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Tagfree will

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Breaking Through Concept

Michael Egnor: Denying Free Will Is Totalitarian

Specifically, “The denial of free will is the cornerstone of totalitarian systems.” That’s what he told podcaster Lucas Skrobot in the second of two podcast discussions: Dr. Michael Egnor | Free Will and Totalitarian Ideologies (Part 2 of 2) [E152] Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor has written a fair bit on free will for Mind Matters News. Here are some selections to consider: No free will means no justice: “Free will is the cornerstone of all human rights and the cornerstone of our Constitutional rights. The denial of free will is, literally, the denial of human freedom. Without free will, we are livestock, without the presumption of innocence, without actual innocence, and without rights. A justice system that has no respect for Read More ›

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A Theoretical Physicist Defends Free Will

Physics, he says, has made huge strides, but has not upset free will

George Ellis, considered a world leader in relativity and cosmology (right, courtesy David Monniaux), offers some thoughts: Physics has made huge strides since the days of Laplace; indeed, it would be completely unrecognisable to him. Yet there are still physicists today who confidently proclaim that we can’t have free will because physics determines everything, including brain functioning – entirely ignoring the complex context and the power of constraints. If you seriously believe that fundamental forces leave no space for free will, then it’s impossible for us to genuinely make choices as moral beings. We wouldn’t be accountable in any meaningful way for our reactions to global climate change, child trafficking or viral pandemics. The underlying physics would in reality be Read More ›

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Free-range red angus cattle on pasture, Argentina.

No Free Will Means No Justice

Materialist biologist Jerry Coyne doesn’t seem to understand what denying free will would mean for the criminal justice system

Without free will, no one is innocent. Who asks cattle on the way to the abattoir if they are guilty or innocent?

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American Earth Venn Diagram

Physicist Rejects Free Will — and Thus Fails Logic

If we accepted his argument for materialism, we would have to stop believing in it—a curious, self-refuting result

Carroll’s argument that man is wholly governed by physics is self-refuting. Because physics and logic share no commonality, materialists like Carroll implicitly assert that their own arguments lack logic. One might say that the only thing materialists get right is that their ideas are nonsense. If man is all physics, he can have no logic.

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person holding gray and brown fish

Jerry Coyne Just Can’t Give Up Denying Free Will

Coyne’s denial of free will, based on determinism, is science denial and junk metaphysics

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.

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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 ›

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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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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 ›
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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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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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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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