Of all of the materialist cults, free will denial may be the most bizarre. Nothing could be more obvious in everyday life that in a very real sense we generally have the option to choose our acts. We choose mundane things like what to have for breakfast and what clothing to wear and we make moral choices every day. The denial that we have the freedom to choose is essentially the assertion that we are robots, enslaved to our physics and chemistry and incapable of freedom. Obviously this view of humanity is deeply insulting – it’s just a slur – but is also rank nonsense. In fact, it’s self refuting and obviously so. At his blog, Why Evolution is True, Read More ›
Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with host Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, Dr. Egnor talked about the troubles of being a non-materialist medical scientist, including demands that he be fired and death threats and so forth. In this segment, he talks about the meaning of “soul” in philosophy. Not a “spook” of some kind but common sense reasoning about life and death: Arjuna Das: So there’s a delay in how long it takes for the brain to process visual sensations compared to auditory sensations. So it’s a half second delay and this creates a problem. … We have no free will then. (01:57:50) Michael Egnor: If I can Read More ›
We all sense that free will is real. We know that we could have stopped ourselves from making some mistakes. For decades, some neuroscientists have claimed that free will is an illusion, based on some well-publicized experiments. Some recent research challenges that: Experiments spanning the 1960s and 1980s measured brain signals noninvasively and led many neuroscientists to believe that our brains make decisions before we do—that human actions were initiated by electrical waves that did not reflect free, conscious thought. However, a new article in Trends in Cognitive Science argues that recent research undermines this popular case against free will. “This new perspective on the data turns on its head the way well-known findings have been interpreted,” said Adina Roskies, Read More ›
In this Bingecast episode, Dr. Robert J. Marks and Dr. Michael Egnor explore the human brain and its relationship to the mind. Is the mind an emergent property of the brain? Is there neurological evidence for the soul? What have brain experiments taught us about free will and the human person? Can you still think in a coma? Show Notes Read More ›
Biologist Jerry Coyne, who is also an atheist activist, offers another post denying free will. Journalist Oliver Burkeman published an essay at the The Guardian last week, asking, “The clockwork universe: is free will an illusion?”, quoting Coyne among others. Coyne, who believes that free will is indeed an illusion, offers support at his blog. Read at your leisure but note: He ignores critical science issues around free will, including the following: 1. Nature is not deterministic. The fact that nature is not predetermined in detail has been shown quite convincingly by the experimental confirmation of Bell’s theorem in quantum mechanics. Succinctly, over the past 50 years, at least 17 teams of researchers have asked and answered the question: does Read More ›
Recently, we’ve been discussing the concept of total or partial human brain transplants. What about transplanting an eye and the parts of the visual cortex it needs from one person to another? Which of the two people would be seeing out of that eye? The answer is not simple. As noted earlier, researchers may never succeed in transplanting both an eye and the hemisphere brain parts that the eye needs to function from one human being to another. But let’s assume a science fiction scenario — a thought experiment — in which there is an exchange. Jack gets Mary’s right eye/hemisphere and Mary gets Jack’s right eye/hemisphere. Both parties, who live on different parts of the planet, survive. For simplicity, Read More ›
Here’s the question: I have a question regarding free will. Sam Harris in his interview with Dan Dennett said that “If we decide to do go to somewhere we experience it later but our brain decided it much earlier than our experience to this decision. If we scan the brain at that time we will tell you before you came to know” Now it raise a question because we decide through intellect. You said that free will is due to intellect so intellect is challenged here. It’s an excellent question. The answer in brief is that we most certainly do have free will. We can see this from three perspectives: scientific, philosophical, and logical. The scientific evidence The scientific evidence Read More ›
In reply to a post in which I pointed out that neuroscience strongly supports the reality of free will, commenter AaronS1978 makes a point at Uncommon Descent: First Michael Egnor is wrong about there being no brain wave activity with free won’t Patrick Haggard in 2014 discovered accidotal brain waves to free won’t I feel he kind of makes declarations, I understand his position philosophically and I do agree with a lot of it, but saying there is no activity before free won’t and saying it’s immaterial is incorrect Furthermore why wouldn’t there be brain activity when exercising your will? Wouldn’t that just mean that your soul was using your brain? Isn’t consciousness and conscious experience (hard problem of the Read More ›
Free will is a contentious topic in science these days. Theoretical physicists weigh in sharply on one side or the other. Just this month, based on quantum mechanics, mathematician Tim Andersen says maybe and theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder says no. Based on cosmology, the study of our universe, physicist George Ellis said yes last June. With free will, as with consciousness, we don’t fully understand what’s involved. All insights from science are partial so we can’t look to science for a definitive answer. But maybe science can offer some hints. Here are four that might be helpful: 1.Has psychology shown that free will does not really exist? Psychological research on free will has supported the concept of free will but Read More ›
Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne seems obsessed with denying free will. In a recent post on his blog, Why Evolution Is True, he supported the claim of theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder that we do not have free will: If you’ve read this site, you’ll know that my own views are pretty much the same as hers, at least about free will. We don’t have it, and the fundamental indeterminacy of quantum mechanics doesn’t give it to us either. Hossenfelder doesn’t pull any punches: “This means in a nutshell that the whole story of the universe in every single detail was determined already at the big bang. We are just watching it play out.”… QED! Jerry Coyne, “Sabine Hossenfelder says we don’t Read More ›
Some day, I predict, there will be a considerable psychiatric literature on the denial of free will. It’s essentially a delusion dressed up as science. To insist that your neurotransmitters completely control your choices is no different than insisting that your television or your iphone control your thoughts. It’s crazy.
“Neuroscientist Benjamin Libet’s experiments are described very often both in the scientific literature and in the popular press as supportive of materialism—which is something that they don’t support and something that Libet made very clear was not his conclusion.” – Michael Egnor
Neuroscientist Benjamin Libet (1916–2007), who studied measured brain activity as people make decisions, came across the power of “free won’t”: an apparently free decision not to do something we had decided on earlier.
There have been ongoing philosophical and theological arguments about free will vs. predestination. How do experiments on the human brain inform us on this question? Robert J. Marks discusses free will, free won’t, predestination, and the brain with Dr. Michael Egnor. Show Notes 00:40 | Introducing Dr. Michael Egnor, Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics at State University of New York, Read More ›
In a podcast discussion with Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor talks about how many famous neuroscientist became dualists—that is, they concluded that there is something about human beings that goes beyond matter—based on observations they made during their work.
The participants in the experiment did not sense that their decision about flexing their fingers mattered, so they went with the flow. But, according to more recent research, the subjective experience of making a decision is not an illusion at all.
Edward Feser dismantles many of the simplistic reads of contemporary neuroscience
Michael Egnor and Edward Feser
August 15, 2019
Michael Egnor hosts a captivating conversation with Edward Feser, Aristotelian, prolific blogger, and philosopher of mind. Neurobabble and pop science dismissals of the mind, final causes, abstract thought, and free will each face Feser’s piercing critique.
Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor was featured in a short film as a supplement to the Science Uprising series. There, he mentions four researchers who have shed light on the non-material mind nature of our minds: Wilder Penfield (1891–1976): Some of the earliest evidence came from neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield, who was the pioneer in epilepsy surgery in the mid 20th century. Penfield operated on over a thousand epilepsy patients while they were awake (under local anesthesia), and he stimulated their brains with electrodes in order to identify epileptic regions for surgical resection. He carefully recorded their responses to stimulation. In his book Mystery of the Mind, (1975) Penfield noted: “When I have caused a conscious patient to move his hand by applying Read More ›