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Tagfree will

Choosing the High Road or Low Road

How Libet’s Free Will Research Is Misrepresented

Sometimes, says Michael Egnor, misrepresentation may be deliberate because Libet’s work doesn’t support a materialist perspective

“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

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How a Neuroscientist Imaged Free Will (and “Free Won’t”)

At first, Libet thought that free will might not be real. Then he looked again…

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.

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Michael Egnor: Free Will or Free Won’t?

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 ›

Concept of brain recording for parkinson surgery

Why Pioneer Neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield Said the Mind Is More Than the Brain

He gave three lines of reasoning, based on brain surgery on over a thousand patients

Michael Egnor points out that Penfield offered three lines of evidence: His inability to stimulate intellectual thought during brain operations, the inability of seizures to cause intellectual thought, and his inability to stimulate the will. … So he concluded that the intellect and the will are not from the brain. Which is precisely what Aristotle said.

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Meat has no opinions

Why you can't actually deny free will

If we are just meat, as evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne insists, we cannot have a true opinion of the matter. Meat is neither right nor wrong. To have an opinion about free will implies that we accept it.

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Scalpel on model of brain

Some People Think and Speak with Only Half a Brain

A new study sheds light on how they do it

A range of neuroscience research findings is more readily explained by assuming that some aspects of thought–– abstract intellectual thought and free will–– are immaterial.

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what will you choose? Fresh healthy berries come out from the bowl or junk potato fries from paper box

Can Free Will Really Be a Scientific Idea?

Yes, if we look at it from the perspective of information theory
It is possible to empirically distinguish an entity with free will from an entity that runs according to chance and necessity alone, while staying entirely within the methodology of modern science. Read More ›
PC displaying brain waves of male patient at lab
Selective focus on a computer recording brain waves of a mature gentleman getting his brain analyzed by an electroencephalography machine.

Was famous old evidence against free will just debunked?

The pattern that was thought to prove free will an illusion may have been noise

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.

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Edward Feser on Neurobabble and Remembering the Right Questions

Edward Feser dismantles many of the simplistic reads of contemporary neuroscience

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.

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Why Do Atheists Still Claim Free Will Can’t Exist?

Sam Harris reduces everything to physics but then ignores quantum non-determinism

A reader, listening to his podcast with computer scientist Judea Pearl, asks how he can be so sure everything is determined by physical forces. How indeed?

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Hands selecting colored lights

Younger Thinkers Now Argue That Free Will Is Real

The laws of physics do not rule it out, they say

Assuming this trend among younger thinkers persists, the philosophical discussions around AI are not making determinism seem necessary or inevitable. And that, when you think of it, is an odd fate for determinism.

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Can Physics Prove There Is No Free Will?

No, but it can make physicists incoherent when they write about free will

It’s hilarious. Sabine Hossenfelder misses the irony that she insists that people “change their minds” by accepting her assertion that they… can’t change their minds. 

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Bacteria in Petri dish

Even Bacteria Are Purpose-Driven

The recent finding that bacteria can make individual decisions may help design better antibiotics

Does this mean that bacteria have free will? Not really; as Michael Egnor reminds us, free will is an immaterial quality of the reasoning mind. Life forms that lack a reasoning mind make decisions based only on their needs or desires.

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Does “Alien Hand Syndrome” Show That We Don’t Really Have Free Will?

One woman’s left hand seemed to have a mind of its own. Did it?

Alien hand syndrome doesn’t mean that free will is not real. In fact, it clarifies exactly what free will is and what it isn’t.

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Man holding game controller in the dark

Will we surrender our free will to screens?

We may be surrendering while we aren’t paying attention

If “the machines” ever do take over, it will be because we have stopped thinking, not because they have started to.

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Pinball chute

How Can Mere Products of Nature Have Free Will?

Materialists don’t like the outcome of their philosophy but twisting logic won’t change it

Although most compatibilists have a more or less materialist view of nature, they find it impossible to shake the conviction that free will is real.

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Quantum Randomness Gives Nature Free Will

Whether or not quantum randomness explains how our brains work, it may help us create unbreakable encryption codes

When I was boy, my father explained free will and predestination to me: I dig a fence post hole. · Did I create the hole because of my own free will? · Or was the hole already there and I simply removed the dirt? If true, the hole was predestined. The question cannot be answered by examining the evidence. In philosophy terms, it is “empirically unanswerable.” That is the sort of stuff that philosophers debate. Religious people might point to scripture to support one conclusion over the other.1 In physics, however, quantum randomness offers a definitive answer to the question of predestination vs. free will—for subatomic particles. In the world of classical physics (Isaac Newton’s physics), it can be argued Read More ›

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Man in a maze

Has Neuroscience Disproved Thinking?

A philosopher argues that Nobel Prize-winning research shows that the theory of mind is just another illusion, useful for survival and success
We've all seen this sort of argument before in many other guises. It is commonly called “reductionism.” The reductionist claims that, because an object can be construed as made up of parts, the object is just the parts. It is like saying that because an article like this one is constructed from letters of the alphabet, the article is only rows of letters. Read More ›
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Do Quasars Provide Evidence for Free Will?

Possibly. They certainly rule out experimenter interference.
The universe would seem much neater if everything were determined. One result is that objections to randomness and to free will have become more sophisticated. But have they succeeded? Read More ›