[Paleopsych] free wills and quantum won'ts

Val Geist kendulf at shaw.ca
Thu May 19 16:13:49 UTC 2005

Dear Howard,

I am up to my ears in work, but am working towards "that book". I could not help notice the discussion below, for "free will", has a few biological kink of its own. One can make a fair case that "free will" is in good part a delusion and that we are far more programmed, far more tightly controlled by unconscious programs than we care to admit. We have no difficulty admitting that when, say, we walk that automatic systems do most of the work and we provide at best a little guidance. When walking up a stairs we have spatial control so pat, that our toes miss the steps by less than a cm. And its easy to test for: raise one step by half a cm and see everybody catch their toe and fall on their face. In decades past the physiologist Sherrington showed on decerebrated dogs that - without brain-control - the dog, when tickled, led its foot with great precision for a scratch. That is, there were complex programs of motion in the spinal cord and we called them then reflexes. Studies of Sherrington's type showed a hierarchy of systems reaching from the spinal chord into the brain-stem and, finally, on into the cerebral cortex. The great advance by Lorenzian ethology was to make us aware that large, innate behavioral programs controlled much of what we did, and from studies of large mammals it became very clear that we shared mega-systems of behavior of all mammals with some of them leading on into reptiles, amphibians and fishes. My next book will probably be entitled "Condemned to Art", and one can show how hopelessly - and haplessly! - we are tied to, blindly, follow internal esthetic programs (mostly adaptive!), that we make decisions based on these that defy reason, and are quite embarrassing when we, so to say, find out! It's embarrassing, but Paleopsychology at its best! It also fills one with apprehension to discover that we can duplicate tools used by people of our Cro-Magnon etc lineage, but that we are stumped figuring out - most - tools used by Neanderthal! These physically quite different people thought (with their huge brains) so differently from us, that we have great difficulties determining just how some of their tools were used, let alone have the physical strength to duplicate the wear-patterns. Somehow we can climb out of what in the past I called "Darwin's cage", that is the innate structures that so readily channel our thoughts, but its tough to determine just when we are climbing out! 

On another, parallel matter: in re-examining past and present evidence about our most ancient past when Neanderthal and we formed two lineages, it becomes more and more evident that we, the moderns, were an insignificant side-branch playing second fiddle to the powerful and ubiquitous Neanderthal, who always took the best for himself forcing us to make do with what Neanderthal was not interested in. It's eerie how the pattern is falling out. 

Cheers, Val Geist
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: HowlBloom at aol.com 
  To: paleopsych at paleopsych.org 
  Sent: Monday, May 16, 2005 8:19 PM
  Subject: [Paleopsych] free wills and quantum won'ts

  This is from a dialog Pavel Kurakin and I are having behind the scenes.  I wanted to see what you all thought of it.  Howard

  You know that I'm a quantum skeptic.  I believe that our math is primitive.  The best math we've been able to conceive to get a handle on quantum particles is probabilistic.  Which means it's cloudy.  It's filled with multiple choices.  But that's the problem of our math, not of the cosmos.  With more precise math I think we could make more precise predictions.

  And with far more flexible math, we could model large-scale things like bio-molecules, big ones, genomes, proteins and their interactions.  With a really robust and mature math we could model thought and brains.  But that math is many centuries and many perceptual breakthroughs away.

  As mathematicians, we are still in the early stone age.

  But what I've said above has a kink I've hidden from view.  It implies that there's a math that would model the cosmos in a totally deterministic way.  And life is not deterministic.  We DO have free will.  Free will means multiple choices, doesn't it?  And multiple choices are what the Copenhagen School's probabilistic equations are all about?

  How could the concept of free will be right and the assumptions behind the equations of Quantum Mechanics be wrong?  Good question.  Yet I'm certain that we do have free will.  And I'm certain that our current quantum concepts are based on the primitive metaphors underlying our existing forms of math.  Which means there are other metaphors ahead of us that will make for a more robust math and that will square free will with determinism in some radically new way.

  Now the question is, what could those new metaphors be?


  Howard Bloom
  Author of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History and Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From The Big Bang to the 21st Century
  Visiting Scholar-Graduate Psychology Department, New York University; Core Faculty Member, The Graduate Institute
  Founder: International Paleopsychology Project; founding board member: Epic of Evolution Society; founding board member, The Darwin Project; founder: The Big Bang Tango Media Lab; member: New York Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Psychological Society, Academy of Political Science, Human Behavior and Evolution Society, International Society for Human Ethology; advisory board member: Youthactivism.org; executive editor -- New Paradigm book series.
  For information on The International Paleopsychology Project, see: www.paleopsych.org
  for two chapters from 
  The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History, see www.howardbloom.net/lucifer
  For information on Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century, see www.howardbloom.net


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