Thursday, April 12, 2012

Do human beings really have free will?

Do human beings really have free will - the ability to make genuinely unforced choices? We believe we do. Our entire legal system, in fact, is predicated on willful obedience (or not) to the law or to freely entering into binding contracts. A neuroscientist says that the question, "Do human beings have free will?" is actually a meaningless one because,
Given a materialist view of the universe, it makes no sense to talk about consciousness or experience at all.  We have absolutely no idea what it is about the three pounds of mush between our ears that allows it to perform this trick of being conscious.
In fact, he concludes, it does not matter the slightest whether we really have free will because (1) we cannot ever know that to begin with and (2) whether the answer is yes or no nothing about human behavior will change, anyway.

There seems to be a common thread among materialists: they do not seem to understand that their entire world view sits atop nothing but fog. I am currently reading God and Stephen Hawking, by John Lennox, Oxford mathematician, who coincidentally states on the page I am at, "… it is only belief in a Creator that gives us a satisfactory ground for believing in the uniformity of nature (the inductive principle) in the first place!"

Neuroscientist Lieberman's piece is refreshing though because he understands that even if materialism is true, there is no way for us to know. The problem is that he does not take the obvious and unavoidable next steps: that if materialism is true then there is no way for us to know anything at all. We may as well assume we are living in a Matrix world.

This is just a scientific-sounding version of solipsism and if you think about it (heh!) is just a gussied up variety of Hinduism's teaching of maya, that nothing is real but illusion itself. And yet if, as Lieberman says, the answer won’t affect the way we act – nor even what we think we know – then the smart move is to do what Robert Heinlein advised: even if the deck is crooked, cut the cards. So we’d better live as if free will is real because betting that it is not has potentially devastating, eternal consequences.

Free Will: Weighing Truth and Experience | Psychology Today
Hat tip: Wintery Knight

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