Category Archives: Volition

Bad habits and the Bayesian brain

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A long-standing battle between two different philosophies of “doing statistics” appears to play itself out in trying to understand how the human brain exercises volition (or “choice”, or “free will”), and it appears that our brains have decided to stand with the “Bayesians.” All life on this planet naturally seeks to “change the odds” of its own survival and procreation…. Read more »

Left-brain versus right-brain ethics

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NPR science correspondent Shankar Vedantam hosts an excellent podcast entitled Hidden Brain, focusing on the science of human behavior. A recent episode features brain researcher and psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist, author of a book that tries to sort the myths from the science regarding the differences between our “left brain” and “right brain.” The two brain hemispheres sometimes appear complementary or mirrors… Read more »

Can self-driving cars be moral?

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Caltech physicist Sean Carroll presents one of the best science podcasts, called Mindscape, and a recent episode featured philosopher Derek Leben. Leben has been researching how self-driving vehicles might be programmed when faced with what we would typically call a moral dilemma if faced by a human. For instance, if there were no choice but to swerve the car into a brick… Read more »

What’s past is prologue – vectors into the future

We all were sea-swallow’d, though some cast again, And by that destiny to perform an act Whereof what’s past is prologue, what to come In yours and my discharge. — Antonio, in The Tempest, Act 2, Scene 1 (William Shakespeare, 1610) A freshman college course in Analytic Geometry helped to land me, several years later, onto a project team in… Read more »

A year of rolling the dice

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I started this blog in early 2018 as a place to post some pieces I had developed over several years looking at how probabilistic randomness and other mathematical realities affect everything from the way we vote to our scientific and religious understandings of the “human condition.” Some blog posts achieved more web penetration than others, and so this post is… Read more »

“Free will” versus “free won’t”

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“I can resist anything but temptation.” – Oscar Wilde One of the best-known series of studies on human volition, or “free will,” was the “marshmallow test,” conducted by Walter Mischel in the 1960s. In one variant of this study, children would be placed alone in a room with one marshmallow and told that if they waited and chose not to eat… Read more »

Choosing to hit the baseball

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“The apple cannot be stuck back on the Tree of Knowledge; once we begin to see, we are doomed and challenged to seek the strength to see more, not less.”  – Arthur Miller Thousands of years of human religious expression are built on an assumption that humans have volition or “free will.” It is a foundational part of the Creation… Read more »

Humpty Dumpty words: socialism and capitalism – part 1

I wrote in a post back in March about the concept of “Humpty Dumpty words,” a reference to Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, where Humpty Dumpty engages Alice (of Wonderland fame) in a “war of words” in which he gets to define the meanings. [1] This is what I see in the voluminous writing happening as we speak on… Read more »