homepage
  roll on christmas  
click here to find out more about ship of fools click here to sign up for the ship of fools newsletter click here to support ship of fools
community the mystery worshipper gadgets for god caption competition foolishness features ship stuff
discussion boards live chat cafe avatars frequently-asked questions the ten commandments gallery private boards register for the boards
 
Ship of Fools


Post new thread  Post a reply
My profile login | Register | Directory | Search | FAQs | Board home
   - Printer-friendly view Next oldest thread   Next newest thread
» Ship of Fools   » Community discussion   » Purgatory   » The machine of death

 - Email this page to a friend or enemy.    
Source: (consider it) Thread: The machine of death
Schroedinger's cat

Ship's cool cat
# 64

 - Posted      Profile for Schroedinger's cat   Author's homepage     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I have just finished reading the book by this name, and it prompted me to think about some of the issues it raises.

It is a collection of short stories all predicated on the existence of a machine that will tell you how you will die, but not when. What is more, the "how" is often cryptic - it may say "alcohol" but means that it is an alcohol fire that you die in.

What is critical is that it doesn't help at all. You cannot change or avoid it, and generally only understand it with hindsight. Although you might not want to get on a plane with lots of other people who have "Plane Crash", this will not prevent you from dying in a plane crash, at some point.

So two questions. Would you use the machine to find out how you were going to die? This was discussed in a number of the stories, and is never as simple as it seems. Secondly, one story mentioned that religion had collapsed since the machine had appeared. The implications are that if death is predictable, then faith means nothing. So would your faith collapse in the face of this machine?

--------------------
Blog
My books for your enjoyment
Lord may all my hard times be healing times
take out this broken heart and renew my mind.

Posts: 17849 | From: At the bottom of a deep dark well. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
mousethief

Ship's Thieving Rodent
# 953

 - Posted      Profile for mousethief   Author's homepage     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I would not use it. I don't understand the religion thing at all. God could show up (or send an angel) and say, "You are going to die in a fire," and that wouldn't take my faith away. Why would a machine?

(Did this ever happen to people in the Bible? None come to mind.)

--------------------
God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

Posts: 61272 | From: Ecotopia | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
cliffdweller
Shipmate
# 13338

 - Posted      Profile for cliffdweller     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
I would not use it. I don't understand the religion thing at all. God could show up (or send an angel) and say, "You are going to die in a fire," and that wouldn't take my faith away. Why would a machine?

(Did this ever happen to people in the Bible? None come to mind.)

In John 21:18-19, Jesus gives Peter a somewhat cryptic prophesy of the way he would die (no date).

The prophesy to Nebuchadnezzar in Dan. 4 wasn't quite a prophesy of death per se, but pretty close.

--------------------
"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

Posts: 10222 | From: a small canyon overlooking the city | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged
Freddy
Shipmate
# 365

 - Posted      Profile for Freddy   Author's homepage     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Swedenborg has an interesting take on this, I think.

The take is that God does in fact know the future, and could disclose it at any time. But He does not because the effect would be the kind of thing mentioned in the book in OP.

Our interest in life is bound up with our ideas about what is going to happen, and therefore with our actions to promote desired outcomes and prevent others. If all uncertainty about these things were to be taken away, there would be no interest in life.

Of course the kind of information the machine in the book gives is pretty useless anyway, and does not actually remove much uncertainty. In most cases the predicted cause of death would be heart disease or cancer. We already know that.

--------------------
"Consequently nothing is of greater importance to a person than knowing what the truth is." Swedenborg

Posts: 12799 | From: Bryn Athyn | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
mousethief

Ship's Thieving Rodent
# 953

 - Posted      Profile for mousethief   Author's homepage     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Thanks cliffdweller.

--------------------
God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

Posts: 61272 | From: Ecotopia | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
cliffdweller
Shipmate
# 13338

 - Posted      Profile for cliffdweller     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Thanks cliffdweller.

Oh, and then there's the ghost/spirit of Samuel telling Saul in 1 Sam. 28:19 "today you will join me in death-- bwahahaha!" (my paraphrase).

--------------------
"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

Posts: 10222 | From: a small canyon overlooking the city | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged
Eutychus
From the edge
# 3081

 - Posted      Profile for Eutychus   Author's homepage     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
That's 'when', not 'how'. For 'when', there's also Hezekiah, who got a reprieve.

--------------------
One has to take part. Scary as it is. - Martin60
Jerusalem is a city without walls

Posts: 15643 | From: 528491 | Registered: Jul 2002  |  IP: Logged
Martin60
Shipmate
# 368

 - Posted      Profile for Martin60   Email Martin60   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Bugger. I had Hezekiah and I read to the end and there he is.

And what mousethief said.

--------------------
Love wins

Posts: 14758 | From: More Corieltauvi than Dobunni now. | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
Golden Key
Shipmate
# 1468

 - Posted      Profile for Golden Key   Author's homepage     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Also Ananias and Sapphira. Took place rather immediately, IIRC.

--------------------
Blessed Gator, pray for us!
--"Oh bat bladders, do you have to bring common sense into this?"--Dragon, "Jane & the Dragon"
--"I'm not giving up--and neither should you." --SNL

Posts: 16371 | From: Chilling out in an undisclosed, sincere pumpkin patch. | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged
anteater

Ship's pest-controller
# 11435

 - Posted      Profile for anteater   Email anteater   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Would you use the machine to find out how you were going to die?
Firstly, no because I do not believe such a machine is at all likely to exist. Secondly, no because I'm not particularly interested in my mode of death, though consequences of CHD are a fair bet. My interest in SciFi is probably much less than yours, being confined to what I think is believable (e.g. Red Mars) or what is evidently satirical (like Stranger in a strange land).

quote:
if [the manner of]death is predictable then faith means nothing.
I added the words since even an optimist like yourself probably holds death as being fairly predictable.

I've yet to meet anyone for whom the manner of their death was important. We'd all like to die without pain, but knowing when/how doesn't matter a fig really.

--------------------
Schnuffle schnuffle.

Posts: 2419 | From: UK | Registered: May 2006  |  IP: Logged
mousethief

Ship's Thieving Rodent
# 953

 - Posted      Profile for mousethief   Author's homepage     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I've long felt a certainty that I will die in a car crash, having been t-boned on my side of the car. This is why I'm always a little cautious at unmarked or lonely intersections.

--------------------
God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

Posts: 61272 | From: Ecotopia | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
HCH
Shipmate
# 14313

 - Posted      Profile for HCH   Email HCH   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Robert Heinlein wrote a story once in which a man invented a gadget that could predict exactly when a person would die. In the end of the story, he is murdered (the date being no surprise to him) and the machine is destroyed.

I would not be interested in trying out either machine.

Posts: 1386 | From: Illinois, USA | Registered: Nov 2008  |  IP: Logged
cliffdweller
Shipmate
# 13338

 - Posted      Profile for cliffdweller     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
That's 'when', not 'how'. For 'when', there's also Hezekiah, who got a reprieve.

Actually, Samuel supplies both the when and the how.

--------------------
"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

Posts: 10222 | From: a small canyon overlooking the city | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged
mousethief

Ship's Thieving Rodent
# 953

 - Posted      Profile for mousethief   Author's homepage     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
If you knew you were going to die on such-and-such a date -- let's say the machine has never been wrong before, over dozens or hundreds of years, so you have absolute certainty that this day will be your last day -- would you try to find a way to go peacefully and without pain, since you are going to die anyway and there are many horrific ways to die, and it's better to choose your own peaceful and painless method?

--------------------
God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

Posts: 61272 | From: Ecotopia | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
cliffdweller
Shipmate
# 13338

 - Posted      Profile for cliffdweller     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Does anyone remember the movie Big Fish? The premise was quite similar-- there was a witch with one eye, if you stared into her empty eye socket you saw how you were going to die, but not when.

The protagonist had seen his future death was a youngster. The impact for him was quite different than what's being suggested here. In this story, the knowledge made him quite fearless. He was able to act heroically in several situations, take huge risks, sure in the knowledge that he wasn't going to die, say, on the battlefield or in a burning building.

Interesting premise for Christians: if you knew you were totally safe, felt complete confidence in your future (as we probably should, but probably don't)-- what would change? Would I be more fearless, more willing to take risks?

--------------------
"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

Posts: 10222 | From: a small canyon overlooking the city | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged
Goldfish Stew
Shipmate
# 5512

 - Posted      Profile for Goldfish Stew   Email Goldfish Stew   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Sounds like an interesting collection of stories, might have to dig them out (I enjoy reading writers' takes on such things.)

As for me, I suspect I would generally not want to know the outcome and avoid the machine, but my curiosity might better me one day. I'd be the personality type they would have created rules like "compulsory 24 hour cooling off period between fist agreeing and actually using the machine."

As for question 2, my take these days is probably the opposite of others. Knowing a few people who (re)discovered faith when terminally ill, I can't help wonder if one day, reminded of my own mortality, I might be less belligerently anti-religion/spirituality to hedge my bets too.

--------------------
.

Posts: 2397 | From: Aotearoa/New Zealand | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Schroedinger's cat

Ship's cool cat
# 64

 - Posted      Profile for Schroedinger's cat   Author's homepage     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
The thing that interested me was that this was not predicting WHEN you would die - which just tells you how much longer you have - it tells you how, but cryptically. So the information it provides is very little, very limited.

One of the stories focussed on this - that it gives you very little more information, that it doesn't actually change a lot. What it actually does is makes people more aware of their mortality.

The religion thing was just one comment, but permeated through a number of stories - that religion loses some of its power in this situation. Personally, I didn't agree, but I can see that if faith is about God being able to change things, and only God knowing about death, it would throw up some problems.

Personally, I think I would take the test, eventually. But I would not take it lightly. I think it would help me know that some things were safe, and others weren't. It would give me more confidence.

--------------------
Blog
My books for your enjoyment
Lord may all my hard times be healing times
take out this broken heart and renew my mind.

Posts: 17849 | From: At the bottom of a deep dark well. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
hatless

Shipmate
# 3365

 - Posted      Profile for hatless   Author's homepage     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Many people seem to think of God as being like an author. God knows everything, is in control, can make anything happen, and watches, constantly, deciding moment by moment. I don't think it's a good analogy.

The Death Machine idea gives us characters who have just a little information about the mind of their God, and they don't find it helpful. It only reinforces the horrible idea of being characters in a fiction.

But if this is an interesting collection of stories, I must be missing something. Perhaps it is the emphasis on mortality. Definitely a good thing.

--------------------
My crazy theology in novel form

Posts: 4370 | From: Chingestorp | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
Goldfish Stew
Shipmate
# 5512

 - Posted      Profile for Goldfish Stew   Email Goldfish Stew   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:
Personally, I think I would take the test, eventually.

...computing....

"Quantum Physicist/Or Not/Quantum Physicist/Or Not.... Error, Undefined"

--------------------
.

Posts: 2397 | From: Aotearoa/New Zealand | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
mousethief

Ship's Thieving Rodent
# 953

 - Posted      Profile for mousethief   Author's homepage     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:
The religion thing was just one comment, but permeated through a number of stories - that religion loses some of its power in this situation. Personally, I didn't agree, but I can see that if faith is about God being able to change things, and only God knowing about death, it would throw up some problems.

Does anybody define religion/faith that way?

--------------------
God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

Posts: 61272 | From: Ecotopia | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
Goldfish Stew
Shipmate
# 5512

 - Posted      Profile for Goldfish Stew   Email Goldfish Stew   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:
Personally, I didn't agree, but I can see that if faith is about God being able to change things, and only God knowing about death, it would throw up some problems.

Does anybody define religion/faith that way?
It's probably not dissimilar to a default, un-considered charismatic/evangelical position which can be heavy on the experiential and light on the formal. My church background was full of people who believed God could and would change things, that death was a failure of some sort - on the part of the believers not praying right or hard enough. I was at a funeral just over a year ago where the daughter of the deceased was lamenting and guilty that perhaps she hadn't fasted enough or other members of the family hadn't prayed hard enough for the miracle that she believed was God's will.

I think a machine that showed a particular fate was inescapable would shake the faith of people like that - either into a reformed faith that transcends the fate, or away from a notion of God as the definition they had was too rigid.

--------------------
.

Posts: 2397 | From: Aotearoa/New Zealand | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
mousethief

Ship's Thieving Rodent
# 953

 - Posted      Profile for mousethief   Author's homepage     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
So, in the "name it and claim it" branch of bad theology?

--------------------
God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

Posts: 61272 | From: Ecotopia | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
Goldfish Stew
Shipmate
# 5512

 - Posted      Profile for Goldfish Stew   Email Goldfish Stew   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
That's the ticket

--------------------
.

Posts: 2397 | From: Aotearoa/New Zealand | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
orfeo

Ship's Musical Counterpoint
# 13878

 - Posted      Profile for orfeo   Author's homepage   Email orfeo   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I have a phobia of electric shocks, and a phobia of sudden loud noises.

Death by lightning strike is inevitable.

--------------------
The musical diary has been updated in praise of Paul Dempsey.

Posts: 17454 | From: Under | Registered: Jul 2008  |  IP: Logged
Goldfish Stew
Shipmate
# 5512

 - Posted      Profile for Goldfish Stew   Email Goldfish Stew   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by orfeo:
Death by lightning strike is inevitable.

Especially given your association with Ship of Fools and God's lack of sense of humour.

--------------------
.

Posts: 2397 | From: Aotearoa/New Zealand | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Hedgehog

Ship's Shortstop
# 14125

 - Posted      Profile for Hedgehog   Email Hedgehog   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
The machine doesn't give a "when." That I am going to die one day is not exactly a surprise. That is inevitable. A machine that could tell me (however cryptically) how I am going to die strikes at the very heart of my belief in free will.

I mean, I live in Delaware. That I will die of cancer is, mathematically, a pretty good bet, but it isn't a certainty. If a machine had 100% accuracy in predicting how we would die, ultimately it would mean that free will is an illusion. And, yes, that would shake my faith. I believe that God gives us free will to choose our own destinies. The crappy shape the world is in is a result of people exercising their free will. If there is no free will, if everything is predestined, there may well be a God controlling everything, but it is not my God. It is not the God who allows us to make our own choices. We would just be puppets. So, if there were such a machine, it doesn't matter whether I would consult it or not. The fact that it exists would shake my faith.

But, of course, the machine doesn't exist. And it cannot exist. Because God exists. And free will exists. The world is crappy because we choose for it to be so. And I will die in a way that our choices result in my death.

--------------------
"We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it."--Pope Francis, Laudato Si'

Posts: 2390 | From: Delaware, USA | Registered: Sep 2008  |  IP: Logged
Soror Magna
Shipmate
# 9881

 - Posted      Profile for Soror Magna   Email Soror Magna   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose is, IMO, one of the best episodes of the X-Files - well-written and deeply moving. Clyde Bruckman can foresee how people will die. At one point, a police officer who is smoking asks Mr. Bruckman if he will die of lung cancer, and Bruckman tells him no. He exclaims, "Thank God!" and takes a big puff. Later in the episode, the police officer is shot and killed.

I have a feeling that if the machine existed, some people would use it to do all the crazy things they ever wanted to do, secure in the knowledge that it'll be colon cancer, not skydiving, that kills them. And they'll enjoy massive amounts of cured meats, because colon cancer is inevitable.

--------------------
"You come with me to room 1013 over at the hospital, I'll show you America. Terminal, crazy and mean." -- Tony Kushner, "Angels in America"

Posts: 5123 | From: Caprica City | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged
Lamb Chopped
Ship's kebab
# 5528

 - Posted      Profile for Lamb Chopped   Email Lamb Chopped   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Hedgehog:
The machine doesn't give a "when." That I am going to die one day is not exactly a surprise. That is inevitable. A machine that could tell me (however cryptically) how I am going to die strikes at the very heart of my belief in free will.

I mean, I live in Delaware. That I will die of cancer is, mathematically, a pretty good bet, but it isn't a certainty. If a machine had 100% accuracy in predicting how we would die, ultimately it would mean that free will is an illusion. And, yes, that would shake my faith. I believe that God gives us free will to choose our own destinies. The crappy shape the world is in is a result of people exercising their free will. If there is no free will, if everything is predestined, there may well be a God controlling everything, but it is not my God. It is not the God who allows us to make our own choices. We would just be puppets. So, if there were such a machine, it doesn't matter whether I would consult it or not. The fact that it exists would shake my faith.

But, of course, the machine doesn't exist. And it cannot exist. Because God exists. And free will exists. The world is crappy because we choose for it to be so. And I will die in a way that our choices result in my death.

I'm going to take issue with this. Most deaths are AFAIK NOT the result of human choices, except in the most roundabout and unavoidable way. If I die of cancer, it's unlikely to be due to some choice I made; most cancers are (humanly speaking) inevitable, at least at this point in medical history. The same is largely true for heart disease (there are ancient mummies who show the same signs in spite of not eating a Western-style diet!) and for accidents (if I die of a fall, how is that a choice? You can fall even if you resolve to spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair to avoid it.

Or consider it from a different angle. What of the people who are told they have a terminal diagnosis? Do they suddenly lose free will? Of course not. They now know with perhaps 99% probability what they will die of (unless they are unusually adventurous), particularly if they are already hospitalized or homebound. And yet they have a vast area of choices to use their free will on.

If I were told that I would someday die of an inability to breathe (lung disease, asthma, etc.) I would not be at all surprised; given my touchy lungs it's the fate I fear (and expect) most. And it would suck to have that confirmed. But I can't see that it would alter anything much in the area of free will. Because my death never was primarily dependent on my personal choices; most deaths are not. I did the obvious (avoiding cigarettes, getting flu shots, etc.) and beyond that, well...

I don't really see why it would have any impact on how I thought about God, either. I mean, everybody's going to die--bar the people when Christ returns and a couple of OT exceptions. I would prefer my death to be as painless as possible, and a goodly distance into the future. But I'm not likely to escape it. That being the case, why would knowing the details (either date or method) change either my free will or my attitude toward God? Nothing would change. Death would be just as certain whether I know stuff or not.

--------------------
Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

Posts: 19181 | From: off in left field somewhere | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Lamb Chopped
Ship's kebab
# 5528

 - Posted      Profile for Lamb Chopped   Email Lamb Chopped   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
About the other question--yeah, if I was sure I could find out and was offered the chance, I'd do it. That's because I have a fatal curiosity and a huge tendency to fret. Once I know that there IS a worst "to know," I want to know the worst right away. Then I can freak out and get it over with. I cannot stand anticipation.

--------------------
Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

Posts: 19181 | From: off in left field somewhere | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
orfeo

Ship's Musical Counterpoint
# 13878

 - Posted      Profile for orfeo   Author's homepage   Email orfeo   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Soror Magna:
Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose is, IMO, one of the best episodes of the X-Files - well-written and deeply moving. Clyde Bruckman can foresee how people will die. At one point, a police officer who is smoking asks Mr. Bruckman if he will die of lung cancer, and Bruckman tells him no. He exclaims, "Thank God!" and takes a big puff. Later in the episode, the police officer is shot and killed.

Oh gosh yes, one of the most highly praised episodes of the series.

But in fact my all-time favourite one is the flipside, "Tithonus", with a character who can see that people are about to die, but not specifically how.

And Scully refuses to accept that he does nothing about it. So she attempts to rescue a woman who she thinks is about to be attacked, and instead the woman is hit by a truck.

The point in both cases is that knowledge on its own is not power, but a heavy burden. Cf also the story of Cassandra in Greek Mythology, doomed to have the "gift" of prophecy but never being believed and thus unable to influence events.

--------------------
The musical diary has been updated in praise of Paul Dempsey.

Posts: 17454 | From: Under | Registered: Jul 2008  |  IP: Logged
Hedgehog

Ship's Shortstop
# 14125

 - Posted      Profile for Hedgehog   Email Hedgehog   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
I'm going to take issue with this. Most deaths are AFAIK NOT the result of human choices, except in the most roundabout and unavoidable way. If I die of cancer, it's unlikely to be due to some choice I made; most cancers are (humanly speaking) inevitable, at least at this point in medical history. The same is largely true for heart disease (there are ancient mummies who show the same signs in spite of not eating a Western-style diet!) and for accidents (if I die of a fall, how is that a choice? You can fall even if you resolve to spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair to avoid it.

Or consider it from a different angle. What of the people who are told they have a terminal diagnosis? Do they suddenly lose free will? Of course not. They now know with perhaps 99% probability what they will die of (unless they are unusually adventurous), particularly if they are already hospitalized or homebound. And yet they have a vast area of choices to use their free will on.

That's a fair point. I was thinking that the choices of others in making and spreading carcinogens trigger the cancer (as you say, "in the most roundabout and unavoidable way"), not necessarily the choice I make (other than choosing to live where I was born). But that is also why I stress the 100% certainty on the mythical machine. If it is only 99% or even 99.999999999999% certain that one will die in such-and-such a way, that is just playing the percentages (like the percentages that I will die of cancer because I live here). That does not negate free will. So long as there is a chance that there is another option, then God (as I perceive God) exists, But if this mythical machine is 100% accurate, always accurate, then that is what makes free will illusionary.

But, as I said, that is a myth. The machine does not and cannot exist. Because free will does exist, due to God's infinite love.

--------------------
"We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it."--Pope Francis, Laudato Si'

Posts: 2390 | From: Delaware, USA | Registered: Sep 2008  |  IP: Logged
mousethief

Ship's Thieving Rodent
# 953

 - Posted      Profile for mousethief   Author's homepage     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Hedgehog:
But if this mythical machine is 100% accurate, always accurate, then that is what makes free will illusionary.

But why? The machine doesn't cause our death, only report on it.

--------------------
God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

Posts: 61272 | From: Ecotopia | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
Hedgehog

Ship's Shortstop
# 14125

 - Posted      Profile for Hedgehog   Email Hedgehog   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Hedgehog:
But if this mythical machine is 100% accurate, always accurate, then that is what makes free will illusionary.

But why? The machine doesn't cause our death, only report on it.
it is the accuracy of the prediction that is the issue. If the machine is flawless and always 100% accurate, then nothing one can do can change it. So, therefore, free will is an illusion--no matter what one does, the machine will be right. But if the machine is only a highly accurate prediction and correct 99.9999999% of the time, it still leaves open the chance of a person changing a prediction. And, therefore, free will exists.

--------------------
"We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it."--Pope Francis, Laudato Si'

Posts: 2390 | From: Delaware, USA | Registered: Sep 2008  |  IP: Logged
Goldfish Stew
Shipmate
# 5512

 - Posted      Profile for Goldfish Stew   Email Goldfish Stew   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
But the machine is also non-specific about timing etc. Sure, there's an element of loss of free will if a particular outcome can be said to have been seen and fixed in the form it was seen. But then we're all going to die, so isn't that just saying the same thing?

In fact within the constraints of any "prophecy" there's space for free will. If my reading said "cirrhosis" - I could choose to drink to excess, and therefore bring it about sooner. Or I could choose to abstain from alcohol and contract hepatitis through a transfusion in my 80s. Neither outcome would disprove the prophecy, but each has a significant free will component.

That's without having to take into account the choices I may make that don't involve livers.

--------------------
.

Posts: 2397 | From: Aotearoa/New Zealand | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Lamb Chopped
Ship's kebab
# 5528

 - Posted      Profile for Lamb Chopped   Email Lamb Chopped   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Okay, I think I see. It looks like we're getting hung up on the same difficulty that some people have with God's foreknowledge and free will. You seem to think (am I right?) that if anybody or anything foreknows the future, that means that the future is not malleable (it is "set in stone"), and therefore free will is automatically negated.

I would of course argue that foreknowledge is not determinizing (bleah--determining? words) and that God (or the machine is simply observing, not determining, the future. That God (or the machine's) knowledge is in fact contingent on your free will, because what he/it knows is conditioned by your actions based on your free will. So your free will is logically prior to God's knowledge. If anything, God could complain that WE are the ones taking away his freedom!

But leave that aside. Even if we grant that a foreknown future is therefore automatically a determined one, in the case of the machine, we are not talking about the whole future (as we were with God). We are talking about one tiny piece of it--the way in which you will die. Everything else, including 90% of your death circumstances, is still unknown to you or the machine. It is therefore in the same state as if no such machine existed. If you have lost any free will at all, you have lost an infinitesimal amount of it--because however greatly that piece of data looms in emotional terms, in a mathematical sense it is an incredibly small amount of data compared to all the things that might be known about the future and are not.

Does that make any sense?

--------------------
Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

Posts: 19181 | From: off in left field somewhere | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
mousethief

Ship's Thieving Rodent
# 953

 - Posted      Profile for mousethief   Author's homepage     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
If the machine is very specific, and says "you will die from injuries sustained by being hit by a bus," how does that change my free will? At all? I have no will about whether I will die by bussification even if I didn't know that was how I was going to die. Getting hit by a bus is not something you choose. So where does free will come into it at all?

--------------------
God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

Posts: 61272 | From: Ecotopia | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
orfeo

Ship's Musical Counterpoint
# 13878

 - Posted      Profile for orfeo   Author's homepage   Email orfeo   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Yes, one needs to be quite careful about those kinds of free will arguments, because they lead to the rather common language about how cancer survivors chose to live (and by implication, cancer victims chose to die).

--------------------
The musical diary has been updated in praise of Paul Dempsey.

Posts: 17454 | From: Under | Registered: Jul 2008  |  IP: Logged
cliffdweller
Shipmate
# 13338

 - Posted      Profile for cliffdweller     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Hedgehog:
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Hedgehog:
But if this mythical machine is 100% accurate, always accurate, then that is what makes free will illusionary.

But why? The machine doesn't cause our death, only report on it.
it is the accuracy of the prediction that is the issue. If the machine is flawless and always 100% accurate, then nothing one can do can change it. So, therefore, free will is an illusion--no matter what one does, the machine will be right. But if the machine is only a highly accurate prediction and correct 99.9999999% of the time, it still leaves open the chance of a person changing a prediction. And, therefore, free will exists.
This sounds like a replay of some of my open theism debates...

But the thing here is that the machine only knows/predicts one thing: the means of death. There's a whole lot more to life-- and free will-- than that. Victor Frankl's Mans Search for Meaning comes to mind-- where he describes how his imprisonment at Auchwitz pretty much took away so many choices-- including whether he would live or die-- but he still had the freedom to choose his response. More positively, knowing your death does not prevent (and may even spur you to be more thoughtful) re how you will live up to that point.

--------------------
"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

Posts: 10222 | From: a small canyon overlooking the city | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged
Schroedinger's cat

Ship's cool cat
# 64

 - Posted      Profile for Schroedinger's cat   Author's homepage     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
To respond - it is the more experiential side of faith that I think would be shaken. But I think the challenge to an almighty God in control of all things would shake a lot of people.

The machine is always correct. 100%. But remember, it is cryptic. One person had "the heat death of the universe", but didn't know whether that meant she was going to live for trillions of years or be killed by the tour bus of a metal band with that name.

Which makes it a fascinating idea, I think. And why the stories are so interesting. Yes, the machine doesn't exist, but the purpose of SF is to question "what if?", and see what would happen if it did.

--------------------
Blog
My books for your enjoyment
Lord may all my hard times be healing times
take out this broken heart and renew my mind.

Posts: 17849 | From: At the bottom of a deep dark well. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Martin60
Shipmate
# 368

 - Posted      Profile for Martin60   Email Martin60   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Most theists believe that God is such a machine.

--------------------
Love wins

Posts: 14758 | From: More Corieltauvi than Dobunni now. | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
Boogie

Boogie on down!
# 13538

 - Posted      Profile for Boogie     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
No, I wouldn't want to know - that way lies paranoia.

If it were detailed and explicit then maybe - but looking over one' s shoulder for every (....insert way of death……) would be natural for even the toughest, most pragmatic person - and I am very tough and pragmatic!

--------------------
Garden. Room. Walk

Posts: 11869 | From: Boogie Wonderland | Registered: Mar 2008  |  IP: Logged
Soror Magna
Shipmate
# 9881

 - Posted      Profile for Soror Magna   Email Soror Magna   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
... , in the case of the machine, we are not talking about the whole future (as we were with God). We are talking about one tiny piece of it--the way in which you will die. Everything else, including 90% of your death circumstances, is still unknown to you or the machine. ... Does that make any sense?

To me it does. But I'm one of those people who isn't bothered by spoilers because I still want to see how we found out about Luke's dad, or why the Titanic sank. (I don't give a rat's ass about Jack and Rose, however.)

It's the journey, not the destination, that's interesting to me. Especially since we're all headed for the same destination.

--------------------
"You come with me to room 1013 over at the hospital, I'll show you America. Terminal, crazy and mean." -- Tony Kushner, "Angels in America"

Posts: 5123 | From: Caprica City | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged
Hedgehog

Ship's Shortstop
# 14125

 - Posted      Profile for Hedgehog   Email Hedgehog   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Yes, I get your various points. Certainly, a machine that predicts one single element does not negate other choices I may make.

And, LC, I think you have put your finger on the problem I am having with it. I don't have the same problem with God because God is outside of time. It isn't "predicting" when God does it--it is simply knowing. God already knows how all of this turns out. That is no more amazing than me knowing what I did yesterday. (Assuming, for the sake of argument, I can remember what I did yesterday...that really would be amazing!). That knowledge has no bearing whatsoever on how I, stuck in time, use my free will.

And I guess that is sort of what the rest of you are suggesting about the machine: it just knows (albeit cryptically) what is going to happen. It doesn't change or prohibit my choices.

--------------------
"We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it."--Pope Francis, Laudato Si'

Posts: 2390 | From: Delaware, USA | Registered: Sep 2008  |  IP: Logged
mousethief

Ship's Thieving Rodent
# 953

 - Posted      Profile for mousethief   Author's homepage     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Hedgehog:
And I guess that is sort of what the rest of you are suggesting about the machine: it just knows (albeit cryptically) what is going to happen. It doesn't change or prohibit my choices.

That's my take.

--------------------
God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

Posts: 61272 | From: Ecotopia | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
Lamb Chopped
Ship's kebab
# 5528

 - Posted      Profile for Lamb Chopped   Email Lamb Chopped   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Hedgehog, your second paragraph is a great clear description of how i think it works with God. I always get tied up in knots trying to explain! [Overused]

--------------------
Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

Posts: 19181 | From: off in left field somewhere | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
cliffdweller
Shipmate
# 13338

 - Posted      Profile for cliffdweller     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
Hedgehog, your second paragraph is a great clear description of how i think it works with God. I always get tied up in knots trying to explain! [Overused]

I think the reason you get tied up in knots is that it is, essentially, illogical. If God (or a machine) infallibly knows your future choices, then you are not free to choose something other than what God/the machine knows. Therefore, you are not truly free to choose differently. Positing God (or the machine) outside of time doesn't really change that-- the end result is the same.

But this is familiar territory.

--------------------
"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

Posts: 10222 | From: a small canyon overlooking the city | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged
RuthW

liberal "peace first" hankie squeezer
# 13

 - Posted      Profile for RuthW     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I wouldn't want to know how I'm going to die - that would just make me nervous about anything related to what will kill me. But I would love to know when I'm going to die. If I knew for a certainty how much longer I'll live I'd know how many years, if any, of retirement I need to fund.
Posts: 24081 | From: La La Land | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Lamb Chopped
Ship's kebab
# 5528

 - Posted      Profile for Lamb Chopped   Email Lamb Chopped   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Actually I meant syntactical knots. I know what I mean, but I can't communicate it clearly enough.

--------------------
Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

Posts: 19181 | From: off in left field somewhere | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Boogie

Boogie on down!
# 13538

 - Posted      Profile for Boogie     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by RuthW:
I wouldn't want to know how I'm going to die - that would just make me nervous about anything related to what will kill me. But I would love to know when I'm going to die. If I knew for a certainty how much longer I'll live I'd know how many years, if any, of retirement I need to fund.

My thoughts exactly. There are many things I want to do but it would be good to know if I've got five weeks, five years or five decades to do them in!

But knowing the 'how' and not the 'when' would be simply horrific.

--------------------
Garden. Room. Walk

Posts: 11869 | From: Boogie Wonderland | Registered: Mar 2008  |  IP: Logged


 
Post new thread  Post a reply Close thread   Feature thread   Move thread   Delete thread Next oldest thread   Next newest thread
 - Printer-friendly view
Go to:

Contact us | Ship of Fools | Privacy statement

© Ship of Fools 2016

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classicTM 6.5.0

 
Check out Reform magazine
sip of fools mugs from your favourite nautical website
 
  ship of fools