HOW MUCH FREE IS FREEWILL
Look at the structure of any equation. The initial condition or parameters are represented by the left hand side. The equality (or inequality) sign describes the special conditions to be met to start any reaction or interaction such as the critical temperature in a chemical reaction or minimum energy requirement to break the inertia of a system, etc. Given the initial conditions, the right hand side describes the theorized outcome of the interaction. We can vary the parameters of the left hand side. That is our freewill (though our choices or degrees of freedom may be limited). The right hand side of the equation will vary correspondingly as long as the equality sign holds. Once the initial parameters are set, the outcome - is predetermined. The equality sign - the special conditions - are also predetermined limiting freewill; otherwise there will be no theory.
Before proceeding further, let us look at Nature. The flow of energy (including fluids where the binding energy is less compared to solids) is always from higher density to lower density - they self-organize or tend to achieve equal concentration or equality (sama rasa). The up quarks and down quarks interchange perpetually to convert protons to neutrons and vice versa. Planets wobble in their orbits to self organize the barycenter when it is disturbed due to interaction of various bodies that revolve around the star. Sea water level self organizes through high and low tides. Are these freewill or deterministic?
Let us take another example. The essential ingredients like water, minerals (food), etc, in plants defy gravity to move upwards (Oordhwa srotaa). The flow in all other living beings except human beings is always slanted (Teeryak srotaa). In human beings, it is essentially from head downwards (Arvaak srotaa). In fact, the flow of semen during intercourse follows this pattern - so that only human beings can copulate facing each other in their normal posture with male up (give out) and female down (take in). All others have to compulsorily bend or turn differently for copulation (Teeryak yoni).
To understand the gravity defying mechanism of plants, let us consider the effect of gravity on astronauts. When on Earth, the fluids in the human body are distributed unevenly because of gravity. Most fluid pools in the lower extremities, leaving very little fluid in the top of the body. But if we go to space, in the first few weeks most astronauts appear to have a puffy head and skinny legs. The fluid in their bodies redistributes evenly when gravity is not playing a significant role in their biological systems. After some time in orbit, the body adapts to the new distribution of fluids and the astronauts do not appear as puffy – it self-regulates. In the near zero relative gravity of space, muscles are not needed to support the body. Instead of maintaining the usual base of muscle mass needed for life on Earth, astronauts’ bodies tend to get rid of unnecessary tissues. Astronauts have to exercise for two hours a day on the space station to maintain a healthy amount of muscle mass. The exercise also helps prevent bone-density loss. Each month, astronauts could lose up to 1 percent of their bone density if they do not get enough exercise.
According to a report published in the magazine PLOS ONE: DOI: 10.1371/ journal.pone.0106207, there is a large discrepancy between physiological and functional thresholds about which we should be cautious when preparing for exposure to low gravity fields. The strength of gravity required from the physiological threshold for linear acceleration in up and down directions has been estimated to be 15 percent of Earth’s gravity – nearly equal to the Moon’s gravity. The perception of up-down is determined not only by gravity, but also visual information, when available, and assumptions about the orientation of the body. Here on Earth, plants and animals are exposed to the same amount of gravity as human beings. Yet, their body functions as if they are in space – distributing body fluids equally everywhere. If the flow is in the direction of growth; then humans should be reptiles – body mass distributed down like a fluid. How to explain this?
All our biological functions are powered by heart and lungs that pump blood and oxygen. Once the heart starts beating in the mother’s womb, the process continues perpetually till death. The mechanism can be described using deterministic physical laws (we measure blood pressure to know the rate and pace at which blood is released by the heart). But how does the initial heart beat begin? (It will require another paper.) A cell can sense its internal errors during metabolism and self organize. The bird’s flight path in V formation is an effect of self organization for easier navigation. Unlike such conscious functions as locomotion, we do not have any choice or freewill in such self organization. This is a type of energy flow that follows mechanical rules. Thus it has to be deterministic. How do we differentiate between self organization and functions like locomotion?
Self determination and freewill is the same thing. It is different from self organization/regulation, which is totally deterministic – seeking equilibrium. Self determination has limited degrees of freedom. We can determine whether to walk or where to walk, but we cannot walk everywhere – like, on water or in air. We cannot walk beyond a limit. We cannot determine whether or how our heart or lungs should function. They are in perpetual motion, but also self organize when needed (pulse rate or heart beat adjusts to stress and strain); hinting at special deterministic conditions for their functioning.
Dr. Shapiro and others concluded that ‘Consciousness’ is the universal and ubiquitous foundation of life. But what is consciousness? In quantum mechanics, there is the famous Copenhagen interpretation of Bohr, which talks about observer created reality. The observer is said to be an intelligent agent. There is much controversy about the observer. Is the Schrödinger’s cat an intelligent agent? Similarly, there is search for ‘life’ and ‘extra-terrestrial intelligence’ on different planets and galaxies. Though life or consciousness has been defined variously, till date there is no precise definition of what constitutes life. We will discuss these questions from the perspective of Ayurveda.
According to Charaka, “Shareerendriyasattwaatmasamyoga dhaari jeevitam” - life is the conglomeration of body, sensory agencies, mind and Self. Elsewhere it has been said that “Sendriyam chetanadravyam, neerindriyam achetanam” - existence or non-existence of the sensory agencies differentiate between living and inert. Also, “Praana dhaaranam jeevanam” – one having prana vayu is called living. Here prana vayu is the first among the five functions of the vital energy, which, according to Ashtaanga Hrhdayam, activates all sensory agencies. Thus, possession of sensory agencies is the sign of life. Here the sensory organs, which are body matter, must be distinguished from sensory agencies – “indriyam”, literally meaning dedicated to “Indra”, which, according to Shatapatha Braahmanam 6-1-1-2, means; instrumental through energizing (indhana). For example, eyes are sense organs. But we can see only when eyes have the capacity to receive electromagnetic impulse and send it to the brain via mind for processing. The energy that powers the capacity for such reception and transmission is sensory agency – “indriyam” (it includes mind).
According to this classification, the plants have only one primary sensory agency: touch (sparsha), which incorporates all other senses in a secondary manner. The virus and bacteria (swedaja) have two primary sensory agencies: touch (sparsha) and taste (rasa). However, the word taste does not capture the full implication of rasa, which indicates the chemical composition. For example, all sugar varieties have a chemical composition like C6H12O6, C11H22O11, etc., which can be written as Cx (H2O)x. According to Ayurveda, “madhura rasa” or sugar is formed by equal combination of prhthwi and jal tattwas. Here prhthwi means all solids (yat kaathinyam, tat prhthwi). Since ours is carbon based life, addition of carbon (prhthwi) and water (Jal) in equal proportions becomes sugar and confirm the Ayurvedic formulation. The insects (keeta) have three primary sensory agencies: touch (sparsha), taste (rasa) and form (rupa). The animals (chatushpada) and those produced from eggs (andaja - birds, snakes, etc) have four primary sensory agencies. They are deficient in one of the sensory agencies. However, they develop extraordinary capability in one of their sensory agencies. Only humans have all five primary sensory agencies in a balanced manner. None of these has extraordinary powers.
How do our sensory agencies function? At any moment, our sense organs are bombarded by a multitude of stimuli. But at any instant only one of them is given a clear channel to go up to the thalamus and then to the cerebral cortex, so that like photographic frames, we perceive one discrete frame at every instant, but due to the high speed of their reception, mix it up - so that it appears as continuous. Unlike the sensory agencies that are subject specific (eyes can only receive electromagnetic radiation, ears only sound, etc.); the transport system within the body functions for all types of sensory impulses. This occurs against concentration gradients with the input energy like the sodium-potassium pump in our body, which moves the two ions in opposite directions across the plasma membrane through break down of Adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Concentrations of the two ions on both sides of the cell membrane are interdependent, suggesting that the same carrier transports both ions. Similarly, the same carrier transports the external stimuli from sensory agencies to the cerebral cortex and back as a command. This carrier is the “indriyam” called mind. The existence of mind is inferred from the knowledge or lack of it about external stimuli. Only if the mind transports different external impulses to the brain for mixing and comparison with the stored data, we (Self) know about that (for the first time impulse received about something, there is no definite ‘knowledge’).
The brain acts like a computer. In communication technology, in addition to encryption (language phrased in terms of algorithms executed on certain computing machines - sequence of symbols), compression (quantification and reduction of complexity - grammar) and data transmission (sound, signals), there is a necessity of mixing information (mass of text, volume of intermediate data, time over which such process will be executed) related to different aspects (readings generated from different fields), with a common code (data structure - strings) to bring it to a format “it is like/ not like that”. Such mixing is done through data, text, spread-sheets, pictures, voice and video. Data are discretely defined fields. What the user sees is controlled by software - a collection of computer programs. What the hardware sees is bytes and bits.
In perception, data are the response of our sensory agencies to individual external stimuli. Text is the excitation of the neural network in specific regions of the brain. Spreadsheets are the memories of earlier perception. Pictures are the inertia of motion generated in memory (thought) after a fresh impulse, linking related past experiences. Voice is the disturbance created due to the disharmony between the present thought and the stored image (this or that, yes or no). Video is the net thought that emerges out of such interaction. Software is the memory. Hardware includes the neural network. Bytes and bits are the changing interactions of the sense organs (string) with the respective fields generated by objects evolving in time.
It requires an agent to mix these signals and convert them to electro-chemical information and submit to a conscious agent (operator) to cognize and utilize them. In perception, the former tasks are done by a transitory neural activity in brain called intellect. Though, it is not directly perceptible, it is inferred from its actions - firing of positrons in specific areas of brain during perception. Hence even after the breath stops, a person may not be brain dead as the intellect (and not the mind) may still be functional. While mind facilitates the transport of various external impulses, the mixing and interpretation of the state of superposition of various thoughts/inputs in memory (vikalpa), is done by this transitory intellect. The Conscious Self that cognizes is different from all these.
We can know about something that exists only when it is revealed to our Self for observation. All revelations involve instantaneous transfer of energy, whose existence is realized only during change of state of the observed. Since the basic concepts cognized by all persons at all times are similar, and since the cognition of “I” is always related to all perceptions, it must be universal. It does not grow or reduce. It is not affected by these transformations, like the Sun is not affected when the water flows or is muddied and its reflection is affected by such actions. When water flows from a higher position to lower down, if it faces an obstruction, it takes whatever channel is available and goes till its surface balance is maintained. On the other side (side facing Earth), it acquires the shape of the Earth’s surface. It is like casting of a die for using mould to create a shape. Similarly, all impulses carried by mind is mixed and presented through reflection by intellect for observation by Conscious Self, which is the repository of all concepts. After it is compared with the data bank (memory) of concepts associated with Self, we cognize as ‘I know this (the object) is like that (the concept)’. That ‘Knower’ or ‘Observer’ is Consciousness.
ACTION AND UNCERTAINTY:
The Universe is called jagat because everything in it is ever moving – from atomic level to galactic level. Thus, action is the essence of the Universe. Actions are of two types: 1) automated perpetual action, such as the time evolution of elementary particles or our internal body functions that generates a fixed inertia (repetitive), and 2) directed composite action (efforts through freewill) that generates differential inertia, depending upon the nature of the action inducing such inertia. Whenever individual actions are grouped with a view to get desired results (apekshaa buddhi krhta karma), it generates an induced inertia (karma vyuha) that changes the nature of time evolution. In automated action (upekshaa buddhi krhta karma) like those of galaxies, quarks, atoms or our internal body systems, etc, they perpetually evolve deterministically in time.
The inertia generated in directed composite actions with freewill may change the nature of perpetual time evolution. The performers of such action are bound (vaddha jeeva) by the induced reaction till this inertia ceases and they come over to the automated time evolution (nihshreyas). All other (free) species (mukta jeeva) are called perpetually evolutionary species (aashwatthika jeeva). They have two divisions: fixed evolutionary (Brahma aashwatthika) and functional evolutionary (niyata karma aashwatthika). The first category is inert like galaxy, Sun, Earth, Moon, atoms, etc, which have fixed orbital positions. Our body is constituted of these. The other category is conscious, which does not have a fixed position and is in perpetual motion (quantum or devaõh). Thus, there is no fixed position in the quantum world. Our sensory agencies belong to this category.
According to Rhk Veda 1-164-15, the sensory agency – “indriyam” are “Devajaah” – expressed through such energies as heat (Agni), air (Vayu), radiation (Aaditya) etc. Though inherently mobile in nature, they remain fixed in their spheres (Teshamishtaani vihitaani dhaamashah). Yet they create deformations in fixed living organisms (sthaataa) by deforming themselves through association (Sthaatre rejante vikrhtaani roopashah). Coupling between these two categories in specific proportions (eigen value) starts life forms. Extreme change in their proportion (ativartana) leads to destruction of that life form. Then, the different components disintegrate and merge with similars. Self is conscious and is different because it has no motion or time evolution.
This is borne out from the fact that 99% of the genes coding for proteins – body matter - present in the human genome also appear to be present in the rat genome. Similarly, humans and chimpanzees share about 75% of their genes, when factoring the so-called “junk DNA”. Nothing is junk – everything has its use somewhere. Gene expression is nothing but chemistry. Genes are body matter and activities of the expressed proteins depend upon the mix of fixed evolutionary and functional evolutionary components. The rats are used as models for studying human diseases in a limited way because both contain the same components, though in different proportions, which explains the differences in their phenotypes. This also explains the higher intelligence level of human beings.
HOW MUCH FREE IS FREEWILL?
When we become aware of some deficiency about something, and also have the knowledge of the mechanism (based on our past experience, which may or may not be the right choice) to fulfill that desire; the brain directs functional organs to execute such action. This is our freewill. If the conditions necessary for their fructification are met, the outcome is deterministic. Our stored knowledge (memory), which is based on previous perceptions, is incomplete, because our life span is limited. Similarly, our sense organs and measuring instruments have the ability to report time evolution only in phases – not totally (space) or continuously (time). We may observe the building up of a storm, but we will not be able to link it to the flapping of the wings of a butterfly thousands of kilometers away, whose chain reaction led to the storm (chaos theory). This introduces uncertainty in our readings/ knowledge. Thus, we are incapable of getting full knowledge to meet our desired result. This is the essence of the dictum “karmanyevaadhikaaraste maa phaleshu kadaachana” – you have control over your actions, but not over the outcome of such actions, because there always is uncertainty about other factors that do influence the outcome. This; and not Heisenberg’s formulation of quantum mechanics as modified by Ozawa and others, is the real Uncertainty Principle. The equations to measure uncertainty are really meaningless.
Because of the uncertainty, self-determination or freewill is severely restricted. It has limited choices or degrees of freedom. If there is any God or ITs equivalent; by definition; IT is Omnipresent, Omniscient and Omnipotent. Being ITs creations; we also have these qualities, but due to our limitations, these exhibit themselves differently. ITs Omnipresence (Chit shakti), which implies eternity, is our time (kaala). ITs Omniscience (Gnyaana Shakti), which implies total knowledge, is our limited knowledge (Vidyaa-Avidyaa). ITs Omnipotence (Kriyaa Shakti), which implies capability to do everything, is our limited capability for action (kalaa). IT gets whatever IT desires (Icchhaa shakti). This manifests in us as desire (raaga). Pursuit of desire is infatuation (anuraaga).
Differences in desire that induces freewill for action; are based on three factors: 1) physical or genetic composition that has its own predetermined chemical properties, 2)sensory experiences of the past and the memory associated with it that lead to infatuation (anuraaga) or its corollaries or opposite emotions, and 3) limited disturbance to the ratio (both intra and inter) of fixed evolutionary and functional evolutionary components of the body (depravity or affluence). These lead to diversity of response to the same situation. Diversity is a property of groups, which has many dimensions across the social spectrum. Susceptibility to external conditions or emotions is an example of diversity of genetic composition. This can be changed by chemistry, but unless one is careful, this can be dangerous. Oxytocin, a nine–amino acid peptide – is instrumental in monogamous behavior of prairie voles known to pick a lifelong mate. Later studies demonstrated that the chemical contributes to trust and social interactions in various animals, including humans, though it has not been studies enough for its effect on humans. However, oxytocin and a related molecule called vasopressin are known to promote various types of social behavior. It can intensify negative memory of social experience and increase aggression and violence towards persons who are not part of the same social group.
Happiness or fear or hate or ignorance upon seeing someone or something is an example of diversity of past experiences. Disturbance to the ratio of fixed evolutionary and functional evolutionary components of the body (atiyoga or mithyaa yoga) in various proportions (kalaa) is sickness - both physical (including material) and mental. Aided by time evolution (parinaama) and conflicting emotions (pragnyaaparaadha), this creates the feeling of uneasiness. Economic depravity can be shattering. Mental disorder, substance dependence, and engaging in economic survival strategies explain destitute behavior among homeless women and homeless or jobless men. Rape and theft are outcomes of depravity. Affluence can be of different types: related to money, physical strength, authority, indulgence, etc. It leads to a tendency of lording over everything and lack of proper value system. A few people waste more food than the world’s hungry needs.
Limited knowledge makes humans curious creatures. Curiosity drives a search for explanations. While this search may fit in the realm of science, it is not confined to the pursuits of scientists and intellectuals alone. People have strong and systematic preferences for some types of explanations over others. For example, people prefer explanations that provide a function or purpose, which, psychologists call “teleological explanations.” In many cases, we are more attracted to teleological explanations than to “mechanistic” alternatives, such as explaining something by examining the process. Sometimes we may believe that not everything has a purpose. Also, if we over-explain, it may lead to false beliefs; such as conspiracy theories. It is based on some truth content, but diverges to explain different data points by appeal to a group or entity, trying to make sense of everything in unified way. Sometimes the data points are coincidental, or come up by chance. Besides accuracy - having explanations that fit the data - we also consider simplicity and breadth of an explanation. People often prefer teleology and ensure that explanations cohere with our prior beliefs and generate a sense of understanding. But many things are multi-causal, requiring complex explanations. This creates diversity.
Can education help? Talent is inborn, though skill can be learnt and developed. Conveying science to lay people often involves the translation of complex terms into simpler ones, the use of metaphors, and the removal of some details. In the process, some important information may be lost. People sometimes seem to value complicated explanations more. One study showed that when completely irrelevant mathematics is added to the abstract of a scientific paper, non-experts judge the work as better. In another study, adding irrelevant neuroscientific information to psychological explanations made non-experts less effective at differentiating circular reasoning from non-circular explanations. Sometimes, we mistake the name of a phenomenon for an explanation of the event. There is a famous example from a play by Moliere: “Why do some pills make you sleepy?” Answer: “Because they have a dormitive virtue”. This does not actually explain anything, but introducing a concept such as ‘dormitive virtue’ might make one feel superior. Karl C Pauper calls it the “cult of incomprehensibility”. Many people do not know much about quarks or leptons, but believe that these terms play a useful explanatory role in contemporary physics, and that there are experts who do understand them. The reason for such behavior is lack of self confidence and a sense of control over one’s environment. Whenever they could not understand something, they believe in the superiority of the other who claims to know about it. Changing people’s sense of control can influence the kinds of scientific explanations they prefer: if one feels that one does not have control, she/he will be drawn to explanations that promise order and predictability (moorkham chhandonuvrhttena – control a fool by twisting facts).
As has been shown above, freewill is actually not free – it has limited degrees of freedom. Self organization follows a pattern –radiating away (arka) from the central processing unit (high concentration or uktha) up to the confining limit (asiti). Since the central processing unit in humans is brain, the flow is downwards. Hence damage to brain kills or cripples humans. The central processing unit in plants is the root joint – hence the flow is upwards and damage to it kills plants. Our emotions are based on genetic imprint and past experiences. If we could map it properly, the chain of differential inertia can explain all behavior – the so-called freewill or choice. For example, anger is the sense of failure to control ones own surroundings. We become angry without properly analyzing the causes leading to the present situation. Hence the trick to control an angry person is to remind him of his past achievements (atyugram stutibhih). Ayurveda lists out the impulsive inertia (vega) that should be controlled and that for other natural feelings like the urge for urination, defacation, etc, not to be controlled. Similarly, attachment (experience of feeling good in the past - shraddhaa) towards someone considered superior is devotion (bhakti), towards someone inferior is affection (vaatsalya), towards equals is friendship (sakhya or maitry) and towards inert objects (including money, intoxicants, female/male body, etc) is lust (kaama). When these four emotions combine for the same object, it is love (rati). Love can be only between husband-wife and God-human. All others are lust.
Like non-living bodies, living organisms also obey mechanical laws of nature and act according to external forces to fulfill their needs, though, it is not self evident (paroksha priyaa hi Devaah Pratyaksha dwishah). All organisms - living or not - follow laws of nature. However, only living organisms can perceive through their sensory agencies when these impulses are reflected in the Conscious Self that illuminates every thing and is the repository of all knowledge (results of measurement) and processes. Since knowledge, i.e., result of measurement for any instant, is frozen for ever, Consciousness is universal, immutable, eternal, unmoving and timeless; thus, is the universal and ubiquitous foundation of life – it is the Observer of everything that are observables.
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