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TagJohn Horgan (on free will)

Independent Thinking

The Free Will Debate Really Heated Up This Year

Many commentators are weighing in; surprisingly, perhaps, well-known materialists are disputing the claim that there is no free will

The two big books of the season on free will are primatologist Robert Sapolsky’s Determined (Penguin 2023), which maintains that there is no free will, and neuroscientist Kevin Mitchell’s Free Agents (Princeton University Press, 2023), which maintains that evolution gave us free will. Prominent cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker argues that Sapolsky is wrong to say there is no free will because 1. Levels of analysis. The fact that individual neurons are deterministic doesn’t mean that an intricate assembly of billions of neurons is deterministic. Matter is mostly empty space, but that doesn’t mean we can walk through walls…. 2. Determinism in the technical math sense (input perfectly predicting output) is false when applied to human behavior. Identical twins reared together Read More ›

boy in blue balls
Child playing in ball pit. Colorful toys for kids. Kindergarten or preschool play room. Toddler kid at day care indoor playground. Balls pool for children. Birthday party for active preschooler

At Scientific American: Does Quantum Mechanics Kill Free Will?

Physicists take sides. Sabine Hossenfelder thinks superdeterminism enables quantum mechanics to kill free will; George Ellis disagrees

One of the most interesting science writers of our era is John Horgan, who has managed to infuriate so many of the right people (to infuriate, that is) while giving the rest of us something to ponder. In a recent column in Scientific American he takes on the question of whether quantum mechanics (quantum physics) rules out free will. At first glance, that might seem unlikely. Isn’t quantum mechanics (QM) the ultimate in things you can’t determine in advance? Ah, but some physicists think they have found a way around that: superdeterminism. Sabine Hossenfelder explains that, if we knew enough, we would see that everything is determined anyhow: “The reason we can’t predict the outcome of a quantum measurement,” she Read More ›