The Battle Between Neuroscience and Philosophy Over the Fate of Free Will

13 Sep
So a couple of weeks ago, Luke at Common Sense Atheism posted a pdf that ran through an experiment that showed that people's brain decided to do something up to 10 seconds before the “person” actually did. This same experiment was recently posted in Nature. Jerry Coyne, of Why Evolution Is True fame, posted his own comments about the article:
The experiments show, then, that not only are decisions made before we’re conscious of having made them, but that the brain imagery can predict what decision will be made with substantial [80%] accuracy.  This has obvious implications for the notion of “free will,” at least as most people conceive of that concept.  We like to think that our conscious selves make decisions, but in fact the choices appear to have been made by our brains before we’re aware of them.  The implication, of course, is that deterministic forces beyond are conscious control are involved in our “decisions”, i.e. that free will isn’t really “free”. Physical and biological determinism rules, and we can’t override those forces simply by some ghost called “will.”  We really don’t make choices—they are made long before we’re conscious of having chosen strawberry versus pistachio ice cream at the store.
So now I'm also posting the same info. I don't really have any comments, except to explain that this sort of experiment most certainly wouldn't be presented as evidence for free will, so it is certainly evidence against free will. Again, it might be strong or weak evidence. But it is evidence either way.
1 Comment

Posted by on September 13, 2011 in cognitive science


One response to “The Battle Between Neuroscience and Philosophy Over the Fate of Free Will

  1. Robert

    September 13, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    J.Quinton, I don't see an email link. Can you email me at robert.g.claypool [at] gmail ?

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