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Free will as a convenient lie

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More goodness brought to us by naturalism

From philosopher Stephen Cave at the Atlantic:

The sciences have grown steadily bolder in their claim that all human behavior can be explained through the clockwork laws of cause and effect. This shift in perception is the continuation of an intellectual revolution that began about 150 years ago, when Charles Darwin first published On the Origin of Species. Shortly after Darwin put forth his theory of evolution, his cousin Sir Francis Galton began to draw out the implications: If we have evolved, then mental faculties like intelligence must be hereditary. But we use those faculties—which some people have to a greater degree than others—to make decisions. So our ability to choose our fate is not free, but depends on our biological inheritance.

When asked to take a math test, with cheating made easy, the group primed to see free will as illusory proved more likely to take an illicit peek at the answers. When given an opportunity to steal—to take more money than they were due from an envelope of $1 coins—those whose belief in free will had been undermined pilfered more. On a range of measures, Vohs told me, she and Schooler found that “people who are induced to believe less in free will are more likely to behave immorally.”

It seems that when people stop believing they are free agents, they stop seeing themselves as blameworthy for their actions. Consequently, they act less responsibly and give in to their baser instincts. Vohs emphasized that this result is not limited to the contrived conditions of a lab experiment. “You see the same effects with people who naturally believe more or less in free will,” she said.More.

So Darwin is right but we should pretend he isn’t:

Smilansky advocates a view he calls illusionism—the belief that free will is indeed an illusion, but one that society must defend. The idea of determinism, and the facts supporting it, must be kept confined within the ivory tower. Only the initiated, behind those walls, should dare to, as he put it to me, “look the dark truth in the face.” Smilansky says he realizes that there is something drastic, even terrible, about this idea—but if the choice is between the true and the good, then for the sake of society, the true must go.

Once again, are some of these people prepared for the shock that lots of people who study evolution and are not creationists think Darwin isn’t right?

Of course, if our assumption of free will is a neuronal fabrication, so might our assumption of determinism be. No wonder we don’t hear that problem discussed much among Darwinians.

See also: Another naturalist slam at free will

Yes, it’s bad for science, but then the naturalist expects to be eaten last.

See also: How can we believe in naturalism if we have no choice?

and

“I will ” means something after all

From the files:

Paul Bloom: Okay, so maybe we materialists went too far, but … Bloom, Yale psychologist, writing in The Atlantic on the recent backlash against the materialist perspective he espouses, takes a more sophisticated approach to warding off criticism than “you just didn’t evolve so as to understand Evolution,” the usual type of explanation.

What is the backlash and why?:

Does science know the answers to absolutely everything? (Widespread backlash against scientism)

Decline in belief in God masks rise in superstition

Are two out of three people really secret torturers?

“I will” means something aftr all

An end to th madness (the fall of the DSM)

Scientists clash over the origin of monogamy

The slow death of a pseudo-discipline

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3 Replies to “Free will as a convenient lie

  1. 1
    Jon Garvey says:

    Consequently, they act less responsibly and give in to their baser instincts.

    Those who don’t believe in choice choose to follow behaviours that are regarded (by the author and all people who can judge good choices) as poor choices. Therefore we should choose to act as if we really had the choice to choose what good people would choose, if choice actually existed.

    If you need free choice to decide that free choice doesn’t exist, you’ve already lost the argument. In fact, you’ve lost the argument by recognising there is an argument.

    “Leave him alone – he’s not worth it.”

  2. 2
    JDH says:

    Smilansky advocates a view he calls illusionism—the belief that free will is indeed an illusion, but one that society must defend.

    Or as put better in the Psalms: “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God”.

    Once people go down the road of denying the obvious need for a Creator, the amount of garbage they can convince themselves of is infinite.

  3. 3

    Free will is only denied by evolution scientists, in order to get rid of subjectivity. Subjectivity is the real target of free will deniers.

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