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April 7, 2023

195. Debunking Determinism with David Lawrence

195. Debunking Determinism with David Lawrence

Happiness Solved with Sandee Sgarlata. In this episode, Sandee interviews David Lawrence. David went to UCLA and received a BA in philosophy. Then became a lawyer and practiced law for many years. After following for some time the current media...

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Happiness Solved with Sandee Sgarlata. In this episode, Sandee interviews David Lawrence. David went to UCLA and received a BA in philosophy. Then became a lawyer and practiced law for many years. After following for some time the current media pundits and podcasts on politics and social affairs, decided many things were being said that weren't quite right. Having read Sam Harris' book "Free Will" was prompted to become an author and write a reply against the prevailing vew that we don't have free will. Wrote "Are We Really Biochemical Robots" in response. 

Connect with David: Biochemicalrobots.com

Connect with Sandee www.sandeesgarlata.com

Podcast: www.happinesssolved.com






David Lawrence00:00:10

This is happiness solved with America's happiness. Coach Sandee Sgarlata.


Sandee Sgarlata 00:00:21 Hello, everyone, and thank you for joining me today. I'm so happy you're here. I'm Sandee Sgarlata. I was born in Virginia Beach and raised in the Baltimore Annapolis area and had very humble and tragic beginnings. And as a result, my life was a hot mess. Thankfully, 33 years ago, I got my act together, and since that time, I have dedicated my life to serving others and raising awareness that no matter what you've been through, you can choose happiness and live the life of your dreams. Happiness Solved is dedicated to giving you content that is empowering, motivational, inspirational, and, of course, a dose of happiness. It's my way to give back to the world and share other people's stories. This thing called life can be challenging, and my guests share their amazing stories, wisdom, and life lessons that demonstrate anyone can choose happiness. You see, happiness is a choice, and the choice is yours. Today's episode is amazing, and I am so grateful for you. Thank you for listening and don't forget to leave a review and follow me on social media at Coach. Sandee Sgarlata. Enjoy the show. David Lawrence, such a pleasure to have you on my podcast. Thank you so much for being here.

David Lawrence 00:01:41 Thank you for inviting me.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:01:42 Yeah, this is great. I'm so excited to talk to you because you have a very interesting book that is probably way over my head, but you're going to explain it to us, right? So we're going to talk about that. And it's called are we really biochemical robots? Very interesting. But before we dive into that, just tell us a little bit about who you are and how you got to where you are today.

David Lawrence 00:02:09 I was born and raised in La. Family of four, went locally to school, never left UCLA and USC, and I'm still here today.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:02:24 And that's okay because you know what? I was born in Virginia near Virginia Beach. We moved to Baltimore when I was very little. My biological father died, and so I grew up in the Baltimore Annapolis area, moved to DC. After high school, and now I'm in Northern Virginia, so I barely left this region. So it's okay. You know what? When you find your home, it's your home. This is my home and I love it. I'll always have a house here. Yeah.

David Lawrence 00:02:52 Whereas some characters said in an American Graffiti Wiley home to find home.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:02:59 That's right. All right, so it looks like you had said that you read a book, sam Harris's Free Will, and that got you thinking. So what was it about that book that triggered something for you?

David Lawrence 00:03:20 Well, the first thing was that I was a big Sam Harris fan, and I found myself agreeing with 95% of what he said, politics or otherwise. So the first thing that surprised me is that I didn't quite get the book and didn't quite agree with what he was saying, although or wasn't very familiar with some of the arguments, but many of them struck me as intuitively wrong. So my first sense was, this is interesting. We depart ways. And that got me interested in the topic because there's a lot that I didn't know and there's a lot I still don't know. But there was a learning curve to know enough to evaluate the arguments from a much more knowledgeable sense than my first read, and that continuing knowledge increased the distance between his point of view and mine. And it seemed to confirm what my initial intuitions were that there was several things off here and that I didn't agree with the conclusion. But thanks to him in his book, it certainly spurred a journey that required me to be much more educated than I was and to realize the importance of the topic, which I didn't really understand when I first picked up the book.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:04:47 And is that what you say in your bio? That we don't have free will?

David Lawrence 00:04:54 That's Sam's Paris's position, and that's the position of people called determinists free will. That's right. And when I read his book, I thought, well, wait a second. That doesn't sound right. Doesn't sound right to anyone intuitively when you first hear about it.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:05:12 No, it doesn't.

David Lawrence 00:05:12 I believe it.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:05:14 Okay, so is that something that you disagreed with with him?

David Lawrence 00:05:19 Yes. Well, at first I don't know that I disagreed with his conclusion, but I didn't have enough knowledge or evidence to really make that an educated disagreement. Now I have an educated disagreement. Okay, so his way of referring to somebody who's completely determined, who doesn't control their thoughts, doesn't control their actions, and is going through the motions of things that were predestined since the big bang and are part of a causal chain that we have nothing to do with and can't influence that kind of a person or non person he calls a biochemical robot. We are biochemical, and we're robots in the sense that we don't choose anything about us. We follow our causal programming and can't do anything about it. So that's his phrase. And so it seemed apt when it came to me to present the opposing view as a question are we really biochemical robots? And of course, I present a lot of arguments that I hope are somewhat compelling that we're not.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:06:27 So what are some of those arguments? Because I definitely want to dive into this because I don't buy that for a hot second.

David Lawrence 00:06:35 Well, just to be clear.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:06:39 I know for me, I believe that everything is a choice, and we have a choice as to how we are going to feel, how we are going to show up in the world. Everything is a choice.

David Lawrence 00:06:55 Yeah. And determinists, like Harris would say, well, that's all an illusion. Those are all experiences that are being triggered by neurons in your brain that you don't control. So everything that you think is an experience is just a fire up of various neurons and causes behind it. So that's the determinist, what the determinist would say to you, and you might say back, balder dash.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:07:20 Well and you know what?

David Lawrence 00:07:22 Go ahead. Sorry.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:07:24 No, all I was going to say is, like, if that's the case, then that's fine. I just choose not to believe it, and I choose not to. My time here on this planet, I'm going to believe what I want to believe because it gets me through the day, and I feel like I'm genuinely living heaven on Earth right now because I love my life. Is it perfect? Of course not. Am I happy all the time? Absolutely not. Right. It's all in the way you choose to react. The thing is, if that is the case, then that's fine, and I'm never going to know it anyway. Right. I would rather choose to show up the way I'm showing up than buy into something like that.

David Lawrence 00:08:07 Yeah. Determinism is a philosophy of disempowerment. We're victims. Everything we do is caused by something else. Your approach is certainly a much more productive and creative and happier approach if you had right.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:08:27 Of course. So dive into some of these things that you talk about in the book. Can you share with us some of these philosophies that you discuss in your book?

David Lawrence 00:08:42 Sure. It might help to just freshen up the definitions.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:08:48 Okay.

David Lawrence 00:08:49 Determinism, first thing occurred. It released a set of cosmic dominoes, one cause after another. Mechanical. There may be some randomness involved, but basically mechanical. And we wind up at this moment, and everything happening in this moment is a mechanical effect. And your thoughts are determined by that chain of dominoes and mine and our experiences and everything that's happening. And that means that we can't influence what we think that's taylor we can't influence what we do, and we can't influence the world. We can't influence anything because it's all been predestined. It's all been scripted out in advance. On the other hand, free will is pretty much like it's been defined different ways, but it's pretty much, I believe, in a robust sense, which is the hardest to defend and the easiest to attack. But that's okay. It's really what common sense comes down to, is that we have the ability to choose. We have alternatives. We can decide things. And our decisions and actions do influence reality. They do influence the way the world unfolds. We're not biochemical robots. We have the power to change reality and to some degree, within limits, control our fate.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:10:13 For sure. I believe that without a shadow of a doubt. And the other way of thinking, I think, is something that yeah, while I'm familiar with determinism can't even say it. I can't say it either, and I don't want to say it because it's like, you know what? Again, I go back to if you want to live that if you choose to live that way. See, to me, that would be living hell on earth, right? Because to be a victim, to live in the victim mentality because I was that person for the first part of my life up until probably my early twenty s. And it's a horrible existence. It's a horrible existence. There's no way, like, you're a victim. There's so much more to this life. And I feel like we're really meant to enjoy everything that life has to offer. That's what our purpose is.

David Lawrence 00:11:24 Here it is the basic problem of determinism in a broad sense. It's a disempowering belief. And in the absence of any definitive evidence, you might say, well, let's believe in free will. Because if you can't prove otherwise, it's certainly far more empowering and permissive of growth and creativity and aspirations than the opposite. The arguments for determinism are pretty uncompelling. Obviously, determinists think otherwise. The kind of arguments that I ran into that didn't sound right to me are mostly from Harris's book. I'll say Harris's book because free will is called free will and the subject is free will, so it might be less confusing to say his book. The arguments that he frames are basic determinist arguments. I think he's got one or two creative arguments of his own. But what struck me about them was that they seemed to be generated from the idea that we were determined. They weren't offering independent evidence or logic that proves we're determined. It was offering evidence that would only be evidence if we were already determined. So it was interpret everything when it offered evidence based on the viewpoint, the lens of determinism. The first argument I read was that the claim is that in order to have free will we have to completely control that's. His words completely control the factors that determine us. So there's a presumption that we're determined, right? We have to control what determines us. And then there's this idea that we have to completely control all those factors, but no reason is given for that and no justification is offered for that. And none of the examples that are provided are any evidence for that. I mean, the kinds of things that he argues you'd have to control is your biology, your neurophysiology, your personal characteristics, your genetics, where you were born, your parenthood, your upbringing, basically the whole enchilada. And if you don't completely control all those factors, you don't have free will. And what struck me about that is what still strikes me as I'm hearing it. There's no evidence for it. It's an interpretation of what free will would require and there's no reason it should. I think there's a confusion in most determinist thinking between what influences us and what determines us. And there's a presumption that if we're influenced by anything, if we're constrained by boundaries and so forth, we can't exercise free will. But nobody thinks that free will can be exercised in a vacuum. It's always exercised under circumstances and constraints in history and context and cultural environment and everything else. All of these are constraining influences. You couldn't have free will without constraint because they're what structures reality and they're what provide us with alternatives. If we controlled all this stuff, we'd be omniscient and omnipotent. So nobody thinks that that's what free will is. And there's no defense of why it should be that way. And the kind of things he offers as evidence are generated by the assumption we're determined. Like he says, we don't create our tools, we inherit our brain and this and that and the other thing. But if you're looking at it from the free will perspective, there's many tools you create and you use the brain and our physiology and our genetics as the platform for consciousness which allows us to create our own tools. Albeit granted, clearly we have tools and things we inherit. So the idea that we don't create our own tools would be true if we were determined. But that's what needs to be proven. Another argument that struck me as silly is that we have to I shouldn't say silly as as unconvincing is that we can't choose unless we can explain why we took the action. We need to know the reason why we're doing things. And there's some sense to that. It strikes one as reasonable to say, well, we have to be conscious to make a choice. We have to be in our right mind. We can't be subject to mental dysfunction and guns to our head or compulsive, things like that. But the idea that we have to explain everything isn't necessary. There are some kinds of things that can be explained utilitarian decisions. I'm picking up the hammer because I need to drive a nail. And there's other things that can be explained by preference. I order chocolate ice cream because I like chocolate ice cream. And some people would think that's a very circular, subjective explanation, perhaps not an explanation at all. But when you start to think about it, it really is. What you're really saying is shorthand for a bigger experience. It's saying that a pleasurable experience that I have is when ground cocoa plant touches my nerve endings, in my tongue, my taste buds. And it's an experience that's consistently happened when the contact between cocoa plant taste buds and so it's been tested under various conditions and always seems to happen, except with some exceptions. I have a flu, I can't. But there's a high correlation, almost 100% between my tasting chocolate and having a pleasurable experience. So choosing chocolate, the decision to choose chocolate rather than vanilla is not just subjective. It's based on how my taste buds respond to a certain substance. And empirically, there's good evidence they will respond that way again. So the idea that a lot of our explanations are subjective and therefore illegitimate is a premise that determinants have. But I don't see the reason for it. It's almost as if there are any arbitrary factors in a decision. My taste buds like chocolate or I'm at a magic show and someone asks me for a number and I choose number four. There is an arbitrary component and there's arbitrary components in all decisions we make. But that doesn't mean you're making an arbitrary decision by standing up and declaring the number four. The question asked you for an arbitrary answer. You're giving it. So there's a presumption that we have to know why we do things and some things don't require knowing why. And it seems to confuse reasons with choice. What Harris seems to do in the book is focus on decisions that are preferential the kinder like ice cream. Why did I want coffee over tea? Why did I choose water over beer? Why did I get my daughter this present? These are all examples from the book. Those kind of why did I buy that? Why was I inspired by that book on violence to start martial arts? Well, we can give reasons to these things. There may be many different reasons for different people and they depend on the context. Once again, I think the lens of determinism colors, how these things are interpreting are interpreted. And in his view, they're after the fact stories. Well, they're only after the fact stories if we're determined causes account for everything we do and reasons and motivations and desires and preference aren't factored into it. The other thing is, I can refrain from having chocolate. The fact that I like it doesn't mean I necessarily have to choose it. It's not as if there's a causal relationship between all of this stuff and the choice we make. They may influence our choice. They may limit our choice. They may constrain our choice. They may give us an inaccurate sense of the consequences, but that's not the choice. So that was the second thing that struck me as not quite working for me.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:20:01 Yeah, I don't know that any of it would really work for me, to be honest with you. In that viewpoint, there is no divinity, there is no faith, there is no higher power. Right. It sounds like it's.

David Lawrence 00:20:19 Whatever your cause, if you believe in God, you are caused to believe in God. If you believe that we are essential spiritual beings, that row of dominoes descending from the Big Bang caused your neurons and the surrounding environment to create the experience that we're spiritual beings. And your belief comes from causal force. So you're right. It wipes out everything because everything is causal.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:20:52 So before we started hitting record, you were joking that you wanted to be a rock star, but the Beatles didn't need a fifth person. Is that viewpoint?

David Lawrence 00:21:02 That bad decision?

Sandee Sgarlata 00:21:03 I know, right? Very bad decision. Help me understand this. So they're basically saying that the Beatles, it was just meant to be.

David Lawrence 00:21:17 Yes. Sort of like Let it be, but not quite. But it was meant to be. Changed the lyrics of the song and.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:21:24 Let it be meant to be. Yeah, that's interesting. That's really interesting, because everything and I can see why people go down that path. Right. But again, I feel like it's a cop out. I feel like it's a cop out, and that if you're just saying, well, this is my lot in life, oh, well, I just have to accept it. No, it's not right. I mean, people get out of poverty. They choose, they make different choices. They go from being homeless to thriving. One of my previous guests, Dr. Joe Vitali, I just had on, he was homeless at one point, and now he's one of the he's written 80 books, and he's hugely successful, and he got himself out of that, so so, yes. So the whole determinism philosophy is just I don't know, you know, how I look at it. And quite frankly, if I offend anybody, then my podcast isn't for you. But it's almost like how you look at the flat earthers, right?

David Lawrence 00:22:44 How you look at the people that.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:22:46 Believe the earth is flat, the flat earthers, the conspiracy that the earth is flat. I feel like it's kind of like, okay, if you want to believe that, that's fine, but it's a little cray cray. And I almost feel like this is a little cray cray, too.

David Lawrence 00:23:01 Well, yeah, I mean, we do have the presumption that there is evidence that may affect what we believe. There seems very little evidence that would support the flat earthers, but there's a lot of evidence that supports the fact that it isn't flat. And so the free will question is really, in part, the search for evidence that shows it's one way or the other, because the determinist can always say to you, well, okay, that guy you were talking about, he didn't pull himself out of poverty. He didn't change the fact that he was homeless. It was always predestined. All of those things were causal. They were causal effects. He didn't do anything. So they see that this is the lens. Once you've already concluded that the world is determined, well, everything is determined. So he didn't do anything. We are passive observers in a life that parades before us like we're watching a movie.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:24:02 Well, how does taking action go ahead? You finish your thought, and then I'll ask the question.

David Lawrence 00:24:08 Well, then the question becomes, what's the evidence? And the answer that I've come to after a fair amount of time looking at this is that there's no good evidence to think that we're determined, and there's a lot of good reasons to think we have free will. In fact, there's pretty good evidence that discredits the whole notion that we're determined. That doesn't necessarily mean we have free will, but it rules out the number one argument that determinists make or assume to be the case, which is the world is determined and governed by causation with some bit of randomness sprinkled in for Spice. And part of the evidence that they marshal is that is scientific. I mean, the whole idea of determinisms comes from the scientific paradigm where you observe things that relate to each other by physical contact and transfer influence. Based on that, physical contact and universal rules operate to govern what happens given the mass and energy and velocity and all that stuff in the meeting of the things and what's going to happen as a result of the contact. But the truth is, when you start looking at causation, it starts to be pretty flimsy. It hasn't ever been defined in a way that anybody can agree on what it is. There's a very potent argument that we never see it. It's just we see events, sequences that seem to appear regularly in the same order, but that doesn't mean they're going to next time. It just means we see a lot of things that appear in the same order. It was a famous argument made by the Scottish philosopher David Lawrence that just because we see things appear regularly doesn't mean we're seeing causation. It doesn't mean we're looking at a necessary connection. We can't know. We can't see it. All we can see is say, yeah, that causes that. Why? Because every time we've seen that it was followed by that pretty much without exception. And he said another philosophers in his wake said but that still doesn't prove any necessary connection because it can always be falsified. If it's an empirical thing, there's always the possibility that something else happens or something else intervenes. And there's various arguments along those lines. The other reason why causation isn't a very good bet for existing and a sure bet not to govern the universe is because it's been proven it doesn't. When science recognized random events, it recognized events that happened that have no causal connection to the prior state of the universe and they can't be accounted for. There's something novel about them. They didn't have to occur in place of something else. There was nothing necessary about their occurrence. They just popped into existence without a causal relationship to what came before. Well, where did they come from? What is that gap between everything that happened in the world before and this event? Nobody knows. So we call it randomness probability is sort of a form of randomness in which random events happen, but there's an overall structure that they form even though they seem like individual random events. And that's the basis for quantum science relativity theory. Einstein said that causation doesn't apply to certain events, doesn't apply to the Big bang, doesn't apply to black holes. There are conditions where causation doesn't apply. So now it's limited, right? Where does it apply? Where does it not apply for science, for relativity theory? It doesn't apply to certain pretty big fundamental events. And then quantum physics came along and proved that it doesn't apply with respect to a large, prevalent category of subatomic events doesn't apply, can't be explained. There was a big controversy and it was settled some time ago that some really weird things that happen in quantum physics, particularly what Einstein called spooky action at a distance, you can do something in one place that's spontaneous and based on a choice made as to angle of measurement and so forth, that affects instantly another entangled twin. We could say galaxies away. Nothing physical passes between them. There's no communication. There's no medium in which something could go faster than the speed of light. Doesn't matter. You do something spontaneously here, something over there, across any number of galaxies will do something that you can predict. So there's a connection that can't be explained. And then it was proved that it wasn't causal. It couldn't be explained in terms of causal events contiguous to each other, banging against each other under some local conditions proven that causation doesn't apply. Yes, there are holdouts less with anything who say, oh, no, we can hold on to causation. Here what you have to do. And there's some various theories and so forth. There'll always be people who to some degree disagree. But I think what they could agree on is the existence of causation and its status as the main governing force of the universe is really in doubt. And all of determinism is based on that. There's one other thing that struck me as maybe one of the biggest problems with causation. It's hard to get over this one is that causal math doesn't work. The universe is described accurately by probabilistic quantum equations. Causal math based on Newtonian science does not predict how the universe works. It doesn't describe accurately the goings on of reality. So you say to yourself, why would that possibly be? If the world is if we're all biochemical robots controlled by this mechanical machine that's knocked down the cosmic dominoes until now, why would the equations that prove that or describe that not be consistent with reality? They're not. And that's not even disputed. It's not disputed by anybody in the free will debate. Probabilistic equations match reality. Causal equations don't. It's hard to figure out how that could be if the world were governed by causation. So you add all that up and you go, well, wait a second. This whole outlook has a basic premise. And when you start to look at that basic premise, it kind of comes apart. And it's certainly not anything substantial or solid on the basis of which you could rest the whole worldview called determinism. It might have been more reasonable to do so 300 years ago once Newtonian science started that causation in the sense that determinants use it was reasonable to assume did govern the world. Although there's questions about whether Newton thought so because he still couldn't account for this spooky action of how the moon's gravity could infant how the sun could this because they seemed to be separated as far as he knew. Turns out they weren't separated because of gravitational waves and so forth. But he was still troubled by the idea that's now been proven that there can be influence that has no physical manifestation and shouldn't be the case. So, long story short, the whole outlook is based on causation. And causation is subject to serious doubt and it certainly has been proven not to govern the universe. There are theories that say it does, but there's no evidence for them. Can always say something is the case for which there's no evidence if it's plausible that it could be the case. But based on evidence that we have, we know that causation doesn't govern the universe and we know that it may not govern much of anything. We don't know the extent to which it governs. Bottom line is it's thin pickens to base a whole outlook that disposes of choice and free will and everything that you value in life and we all value.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:32:43 Well, I'm a very determined person, but I don't buy into anything that determinism stands for. Yeah, well, if there was good evidence.

David Lawrence 00:32:56 You'D feel different about it.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:32:58 If there was good evidence. Yeah. And again, as we started out our conversation today, I'm only on this planet for a short time, right? I can't believe my son turns 23 this year. I'm like, My God, those 23 years just went by like that. Snap of a finger. Those 23 years are gone. We'll never get them back, right? And every day is like that. Every day is so precious, we never get back the day before. So how can I live my life while I'm here and live it in a way that is fulfilling? And that mindset of determinism for me is just so negative that I can't buy into it. I would rather not be here at all if that was the case. There's so much more to life. Go ahead.

David Lawrence 00:34:03 It's funny because they don't buy into it either. I say in the book that nobody is really a determinist. Nobody. Somebody can profess to have a mental framework that this is how the world works, but they get out of bed, they put on their clothes, they shower or don't shower because they did the night before. They choose what to have for breakfast and what they're going to do for the day. No, determinist certainly lives their life like they're a determinist. And what that results in is a very having it both ways, talking about the universe, because Harris says in the book, well, just because we don't have free will, that's no cause for resignation. You don't have to be resigned or despondent. And the answer to that is, well, you have to be whatever you're caused to be. You already told us that. And the advice you're giving, you're giving in order to influence us and make us feel better or clarify something about determinism. But you can't influence us because determinism says. Everything's been said, everything I'm going to believe, I'm going to believe. So why are you trying to influence me? Indeed, you can't even perform any acts to influence me because your actions aren't under your control. So determinists can't help talking like we have free will, can't help assuming like we have free will don't live their life as if we have free will. And that's not to say that free will is true and determinism is false. It's to say that you start watching the evidence crumble. Because if they're trying to convince us to change our viewpoint and accept determinism, they're really affirming that the world isn't determined and that they can change our viewpoint.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:36:04 Yeah, it's just a philosophy that just I can't wrap my head around and I don't even want to try to wrap my head around it because life is too short and I don't have time for that philosophy in my life.

David Lawrence 00:36:23 Then you should be comforted to know that there's hardly a compelling argument in favor of it. One of the things that they point to, and Harris cites is science studies. And they point to the science studies that say we can predict choices seven to 10 seconds before you make them. And these tests hook up machines and so forth, and they create conditions where you monitor your choice. They measure when before that time, what time interval happened until you made it from the start of the neural activity and then the time frame from your decision to the action and draw some sort of conclusion based on these things. But what they don't tell you, and what Harris doesn't tell you, is that these aren't causes. They're not proving anything causal. They're showing that there's some kind of correlation rate between some neural activity from who knows what source. Maybe preparation for the decision is one theory, not that it's necessarily causal. And the the rate of correlation is like 60%, 65%. One of them is 80%. I mean, these aren't causes. It means that for some reason there's a correlation. So they cite these tests as if they support determinism, and they don't. One of the tests that Harris cites says, my results that I found are barely above chance or 65%. They do not show that there's a causal connection between these pre neural blips in our brain and the decision we make. And the tests have many, many other flaws, and I catalog them, but this is one of the prime areas of evidence that and in fact, it was the most compelling one. When I first read his book, I thought, my gosh, if something's always going off right before I do something that's pretty good evidence that we're determined, then I read the test, and even the test didn't conclude that we're determined by these neural signals. None of them do. None of them. So what's being cited as evidence to support determinism and neural brain causation? Don't even say that's. What they support. Some spin it in that direction, others are very honest, like the one I mentioned and said we've just found non causal correlations, nothing more. And we don't know why their correlation might be from free will or some interchange or preparation for a decision, all that kind of a thing. So it's not even clear what it means. So you can cross that off the list. Go ahead, cross that off the list. Sorry for interrupting. I was just concluded by saying that's not good evidence that we're determined that science is.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:39:26 So I'm curious because you did a lot of research, obviously to write this book. Why was it so important to get this message out? Is there that many people that really need to hear this? I'm just curious because you spent so much I've written a couple of books. It's hard, you do a lot. So what was that driving force behind you that you were so compelled to do this to get this message out?

David Lawrence 00:39:59 Because the surrendering of freedom, which is what determinism is, makes us victims, takes away our ability to learn, grow, understand, evolve, empower ourselves. It's sort of like a fundamental thing, right, okay. I imagined in the book that you raised a generation of kids to believe that we're determined that they don't have any responsibility for what they think or do, no matter how destructive the consequences. They were just good soldiers following their causal marching orders. Don't worry about it. What kind of world is that going to give us? Pretty obviously not a happy one. In fact, there are some science studies that do say that at least the momentary influence of we are determined, we have free will leads to moral increase, elevation of moral principles. If you think that we have free will and increase of antisocial behavior and cheating and lying. If you are exposed for a moment to determinist thinking that we're biochemical robots the tests are really limited and they're under artificial conditions you can't give them a lot of serious credence. But it makes common sense that the devil made me do it, the devil caused me to do it is an excuse for misconduct. That if you really believe you're determined, what the heck? So don't blame me. It seems like it's a fundamental issue. It's also fundamental because of moral issues and responsibility which is a big problem for determinists.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:41:51 Yeah, because I was just going to say that's the big thing is if you have that mindset you're not taking responsibility for your own actions and that's not okay. We wouldn't have any sort of productive society or humane society. Not that we do at times. There's a lot of issues going on in the world but for the most part, most people are following the laws and they're doing what they're supposed to do and they take responsibility for their actions. The world would be so chaotic otherwise. People would just be going around killing each other and I mean, it would just be disastrous.

David Lawrence 00:42:30 That's why it's such a fundamental question. And that's social chaos. But what about the personal chaos?

Sandee Sgarlata 00:42:36 Yeah.

David Lawrence 00:42:39 We'Re not responsible for criminal actions. Pain, suffering, destruction was faded. It wasn't our fault. Now, determinists don't believe like that because they're not really determinists. Again, they have this conceptual structure, though. That's what happens with the world. But they all defend morality for reasons that make no sense, because they can't make sense. If we don't control our thoughts and actions, how can we be responsible? I mean, that's just common sense. That's what it means to be responsible. We don't think people are responsible when they do things like with a gun to their head or under the influence or anything that suppresses the ability to freely choose. But they defend morality because they don't want that world either. But that requires that they talk out of both sides of their mouth again, so they throw out these weird justifications for why we are responsible. That didn't work when I first read Harris's book and make even less sense now. So they don't believe it either. They don't live it either. Yeah, which is very weird because you.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:43:51 Could say it is weird and I don't know why you would want to exist like that. It doesn't make any sense. It seems like you just want to be miserable.

David Lawrence 00:43:59 Well, most of them get around it in a similar way, which is, hey, what's going on at the physical level is one thing, what's going on at another level is something else. And they forget the fact that they've just said, as a fundamental premise of the universe, that the physical controls the mental. And when they say, oh, you can choose to be happy, harris has a lot of I call it free will speak because it uses free will principles, as if we had free will, but we don't because we're robots. He says, we can plan for the future, we can rectify problems, so on and so forth. We can steer a more intelligent course, is one of his things. We can respond intelligently. We can't do any of those things if the world is determined. What do you mean, we can steer an intelligent course? We can't steer any course. That's what causation means. That's what predestination means. We aren't the captains of the ship. So they don't believe it. They have to talk both ways. They do it have to with morality because the concept of responsibility just requires you have control of yourself. And the concept of morality is not just whatever you're caused to believe is moral. If that's the concept, our thoughts are determined is one of the main principles of determinism. Well, then how is their morality I believe it's wrong to do this. Okay, well, that's a thought that was put in my head from causal forces. The Taliban believe it's okay to practice this. Okay, that's a thought that was put in their head from the same causal chain that came from the Big Bang. How can I say that their thought is any more moral than my thought or our thought? And in fact, the determinists, if they want to be consistent, would say, well, any thought that you are more moral or more righteous than anyone else is also a thought that was caused. You can't get out of the circle. So they got a problem when it comes to morality and responsibility and even making distinctions of cultures who are more advanced, who are more civilized, more enlightened, more sophisticated, however you want to say it, than other cultures, because causation is the great leveler. Everything we do and everything we think comes from causal force. Okay? Everything's equal. There's no criteria that you can make moral distinctions or hold someone responsible if everything is just a dance that reflects neurons and atoms and quarks and the laws that they obey. So it's a very indefensible position as far as I'm concerned. I thought it was when I first read the book. I think so even more now. So I think your intuitions are kind of along my lines. Which is what? That doesn't make sense. It's not how I'm going to live my life, and it's not how anybody lives their life.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:47:20 Yeah, it doesn't seem like a very good existence. Well, this has been really enlightening, at the very least, and we've already been talking.

David Lawrence 00:47:34 I hope you weren't causally compelled to believe that, though.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:47:38 No, not at all. Not at all. Not one bit. Not one bit. David, is there anything else that you'd like to share with the audience before we finish up? And then also, where can people find your book?

David Lawrence 00:47:53 There's a website we have called Biochemicalrobots.com, and some of the book is posted there. There's a new edition of the book that I'm finishing. It should be out within the week. And then there's a workbook version of the book which is illustrated with an artist who did some incredible fun stuff. And I hope that comes out within the month, two weeks to a month. And it's all on Amazon, or it all will be on Amazon in about a week. And there's an email I can be contacted on at biochemical robots we have social media accounts and so forth, things. But that's pretty much it. I think. For me, the big event is the upcoming new edition, which I've sort of streamlined in a way that's really focused, having thought about all this stuff for some more time, and the illustrated version, which is just fun with a great bunch of art. There's some pages that are just comic books where determinist robot says this and the nondeterminist says, well, but how can that be? And he gives the reasons why what's being said make no sense. So it's a very different way to present what's sometimes considered serious heavy duty material.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:49:28 Well, thank you so much for explaining all of that to me and the listeners. And I wish you nothing but success with your projects that you have going on. So thank you so much.

David Lawrence 00:49:39 Thank you for having me.

Sandee Sgarlata 00:49:51 I certainly hope that you enjoyed today's interview. Thank you so much for joining me. And as always, I hope that you and your family family are healthy and safe and that your lives are filled with peace, joy and happiness. Take care, everyone.