28 April 2008
The Big Bang Theory of Brain-Mind: Free will and Fate
Freedom is a state of mind, a belief. “Freedom is a property of the conscious mind: if I think I am free then I am free” (Squire 112). The most distinguishing factor between man and beast is free will. An animal acts upon instinct, natural or taught through repetition. A man utilizes his most valuable asset, the brain, to open a realm of possibilities in every situation. He has the option to choose whether to act instinctively or to take one step back and choose a different approach, perhaps one that may be unfamiliar. This is understood as free will. In reality, a human characteristic of individuality does not exist:
One may be the loneliest number, the mainstay of individuality, almost synonymous with self. But one never exists in the brain. As solitary as we feel at times, alone and unknowable in the fullness our desires, every ‘I’ is a ‘we’, more clan than family, an ensemble of cells. A self is plural. To think of myself as singular, a choir of neurons living in different hills and hollows of the brain must sing in concert. (Ackerman 123)
Every human is unique but fails to be individual because he is the product of what he inherits and his environment; past events to current events make a person who they are (Rose 186). Their experiences allow for them to be different but not individual. These experiences are stored as memories in the brain. “Without memories we wouldn’t know who we were, how we once were, who we’d like to be in the memorable future” (Ackerman 76). Every decision made fails to be an individual choice. The choice that was made was influenced by past memories. A good example would be to try and create an absolute original person within the conscious mind. It becomes impossible to make a completely original person without the outside influences or memories of key features that belong to our memory. Our sense of freedom and our sense of free will becomes an experience within each of our experiences. Free will in actuality is decisions that we make to the best of our abilities, to the best of our memories of what we have collected consciously or subconsciously, first-hand or second-hand.
Fate is defined to be a final outcome but it is also defined to be a development of events beyond a person’s control (“Fate”). The perception fate is an important factor in the equation of free will and fate and its coexistence. Fate as an end result becomes an event that comes after the equal sign, the effects. Free will becomes what resides before the equal sign, the causes, which should determine the effects. If the end result is already known, this means that variables in the beginning of the equation must equal its already known product, which then limits the very freedom of free will. In much simpler terms, in the equation x+y=5, where 5 represented fate, a known factor, and x and y represented free will, x or y would be limited to 5 and 0, 4 and 1, 3 and 2, or vice versa. Under the understandings of free will, for fate and free will to coexist, x and y would have an infinite number of possibilities.
Infinite is a term that our mind cannot grasp. “But if we didn’t let imagination fill in the blanks, we’d be unable to survive all the novel predicaments and landscapes we encounter” (Ackerman 54). No events, no memory has seen infinite the only perceived “infinite” is through our imaginations in which we explain our deficiencies by limiting “forever” to one word or symbol. When a person says they possess free will, it becomes assumed that their free will inherits an infinite plethora of options in which he can choose from. The fact that our minds are incapacitated to understand a concept of infinity makes it merely an illusion; therefore our perception of infinity is in actuality finite. An example would be to imagine space. To our understanding space is infinite. By accepting that space is infinite, we are creating a definite image of space in our conscious mind. Numbers are another example. Between each whole number is another infinite amount of fraction of numbers. Another digit can always be added or subtracted. The second that we stop adding or subtracting digits, the number becomes finite. By attaching “+1” or “-1” after a real number is a definite way to explain to our “self” that numbers are indefinite. If there were two circles, one inscribed in the other, the inner circle would represent the capacity of our mind. The outer circle would represent a subjective and finite reality. Since our mind cannot see beyond the horizons of our capacity the outer circle seems infinite. The concepts that we can understand fit into our inner circle and to us are finite, but everything that we cannot grasp, therefore is out of our control, becomes conceptualized as a never-ending realm of possible sequence of events, the infinite. If a person were to drive his car, taking into consideration everything that he had control over, our inner circle, then those factors are in the realm of his comprehension. He therefore has control over the most immediate variables such as controlling steering, choosing whether to drink and drive, and choosing how fast he goes which therefore means he controls the variables which are most pertinent in deciding his outcome. The variables that exist but are not within our control lie in the outer circle such as the free will of other drivers or the will of Mother Nature, but because we cannot numerate these variables in the outer circle they are to us infinite. Infinity becomes a coping mechanism because its concept cannot be fathomed in our objective reality. It is only subjective, but we trick ourselves and make it objective for the sake of being sane; it becomes a lie. “In the case of false memory, a person isn’t lying; he or she does believe the memory, even if it was fiction…. Usurp someone’s memory, and he’ll grow a new narrative over time, one that thrives in his belief system. What began as a lie gains status as a memorable truth” (Ackerman 102). Infinity is a fictitious part of our lives that we use as a scapegoat for our inadequacies.
Such an idea is not often accepted by religious faith. Christians assume their faith in God. In religions such as Christianity, God is all knowing. He is the creator of all mankind and the universe. Saying that man is inadequate can be taken as an offense to God because according to Christian faith man was created in the image of God, which can lead to belief that God is inadequate. Ideas to understand fate, free will, and infinity are concepts to be trusted to God and by trying to predict these ideas could be accepted by religion as an act to assume the responsibilities of God, an act to be God. This theory can coincide with religious belief such as Christianity, because the theory can be concluded that as a reason for our inadequacies, as a reason to say that man is inadequate is to say that God is infinite. His existence is greater than us and to try and understand him is greater than our capacities. Presenting these ideas is not a way to invalidate God’s will because in the Christian perspective God’s will is ultimately our fate. With God, our free will exists within his image, meaning man cannot make choices outside of God’s knowledge, and our fate is known by God (Donnie Darko). This theory is to say that free will and fate exists only within limits, perhaps these limits can be understood as God’s image.
To show for this coexistence and their limits, the “x” variable represents the free will of the individuals and the product of their free will. The “y” variable represents the will of the universe. The brain and all of its functions must have its own limits. Recent neurophysiology has shown that “the brain is an organization which has a direction, a structural architectonic moving from the minimum and maximum outputs” (Ey 188). The concept of infinity and the failure to understand, and the failure for the brain to be completely individual of the world can be seen as limits to functions of the brain. “The brain and mind are not separate entities linked in some well-tuned way. They are one entity” (Hobson 76). The limit to the physical brain directly limits the capacity of our mental mind in return, creates the natural human deficiencies that create a limit to our free will. This also substantiates a limit to all of manmade products. The “y” variable, the will of the universe, categorizes all nonhuman and natural behavior such as the plants and animals. Animals have brains but not necessarily a conscious mind (Ackerman 235).
“Animals such as hummingbirds sense and feel but do not have to think about it, but rather act upon instinct and reflexes; on the other hand, the chimpanzee is our closest relative sharing roughly 95 percent of our genes as well as our emotional and intellectual heritage, but our minds do more of the same qualities such as reasoning, self-awareness, and speech” (Ackerman 242).
This makes humans the most complex organisms meaning if we have limits, then animals do as well. Plants are without conscious and their limits become almost constant.
“X” represents the culmination of each event of free will defined as x=x1+x2+x3+…+xn as does “y” for its entities. If there is a limit to all the variables that are additives to the sum of fate then fate should have a limit as well. The best way to explain this is represented in the concept of integration. The curve on each of the three graphs represents our lifespan and all life’s decisions. The concept of integration of the curve is represented by the blue rectangles. The smaller and more of the rectangles that we have the more accurate that the area of the curve becomes. So by taking the amount of rectangles to infinity, he would have the area of the curve; this is integration. To know fate would mean to find the area under this curve, the sum of all our decisions. The width of each of these rectangles is a representation of each of our decisions, and the height of the rectangles is a representation of the will of the universe. Our free will is affected by all that surrounds us, our environment as well as our memories; therefore as a result these rectangles are formed.
is the equation to fate. From “a” to “b” is from birth to death. F(x)dx is the equation that creates the curve to our lives. The line in between “a” and “b” means to integrate from “a” to “b”, or from birth to death, using f(x)dx, the equation to our lives. In order to find the equation to our lives we must know the sum of all our rectangles. We know each of these rectangles to be within limit because our minds are capacitated. Our minds are within limit so therefore all things that spring from it, all decisions that we make, our free will are within limit. The outside variables, the will of the universe such as animals and our natural surroundings, that affect the height of our rectangles are even more definite because their conscious mind, if they possess one, is proven to be less than ours. We know fate to exist because if the variables that are added to produce fate are within limit then fate must be within a limit itself. The idea to know of all of our rectangles is a concept in our minds that we have deemed infinite. In order to feel that we have control of our own lives, to say that we maintain absolute free will is a way to cope with our own deficiencies. Therefore we can say that fate exists within the limits of free will, but due to the insufficient capabilities of our minds, we use the illusion of infinity to explain away our deficiencies.
Accepting a theory such as this is subject to much controversy. Man strives for power. We cherish the fact that we are free to think and roam within our minds and to introduce a theory such as this makes him feel small in comparison to an entire galaxy of unknowns. A look at the big picture of our lives is just a speculation, but to say that we can analyze our lives before they happen takes power away from ourselves. We lose control of our own being and our own sense of freedom diminishes. To impose this idea of free will, fate, and its coexistence is to say that elements exist in our world that we have yet to understand.
The fact is, we have to believe our eyes. It’s our only hope. If we went around thinking our vision was suspect, we would drown in a sea of self-doubt…. But how can we be sure that it is our eyes that are doing the seeing?... Our conviction that what we see is “out there” is a deep delusion. The images we “see” are only representations of the real world. (Hobson 127)
Each person can recognize that he may have weaknesses in what he can do, but as a race, mankind will not accept the fact that his mind deficient. It is the nature of man to think. Our understanding, our perceptions, and in our eyes we are greatest species with power and knowledge. In order to better understand everything around us is to study ourselves, our mind. The greatest mystery, greater than space, greater than infinity, lies within a safe assumed by the nature of a skull, and the only key to open it lies inside.
Ackerman, Diane. An Alchemy of Mind. New York: Scribner, 2004.
Donnie Darko. Dir. Richard Kelly. Perf. Jake Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, and Noah Wyle. DVD. Pandora Cinema, 2001.
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Rose, Steven. The Conscious Brain. New York: Alfred a. Knopf, Inc., 1973. 186.
Squires, Euan. Conscious Mind in the Physical World. Bristol: Adam Hilger, 1990. 112.