Neuroscience, free will and determinism: 'I'm just a machine'
What does this mean in terms of free will? "We don't have free will, in the spiritual sense. What you're seeing is the last output stage of a machine. There are lots of things that happen before this stage – plans, goals, learning – and those are the reasons we do more interesting things than just waggle fingers. But there's no ghost in the machine." The conclusions are shocking: if we are part of the universe, and obey its laws, it's hard to see where free will comes into it. "If you see a light go green, it may mean press the accelerator; but there are lots of situations where it doesn't mean that: if the car in front hasn't moved, for example. Slowly, however, we are learning more about the details of that complexity. "What happens if someone commits a crime, and it turns out that there's a lesion in that brain area? This runs shockingly contrary to the sense of freedom that we feel in terms of controlling our actions, on which we base our whole sense of self and system of morality.
Related: we are social, we are political, we are (non-)religious