Rationalistof East Tennessee              Newsletter                  October2008

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"Hacking Democracy"
Oct. 5, 2008 10:30 am - 12:30 pm
With our upcoming national election, we will be reviewing and discussing the2006 HBO documentary film, "Hacking Democracy."

The discussion will be led by Eric Richter.

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Skeptic Book Club
Oct. 12, 2008 4:00 - 6:00 p.m.
Skeptic Book Club; Barnes and Noble Booksellers, 8029 Kingston Pike

Good Business: Leadership, Flow and the Making of Meaning / MihalyCsikszenthmihalyi

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Talk on Fusion Energy
Oct. 19, 2008 10:00
Our own Ralph Isler will lead a discussion on the prospects for Fusion Energy.Will the ITER project lead to power producing fusion reactors?

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Elections are coming up! Who will be president?

You can be! Contact any RET board member if you would like to be on the 2009RET board. You don’t have to be the president, other positions are available.

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Book Club Suggestions are still needed. Contact Joan Omarzu, cjomarzu@charter.net
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Freewill and Determinism: A mystery in multiple parts.
by Carl Ledendecker


When discussing freewill and determinism the two biggest problems are the terms"freewill" and "determinism".

The term “freewill” is loaded with archaic concepts and emotional baggage. Thesame is true for the term “determinism”.

Let's start with freewill. Freewill is associated with the ability to makechoices and personal responsibility. Emotionally it is associated withindependence and individuality, the sense of self and volition.

So what are we free to do?  Obviously, unless one believes in paranormalpowers or omnipotence, there are the limits of the laws of physics and biology.It should be noted that even paranormal claims and omnipotent gods also havelimits. For instance, bad vibes by a skeptic can ruin a psychic's read or Satancan mess with god's plan. Even more messy is the concept of an omnipotent andbenevolent god. This type of god isn’t  free to do just any thing. It mustdo just good things. But then of course, that old problem of evil. You justgotta have Satan. Oops, the one god thing! My, my problems that only faith canhandle.

What are the limits of mere mortals?  Obviously one cannot simply jumpfrom earth to Saturn or even survive the trip or landing. Now it may be possibleto get there in some yet to be devised mode of travel but that would still notbe just squatting down and making an all out leap. This brings use to anotherlimitation, evolution and time and place.

In the not so long ago past traveling across the oceans was not possible. Evenif one knew of distant lands across the Atlantic it would be uselessinformation with regards to actual traveling. It took the evolution ofintelligent beings and considerable cultural development to make such a trippossible.

So, freewill is limited by the reality of time, place and the parameters ofone's universe. Which means the freewill isn't really free in these areas atthe very least.

Now as to the idea of free thought. One can think or imagine just aboutanything, right?  Not really. Even the most imaginative or deranged mindcan only imagine or be delusional  within the limits of the references ofexperience and limitations of general physical biology and the brain.

We are also limited by our senses. We have, of course, extended them withinstruments and surrogates such as dogs. These too are limited by physics andtime and place.

So, we have multiple limits on the freedom of thought and action.

The big question becomes: What is our range of latitude within these limitations?

More on that next time followed by the problems with determinism and then theanswer to the great question. Probably not.

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Feel free to submit news of interest. Submissions are welcomed but may belimited by space and topic relevance. The format may vary depending on theamount of information submitted. Short submissions are preferred but longerones may be accepted if they can be published as a series over two or moreissues. Text or Word format are best for submission. Text may also be includedin an E-mail. Carl Ledendecker at:   (ledendecker@earthlink.net<mailto:ledendecker@earthlink.net>)        2123 Stonybrook Rd., Louisville, TN3777   982-8687 evenings

The Newsletter can also be found online at our Web site: www.rationalists.org<http://www.rationalists.org>. Scheduling: Philosophy (Michael Lance) lancem@ornl.gov<mailto:lancem@ornl.gov>;  Round tables (Carl Westman) cawestman@bellsouth.net<mailto:cawestman@bellsouth.net>;  Book Club Joan Omarzu cjomarzu@charter.net, Newsletter: (Carl Ledendecker) ledendecker@earthlink.net<mailto:ledendecker@earthlink.net>, 982-8687        Material published in TheRET Newsletter represents the views of the individual authors. Publication does not constitute an endorsement by the Rationalists ofEast Tennessee or its members.