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Free Will?
Dr. Yarrum
04.08.02-Fort Lauderdale, FL

I do my best thinking in the morning as I sit on the edge of the bed, deciding whether to stand up.

My thoughts are clear and irrefutable.

Like this morning I was thinking that one of the arguments against “free will” is the limits placed upon us by our physical condition.

Our free will is hampered by our age, headaches, colds, height, weight, sex ,appetite ,blood pressure, and plain orneriness.

I quote the following article:

Do we have free will?

What we are and what we do are determined by two factors.

1). GENETIC. The genes we inherit from our parents.

We are all familiar with the way that physical characters are inherited and we can see many of the physical traits of our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles coming through in the children.

It is not just physical features, behavioral features are also inherited.

This is most clearly seen when identical twins (same genetic inheritance) are separated and brought up in different parts of the country by different foster parents.

When these twins are united some twenty years later, they are surprised to find that they have similar taste in clothes, similar jobs, have given their children similar names, go to similar places for holidays, and so on.

The behavioral similarities were often amazing, and they were due to their identical genes.

2). ENVIRONMENTAL. We do not chose the way that we are brought up and educated. It happens to us. Our environmental situation moulds us.

We can be considered to be like a piano with some keys missing; this is our genetic inheritance. The environment and our upbringing plays the tunes on the piano; the tunes are limited only by the missing keys.

If we are lucky, we are not apparently limited as to which tunes can be played.

So, do we have free will ?

It may appear so, but in reality our choices depend on our abilities and experiences.

Even simple things like choosing coffee or tea, or whether to have another cream cake will depend on our immediate experiences and especially our genes.

Then the interesting problem arises;

Can we individually be blamed for our faults and antisocial behavior ?

We did not chose our genetic make up and had little or no say in our upbringing.

“It’s not my fault!”

from the desk of Dr. Yarrum ———-
Dr. Yarrum is a retired professor of research at Perdue Univ.-although he still consults from time to time. His most honored work was the successful creation of a 150 lb. monster chicken-all white meat, no bones. It could have eliminated hunger all over the world. Unfortunately, they could not kill it.


2 Responses to “Free Will?”
  1. Herb Barkan, on April 16th, 2002 at 12:42 pm, said:

    Hi Dr. yarrum

    I enjoyed your thoughtful essay on free will. It is a topic that has interested me for over 60 yrs.

    I find it interesting that in the last week both my grandson Adam (student at Yeshiva University in Manhattan) and you have written essays on it.

    I have on 3 different occasions given lectures on “Free Will, Causality and Determinism”. Because I never present my lectures with an accompanying written paper,I am unable to send you any of my presentations. However, I will make a brief observation.

    Most writers on the topic never bother to define free will. They apparently believe its meaning is self-evident.

    I define free will as the antithesis of determinism,where determinism is defined as the doctrine that holds that all events or actions are the result of antecedent causes.

    Applying free will to human actions then means that “free will” actions are spontaneous and are totally independent of antecedent causes.

    Now your essay appears to imply that our actions are not “totally” free but are modified by genetics and other factors.

    My position is that there has never been a logical argument that has demonstrated that we possess any free will to any degree whatsoever.

    I personally believe that we do possess it,but in 60 yrs of extensive study and reading on the topic , I have never seen a logical argument that compels the belief that we do possess free will to any degree whatsoever

    Regards
    Herb Barkan

  2. Mark Nugent, on May 23rd, 2002 at 2:06 pm, said:

    I feel compelled to say something in response to the piece that Dr. Yaruum has written on free will here at tomarken. It is very concise and a basically enjoyable read.

    My mind can be over-simplistic, so bear with me. What occurs to me every time I face this question of free will is that foremost, I observe the universe. Somewhere along the line to action I seem to assert my command of a small share of the universe that I observe. It appears that I alone cannot constitute the sum total of the universe because in observing the universe I find that foreign things happen. Contrary to my own efforts they do not conform to my will.

    Some of these objects are alive like myself and manipulate their surroundings. Some of these entities are near equivalent to my own status. That is assuming these others observe the universe, which is evidenced by the similarity of response (facing identical stimuli) between one who is certainly an observer, myself, and another. With that safe assumption I see that a part of existence is similarity and co inhabitance as well as patent separation.

    Some of these livings things must act to make a particular change happen and others must conform. The fact that life at a glance seems to act in a semi-orchestrated manner is essential to my logic rather than an Achilles heal. I assert that the proximity within which two living forms exist must relate to the degree of total uniformity for the two such that the sum of the relative distances, over the sum of the life activity increases, the overall uniformity of action decreases. And what does this have to do with free will?

    Paradoxically, it is the resultant relative uniformity relevant to the spatially confined, yet complex, life processes in our cells functioning at close quarters that "frees" a creature to choose its destiny. Why would so many cells sacrifice their personal choice if it weren’t that a simple law of nature has befallen them? Like fish caught in a small pool after a drought, the subject changes as a function of overall fish population and standardizes and shrinks until they are nearly one scaly mind and breed.

    Some important qualities of life that relate to free will are the characteristics that allow us to pass through time as observers. I see two major categories that we try endlessly to grasp into to better define our position and heading. These would be the acts of the past and the acts of the present. Men have given many words to describe the contents of these two kinds. The two kinds are not interchangeable. The areas of knowledge that focus on these are not examples of the acts of will contained within their discussions. They are merely actions also willed.

    When a thing is shown to have acted a certain way in the past and is thus given a name and identified thereafter, then it remains dormant, it must not be mistaken for an active element. At least when investigating the source of will. Because will exists only in action. Not that the amount of visible action always positively indicates the difficulty in obtaining the will to act. As a person who remains standing must fire muscles to remain standing still rather than fall to the ground. As well the potential for action or power does not indicate the existence of will in the moment.

    Since it can be said that life does observe the universe, and things happen that relate to the patterns of that observation. Some elements of the universe, or assemblages of happenings, must be said to be the defining parts that constitute will. The measure of freedom for any particular willed action is relative to the variable assumptions of the questioner. One might rightly say I am as free as the moon is free from the earth! My point is that, like gravity, some freedom exists everywhere. It can be channeled and concentrated but never eradicated completely. The men who decide things that impact your life are free to a degree as are those who remain silent.

    The question that remains unanswered is whether we each exist as something fundamentally particulate (in which case it would be logical that the will for each comes from each). I accept this casually as our form consistently emanates from the part of the universe that is commonly referred to as a body but technically many necessary components that constitute the body are fundamentally continuous throughout the universe.

    It cannot be forgotten that the universe is NOT logical. Are we alone in the universe? Nay! We alone are the universe! That which I see some day I will be! I can gather my freedom and concentrate my will and act my very own action among all the distraction. Now that I have become the trickster in my sleepiness I can only think in rhyme so I say goodnight to you. And isn’t it a pleasure to be among, the things!

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