A serious & honest question(s) for atheists.


#1

Do you think that your human experience is just the result of electrons transitioning from one quantum state to another? In other words, is your reading this text just the result of “molecules in motion?” If you believe this, do you believe that you have free will, and if so, how would you explain free will per the conservation laws of nature – energy, momentum, angular momentum, electrical charge, etc.? What “force,” in particular, do you believe influences and/or decides “Choice A” versus “Choice B,” etc. Are you absolutely sure that your conscious self will not survive the physical death of your brain, and if so, do you have any subjective probabilities about those “odds”?

Classic questions here, of course. I’m not looking for a debate (but that’s okay if others decide to) but for personal, “everyday” answers, so this will be my last post for this thread, but I am committed to reading each and every response.


#2

Just a heads up, there is a sticky ban on threads about atheism. I just don't want it to come a surprise if the thread is shut down.
Pax.


#3

[quote="Jehannette, post:1, topic:295078"]
Do you think that your human experience is just the result of electrons transitioning from one quantum state to another? In other words, is your reading this text just the result of "molecules in motion?" If you believe this, do you believe that you have free will, and if so, how would you explain free will per the conservation laws of nature -- energy, momentum, angular momentum, electrical charge, etc.? What "force," in particular, do you believe influences and/or decides "Choice A" versus "Choice B," etc. Are you absolutely sure that your conscious self will not survive the physical death of your brain, and if so, do you have any subjective probabilities about those "odds"?

Classic questions here, of course. I'm not looking for a debate (but that's okay if others decide to) but for personal, "everyday" answers, so this will be my last post for this thread, but I am committed to reading each and every response.

[/quote]

To your first question: yes.
I do not believe I have libertarian free will. My choice A versus choice B is the result of who I am (which is the result of evolution) and which circumstances I find myself in.
Neither of these factors are under my control.

I am not absolutely sure that my consciousness will not survive physical death, but since I do not have a theory as to how it could survive, for the time being I think the chance that is does not survive is pretty high.


#4

[quote="Jehannette, post:1, topic:295078"]
Do you think that your human experience is just the result of electrons transitioning from one quantum state to another? In other words, is your reading this text just the result of "molecules in motion?" If you believe this, do you believe that you have free will, and if so, how would you explain free will per the conservation laws of nature -- energy, momentum, angular momentum, electrical charge, etc.? What "force," in particular, do you believe influences and/or decides "Choice A" versus "Choice B," etc. Are you absolutely sure that your conscious self will not survive the physical death of your brain, and if so, do you have any subjective probabilities about those "odds"?

Classic questions here, of course. I'm not looking for a debate (but that's okay if others decide to) but for personal, "everyday" answers, so this will be my last post for this thread, but I am committed to reading each and every response.

[/quote]

Well I do believe that consciousness and the human experience are just functions of the brain. Basically secretions of neurotransmitters and electrical flows in our brain from what I understand. As for free will, it is a difficult subject. I believe that we can make choices but our choices are heavily influenced by the make up of our brain, that is completely influenced by genetics and life circumstances (both of which you have little control over).

I don't think that my conscious self will survive physical death. There is no proof of this so the logical thing to do would be to say it is unlikely at best.


#5

[quote="interestedman, post:4, topic:295078"]
Well I do believe that consciousness and the human experience are just functions of the brain. Basically secretions of neurotransmitters and electrical flows in our brain from what I understand. As for free will, it is a difficult subject. I believe that we can make choices but our choices are heavily influenced by the make up of our brain, that is completely influenced by genetics and life circumstances (both of which you have little control over).

I don't think that my conscious self will survive physical death. There is no proof of this so the logical thing to do would be to say it is unlikely at best.

[/quote]

Hey interestedman. Do you believe that those secretions of neurotransmitters and electrical flows in the brain are a product of evolution? In other words, first there was nothing and then single cell organisms stemming from nothing, which eventually, (without any intelligent guidance on the part of a God) evolved into the human race?


#6

[quote="Jehannette, post:1, topic:295078"]
Do you think that your human experience is just the result of electrons transitioning from one quantum state to another? In other words, is your reading this text just the result of "molecules in motion?" If you believe this, do you believe that you have free will, and if so, how would you explain free will per the conservation laws of nature -- energy, momentum, angular momentum, electrical charge, etc.? What "force," in particular, do you believe influences and/or decides "Choice A" versus "Choice B," etc. Are you absolutely sure that your conscious self will not survive the physical death of your brain, and if so, do you have any subjective probabilities about those "odds"?

Classic questions here, of course. I'm not looking for a debate (but that's okay if others decide to) but for personal, "everyday" answers, so this will be my last post for this thread, but I am committed to reading each and every response.

[/quote]

Ultimately, I suppose that yes, everything is a result of quantum mechanics, and things we take for granted such as free will and consciousness could all be an illusion.

And I am open to the idea of a soul, and some sort of an afterlife or reincarnation, mostly because of the phenomenon of near death experiences and out of body experiences. However, I am skeptical of even those, and I put them in the same category as things such as UFO sightings, and ghosts - there is certainly something there, but whether the cause of these things is actually what people think they are remains to be determined. So while some of those stories for UFOs, ghosts, OBEs, etc, are pretty compelling, I am not going to accept that they are actually aliens or spirits until there's some compelling reason to do so.


#7

[quote="joe370, post:5, topic:295078"]
Hey interestedman. Do you believe that those secretions of neurotransmitters and electrical flows in the brain are a product of evolution? In other words, first there was nothing and then single cell organisms stemming from nothing, which eventually, (without any intelligent guidance on the part of a God) evolved into the human race?

[/quote]

yes


#8

[quote="Jehannette, post:1, topic:295078"]
Do you think that your human experience is just the result of electrons transitioning from one quantum state to another?

[/quote]

That's part of it, but not all of it. So I'd have to answer "no" because of the presence of the word "just."

[quote="Jehannette, post:1, topic:295078"]
In other words, is your reading this text just the result of "molecules in motion?"

[/quote]

There's molecules, electrons, photons, and possibly other components. Not to mention the organization of these components. If you deprive me of any of these components you'll probably compromise my ability to read (and live). I don't think that's aligned with what you are describing, and by no means is it complete. I also would suggest removing the word "just" here.

Though reading is something that to some degree we can also automate.

[quote="Jehannette, post:1, topic:295078"]
If you believe this, do you believe that you have free will, and if so, how would you explain free will per the conservation laws of nature -- energy, momentum, angular momentum, electrical charge, etc.?

[/quote]

That's a lot of questions packed into one sentence! On your free will question it would depend on the type of free will you are asking about. As for the other questions on physics, I'm not normally into a business of explaining physics. My area of specialty is software engineering.

[quote="Jehannette, post:1, topic:295078"]
What "force," in particular, do you believe influences and/or decides "Choice A" versus "Choice B," etc.

[/quote]

If by "force" you mean "motivations" there can be quite a number of motivators. But those could vary a bit from one person to the next and not all of the influencing factors may be known.

[quote="Jehannette, post:1, topic:295078"]
Are you absolutely sure that your conscious self will not survive the physical death of your brain, and if so, do you have any subjective probabilities about those "odds"?

[/quote]

I usually find absolute certainty to be a bit dubious. I'm content to say that there's nothing that yet motivates me to think that I will be conscious when I am dead. None of the dead people I've encountered have ever been very expressive (at least not in any way that I am able to detect). So until a time comes such that I'm able to successfully have a conversation with some one that's dead I can't say that I've got a reason to think that the dead are capable of consciousness.

[quote="Jehannette, post:1, topic:295078"]
Classic questions here, of course. I'm not looking for a debate (but that's okay if others decide to) but for personal, "everyday" answers, so this will be my last post for this thread, but I am committed to reading each and every response.

[/quote]

It was nice interacting with you!


#9

I think humans are extremely complicated machines. I think consciousness is an emergent property of our type of machine. Neurologists say that free will is actually an illusion, but psychologists have found that it is a necessary one, because the absence of the belief in free will leads to dispair. I think consciousness is irrevocably linked to the physical brain, and I do not believe in any type of existance that is seperate from the physical brain and body. I believe that the mind is one of the most amazing things in the universe. I find some of the same beauty and wonder in the nature world, and in cosmological processes and evolutionary processes that others find in their religions. I do not believe in ghosts, psychic events, alien visitations on earth, or other such things. I believe that most people are basically good, but sometimes the goodness has to be coaxed out of them. I believe that human beings invented their religions, and that in many ways this is one of the greatest achievements of mankind. Humans also invented music, art, science, and philosophy. These are also some of our best achievements. I think the only immortality we have is through the memories of others, any works we leave behind, and though the impact we have on others while we are alive. I believe that death is like a dreamless sleep,and the end of your own personal time.


#10

[quote="Jehannette, post:1, topic:295078"]
Do you think that your human experience is just the result of electrons transitioning from one quantum state to another? In other words, is your reading this text just the result of "molecules in motion?"

[/quote]

Yes.

If you believe this, do you believe that you have free will

No.

, and if so, how would you explain free will per the conservation laws of nature -- energy, momentum, angular momentum, electrical charge, etc.? What "force," in particular, do you believe influences and/or decides "Choice A" versus "Choice B," etc.

The biochemical interactions of my brain, influenced by environment. A purely physical process.

Are you absolutely sure that your conscious self will not survive the physical death of your brain, and if so, do you have any subjective probabilities about those "odds"?

A very long time ago, I used to believe my consciousness would survive my death, but that was only because I couldn't imagine what it would be like to not be conscious. Also a long time ago, I realised that this was foolish circular reasoning. I am now sure that when I die, I will die. I as a person will cease to exist, and only my carcass will remain (unless I go out in a gas explosion or something).

Classic questions here, of course. I'm not looking for a debate (but that's okay if others decide to) but for personal, "everyday" answers, so this will be my last post for this thread, but I am committed to reading each and every response.

Hope you find my answers interesting. Also I don't believe this thread should be shut down - it's not about atheism, it's about specific beliefs of people who happen to be atheists. Not the same thing at all.

[quote="mafh, post:9, topic:295078"]
I think humans are extremely complicated machines. I think consciousness is an emergent property of our type of machine. Neurologists say that free will is actually an illusion, but psychologists have found that it is a necessary one, because the absence of the belief in free will leads to dispair. I think consciousness is irrevocably linked to the physical brain, and I do not believe in any type of existance that is seperate from the physical brain and body. I believe that the mind is one of the most amazing things in the universe. I find some of the same beauty and wonder in the nature world, and in cosmological processes and evolutionary processes that others find in their religions. I do not believe in ghosts, psychic events, alien visitations on earth, or other such things. I believe that most people are basically good, but sometimes the goodness has to be coaxed out of them. I believe that human beings invented their religions, and that in many ways this is one of the greatest achievements of mankind. Humans also invented music, art, science, and philosophy. These are also some of our best achievements. I think the only immortality we have is through the memories of others, any works we leave behind, and though the impact we have on others while we are alive. I believe that death is like a dreamless sleep,and the end of your own personal time.

[/quote]

Also - what he said. Bang on.


#11

[quote="interestedman, post:7, topic:295078"]
yes

[/quote]

:thumbsup:


#12

Could someone please explain to me why on earth a committed atheist would be present on this site?!

Seems to me this is a form of "the lady doth protest too much"!

-- Gallico


#13

[quote="Gallico, post:12, topic:295078"]
Could someone please explain to me why on earth a committed atheist would be present on this site?!

Seems to me this is a form of "the lady doth protest too much"!

-- Gallico

[/quote]

:shrug:


#14

[quote="Gallico, post:12, topic:295078"]
Could someone please explain to me why on earth a committed atheist would be present on this site?!

Seems to me this is a form of "the lady doth protest too much"!

-- Gallico

[/quote]

Because we enjoy learning and discussion. Being an atheist doesn't mean I'm not interested in religion.


#15

[quote="Poseidon, post:14, topic:295078"]
Because we enjoy learning and discussion. Being an atheist doesn't mean I'm not interested in religion.

[/quote]

:thumbsup:


#16

Yes.

Most people don't even understand what "free will" is. To have free will means that you are a primary causative agent. Your thoughts (which are a necessary precursor to make decisions) are not "caused" by an external causative agent, though they are influenced by your state of mind, your experiences and your surrounding environment. If there are at least two options, and it is "you", who makes the decision, they you have "free will" - which is inseparable from "freedom of action". The mechanism by which we make the decision is internal to us (whatever it might be) and so it is "free". Its precise nature is unknown as of now, but it is not relevant.

Impossible to tell. There are too many. Suppose that one is very hungry and sees that a well-dressed and obviously rich person happens to drop a dollar bill onto the sidewalk. The hungry person was raised as a good, moral guy, whose first thought is to pick up the money, and run after the one who dropped it in order to return it. Then, on further contemplation realizes his own hunger, and decides to buy some food with it, to forestall starvation. Was his decision "free"? Yes, he was the one who made it, not some external agent. Was it influenced by his hunger? Yes it was. If he had not been so extremely hungry, he would have followed his upbringing, and return the money.

Yes, as certain as one can be. There is no evidence to assume that our "self" is anything, but the electro-chemical interactions of the neurons.


#17

I consider myself an agnostic (a perfectly rational position to take) but I will take a stab at this nonetheless...

[quote="Jehannette, post:1, topic:295078"]
Do you think that your human experience is just the result of electrons transitioning from one quantum state to another? In other words, is your reading this text just the result of "molecules in motion?" .

[/quote]

I see no reason why I should believe such a thing. I simply do not know. Although there is strong support from that corner of research - namely, the relations of physics, biology, and so forth. All this convergent data does apparently seem at least to make a strong case for such a conclusion. However, at this point at least, and perhaps we will never understand fully, there could certainly be more to the picture than meets the eye.

[quote="Jehannette, post:1, topic:295078"]
If you believe this, do you believe that you have free will, and if so, how would you explain free will per the conservation laws of nature -- energy, momentum, angular momentum, electrical charge, etc.? What "force," in particular, do you believe influences and/or decides "Choice A" versus "Choice B," etc. .

[/quote]

I'm not sure what to make of free will, or pinpoint what "forces" are behind it. All this seems to clearly evade the boundaries of the analytical net. We seem to have something called "free will" - or at least some of us do. That I can be relatively certain of.

[quote="Jehannette, post:1, topic:295078"]
Are you absolutely sure that your conscious self will not survive the physical death of your brain, and if so, do you have any subjective probabilities about those "odds"?.

[/quote]

I have no idea. I don't think anyone does. Unless they have had access to some mystical or esoteric form of "knowing" which I won't discount.

[quote="Jehannette, post:1, topic:295078"]
Classic questions here, of course. I'm not looking for a debate (but that's okay if others decide to) but for personal, "everyday" answers, so this will be my last post for this thread, but I am committed to reading each and every response.

[/quote]

Thank you for your time and hope to be of service. It is my rational conviction that the sanest position to take on a lot of these issues (including the God question) is one of absolute agnosticism (and this does not in any way entail "sitting on the fence" as some sophists would claim ;) )


#18

If humans are just extremly complicated machines, would it matter if those complicated machines have a full scale nuclear war tomorrow and all stop functioning as a consequence?

If it matters, why?
It seems, depending upon the exact physical properties of the universe and its laws, to just hasten the inevitable by a few billion or trillion years.

Me personal, i do not see any reason to care about some machine stopping to work, except for it normally meaning a loss for the owner or causing damage to other humans.

Assuming the complicated machines continue functioning and reproducing for a few centuries, would it matter if those complicated machines work together and manage to pull of one of the things suggested here (qntm.org/destroy) and thereby destroy even all the less complicated but related machines? Would it matter, if that would destroy all machines of such or similar type in the universe?
(We yet do not know, whether those less and more complicated machines appear/appeared/will appear elsewhere.)


#19

Okay, so, to some it might seem weird that I'm weighing in here, given that I identify as a pantheist, but anyone who has ever read my posts will realise that I am as much an atheist as matters from a theistic perspective - reverence for the universe takes many forms, and mine certainly does not involve anything like a personal deity.

[quote="Jehannette, post:1, topic:295078"]
Do you think that your human experience is just the result of electrons transitioning from one quantum state to another? In other words, is your reading this text just the result of "molecules in motion?"

[/quote]

I certainly think there's a strong probability that this is the case. Electrons transition from one quantum state to another in different patterns, in humans, than they do in other organisms or other objects - even differently between different individual humans. We are not identical arrangements of matter, after all. If any evidence comes to light of another force at work - one that somehow transcends what we currently consider to be natural, physical phenomena - then I will certainly consider said evidence, but at present there is none.

If you believe this, do you believe that you have free will, and if so, how would you explain free will per the conservation laws of nature -- energy, momentum, angular momentum, electrical charge, etc.? What "force," in particular, do you believe influences and/or decides "Choice A" versus "Choice B," etc.

I certainly don't believe in the classical libertarian version of free will, in the sense that we have some internal homunculus (our "true self") that acts independently of our bodies and surroundings such that in any given circumstances, we might as easily settle upon one option as another.

I do believe, however, that we must assume responsibility for our actions to the extent that they are not actions committed by any entity other than our selves, to the extent that our physically manifested beings participate in these actions. I guess it comes down to how narrowly or broadly you conceive of the "self" - I don't believe we can make any decision we like regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves (and even classical libertarian free will supporters can consider actions to be in or out of "character" for any given individual, as well as taking into account the external circumstances with which said individual is faced), but the actions we take are the actions of our selves nonetheless - no-one else is taking them, and so we are integral to the occurrence, whatever it may be.

As to where the point of decision occurs, I would suppose it to be at any given moment in which our circumstances - both internal and external - combine to produce an action. This probably seems far too vague for those who believe in the abovementioned libertarian version of free will, but I don't think there is any particular "force" that prompts decision - it is just a confluence of circumstance, but one in which we - however that is understood - are intricately involved.

I really do think that only those who believe our selves exist apart from our physical manifestation could see this as an abdication of any sort of personal responsibility.

Are you absolutely sure that your conscious self will not survive the physical death of your brain, and if so, do you have any subjective probabilities about those "odds"?

Not absolutely sure, no - but then, I am not absolutely sure of anything, and nor do I think such absolute surety is possible for a finite being - or, at least, a being with finite powers. I do think that given the evidence in one direction and the lack of evidence in the other, the cessation of consicousness upon bodily death is by far the most likely outcome, and I am reconciled to this.


#20

[quote="carn, post:18, topic:295078"]
If humans are just extremly complicated machines, would it matter if those complicated machines have a full scale nuclear war tomorrow and all stop functioning as a consequence?

[/quote]

This question of what matters or doesn't matter intrigues me, increasingly because it seems to arise in the context of eternal vs finite existence, or of supernatural vs natural conditions.

Generally, the assertion is that in the former instance - in both formulations - things matter, whilst in the latter, they don't.

But what does it actually mean for something to "matter"? That would be my serious and honest question for theists/spiritualists/supernaturalists.

In general, I would consider that anything which affects sentient beings may be said to matter, insofar as it has effects which may be felt. But perhaps that is too broad a conception? Obviously there are degrees of significance involved - the pleasure of enjoying a good meal is not equal to the pleasure and long-term significance of reconnecting with a long-lost friend, and the pain of having a splinter pulled certainly does not equal the pain - or, indeed, the long-term significance - of the pain of childbirth, for example - but at what point is it possible or reasonable to say that any experience does not matter?


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.