Hi y'all. Long time no see :) Welcome to the newcomers. Sorry I wasn't there to greet you before. I'm Dess. Used to be a pretty adamant Muslim on here.
I've gotta admit...my faith has been considerably down in the past few months. I've swirled in and out of Islam (never stumbled into Christianity, sorry Collin :P). At the mo I'm on the fence. I'd call myself a sort of Muslim-ish deist. "Muslim-ish" because I find the Qur'an to be inexplicable, deist because I believe in a sentient Creator, of course.
Recently a member (another old-timer: CollinF) posted a bunch of arguments for God. As nice as they were, none of them IMO were truly convincing.
I think in order to know divinity one has to note several things (that I doubt anyone will dispute):
- Animals do not acknowledge (or believe in) a divinity in the same sense that humans do
- Therefore, belief in a divinity requires that one be a human
- Specifically, that one be conscious, one be self-aware, and one be able to form causal connections and theoreticize.
Bearing in mind the last point, I think that this, in fact, is the key to knowing that there is a God.
Let us first examine ourselves (gazing at our navels in the metaphorical sense):
- We have memories
- We have the ability to form causal connections, i.e. A caused B, and understand mechanisms
- We are conscious, self-aware, and sentient
- We have a conception of morality, or in other words of 'oughts'
- We try to find or assign meaning to life
- We are rational
- We have a will
- We seem to make choices
Taking into consideration all of the above, let us now consider our physical selves:
We are made of a bunch of atoms (not self-aware or sentient in and of themselves). These atoms form cells (not self-aware or sentient in and of themselves). These cells carry out processes (that they have not 'chosen' to do).
So far, all of our physical constituents are not self-aware, conscious, sentient, and they do not make choices.
Now let us come to organs, or namely: the brain.
Certainly, we require a brain to survive. It carries out certain processes thru communicating with the body via electrical signals. It stores memories. etc etc
But the brain itself is not self-aware. i.e. the parts that make up the brain (nerve cells) are NOT conscious of themselves.
Now let me draw a parallel between a brain and a computer:
A computer is made up of certain types of wires and transistors and whatever else. akin to what a brain is made out of. None of these are conscious in and of themselves. A computer operates via electricity (like our electrical signals). A computer can carry out complex processes, much like our brain. Indeed, EXACTLY like our brain if computer designers continue to work hard.
But (and call me a naysayer): computers cannot make choices. Computers are not (and in my humble opinion, cannot) be truly 'conscious'. Indeed, they can store memory, but they will forever lack a will. They can be 'rational', but they shan't ever make choices.
Even the most high-tech robot that I can imagine will never have 'free will'. For that, it needs some "magic", so to speak.
That is the reality of ourselves.
And that notion of 'choice' (that is truly an experience-based reality) and 'will' (that again, requires some sort of consciousness) are what make us, humans, unique.
The sublimity of our ideas, the depth of our thoughts, and the fire of our actions: they are all contingent on a will.
And this "will" is what I think the universe, in all its majesty, lacks. For NOTHING within the universe makes choices....except for us. We cannot be a sum of our physical products, because our physical products cannot make choices. They do not have a will.
I am not saying that we can make choices without a brain. That is a claim I cannot prove. Indeed, consciousness in at least some part requires the brain. Thought does require a brain. And to make choices, one needs both thought and consciousness (along with a will). But whether they can be a product of only a highly complex computer is the question. I don't think so. One does not 'develop' a will. One refines a will.
The question then becomes: From where came this will? Can it be a product of the physical universe?
And that, I think -- the concept of knowledge of God (or god) through knowledge of oneself -- is, I think, the truest way for one's beliefs to resonate with reality. For what do we truly know? If one delves into epistemology, the only real 'truth' is that "I exist". Cognito ergo sum. Anything else is subject to doubt, reasonable or unreasonable.
There is a minor escape route, but not a very tenable one IMO: Our conception of choices and a will is simply an illusion.
But historically, this belief has not been widespread. Why? Cuz it simply isn't in accordance with experience.
A person can hypothesize all they want, but in the end the hypothesis has got to match up to experience.
Experience from all peoples of all races and both genders has shown that the notion of one making a 'choice' is a common one. It is not something we can dismiss as an 'illusion'. That is not reasonable. Might as well say that out thoughts are an illusion, logic is an illusion, and all the natural sciences are an illusion too.
A simple way to 'prove' this: Ask the person who makes the claim that a will is an illusion to will themselves to stop making the claim.
Did they stop? Yes? Did they choose to do so? Yes?
Then we're all good eh? :)
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh so God darn long! I haven't changed a bit I'm afraid :) My apologies.
*confused somewhere. can't find...*
what is exactly that deist bit, eh?And while I may agree with epistemological references, I certainly do not think that we can ignore our heart in this matter: the original organ that forges our choices, and so to say, will.
*Thumbs up* Every time I read something supporting a deterministic universe, I spontaneously jump up then sit back down. :)
How do you know that atoms/animals/computers aren't self-aware? From any of their perspectives, we as humans might not have wills. (Not that I think they do, it just seems like a hole in your logic.)
(Applauds) Never heard this argument before, but I like it. Go free will!
AW thanks bud. Actually, it is a fairly common 'argument' in classical Islamic texts. Imam al-Ghazali, for instance, has a piece entitled "On Knowing Yourself and God" (or something).
Essentially the concept is that God is known through oneself first and foremost. :)
Long time no see dude(tte). What's up with you? :D :D
I've gotta say, I'm kinda very attached to you folks here at TI. It's so nice seeing the same people again. If only Liz posted more often too.
I almost became a determinist a few months back.
But yeah, you can't deny experience, and I think that determinism is self-refuting in that your 'knowledge' of determinism would be determined, therefore making it meaningless. Any arguments coming out of one's mouth would be determined and not based on rationality.
So yeah. Had to avoid that. There are certain phenomena that I cannot deny support determinism though. But to what extent, I know not.
Thanks for asking :) Nice seeing you again! What's up with you?
Anyways, I would say animals are self-aware. In that, they can sense themselves and an 'other'. Recognise something outside of themselves.
I think everyone can agree though that atoms have yet to show consciousness. Consciousness is a facet of the human personality alone. People, I think, can say that the universe as a whole is conscious, but they'd have to back up that claim.
So to answer your question: Certainly, they may have a will, and a consciousness different from our own, but there is no reason to believe so. They do not display a 'will' or a 'choice'. They are not dogmatic, do not have belief sytems, civilizations based on art and culture -- they're inanimate, essentially.
A contentious person can nitpick and find a hole in any argument. But I don't think anyone in good faith can say that a rug is self-aware. Animists may say that a cow has a spirit. I am not denying that claim. "Life" is a vitalising force that I think is currently beyond my understanding. But their consciousness is not to the same level as ours. if they acknowledge God, it is not in the same way we do.
And animals show some choice, and some form of will.
So yeah. :) Sorry if I was redundant.
I know, it's kinda unthinkable for a Muslim to leave Islam. :D
I think I've left it mentally for now, but I'm still considering it.
Sometimes the bird needs to break free of its cage in order to come soaring back. Ya know?
Oh, yeah. Fly with the wind.:)
"There are two ways a man can get home. He can just stay there and be content or travel all the way around the world and, just when he thinks he's discovering something new and adventurous, realize that he's back where he started." - G.K. Chesterton (The coolest writer ever)
Let it be said that you could also find out that you were never actually home and take up residence somewhere else on your journey. I hear Christendom is nice this time of year . . .
Just do me a favor and never become a "skeptic." I'd have to virtually smack some sense into ya. :p
Nice quote you got there :) So Chesterton's replaced Lewis as your favourite, eh? Haha. I remember you recommended a book by him to me, but I never got around to reading it :/ Would you mind telling me its name again? And providing that google books link like you did last time? :P
And ha! Dude, if I left Islam, which is in almost every way rationally superior to Christianity, I doubt I'd become a Christian.
And "skeptic" huh? I think I might have. :P Define the term for me please. (No wiki/dictionary)
Wow Destinee, I think you are going to grow up and publish an award-winning book about religion, life, and philosophy that stay on the NYT bestsellers list for 300 weeks or something. Seriously. O.O What I think is just about the same as all you said, is the difference between the brain and the mind. We have brians and minds, I think animals have brains. And maybe a little bit of a mind, but not as much as humans. From where came this will? Well, I don't know where I stand on that one. I am starting to think that there is something that made this, that put order to everything, but that is where I stop. I do not believe that this something, god if you want to call it that, is greater than us. Just because it created us does not mean that we are forever unable to comprehend it, or are not as good of beings as it. I guess if this being does exist, I believe in the Clockwork universe theory. I don't think this creator or whatever fiddles in with our little affairs.
Also something else I think: It think, that by gaining a mind, we lost something. I think that humans have gone form the path they were meant to be on. Like look around, look how perfect and intertwined and made to work the ecosystem of animals and plants is. Humans don't have that. I think that's the thing we lost, the thing we gave to have a mind. We have this ability to think and know and basically be human, but at the same time we destroy the world.
Sorry, that was rambling. Just some thoughts I've had.
Dess: Yeah, it's been a while since I've been on here. I left for a little while after a pretty vicious argument that crossed the line, and then, just when I was ready to come back, my family went on vacation for two weeks and I had no internet access. Not that i'm complaining, though- it was a blast. :)
Glad you had fun :D And that you're back.
I really love TI. Honestly, people are just insanely friendly and it's not like we need moderators to keep us in line. LOVE THIS PLACE.
Sometimes the mods too can get insanely friendly, that is, if you can catch them up.:)
Your ideas are interesting, and plausible, but I don't think we can rule out determinism.
What I mean to say is, if determinism is accurate, we would never know it. You might say "I chose to do this" but really there was no chance you would ever make any other choice.
I also think you're reasoning that choice implies free will is jumping to conclusions a bit. Just because something seemed like it could have gone differently doesn't mean that it actually could've.
Just my thoughts :)
Thanks for your reply (in case anyone was wondering, I asked Breece to post his thoughts) :) I know exactly what you mean. However, let us consider the following:
1. We have to make the assumption that the reality of our experience is truthful. This is necessary to gain any sort of meaningful knowledge. It is an assumption, and I think one that a person in every field makes.
You said: There was no chance you would ever make any other choice. I disagree. Choice MEANS that something else was possible. Hence, a choice. I think you mean that the choice is illusory. This goes back to my assumption. This also goes to my point about being able to conceive of choice (wait did I mention that? I meant to...).
Some things we are able to acknowledge intellectually. For instance, we are able to acknowledge that a range of colours outside of our vision exist. However, we necessarily cannot imagine these colours. To be able to acknowledge this, however, we have to be aware of what a 'colour' is. We need the experience of sight.
Choice is not like the range of colours that we simply intellectually conceive of. Choice is the actual colours we can see. To conceive of the 'illusion of choice', we would need the experience of choice. Does that make sense? Do tell me if you agree/disagree.
2. If we say that determinism is accurate, it is necessarily self-refuting, because then our knowledge would be determined to. Determinism undermines the entire system of knowledge, because anything we do to determine the validity of knowledge (reasoning, empiricism, analysis, etc), would all be determined as well. If we think something is objective, it is because we are shaped that way by our experiences/genes/whatever.
However, in relation to the actual thread, my basic argument is that choice is a phenomenon that cannot arise from components that cannot make a choice.
Thinking about nature, however, this may not be true (I just recently realised). For instance, sodium and chlorine have certain properties, but coming together as salt, salt has completely different properties. Thus, the interaction of particles may allow for a whole new phenomenon.
That having been said, salt's new properties are all within the physical realm, and sodium and chlorine's properties are too. Choice, it could be argued, falls not under the physical realm (as atoms and the like), but under a whole different one altogether. I think it has to do with the mind.