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Do Human Beings Really Have Free Will?

Robert Dimuro

Posted on November 4, 2018 15:26

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The debate between free will and determinism continues to perplex the minds of scholars and scientists throughout the world who wish to better understand the relationship between human consciousness and questions about science and morality.

One of the most controversial debates in philosophy is the debate between free will and determinism. Since both sides have common-sense arguments in their favor, it’s difficult to arrive at any conclusion or consensus among scientists or scholars; however, I will attempt to adjudicate on these arguments.

Determinists believe their position to be logically and scientifically a no-brainer, arguing that we, as biological creatures and products of the material world, have unique brain characteristics that respond to the stimuli of the external world whenever we think and act.

Those that argue for free will see it as self-evident that every individual experiences the ability to make decisions based on his/her own thought processes, and can easily alter his/her future by altering his/her actions in the present moment.

However, the problem with free will is that science isn’t in its favor. In my opinion, experiments conducted by Benjamin Libet (and subsequent versions of them), shed much light on this fact. In short, Libet detected that his participants, when asked to move their hands at a random time, subconsciously decided to move their hands one-half second before they were consciously aware of their decision.

Critics of this experiment, even if they accept its validity, argue that the results prove nothing about the deeper, long-term notions of free will to which most people are referring. I think this is untrue. If determinism can be demonstrated at the level of instantaneous muscle-flinching, it’s only logical that a much more complicated web of stimuli and neurological impulses determine what car we decide to buy or college we choose to attend - even if our current scientific understanding of the brain is too primitive to predict such decisions.

Even without the Libet experiments or our ever-growing understanding of neurology and the nature of consciousness, there’s no scientific evidence for the actual existence of free will. It’s plausible that our perception of free will is an evolutionary adaptation of our brains, fostering emotions, such as pride and disappointment, that guide and motivate us towards more complex goals and feats of achievement. In other words, our perception of free will might be a determining factor in our own lives and the continual development of the human race.

For those who find determinism hard to grasp, it might be easier to comprehend from a collective point of view. Businesses in a market economy always seek to maximize profits, great empires throughout history always fall, human population will continue to grow, etc. In all of these cases, individuals are thinking and making decisions in accordance with their surrounding environments that lead to predictable results on a collective scale.

With all the evidence at hand, it’s clear that there’s no solid case to be made for the notion of free will at the level of the brain or the human race as a whole.

Robert Dimuro

Posted on November 4, 2018 15:26

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Source: Phys.org

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