, information sharing, and challenges to MBT theory are all welcome. This function creates the Forum's content.

The second goal is to have the forum eventually accumulate its content into a body of knowledge and answers to questions that can serve as a reference, a vital archive of MBT lore and understanding. A constantly accumulating archive that is a gold mine of useful information for future seekers…in the decades and centuries to come. I am seeing this forum eventually becoming a huge compendium of MBT understanding that researchers can mine to find specific knowledge. This function makes the forum's content accessible and useful to future users.

So the two goals are: the necessity of simultaneously maintaining both an active and effective learning experience for posters and producing a relative junk-free archive as a resource for the future study of MBT. It needs to be “Relative Junk free” because nobody is willing to hunt for needles in haystacks. Occasional nuggets of useful information hidden among large piles of off-topic or out of scope text will make any archive completely useless to most seekers of specific information.

Now it will be Runi's responsibility to see that both of these goals are well met. This can occasionally be a difficult job because posters sometimes have ulterior motives or develop attitudes and approaches that are (or become) contrary to what we are trying to do here, and more difficult yet because goal two requires subjective judgement of content value from forum management.

Anything that is important is usually not easy. All I can say is that we will do our best to get as right as we can... and make changes accordingly.

Welcome to the MBT Forum. Please help Runi make it a success. All ideas on how to do that are welcome.


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Re: Why the MBT does not survive close scrutiny...

Post by Human+ »

That aside, I can also see why IvanD decided to leave the room and why he finds the evangelical approach of some of the hard-core members of this forum most unappealing. A year or two ago, I too drifted away for the very same reason.
There's no evangelical approach. Any disagreement or hostility perceived has everything to do with responding to an individual's poor logic and behavior -- and in this case, IvanD initiates condescending remarks to board members and seems to try to set out to prove his title, "WHY MBT DOES NOT SURVIVE CLOSE SCRUTINY" by repeatedly ignoring what's being said to him despite showing he doesn't understand certain basic principles of MBT.

In the end, he wanted to ask Tom himself and did Tom say much else than what was answered to him here? There is more evidence of dogmatic thinking in IvanD's approach here.


JDJR: Here is Campbell's position:
Thanks for the quote. It is surely recommended in situations where one's impulse to disagreement is to initiate ad-hominems, JDJR. I concur with Tom here although social/moral situations are not always that straightforward. I also imagine there's another intent from Tom to keep the MBT forum related to MBT.
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Re: Why the MBT does not survive close scrutiny...

Post by not_TC »

VirtualBrain wrote: Sat Jun 06, 2020 3:10 am
It’s not about how horrible or wonderful something or some situation is/was. It’s about what you choose to do with that experience moving forward. Anything can be used as an excuse to justify whatever you wish good or bad, you get to choose.
You missed the part where you don't have a choice.
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Re: Why the MBT does not survive close scrutiny...

Post by VirtualBrain »

not_TC wrote: Sun Jun 07, 2020 10:08 pm
VirtualBrain wrote: Sat Jun 06, 2020 3:10 am
It’s not about how horrible or wonderful something or some situation is/was. It’s about what you choose to do with that experience moving forward. Anything can be used as an excuse to justify whatever you wish good or bad, you get to choose.
You missed the part where you don't have a choice.
Hind sight is 20/20. There are many stories of people going to prison having been falsely accused and then being asked later if they would change their experience the answer was NO. Many would also probably answer YES. Curious this choosing how you feel business. Many are probably not innately aware that they choose how they feel, others are. What you feel you feel NOW. You feel nothing in the past or the future.

When stuff happens that’s when we get to deal with it the best we can based on our decision space and quality of consciousness. There may not be a decision that leads to an outcome that you feel is ideal, but there is something to be learned in every experience.

Generally, things get better as you(your higher self) learn from your experience. Remaining open minded and skeptical helps. When you feel like you have no choice, remain in the moment and know that you have everything that you need NOW and ALLOW any actions you take to be guided, you will know what you need to know when you need to know it and you shall have what you need to have when you need it. We as humans cannot “think” our way through every situation, we just don’t have enough information access.

Am I making any sense at all? You always have a choice even if it is to do nothing or make no choice or ignore the situation entirely. You can’t do anything other than make a choice even if it’s by default or if you allow someone else to make it for you. You are a choice making machine. You have free will within your decision space. Rejoice!

Hope this helps. :)
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Re: Why the MBT does not survive close scrutiny...

Post by jbaxter »

"Am I making any sense at all? You always have a choice even if it is to do nothing or make no choice or ignore the situation entirely. You can’t do anything other than make a choice even if it’s by default or if you allow someone else to make it for you. You are a choice making machine. You have free will within your decision space. Rejoice!"

While I can't speak for others, what you say makes perfect sense to me and resonates with my experience of difficult situations. In hindsight, I wouldn't have missed them for the world!
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Re: Why the MBT does not survive close scrutiny...

Post by VirtualBrain »

jbaxter wrote: Mon Jun 08, 2020 7:57 am "Am I making any sense at all? You always have a choice even if it is to do nothing or make no choice or ignore the situation entirely. You can’t do anything other than make a choice even if it’s by default or if you allow someone else to make it for you. You are a choice making machine. You have free will within your decision space. Rejoice!"

While I can't speak for others, what you say makes perfect sense to me and resonates with my experience of difficult situations. In hindsight, I wouldn't have missed them for the world!
Choose love as often as you can. I think we understood Ivan for the most part, he just was all wrapped up with Sam Harris for some reason. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but Sam’s understanding of free will is just very limited from the perspective of MBT. Not that MBT is the answer to every question either, but MBT’ outlook on free will jibes with my personal experience better than old Sam.

These discussions on the forum have the ability to facilitate self discovery and learning at a deeper level than if you were to sit in front of Tom and passively listen to a lecture. That’s why they are allowed and encouraged. Good to see you jbaxter. :)
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Re: Why the MBT does not survive close scrutiny...

Post by jbaxter »

VirtualBrain wrote: Mon Jun 08, 2020 10:17 am
jbaxter wrote: Mon Jun 08, 2020 7:57 am "Am I making any sense at all? You always have a choice even if it is to do nothing or make no choice or ignore the situation entirely. You can’t do anything other than make a choice even if it’s by default or if you allow someone else to make it for you. You are a choice making machine. You have free will within your decision space. Rejoice!"

While I can't speak for others, what you say makes perfect sense to me and resonates with my experience of difficult situations. In hindsight, I wouldn't have missed them for the world!
Choose love as often as you can. I think we understood Ivan for the most part, he just was all wrapped up with Sam Harris for some reason. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but Sam’s understanding of free will is just very limited from the perspective of MBT. Not that MBT is the answer to every question either, but MBT’ outlook on free will jibes with my personal experience better than old Sam.

These discussions on the forum have the ability to facilitate self discovery and learning at a deeper level than if you were to sit in front of Tom and passively listen to a lecture. That’s why they are allowed and encouraged. Good to see you jbaxter. :)
It would be dishonest of me to say that I 'love' the situations and people who caused me grief in the past. But, on reflection, I can understand them: “I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him. ” - Booker T. Washington

As for the debates here on the forum, I'm not quite so sure they always encourage learning, or at least not of the kind you mean. They just as easily facilitate what Tom calls 'entropy' and the desire to make an about turn and leg it!

Tom has a wonderful ability to remain polite and impersonal in his delivery while at the same time engaging with questioners at a very intimate and sincere level. He does not give any impression of being a cult leader - or of having a desire to be perceived as a guru of any kind. But one can easily get a very different impression from engaging here in the forum. When disagreements arise, things can quickly take a very unappealing fundamentalist turn as dissenters are hammered with the MBT 'truth'.

Anyway, that's just my initial observation as a relative outsider. On balance, I would like to remain here, at least for now, and follow discussions . . . . . but not at the cost of becoming the next aunt sally the minute I pass a comment that steps outside the MBT line!!
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Re: Why the MBT does not survive close scrutiny...

Post by VirtualBrain »

Anyway, that's just my initial observation as a relative outsider. On balance, I would like to remain here, at least for now, and follow discussions . . . . . but not at the cost of becoming the next aunt sally the minute I pass a comment that steps outside the MBT line!!
It’s ok. Aunt Sally, I appreciate your input and perspective. Lol ;)

Ideally, to my mind we would like to discuss MBT without becoming MBT robots. Our individual identities are larger than any theory can be.
It would be dishonest of me to say that I 'love' the situations and people who caused me grief in the past. But, on reflection, I can understand them: “I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him. ” - Booker T. Washington
Sums it up exactly.
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