Free will debate: What does free will mean and how did it evolve?
Illustration by Alex Eben Meyer It has become fashionable to say that people have no free will. Many scientists cannot imagine how the idea of free will could be reconciled with the laws of physics and chemistry. Brain researchers say that the brain is just a bunch of nerve cells that fire as a direct result of chemical and electrical events, with no room for free will. Others note that people are unaware of some causes of their behavior, such as unconscious cues or genetic predispositions, and extrapolate to suggest that all behavior may be caused that way, so that conscious choosing is an illusion. Scientists take delight in (and advance their careers by) claiming to have disproved conventional wisdom, and so bashing free will is appealing. Arguments about free will are mostly semantic arguments about definitions. There is no need to insist that free will is some kind of magical violation of causality. Different sciences discover different kinds of causes.
Related: Fall 2013--Wind of Freedom
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