Tuesday, 14 February 2017

PARIS ERUPTS: Many streets are NO-GO ZONES As Immigrant Violence Spreads

Five large areas have been reduced to no go areas for the past five nights as masked men cause mayhem on the streets. Now there are fears the fall out from allegations of police brutality could spread all over the country as unrest in the city grows.

 Residents have been on lockdown as armed police tried to tackle the rioters who have caused millions of pounds of damage. Police were hit with molotov cocktails and the heavy metal balls used in the French game Petanque. And after setting cars and even a disability vehicle on fire the police have been forced to fire live rounds of bullets.

Protesters against police violence have set a car on fire during a rally in the Paris suburb of Bobigny, which followed a police officer’s assault on a 22-year-old man. 
An RTL van set on fire by the protesters could be seen burning in the live footage.

Dozens of young people have occupied an empty lot in Bobigny in the prefecture of Seine-Saint-Denis department. Some of the protesters have been carrying banners saying “Justice for Theo,” the name of the young man who was sexually assaulted by a police officer with a truncheon.

Hundreds of people gathered in Bobigny not far from the courthouse earlier today to protest police violence, Le Parisien reported. The demonstration began peacefully, but turned violent at around 3pm local time.

 A reporter for the French TV company BMTV was also injured after being attacked. The areas of Aulnay-Sous-Bois, Aulnay, Argenteuil, Bobigny and Tremblay-en-France in the Saint-Seine-Denis district have all been affected. It follows allegations of horrific police brutality in a housing estate called Rose des Vents in Aulnay-Sous-Bois which is also known locally as the 'city of 3000'.

 Local residents and police forces have called the continued unrest "disgraceful" while the man allegedly assaulted by police named only as Theo has pleaded for calm. Yves Lefebvre head of the police union said: "Setting a wheelchair van on fire is a disgrace. This has to stop."

The French Government's response to the latest outbreaks of violence is to put 2,600 cameras on police officers to record them out on the job. Front National (FN) MP Marion Le Pen tweeted the amateur video which shows chaotic scenes including of clouds of smoke after cars were set on fire and a man yelling “Allahu Akbar”, Arabic for God is Greatest, three times.

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Thursday, 9 February 2017

The Demise Of Nate Silver's Infallibility And Data-Driven Journalism


With the UK election on top of us, once again things are totally confused, both main political parties are in disarray, the minor parties have once again blown their chances of any significant breakthrough by virtue of sheer ineptitude and the big data boys with their graphs, charts and tables, are running around like headless chickens because opinion polls are pointing in very different directions.

In 2012 some little statistics nerd named Nate Silver was elevated to the pantheon of Technology Gods, when he correctly predicted, having modelled the outcome of the vote on his meta - analysis of opinion polls, that Barack Obama would win a second term as US President. That was the election in which Obama's opponent Mitt Romney famously threw the fat lady off the stage long before she had even done her warm up scales, when he conceded a key state with less than twenty five percent of the votes counted.

It was the comedian Grouch Marx who said "The show ain't over til the fat lady sings" in a 1930s comedy. More recently somebody else said, "It ain’t over till it’s over." With the advent of Big Data and reliance upon data-driven modeling of climates, national economies, political elections, economic performance and sports events we might just as well rephrase it as, “It’s over before it begins.” Which is exactly what one TV pundit did after that Romney concession. When his colleague commented that it seemed a little early to concede, the man, whose name I don't know and have no interest in rediscovering, said something like, "Come on, you know how the science works." But did we?

Obviously not, given what happened in Britain's in / out referendum on continued EU membership and the US election of Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016. On the day before the election the divine wisdom of Nate Silver's digital models gave both the Keep Britain In the EU campaign and Hillary Clinton better than 80% chances of winning.

Another spectacular Nate Silver cock up in 2016 related to American Football's top prize Super Bowl, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com website predicted the New England Patriots to win. Going into the half-time with Atlanta Falcons leading 28-3, the site gave the Patriots a less than 1 percent chance of winning. FiveThirtyEight tweeted: “That Patriots drive took another 5:07 off the clock and actually dropped their win probability from 1.1% to 0.5%.”

Of course we all know what happened next. In yet another brilliant statistical upset that exposed Nate Silver's infallible mathematical modelling as no better than guesswork, in the second half the Patriots turned mathematical modelling on its head. They scored 25 unanswered points to win, giving America an timely lesson in how self - belief, determination, and the ability of human beings to make mockery of statistics.

It was a lesson for those who tell us we must believe in science and mathematics that sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, a reminder of the value of commitment, fortitude and preparedness to risk everything; values that were once an integral part of the American mythos, and drove the European pioneers who founded the American nation, but that increasingly become unfashionable and been sidelined in exchange for the perceived infallibility of data-driven analysis and computer modelling.

Since information (data) replaced wisdom and judgement and became, for the media at least, the highest level of human intellect, as demonstrated by Nate Silver’s elevation to divine status and FiveThirtyEight’s place in pop culture, a cultural shift has taken place with regard to the use of statistics. No longer were the words of nineteenth century statesman George Canning, "I can make statistics tell me anything except the truth," quoted at those who relied on Big Data, polling, and more mathematical models. On TV shows and social media feeds the pronouncements of nerds with tablet computers were treated as if they were inscribed on tablets of stone. Data-driven analysis, whether accurate or not,(and it was not accurate as often as it was) provided a quick and unchallengable way to excoriate opponents in debate who relied on old fashioned things like empirical evidence. “Silver gives Hilary a x++ percent chance to win the election” became the Trump card in any debate on the US election. Nate Silver gives the Remain campaign x+ chance of winning the Brexit referendum was offered to counter any mention of the anti - E.U. mood in the old English industrial areas of the north and midlands, in South Wales and central Scotland.

And in both cases the fat lady was singing at the top of her range, but only those with the ability to see how the mathematical models were bring manipulated to produce politically expedient answers could see the abyss opening up under the predictions of the big data boys.

We had reached a point where pundits were willing to assign data modelling more value than observable reality. The irrationality and risk-taking inherent in human decision-making were brushed aside, this was the age of nerds. In politics, sport and weather forecasting, statistical models were held up as unassailable predictors.

And in all cases, in 2016, they were wrong. Trump and Brexit, New England Patriots in the US Super Bowl and Leicester City in the English Premier League soccer, and as for climate change predictions, well snow should have been unknown to European and American children by now, the northern ice cap should have disappeared and we were promised 50 million refugees, displaced by rapidly rising sea levels would be wandering the world looking for a new home (that last one was particularly stupid because if all the predictions had come true those people could have settled in the sub - tropical paradises of Siberia, Alaska and northern Canada.)

For his part, no matter how certain Silver's fans might have been of the infallibility of his model, the man himself, more often than not, would hedge when asked a direct question. Like those climate scientists whose opinions trigger predictions of sure and certain destruction of life on earth by half past two tomorrow if we do not abandon coal and oil NOW!, Nate's own predictions are fenced in qualifiers, possible, probably, is likely to etc. In October 2016, under a headline that read “Clinton Probably Finished Off Trump Last Night,” Silver commented: “I’m not sure I need to tell you this, but Hillary Clinton is probably going to be the next president. It’s just a question of what ‘probably’ means.” He then spent the bulk of the article presenting the statistical case to back up his claim that Clinton would win, but in the end equivocated again, acknowledging that he could be mistaken, that other signs pointed to the possibility of another outcome.

Earlier in the election cycle, when results of the Republican primary, the Michigan Democratic primary, and the general election proved him very wrong, Silver’s excuses involved not moving the goalposts so much as moving the entire effing stadium. He claimed that certain unprecedented events had influenced voters (Wikileaks publishing documents from the DNC 'hack'? The Democrat candidate being a known liar and abuser of office for personal gain?) which skewed the initial models. Even after the Super Bowl, in an attempt to make light of the situation, he tweeted: “At least the Falcons won the popular vote.” To which a user responded, “Nate, you don’t get to make election jokes.”

Silver also acknowledged that in any prediction based on mathematical modelling of data, subjective best guesses and assumptions must necessarily be factored into the algorithm. When unprecedented things happen those guesses and assumptions cannot easily be factored out. By saying this Silver admits that statistical analysis of data might work for p lotting trends but cannot predict outcomes when people are involved and instinct, emotion and individual circumstances come into play. This was best summed up in an article by David Morris, on Silver’s failure to predict Trump’s victory in the Republican primary: “Unlikely events like the Trump nomination are, by their very nature, impossible to predict.”

The models are not ancient oracles, they do not predict the future. At best they are informed guesses on the outcome of events conformed to the established patters of similar events in the past. The trouble with trusting the Oracle, however, is that when events occur, though there may be a superficial similarity, there at many different factors at play.

Nate Silver’s infallibility is therefore not the issue. Everyone get things wrong. Silver made his money and his name as a poker player, not one of those pallid, intense characters who spent their lives in smoky, poorly lit back rooms, that we see in movies, but a player against computers in online games. This is interesting because against a computer it's possible to play the percentages and win. In those smoke filled, dimply lit back rooms, emotions, stresses. personal qualities and other things that cannot be factored into a computer program are at work. And then there are the bluffs and the psychology.

Yet despite his being fabulously wrong many times, and despite his admissions of fallibility, people still cling to his as the ultimate argument from authority. "Nate Silver says," you will hear as confusion reigns ahead of the UK election, with polls showing leads for the conservatives ranging between one and twelve percent (i.e. a hung parliament to a super - majority). This signals a problem with the scientific, control freak culture leaders such as Barack Obama, Tony Blair, David Cameron and Angela Merkel have been eager to impose. Science demands simple answers and seeks to provide such answers to complex and often unquantifiable questions. When those questions relate to a globalist, scientific views of how the world should be, we should be doubly diligent in questioning 'the science'.

It’s not Silver. He’s just a poster - boy for the Church of Sciencology Cult. The irony is that mathematics is not really a science, just as Julius Caesar was proclaimed a god by the mob, so mathematics has been proclaimed a science by an academic mob. In fact it is, in the truest sense of the word, an art; an artifice, something created by humans. Nature does no mathematics, a couple of years ago in a BBC Science documentary on British TV two mathematicians were burbling ecstatically about how the invention of 'zero' (by some ancient Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian or Hindu philosopher or had changed our understanding of the universe. Well it may have changed the way we do calculations but it does not change the fact that there is no zero in nature. There may be an absence of something (breathable air for example) but there can never be zero nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide atoms to nature, that would only be significant to a human trying to measure what was (or wasn't) present.

Jason Rhode, in Paste Magazine, wrote a withering critique of Silver, opening with a quotation from Federalist 55: “Nothing can be more fallacious than to found our political calculations on arithmetical principles.” And yet today many seem to believe that Silver is The God Mathematics made flesh, an avatar of a desire for certainty in the unpredictable and unscientific world of human interactions. As novelist Terry Pratchett wrote in "The Thief Of Time," in any battle between order and chaos, chaos will win because it is better organised.

Invoking FiveThirtyEight seemed, before Brexit and Trump, to bestow upon those who quoted the Silverian doctrines an air of both intellectual superiority and mathematical indifference. “Nate Silver predicts…” is akin to saying “Shut up idiot, what do you know? If you don't know 'the science works' you are not entitled to an opinion. The numbers can’t lie, because science!” But that appeal to Silver is really an appeal to the desire of insecure people for a totally stable and predictable future. So how will it play out in Britain? Here are the headline figures for the most recent polls:

Key: Con - Conservative; Lab = Labour; LDem = Liberal Democrat; UKIP = United Kingdom Independence Party

June 5: ICM / Guardian. CON 45%(nc), LAB 34%(nc), LDEM 8%(-1), UKIP 5%(nc). Fieldwork was Friday to Sunday, so will have been largely before the terrorist attack in London Bridge. June 4: Opinium / Observer. CON 43%(-2), LAB 37%(+2), LDEM 6%(-1), UKIP 5%(nc). Fieldwork was on Tuesday and Wednesday and changes are from a week ago. Com Res / Sunday Mirror. CON 47%(+1), LAB 35(+1), LDEM 8%(nc), UKIP 4%(nc). Fieldwork was Wednesday to Friday and changes are from a week ago. ICM / Sun. CON 45%(nc), LAB 34%(+1), LDEM 9%(+1), UKIP 5%(nc). Changes are from the ICM poll for the Guardian at the start of the week. You Gov / Sunday Times. CON 42%, LAB 38%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 4%. Fieldwork was Thursday to Friday Orb / Sunday Telegraph. CON 45%(+1), LAB 36%(-2), LDEM 8%(+1), UKIP 4%(-1). Fieldwork was Wed-Thurs with changes from a week ago. Survation / Mail on Sunday. CON 40%(-6), LAB 39%(+5), LDEM 8%(nc), UKIP 5%(+2). Fieldwork was conducted wholly this morning (after London Bridge incident). June 2: IPSOS Mori / Evening standard. CON 45%(-4), LAB 40%(+6), LDEM 7%(nc). Changes are from their previous poll in mid-May Source: UK Polling report

Discounting the one percent Conservative lead in the Survation / Mail on Sunday poll as it was an instant raction type of thing, and also because no sample details were made available, we see widely differing results but all pointing to a win for the conservatives. In the past however, while a meta - analysis or poll of polls has been reasonably accurate in predicting overall percentages of the vote for different parties, those percentages cannot project the number of seats won in Parliament, because of the way our system works. Similarly, in the USA in 2016, while Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by virtue of huge majorities in states where her opponent had not campaigned because he knew he could not win, trump campaigned hardest in states hardest hit by globalism, and won the electoral college.

If it had been a poker game, Hillary would have been playing against computers, Trump would have been shuffling cards in a dimply lit, smoke filled back room.

Ultimately, an unwavering faith in Big Data has become a sort of religious fundamentalism, an attempt, using only belief and awe of the superior being, to impose order on chaos, an almost fundamentalist approach that borders on statistical fanaticism. Unfortunately, just as mathematics is not a science, neither is statistics, which is more akin to the dark arts that the documented and demonstrable proofs of the natural sciences. It’s an attempt to overlook how little we know and how much we imagine we can control.

With a large segment of the population and an even larger segment of academics, media pundits and politicians eager to reduce human interaction to data points, which enables them to imagine they could control human nature, we run the risk of becoming an increasingly technocratic society where people value safety over stimulation, ease over innovation and convenience over adventure. Ironically, if some Christian preacher talks about The Creation, Nate Silvers fans will scream in unison about the undeniable fact of evolution, thereby only affirming that they don't have a clue how survival of the fittest works. (Hint, it doesn't mean those who work out at the most expensive gym and health club will lead the way to the future.)


Scientific Dictatorship: The Total Surveillance Society Is Coming Soon.

Why Do Those On The Political Left Assume They Have A Monopoly On Goodness And Truth
Political philosophy: As politics and society become more binary and polarise so that according to a self sppoined elite there are only two possible points of view on any issue, public debate is stifled and the polarised left and right end up attacking the other's right to free speech. It has nothing to do with liberal democracy

The Tyranny Of Moral Relativism
Our New Unhappy Lords
American Sociologists Mystified By Drop In Crime Rate. The Intellectual Elite Truly Despise People They Pretend To Care About
Mathematics and Reality
In all of our blogs and web sites the Greenteeth team have been critical of those science fans who are turning science into a religion. Scientists deny this of course even in the face of the evidence. Here Ian R Thorpe shows you that the idea of mathematics as God is nothing new, it has been around longer than Christianity in fact.

Science cannot provide all the answers, there is room for faith
Why, in these days when the militant atheist supporters of Richard Dawkins and his fellow travellers are so ready to decry and belittle religiopus faith and claim science has proved God does not exist, do so many eminent scientists still believe in God, including a number who have made carers in science but are very active in their respectoive churces?

You Don't Have To Be Good At Maths To Understand ComputersA recent survey revealed a high number of British adults are poor at mathematics. This is blamed for ourt falling behind in technology related businesses and professions. But it it necessary to be a whizz at quadratic equations to understand computer. Quite the opposite says former Information Systems Management Consultant and hater of abstract maths Ian Thorpe.
Slaves Of The MachineSome say technology is the new magic and are willing to believe every new gadget launched improves beyond recognition the lives of those who own one. Others say we are becoming slaves to our machines and losing the ability to think for ourselves as well as our social lives and cultural bonds.
Science and technology
Philosophy New World Order Living Within the conspiracy Climate Scientists abuse of statistics

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Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Corruption: Paraphrasing Johnny Rotten, 'Never trust a fahkin' liberal'


As the 'liberal' supporters of Barack Obama's hapless presidency and more recently the US Democratic Party's 2016 failed candidate 'Crooked Hillary' Clinton whip themselves into an ever greater frenzy over the hugely entertaining antics of President Trump, An editorial at Investors Business Daily may end up being considered by historians as defining exactly why the Obama administration failed so catastrophically. For several years before Obama finally ended America's agony and left office, there were rumours of cases where the administration appeared to use the legal muscle of the federal government to settle political scores with people and organisations that had annoyed the cocksucker president. The IBD article looked at the case of Gibson Guitars and the federal raids on their facilities for alleged illegal importing of exotic woods used in their products. The journal reached this disturbing conclusion.

The inexplicable raid nearly two years ago on a guitar maker for using allegedly illegal wood that its competitors also used was another targeting by this administration of its political enemies…
Interestingly, one of Gibson’s leading competitors is C.F. Martin & Co. According to C.F. Martin’s catalog, several of their guitars contain “East Indian Rosewood,” which is the exact same wood in at least 10 of Gibson’s guitars. So why were they not also raided and their inventory of foreign wood seized?
Were C.F. Martin getting their rosewood supplies from a licenced source? Apparently not. Did they apply for an import permit or something that Gibson forgot about? No… so what might it be?

Grossly underreported at the time was the fact that Gibson’s chief executive, Henry Juszkiewicz, contributed to Republican politicians. Recent donations have included $2,000 to Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and $1,500 to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
By contrast, Chris Martin IV, the Martin & Co. CEO, is a long-time Democratic supporter, with $35,400 in contributions to Democratic candidates and the Democratic National Committee over the past couple of election cycles.
“We feel that Gibson was inappropriately targeted,” Juszkiewicz said at the time, adding the matter “could have been addressed with a simple contact (from) a caring human being representing the government. Instead, the government used violent and hostile means.”

That attack on liberty ened with Gibson having to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the government even though the hearings found no evidence of criminal action. The whole episode has the appearance of something engineered by shyster lawyers for the sole purpose of punishing a company that supported the government's political adversaries. Gibson could not fight the penalty through the courts as it had no legal basis, they just had to pay up or face having their business shut down. 

And these authoritarian liberals call Trump a fascist.

While all this was going on, there was plenty of reason to suspect that there was politics of some sort involved but reporters who covered the story  did not seem to suspect how blatantly executive power was being abused by the Obama administration. Is it surprising however that surprising when a country elects a mixed race guy who totally disses the Euro - American side of his family and tells self - aggrandizing lies about his African connections will behave like an African tyrant once in power.

. With Democrats in control of the White House and the Senate, it didn’t seem much of a stretch to think that the eco-warriors were in full throated, chest thumping mode and they would be pushing the limits to show how much they were doing to save the planet. The Gibson story, with its endangered rainforests, homeless monkeys  and evil manufacturing giants stripping the land elements, was a perfect fit for the narrative being pushed by mainstream media at the time. But I don’t think many reasonable people imagined that even the Obama administration would be so contemptuous of democracy as to simply launch a communist police state style attack on a company which did not kowtow to their authoritarian style of government, while ignoring Obama friendly, Democrat donating competitors involvement in the same offence.

Is this paranoid, tinfoil hat territory? Obama supporters reading this will probably try to insist it is. But given the levels of corruption and dishonesty uncovered recent news stories, not only from the USA but also Europe and the rest of the developed world is it really that far fetched? Remember a conspiracy theory is no longer a theory once the allegations have been shown to have substance.

MORE BOGGART BLOGGING Is Socialist Rhetoric Hate Speech

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Thursday, 2 February 2017

On Free Will - illustrating the difficulty scientists have in understanding concepts such as fredom of thought.

On Free Will and Slavish Devotion To Science

by Arthur Foxake

from a Spiked interview with Julian Braggini on Free Will Julian Baggini, philosopher, writer and one-time editor of The Philosophers’ Magazine, has come to rescue free will… by burying it, or at least its widespread misconception. Too often, he argues in Freedom Regained, we simply haven’t grasped what it is to be free. Thinkers have tended to separate free will off from the rest of the self, as a controller, a faculty of the will, a part of the soul. More generally free will tends to figure as the conviction that one can always do otherwise, that at every moment, one’s action is absolutely free. And, too often, those sceptical of the idea of free will find such ideas all too easy to dismiss as non-existent, neurological illusions, myths of agency amidst the iron laws of the universe. ‘The commonsense notion of free will is not fit for purpose’, concludes Baggini. ‘It rests on a naive and simplistic assumption that we can rise above our biology and our history to make choices in a condition of unconstrained freedom. The challenges to free will need to be met not by rejecting them wholesale, but by thinking more carefully about what it truly means to be free, rather than what we simply assume it to mean.’ So how does Baggini reconcile free will with biology and history, nature and nurture? Is determinism compatible with free will? And what does Baggini think it means to be free? You can read that interview in full HERE but the fun starts in the comment section when a few science fanboys start trying to claim there is no free will and we are all controlled by The Gods Of Science. 

You will notice in the thread one commenter who repeatedly rants about 'neuroscience' even though it is not the topic of the main post and though the interviewer raises it in one of the questions, Braggini does not actually address it as a significant part of the interview, instead merely reminding his audience that science does not fare well when it tries to answer philosophical questions. 

  • Are we free to be slaves, or are we slaves to freedom?

  • No. 'Consciousness' is no reservoir of free will as Baggini idiotically claims. We have no "executive control". There is no control centre: 'systems biology' shows us this. Baggini is resurrecting 'the little man within the man' to dodge explaining the brain; the homunculus. It's long been shown that we become aware AFTER we make decisions, not before. Consciousness is an epiphenomenon of the integration of neural processing. Daniel Dennett tried to argue similarly to Baggini here, that 'Freedom Evolves' (the title of a book of his), but he's wrong. What evolved is the flexibility to ever better express our 'motivational set' ... to ever better actualise our biology, genes, as it were. A quite different thing to any genuine 'free will'. Call himself a philosopher? Baggini is in the philosophy kindergarten judging by this foolishness here. [See my new book, 'Sex Difference Explained' and my paper for Politics & Society journal, 'Culture IS Biology -- Why We Cannot 'Transcend' Our Genes — Or Ourselves'. http://stevemoxon.co.uk/cultur...

  • In using value-loaded terms such as "idiotic " and "foolish" you are implicitly acknowledging that Baggini is a free moral agent capable of making the choice between the right and the wrong path - why would you admonish him thus, if he could do no other than what he did? That's the thing about free-will: even for those who would deny it, it is impossible to have any kind of discourse, or simply to behave, without the underlying assumption that it exists.

    • What?! Baggini's common-animal sort of frailities lead him to such idiocy and foolishness despite philosophy training which should explicitly put him on his guard against committing such faux pas. You make an assertion so groundless that no limit to silliness might be unexpected from you; and, I assure you, that is anything but testament to anything remotely like 'free will' in your possession!

    • Is it not true in our everyday lives, that we believe ourselves to have free will, outside of philosophical or scientific claims. We act as if we have it. Even slaves may feel they have some limited agency. The debate on it's actual existence is another matter. Otherwise we fall into the fatalism of islam for instance where all is pre ordained - inshallah. Regards

    On the contrary, Steve, neural processing is an epiphenomenon of consciousness. Consciousness is not something which can be understood through conceptual thought or scientific experiment - which is why neuroscientists (and systems-biologists :) do not, and will never, understand it.

      Idiocy. Neural processing is easily investigated scientifically and is no epiphenomenon. All that you claim here is scientific and philosophical illiteracy. Your line stems from the usual Christianity-residual ideology that is humanism (human-worshipping): the bunkum of 'human exceptionalism', when in fact humans are not exceptional (other than in degree) in any respect, consciousness not excluded. Other animals are bound to experience an endless feedback looping of the workings of their own central nervous system, just as we do. It won't be as seemingly complex as our experience, obviously, but the difference is not fundamental.

      At its most fundamental, reality is governed by uncertainty and probability. Thus, determinism can never be more than a probability. Free will is the product of many probabilities, none of which can be predicted beforehand due to the uncertainties involved. Is it a man in the mind? No, but it isn't a clockwork universe either. I have yet to read a discussion that properly accounts for this.

      Your last sentence does express a real difficulty in explaining free will, one of a number of issues that are specifically human traits which in an open minded debate tend to be understood between the participants and yet we struggle to find the words and concept to explain definitively. Opponents, shall we say determinists, of all hues then grasp at the straw of stating if it cannot be proven it doesn't exist and those who claim otherwise are tending towards religiosity. That is how absurd it can become, that those expressing the importance of free will and human agency are accused of supporting a supernatural position. The flip side of that is that some attempt to dismiss conscious will by "proving" it is in fact determined by biological, natural, et al, see the posts below as an example and various attempts by neuroscience etc. You do tend to restate the situation by denying there is a man in the mind, Why? and yet also agree it isn't a clockwork universe either. I do tend to agree that reality is affected by uncertainty - not governed by - to deny that would deny the past the present, but is it not then logical that what turns uncertainty into a certain action/decision is the effect that will has in determining the final outcome, probability is just one degree of possibility. Determinism by its definition is the defining if not overwhelming factor and excludes almost entirely if not completely conscious will. Makes you wonder how we built our complex world that no other species has ever achieved doesn't it.

      My rejection of the 'man in the mind' is a rejection of the supernatural, i.e. anything that is not part of the physical universe - a spirit or god. There is just no evidence for anything beyond the universe. On the other hand, determinism that says the future is predetermined in every facet doesn't fit with quantum mechanics or the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle, i.e. not only can we NOT determine things with certainty, they CANNOT be defined with certainty.at all by any means. The human brain is the most complex thing known so maybe at some level it takes into account quantum effects. I just don't know and have never heard a convincing argument about how things can be determined. Why is it my dog seems to have almost as much free will as i do?

    Sorry I misunderstood, I thought when you rejected the man in the mind you were rejecting conscious will, the human agency, perhaps you do as well as rejecting the supernatural. The point is that if we reject determinism in all its forms, and the supernatural, then logically something is affecting the brain that results in human beings making and acting upon the world we live in in a conscious manner, we are not simply instinctive like animals. Unless it is something else in the ether, conscious will is where it all seems to lead to, as I said the evidence of our actions manifests itself in the world we have created. Until - if we ever can - prove this it seems we have two choices, deny it and accept the miserable misanthropic consequences of our future been out of our hands effectively - I am positive the defenders of the status quo and regressives will enjoy that - or keep going forward as humanity has continually done so in our making and of our choosing, despite the mistakes we make. Your dog will never do that.

    Quantum probability still continues to manifest on the level of physics as determinism. The laws of cause and effect are still fully applicable to us, as to everything, in a mechanical universe. All objects exist on a quantum level but we would not argue that maybe "they" all have free will regardless of the observable laws of physics and chemistry.

    Yes. Probability, 'butterfly effect' trajectories, and competing aspects of the motivational set: all combine to make notions of determinism as usually envisaged a caricature. If these were appreciated, then we'd hear less knee-jerk retorts of 'determinism'

    Human beings ARE exceptional. It is not a matter of degree that separates us from animals it is qualitative. Feel free to name the great animal philosophers. It is the inability of to explain the miraculous nature of humans that gives rise to religion. The superstition of religion is probably better than modern neurobollox, and tea-leaf reading MRI scanner results and the like.

      I am no philosopher, and some of these very erudite arguments I'm struggling to fully comprehend, but let's just say for arguments sake we boil it down to the obvious components, i.e. we either have full free will, or we have no free will. So, let's say we accept, just for the moment, there are only two answers. If that is the case, what are the base arguments for free will, and vice versa?

    Evidently you have no understanding of biology. I strongly suggest you go get some. As for 'great' philosophers: there are no human examples. Fatal flaws in reasoning afflict every one of them, and to get to first-base in philosophy is to understand that the 'big questions' are forever beyond human conception; hence the popularity of religion among scientists. Religiosity certainly did not spring from a need to "explain the miraculous nature of humans": universally humans ancestrally saw all creation as miraculous, with humans no exception within it. Your dismissal of neuroscience says it all; you've not even an interest in having an idea about anything, let alone having one.

  • It turns out Mr Moxon os quite a fan of the pseudosciene, Neuroscience (recording electrical activity in neural pathways and inferring from that information what those people are thinking and other information abput their personality. Hos line does not quite stand yp to analysis however. Shaunacy Ferro writes in Popular Science:

    When I was in middle school and high school, teachers loved to impart various tidbits of wisdom about the way students learn during lectures, always couched in such a way as to indicate these were scientifically accepted facts. You know everyone learns differently. Do you think you learn better through words or pictures? Did you know you learn different subjects with different sides of the brain?
    Welp, they were wrong. Many of the theories of "brain-based" education, a method of instruction supposedly based on neuroscience, have been largely debunked by rigorous science. Brain-based education studies are usually poorly designed and badly controlled. Nevertheless, myths about how we learn persist in the popular imagination, and, most importantly, in educational materials and references for teachers. Here are just a few things we usually get wrong about the way the brain learns: Read More >>>

    • I readily admit to having little understanding of how human brains work but I can dismiss neuroscience because I have an in depth understanding of how the scanners used to generate data work. When the atoms in different types of tissue are excited they generate different outputs (this is not confined to animal tissue, it applys to inanimate substances too.) The Fournier transformation turns these output frequencies into data that computers turn into pictures. So the neuroscientists subjectivity plays an important role in drawing conclusions from the data. Which is why a few years ago a rather tongue in cheek neuroscience research project identified meaningful brain activity in dead salmon. https://blogs.scientificameric... To put it in simple form, from your brain scan a skilled user could produce almost any picture they chose.

      More fool you. Neuroscience is one discipline among several pertinent to investigating the brain; imaging is but one methodology; and there are several very different forms of imaging re the brain, measuring very different things -- such as blood flow. That's even if your bald claim had any truth, which obviously it does not, given the great array of practical applications of neuro-imaging; not least aiding rather than (if you were right) killing patients.

      You're obviously a believer Steve so there is no more to be gained by trying to convince you of your folly than there is of arguing with a doorstep evangelist. In defending your position you refer to more of the idiotic beliefs of the Church of Sciencology's Neuroscience sect, the idea that measuring blood flow can tell us something about what is going on in parts of the brain for example. In reality it tells us there is more blood flowing through a certain part of the brain. Anything else is just guesswork and assumptions. Read the link I gave you, it is from a scientific journal and describes in detail and with links how researchers obtained data that showed meaningful brain activity in a dead fish. Then come back and tell us all what kind of meaningful brain activity can be going on in a dead fish (because your comments here are too precious to be left languishing in a comment thread so I will give them a wider audience). Oh sorry, that's blasphemy isn't it. You science fans never look at evidence that might contradict your beliefs do you? Here's a dummies guide to how the Fournier Transform formulae work and can be applied, it should help you understand the technology. http://www.cs.otago.ac.nz/cosc...

    • Wow, you really are an arrogant one-trick pony.
      Read my reply and then write one that takes it into account!
      Here it is again:
      More fool you. Neuroscience is one discipline among several pertinent to investigating the brain; imaging is but one methodology; and there are several very different forms of imaging re the brain, measuring very different things -- such as blood flow. That's even if your bald claim had any truth, which obviously it does not, given the great array of practical applications of neuro-imaging; not least aiding rather than (if you were right) killing patients.

        I did read your reply Steve, it wasted my time. You just insisted you are right and that proves everyone who differs is wrong. But you offer no evidence to back up your claims, only your belief that the gods of science are infallible. The thing is of course if you did offer evidence I or many others in the thread who challenged you, could easily refute it.
        I notice you did not take up my challenge to explain how meaningful brain activity can be monitored in a dead fish.
        And yes I am arrogant. One trick pony, no. I'm an extremely trick human being who is smarter than you. Not that that is anything to be arrogant about, fortunately I have many other strings to my bow. Now toddle of back to your little safe space on a campus somewhere where everybody worships your gods and no one will ever say anything that makes you risk thinking.

        No, you didn't read it. Try reading: it's good for you, and actually allows debate.
        So here it is again, and with guideposts for you:
        Neuroscience is one discipline among several pertinent to investigating the brain [FIRST POINT: you've no reply to it]; imaging is but one methodology [SECOND POINT: you've no reply to it]; and there are several very different forms of imaging re the brain, measuring very different things [THIRD POINT: you've no reply to it] -- blood flow being but one facet of brain activity that is measurable. That's even if your bald claim had any truth, which obviously it does not, given the great array of practical applications of neuro-imaging; not least aiding rather than (if you were right) killing patients [FOURTH POINT: you've no reply to it].
        [And I reside on no campus, and have no gods of any sort, religious quasi-religious, political, or otherwise.]

        I'm starting to feel sorry for you Steve, you obviously think neurology and neuroscience are the same thing. They're not, there is a vast difference (alike Astronomy and Astrology). In neurology MR imaging is an important tool in studying the brain as a physical organ and thus in diagnosing problems such as tumors. aneurisms, atrophy and developmental defects (some of which ARE KILLING PEOPLE).
        Neuroscience is a pseudo-science the practitioners of which claim they interpret electrical emissions outtput by the brain and draw meaningful conclusions about the likely behaviour of the person being scanned. It is more closely related to psychology (another bollocks science) that medicine. Neuroscience does not stop diseases killing people, in theory it may stop people killing themselves, but there are few if any recorded successes Here's some more good stuff that I know you will not read because your mind is closed to diverse opinions (the definition of a bigot BTW).
        Here's a book, written by an eminent doctor you can buy and study so in future you will have some idea what you are talking about:
        And here's an article by a former colleague of mine which explains things in layman's terms.
        Your point that you claim I have not answered, the stuff about blood flow for example, do not actually refer to neuroscience, they refer to neurology. Talk to a brain surgeon if you want answers to them, my speciality is digital technology.
        I do find it rather irritating that in your irrational rants you keep claiming I have not read your comments. I have, all I learned is that as already stated above, you are way off topic. You on the other hand have not read the links I gave you, had you done so you would have stopped making a fool of yourself several comments ago because you would have known by now that neuroscience and neurology are not the same.
        BTW for someone who obviously thinks he's intelligent, you've been remarkably slow to guess that I'm a wind up merchant. The clue is in the name.

          • One other person is typing…

    “Idiocy.” Cheers, it’s always salutary to be reminded on one’s foolishness :) Neural processing may well be “easily investigated scientifically” but that tells us nothing about consciousness, does it? And neither does scientific literacy. Science has no means by which to explain how sentience is magically conjured out of non-sentient matter. You’re making the basic materialist error, it seems to me, of assuming that consciousness derives from neural activity, that it is a by-product of the brain. Wiser people than you or I have been aware for more than two millennia that the opposite is the case. And while it’s true that humanism may be, as John Gray has persuasively argued, merely a vestige of Christian values, those values themselves, while skewed by temporal self-interest and political expediency, didn’t arise in a vacuum. They're largely those comprising the thread of the so-called perennial philosophy which is woven through recorded human history. The philosophy of the West really lost its way at the time of the amusingly named “Enlightenment”. Theory has become divorced from practice and the hegemony of scientific “rationalism” prevents us from seeing the wood from the proverbial trees. But the eye will never see itself, the knife will never cut itself. (In the field nascent field of neurophenomenology I believe attempts have been made to square the findings of systems biology with, for example, the deconstruction of human cognition in Buddhist metaphysics. I don’t know how fruitful this will be, but science over-conditioned by materialism always risks the danger of straying into scientism - a type of quasi-religious faith that holds scientific knowledge as the only viable knowledge.) I’m halfway through reading your, ‘The Women Racket’ by the way. Interesting…
    see more

      Hi Mr Paradise. Well, we're all idiotic at times, not least myself; so it's not personal! [Re books: my new one is much better re the science: the one you're reading is more a polemic; glad you find it interesting.] There is nothing that is somehow not material. To posit such is simply to state that there is not only nature but also 'super-nature'. That's an anti-science, quasi-religious assertion, isn't it? That a phenomenon is difficult to understand does not mean it's not understandable. That's not to say that there aren't what are for us likely perennial imponderables -- like 'how can there be an edge to the universe?' 'How can there be a point before time?' Good you've read and appreciated John N Gray, but, as he pointedly remarks, what he identifies in Christianity is not common to philosophy across the world. In place of an understanding that all in essence is cyclical, and that things can slip back, Christianity envisages a relentless and teleological progress.

    A couple of points/queries to add: 1) I haven't read about this for some time, but isn't the reliability of experiments that demonstrate consciousness occurring after processing disputed? 2) It is worth remembering that the word "epiphenomenon" doesn't actually provide a physical explanation of events (hence "phenomenon"); it is at best a placeholder for a hoped-for physical explanation.

      Hi Evan. Re your first point: not that I'm aware, and it's a position well-researched and long held. There is nothing inherently intangible about an epi-phenomenon: it is a phenomenon around a different phenomenon which it had been mistaken to be. For example a male dominance hierarchy is an epiphenomenon of the processing of 'winner' / 'loser' effects by an evolved piece of neural kit coded for crucially by the SRY gene of the Y chromosome. 'Consciousness' is a term for how we describe a brain in reflexive feedback looping of its own output.

      No, not intangible, just unresolved in terms of physics. You can, for example, experience the phenomenon of sunlight and theorise about its nature without knowing about photons.

    I agree, morality is also an epiphenomenal illusion, closely connected with illusions of free will and identity, really it is just genetic/ instictive and social determinism. They are unable to see reality in any other terms and they call that "the good and the true." People observably tend to "believe" whatever their society tells them according to the culture that they live in. People "believe" anything. The moral self is epiphenomenal.

      If morality is epiphenomenal, then genius and idiocy are as well. As such, you are implying that your writings are simply afterburps of the big bang. Nothing more. If people believe whatever society tells them, how did you come to a different conclusion? Whither Luther,, Galileo,,Einstein?

    I wouldn't consider the artist to be the archetypal free individual- simply because a person might have a certain amount of freedom from censorship and a certain amount of leeway to make the decisions about what they are going to create but nothing more. So you can have as much artistic freedom as you want, or can handle, but still be no more free than any other citizen. I'd also suggest that artists can tend to be a little self-absorbed, seeing themselves as a bit special compared to the average person in an everyday job. So you might end up with a society that is so focused on self-development, at the expense of all other concerns, that nobody is prepared to give a little of themselves away by helping out with society's chores, like collecting refuse, or 'selfless' jobs, such as looking after older people.

    Redefining determinism as freedom seems like desperate sophistry to me. If you want free will you have to look beyond materialism. And considering that defining consciousness - defining the very concept of subjectivity - in physical terms is (for now at least) impossible, I don't see why philosophers should be so resistant to going there.

      I'm beginning to think that trying to understand or even contemplate the argument of free will or not, is a bit like a 15th century rural peasant trying to understand quantum mechanics. Or something like that. First off, people either over complicate the issue, perhaps for obvious reasons, or over simplify. What becomes obvious to me, is that the argument seems as much about belief and ideology, than it does about hard fact. Indeed, what hard fact is there for either the free will or no free will argument?

    I need to re read this article, but it appears that the author is not allowing determinism off the hook here, or that he is trying to deceive us, is it not more the case he is trying to explain an extremely difficult situation as much more than a black and white issue, there is a lot of grey matter to be considered here, excuse the pun.

    • My problem with the compatibilist line is this: "So, in that sense, at any given moment in time, at the point we make a decision, that decision is going to be based on a combination of nature and nurture up until that point, and, in that sense, it’s going to make the decision inevitable." Nothing is inevitable "in a sense". It is inevitable or it is not. Compatibilism seems to expend a lot of words and energy trying to convince us that the illusion of free will is a serviceable substitute for the real thing. I say either look for free will beyond materialism, or take your determinism neat.

      I think within that quote is an acceptance that we cannot ever be completely free , we are not empty vessels , within our brains in some shape or form, and it is different for each individual, is a certain level of experience, knowledge, history, lessons learnt and conceptualised that we draw on as information and then exercise our will upon. That is not been determinist ,merely acknowledging we have a huge amount of prior information that may affect our judgement if we so choose, but it has an effect either way.

    The grey matter is muddy thinking.

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