Do You Choose to Believe in Free Will?

By | June 22, 2011

Do You Choose to Believe in Free Will

Scientist, writer and outspoken atheist Sam Harris has posted a series of blog entries recently discussing the topic of “free will”, in the context of the ‘science and morality’ topics he explores in his recent book The Moral Landscape Amazon US or UK. In “Morality Without ‘Free Will'” Harris says plainly that…

  • …the concept of free will is a non-starter, both philosophically and scientifically. There is simply no description of mental and physical causation that allows for this freedom that we habitually claim for ourselves and ascribe to others.

In a follow-up post, “Free Will And Why You Still Don’t Have It”, Harris notes that many readers had written him “to share the Good News that quantum mechanics has liberated the human mind from the prison of determinism”. However, Harris doesn’t subscribe to the idea, pronouncing that “it is pure hand-waving to suggest that quantum indeterminacy renders the concept of free will scientifically intelligible”.Reading through these posts, including the third instalment “You Do Not Choose What You Choose”, I get the feeling that Harris is sometimes conflating “free will” with ‘complete freedom to make choices without any previous context or contributing factors’. He also seems to set up a straw man for “what you choose”, often using subconscious intrusions e.g. using “rabbit” rather than “elephant” in his third post to illustrate ‘choice’, rather than considered, binary, yes vs no decisions. By combining these two fallacies, his argument looks solid – but I don’t think it actually gets at the heart of the problem. …

via Daily Grail Frontpage | TDG – Science, Magick, Myth and History.

Interesting debate on the Daily Grail Front page today.€  It stems in part from the discovery in neuroscience that a brain scanner in one experiment could see people’s choices six or seven seconds before they were even aware of making a choice. Given that amazing fact, that choice may be an illusion, I still think you have the ability to observe results and make changes and adjustments to your behavior based on your past choices.€  If this happens in your subconscious, your sub (or precociousness) mind is still “you”. Are you responsible for choices you make if you are not consciously aware of them? I think so, because one choice is almost always a feedback loop, a series of choices during which you have conscious input.

To answer the question in the graphic, the whole has properties which do not belong to the individual parts. A car door won’t get you to work.

6 thoughts on “Do You Choose to Believe in Free Will?

  1. Marjorie Kaye

    I think you’re right, but of course that could be part of my programming. It’s always good to step out of your comfort zone–not my favorite thing to do, but at least there’s the illusion of free will.

    1. Xeno Post author

      Such an interesting idea, that science supports the fact that I have no choice in what I do. Of course, the attempts we make to control our behavior are part of what we can’t help doing in that case.

    1. Xeno Post author

      Might work as a pick up line… at least in a movie: “Did you know scientists found that free will is an illusion? No one can help what they do. Kiss me. Right now. You can’t help it.”

      What two famous movie stars would you like to see act that one out? Hehe.

  2. Michael

    There is a concept in physics, and by extension chemistry and biology, call system-emergent properties. It is possible to have a probabilistic components and have emergent functions when those components coordinate that then skew probabilities predicted by behaviors of the individual components themselves.

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