It’s been a fun week to be a free-will-is-a-myth nerd.
Suddenly everyone’s weighing in on determinism. Massimo, Sean, Jerry, and now PZ.
As I mentioned previously, often such disagreements can be pinned on vocabulary. All four of these fellas are, after all, atheist scientists who (at least nominally…) don’t believe in magic or the soul.
So, inspired by these prominent warring bloggers, and for future reference here, these are my assumptions on the topic:
- The universe is physical. There is no ‘supernatural.’
- Our minds are our brains.
- Our brains are subject to the laws of physics, just like every other damn thing in the universe.
- The traditional view of “free will” involves, at some given moment, an individual’s ability to “decide,” regardless of the physical state of the brain/body.
- This is nonsense.
- If our brains are physical, any “decision” will be made in a physical manner as well.
- The argument in Physics about determinism vs. indeterminism has absolutely no bearing on “free will.”
- Quantum indeterminacy, whether true or not, whether macro or only micro, has absolutely no bearing on “free will.”
The last two assumptions seem to be the most contentious. But it’s pretty straightforward.
Think of it this way: if a “choice” is made by a roll of dice, it’s not really a choice (besides, the dice roll is still a physical system, just like your brain). Additionally, if the dice roll is truly random—perhaps based on the decay of a radioactive atom, which current consensus holds is indeterminate—then it is still nonsensical to describe that as “choice.”
And as always the Hooray Reality angle is to argue that none of this is bad news. The more we know about what is true, the better off we are.
Obviously how we would like the universe to work has no bearing on how the universe does work; but I can’t help but think that the rationalists who muddy the water, desperately trying to save some traditional concept of free will, are falling victim to the same traps as the theologians.
*imho, Sean and Jerry carried the day.
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