Monday, July 9, 2012

Free Will

I had long avoided studying the concept of free will until I read a book called Conversations on Consciousness: What the Best Minds Think about the Brain, Free Will, and What It Means to Be Human by Susan Blackmore. In this book, Blackmore asked many of the best thinkers of the new science of mind if they believed in free will and consciousness. I was surprised that for the most part this set of thinkers explained away both free will and consciousness as illusions. What?

Rene Descartes said, "I think, therefore, I am." This statement was the axiomatic starting point upon which Descartes wanted to rethink all of philosophy. But according to Blackmore's collection of great minds, even Descartes' philosophical axiom is false. What?

Finally the issue of free will has become interesting to me. (I will address consciousness in a separate post.)

My childhood training on this subject included the Book of Mormon verse that God "created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are,"both things to act and things to be acted upon" (2 Nephi 2:14).

So my bias is toward a belief in free will. But a belief in free will is so natural and pervasive that even Descartes considered it to be the unassailable bedrock of his philosophy. Everybody naturally believes in free will.

The strongest argument against free will is called determinism which basically says that all effects have causes, and all behaviors and choices are caused by events outside the control of individuals. For example a person cannot choose not to yawn, sneeze, or have a bowel movement, etc. (I admit that I am oversimplifying here.) The problem with denying that free will exists, as is so commonly done in the scientific community, is that it follows that no one can be held responsible for his or her actions since they have no free will.

So I believe in free will for practical reasons, first of all.

In recent years the scientific vogue has been toward a reductionist emphasis that causes come from the bottom (subatomic particles) and work their way up through atoms, molecules, cells, organisms, and eventually to human beings who are controlled by the underlying forces.

I am going to be short and unscientific here: I believe that some forces come from below but I also believe that the emergent consciousness of human beings can, within many constraints, make choices that have effects that work their way back down the chain. So there is both upward causation and downward causation.

There is much here that judicial systems need to ponder but as far as I'm concerned, people have the power and agency to make choices. And the consequences of those choices have very real effects in the undetermined future.

So this boring topic of free will is important because the denial of free will leads to a denial of responsibility, and the belief in a deterministic universe may lead to feelings of helplessness and the futility of trying to build a better world.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Movies (mostly family)

Natalie and I sat down and she helped me recall my favorite movies. Natalie read through the family collection to jog our memories. Then we rented a movie at Red Box and bought slurpies.

We don't own R rated movies, thanks to Pam. And I am happy about that. Nowadays most kids have easy access to R rated movies, even porn. I can't see how this is a good thing.

This list is hopelessly incomplete but I'll leave it as is.

2008 Iron Man
2008 Fool's Gold
2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
2004 The Bourne Supremacy
2004 Napolean Dynamite
2003 The Rundown
2003 Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
2002 The Bourne Identity
2001 Zoolander
2001 Rat Race
2001 A Knight's Tale
2000 Shanghai Noon
1999 The Mummy
1993 Jurassic Park
1993 Groundhog Day
2001 "Crocodile" Dundee in Los Angeles
1992 Wayne's World
1990 Back to the Future Part III
1989 National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
1989 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
1989 Back to the Future Part II
1988 The Great Outdoors
1988 Rambo III R
1988 Die Hard
1988 "Crocodile" Dundee
1987 Planes, Trains, and Automobiles R
1986 Three Amigos!
1986 "Crocodile" Dundee
1985 Back to the Future
1985 Rambo: First Blood Part II R
1985 Back to the Future
1984 Romancing the Stone
1984 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
1982 Rocky III
1982 First Blood R
1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark
1980 Seems Like Old Times
1979 Rocky II
1976 Pumping Iron
1975 Jaws
1973 Tom Sawyer
1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
1971 Fiddler on the Roof
1971 Bedknobs and Broomsticks
1969 The Computer that Wore Tennis Shoes
1968 The Love Bug
1967 The Jungle Book
1967 The Happiest Millionaire
1965 The Sound of Music
1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told
1964 Mary Poppins
1964 A Hard Day's Night
1963 Son of Flubber
1962 In Search of Castaways
1960 Swiss Family Robinson
1959 Ben Hur
1956 The Ten Commandments
1954 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
1951 Alice in Wonderland
1939 The Wizard of Oz

Albums I've Returned to a Lot (work in progress)

2012 TBA
2011 TBA
2010 TBA
2009 TBA
2008 TBA
2007 TBA
2006 Arctic Monkeys Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
2005 Van Morrison Magic Time
2004 TBA
2003 TBA
2002 TBA
2001 TBA
2000 Elliott Smith Figure 8
1999 Chris Cornell Euphoria Morning
1998 Jewel Spirit
1996 Counting Crows Recovering the Satellites
1995 Tracy Chapman New Beginnings
1995 Queen Made in Heaven
1995 Jewel Pieces of You
1994 The Cult Ceremony
1994 Live Throwing Copper
1993 Counting Crows August and Everything After
1990 Jeff Lynne Armchair Theatre
1993 10,000 Maniacs MTV Unplugged
1992 REM Automatic for the People
1992 10,000 Maniacs Our Time in Eden
1991 Queen Innuendo
1991 Ozzy Osbourne No More Tears
1991 Crowded House Woodface
1989 Tracy Chapman Crossroads
1989 Queen The Miracle
1989 Paul McCartney Flowers in the Dirt
1989 Lenny Kravitz Let Love Rule
1988 Tracy Chapman
1988 Freddie Mercury Barcelona (with Montserrat Caballé)
1988 Crowded House Temple of Low Men
1987 Def Leppard Hysteria
1987 10,000 Maniacs In My Tribe
1986 Queen A Kind of Magic
1986 Crowded House
1985 Freddie Mercury Mr. Bad Guy
1985 Les Miserables London Cast
1985 Big River (musical)
1984 Roger Waters The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking
1984 REO Speedwagon Wheels Are Turnin
1984 Queen The Works
1983 Elton John Too Low for Zero
1983 Def Leppard Pyromania
1982 Queen Hot Space
1981 Rush Moving Pictures
1981 Ozzy Osbourne Diary of a Madman
1981 Elvis Costello and The Attractions Trust
1981 Electric Light Orchestra Time
1980 Queen The Game
1980 Elvis Costello and The Attractions Get Happy!!
1979 Queen Live Killers
1979 Pink Floyd The Wall
1979 Led Zeppelin In Through the Out Door
1979 Fleetwood Mac Tusk
1979 Elvis Costello and The Attractions Armed Forces
1978 Queen Jazz
1978 Paul McCartney & Wings London Town
1978 Emerson Lake & Palmer Love Beach
1978 Elvis Costello and The Attractions This Year’s Model
1977 Julio Iglesias A Mis 33 Anos
1977 Roberto Carlos Amigo
1977 Pink Floyd Animals
1977 Queen News of the World
1977 Pink Floyd Animals
1977 Fleetwood Mac Rumours
1977 Emerson Lake & Palmer Works Volume 1
1977 Elvis Costello My Aim Is True
1977 Electric Light Orchestra Out of the Blue
1977 Billy Joel The Stranger
1976 Rush 2112
1976 Queen A Day at the Races
1976 Paul McCartney & Wings Wings over America
1976 Electric Light Orchestra A New World Record
1976 Boston
1975 Triumvirat Spartacus (1975)
1975 Queen A Night at the Opera
1975 Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here
1975 Paul McCartney & Wings Venus and Mars
1975 Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti
1975 Jethro Tull Minstrel in the Gallery
1975 Fleetwood Mac
1975 Elton John Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy
1975 Electric Light Orchestra Face the Music
1975 Aerosmith Toys in the Attic
1974 Triumvirat Illusions on a Double Dimple
1974 Queen Sheer Heart Attack
1974 Queen II
1974 Elton John Caribou
1973 Queen
1973 Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon
1973 Paul McCartney & Wings Red Rose Speedway
1973 Paul McCartney & Wings Band on the Run
1973 Emerson Lake & Palmer Brain Salad Surgery
1973 Elton John Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
1973 Elton John Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player
1973 David Bowie Aladdin Sane
1972 Emerson Lake & Palmer Trilogy
1972 Elton John Honky Château
1972 David Bowie Ziggy Stardust
1971 Led Zeppelin IV
1971 John Lennon Plastic Ono Band
1971 John Lennon Imagine
1971 Emerson Lake & Palmer Tarkus
1971 Elton John Madman Across the Water
1970 Beatles Let It Be
1969 Beatles Abbey Road1968 Beatles The Beatles White Album
1967 Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
1967 Beatles Magical Mystery Tour
1966 Beatles Revolver
1965 Beatles Rubber Soul
1965 Beatles Help!
1964 Beatles A Hard Day's Night

Monday, July 2, 2012