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The case that neuroscience [or science of the brain] shows free will does not exist.  Neurons make "decisions" not you.

Science is certain that we live in a cause and effect universe.  In quantum mechanics you see this deterministic framework disappear.  However this only affects the quantum level and is infinitely tiny.  It means nothing to us or our lives.  Plus what is seen is randomness.  Randomness is not freedom.  What is set in stone is as rigid and unfree as the random and vice versa.   Random looks more like freedom which is purely deceptive.  We cannot expect science to show there is free will when the most important science of all, physics, does not show it. 

Neuroscience is not about physics but physics has to be there in the background.

Benjamin Libet and his colleagues carried out quite a famous experiment. 

The subjects were under the watchful eye of EEG electrodes.

They were told to press a button when they realised they had an urge to press a button they were holding.  The time they pressed was noted by them.

It was found that the brain knew they were going to press the button before they consciously did.  The time was a third of a second at the very least.

This explains why we feel free without being free at all.  It shows brains and neurons can look like free will but that is all they do - they just look like it.  Decisions are made before we "make" them so making them is an illusion.  The brain is aware of the "choice" before we become aware of it.

OBJECTIONS TO THE VALIDITY OF THE RESULTS

We all experience free will.  The experiment accuses all of us of being delusional.

No it says we are mistaken.  You can just look and see that you don't experience being free but the feeling that you are.  The problem is how we forget that a feeling cannot make us free or tell us we really are free.  It becomes a delusion when you make too much of it and start thinking God gave you free will so that all the evil and suffering in the world is our fault and is not just something that happens.  That is a way of being arrogant.  It is arrogant for the same reason as thinking your evil is the most important evil ever would be arrogant.  It is arrogant to boast of being good or evil.

God has free will but this is assumed.  If there is a God this is his most personal and important power.  We are told he cannot create without free will for that would mean some force in him rather than him made all things.  If that is the case then you don't need God as a possible explanation for the existence of the universe.  And also, it would be more important to prove God's free will than our own. And how can we be sure we are free when we cannot even understand God's free will or make sense of it?  If God gives us free will then he should have it himself otherwise he is not a God and we would have freedom that he cannot have.  We cannot have a religious or philosophical or rational experience of being free - in other words we cannot think our way to seeing we are free.  We would need to see God's free will by thinking.  But God cannot be detected for us to do this.  If God cannot be detected he can still find ways to let us detect him.  Scientific instruments would be able to discover him then!  He won't give us anything that might pass for evidence of divine free will!  Science does not find God's free will so science does not find God.

When the people participating in the test were told to just sit there and let an urge come to press the button by itself they could have a subconscious urge to push it and had decided once they would feel an urge they would respond.  So it was not a choice that was detected but an urge appearing subconsciously and then passed into the consciousness. 

But how do you know it was the urge and not the choice? Why didn't they resist the urge for none of them wanted to get evidence that free will was bunkum?

Also you make the choice and then check the time that is going to leave a gap of milliseconds.

Again its a matter of interpretation.  The subjects felt the decision was made before they "made" it.

A test by John-Dylan Haynes and his colleagues learned that if you measure metabolic brain activity you can see what hand a subject will press a button several seconds before they decide which hand it will be.  But the accuracy of the predictions was 60 per cent which is hardly any better than chance.

We are not talking about that test.  What if the brain resists finding out it is programmed? It is something few people want to find out.  The test was inconclusive but that is all.

An objection is that the tests have nothing to do with free will when it is interpreted as just following your wants even if your wants are programmed into you and are fixed the way a computer response is fixed or determined.  [Fixed or programmed or determined or ordained mean the same thing].

That is an abuse of the term free and of will as well.  It equates feeling free with free will though clearly the two are not the same.  You can be free without feeling free.  If you could make a robot feel free that would not give it free will.  Drug addicts with access to drugs whenever they want them feel free.  The emphasis put on feeling free making you a responsible agent is insulting to them and free will is not worth degrading vulnerable people over.

Another objection says that a decision is not taken in a moment but is a process.  One decision can be spread over several moments.  That contradicts how we experience decisions.  We argue with ourselves and we just do something and that doing is decided in a moment.

Some believe you can have free will as in a will that is not pre-ordained or fixed for science has proven there is randomness at the quantum level.  But randomness there does not mean it will affect the human will.

If the quantum world is random (quantum indeterminacy) and that gives me free will then that will is down to random forces and cannot really be called free will. It may explain why a person does surprising things out of the blue as if they have free will.  But that is not free will.  It is like rolling dice.

It is argued that the quantum world is too small to affect us but chaos theory argues that a change that is infinitely tiny can result in mammoth effects beyond our comprehension and imagination.  It does not matter how large the effect is or how small - randomness cannot facilitate free will. 

Let us ask, if I seem to act free because of a roll of a dice or because I am programmed then in which scenario would I be closest to free will even if neither of these is free will?  In fact we want to believe that free will is self-programming and don't like the thought of people being capable of literally anything for that implies we don't know anybody at all or know ourselves.  The random thing mean that random forces can have a say in the programming or reverse it.  The two views are compatible.  The end result is that both views are bad and despicable and there is no way of getting away from either of them.

As Daniel Dennett argued that fake free will is the only kind of free will we really want or that is worth wanting for we enjoy feeling we are free and thinking we are free.  Fake free will is something we want to have for we enjoy feeling free.  The fans of free will are liars.  They are fans of fake free will.

Arthur Schopenhauer the philosopher needs to be cited: "Man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wills."  That is not just philosophy but science for it was what we can test easily.

HAS SCIENCE FAITH IN FREE WILL?

"Science has faith in free will" or does it?

Science cannot prove that we really have free will for it admits that we might be programmed to feel we really are making decisions and have freedom. In fact the denial of free will is the standard view taken by science.

 

Christians speak as follows, "Is free will real or are we programmed by forces in our brain? If we are programmed, we cannot trust ourselves to know the truth. The Bible says we know what is right and wrong in our hearts even if we do not admit it. It is necessary for science to assume we have free will or to believe perhaps the Bible that we have it."

 

So they are saying the Bible compels you to say you KNOW free will exists.  But few would go that far!

 

You will be told that the Christian who says, “God said I have free will”, is better off than the unbelieving scientist who merely assumes it. It is more scientific to believe a testimony from God than to merely assume it. But what if a witch reports revelations from pagan gods such as Venus that we have free will? It is better to assume it after all. It is better to simply assume it for if you assume a testimony is correct about free will you are assuming anyway and making it more complicated. Keep it simple and science requires that you do so.

 

What is the scientific answer to all that?

 

In regard to free will, not having it does not mean we cannot trust what we do and perceive.

 

A basic life form has no perception but still has trustworthy perception to a sufficient degree.

 

If a microscope was made by chance it could still be reliable.  How unlikely that is not the point. It can happen.

 
The scientists knows that there are non-scientific realities such as love. He cannot prove it. He also knows there is no reason to assume there are non-physical realities outside of our experience such as God or free will.

 

Some scientists do believe in a form of free will.  You do not need to believe that free will as in having the freedom to be moral or immoral is necessary for you to trust what you sense and discover.  There are other versions.

 

An experiment


Research at the University of Freiburg in Germany published results of experiments in the journal Experimental Brain Research in 2013. Tests were done to see if brain waves were going up – negative – and going down – positive – and how that impacted on the subject pressing a button or not pressing it. Just as you would expect the brain to program the person to choose ice cream on sunny days in fact it can happen on cold days too. So though you would expect subjects to press the button when the brain is in the negative state a significant number do not. And when you expect the brain in positive state to have the person not pressing a significant number do. The lesson is that the brain can resist influences. The influences make us more likely to do x but there is nothing programming us to do x.

 

The error is in thinking that urges alone program you.  There is more to it than that.  It is like saying turning on a computer is all you need to do to produce a letter.  And our programming can create urges we are programmed to resist.  It feels bad having to respond to urges all the time so that is the reason.


Finally

 

Your famished belly can make you feel you freely tuck in but in reality it makes the "decision" not you.  That principle shows how neurons may make our choices for us without us feeling programmed.