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. 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. These arguments leave untouched the meaning of free will that most people understand, which is consciously making choices about what to do in the absence of external coercion, and accepting responsibility for one’s actions. There is no need to insist that free will is some kind of magical violation of causality. Different sciences discover different kinds of causes. Does it deserve to be called free?
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• Fall 2013--Wind of Freedom