Intelligent Design Mind Naturalism Neuroscience

Michael Egnor addresses an objection to free will raised here at Uncommon Descent

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By AaronS1978:

First Michael Egnor is wrong about there being no brain wave activity with free won’t Patrick Haggard in 2014 discovered accidotal brain waves to free won’t

Michael Egnor, “Neuroscience refutes free will? Michael Egnor addresses an objection raised at Uncommon Descent” at Mind Matters News

Egnor replies,

Many neuroscientists have attempted to replicate the Libet-type button-pushing experiments but nearly all of them have used fMRI instead of measuring brain waves. That is the research Haggard and his collaborators have done, to which AaronS1978 referred.

But fMRI is worthless in the neuroscience of free will. To understand why, note that fMRI has very poor temporal resolution. fMRI measures changes in blood flow in the brain in response to activity of neurons, and these changes lag neuronal activity by at least several seconds. Peak fMRI response seems to occur about 6 seconds after neuronal activity occurs, and may persist for up to 40 seconds. fMRI is best though-of as a long-time exposure of brain activity rather than a snapshot, which the measurement of brain waves (EEG) provides. Libet’s experiments were using brain waves and the time interval in which the immaterial “free won’t veto” occurred was on the order of 200 milliseconds—1/5 of a second. fMRI is at least an order of magnitude too insensitive to timing to record this level of change, which is why it is worthless in the neuroscientific study of free will.

Libet’s work was the best—and essentially only—meaningful neuroscientific exploration of free will associated with timing of decisions to perform simple acts and his research clearly supports the reality of free will.

Michael Egnor, “Neuroscience refutes free will? Michael Egnor addresses an objection raised at Uncommon Descent” at Mind Matters News

We are honoured that our commenters contribute to a valuable discussion in this way.

See also: Neuroscience can help us understand why free will is real. Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder and biologist Jerry Coyne, who deny free will, don’t seem to understand the neuroscience.

7 Replies to “Michael Egnor addresses an objection to free will raised here at Uncommon Descent

  1. 1
    AaronS1978 says:

    Ha I’m flattered! 🙂

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    As to the fact that:

    But fMRI is worthless in the neuroscience of free will. To understand why, note that fMRI has very poor temporal resolution. fMRI measures changes in blood flow in the brain in response to activity of neurons, and these changes lag neuronal activity by at least several seconds. Peak fMRI response seems to occur about 6 seconds after neuronal activity occurs, and may persist for up to 40 seconds. fMRI is best though-of as a long-time exposure of brain activity rather than a snapshot, which the measurement of brain waves (EEG) provides. Libet’s experiments were using brain waves and the time interval in which the immaterial “free won’t veto” occurred was on the order of 200 milliseconds—1/5 of a second. fMRI is at least an order of magnitude too insensitive to timing to record this level of change, which is why it is worthless in the neuroscientific study of free will.

    As someone who worked in the field of Instrumentation, where we measured all sorts of variations in industrial processes with scientific instrumentation so as to be able to control those industrial processes, I can really appreciate this distinction in the measurement accuracy between fMRI and EEG.

    In industrial process control, our ability to control a process is crucially dependent on our ability to accurately measure a particular variation in a industrial process so as to be able to control that variation in that process.

    Of related note. The following study, which used EEG measurements instead of using FMRI measurements, found that Libet’s infamous ‘readiness potential’ is a mirage and is really just a misinterpretation of spontaneous brain activity.

    Brain might not stand in the way of free will – August 2012
    Excerpt: “Libet argued that our brain has already decided to move well before we have a conscious intention to move,” says Schurger. “We argue that what looks like a pre-conscious decision process may not in fact reflect a decision at all. It only looks that way because of the nature of spontaneous brain activity.”
    http://www.newscientist.com/ar.....-will.html

    An accumulator model for spontaneous neural activity prior to self-initiated movement – Aaron Schurger, Jacobo D. Sitt, and Stanislas Dehaene – October 16, 2012
    https://www.pnas.org/content/109/42/E2904

    Likewise, the following study, which used “state-of-the-art measurement techniques” of EEG, also found that, ” “A person’s decisions are not at the mercy of unconscious and early brain waves. They are able to actively intervene in the decision-making process and interrupt a movement,”

    Do we have free will? Researchers test mechanisms involved in decision-making – January 4, 2016
    Excerpt: Back (in the 1980s), the American researcher Benjamin Libet studied the nature of cerebral processes of study participants during conscious decision-making. He demonstrated that conscious decisions were initiated by unconscious brain processes, and that a wave of brain activity referred to as a ‘readiness potential’ could be recorded even before the subject had made a conscious decision.
    ,,, Until now, the existence of such preparatory brain processes has been regarded as evidence of ‘determinism’, according to which free will is nothing but an illusion, meaning our decisions are initiated by unconscious brain processes, and not by our ‘conscious self’. ,,,
    Using state-of-the-art measurement techniques, the researchers tested whether people are able to stop planned movements once the readiness potential for a movement has been triggered.
    “The aim of our research was to find out whether the presence of early brain waves means that further decision-making is automatic and not under conscious control, or whether the person can still cancel the decision, i.e. use a ‘veto’,” explains Prof. Haynes. ,,,
    “A person’s decisions are not at the mercy of unconscious and early brain waves. They are able to actively intervene in the decision-making process and interrupt a movement,” says Prof. Haynes. “Previously people have used the preparatory brain signals to argue against free will. Our study now shows that the freedom is much less limited than previously thought.
    http://m.medicalxpress.com/new.....aking.html

    The point of no return in vetoing self-initiated movements
    Matthias Schultze-Kraft, Daniel Birman, Marco Rusconi, Carsten Allefeld, Kai Görgen, Sven Dähne, Benjamin Blankertz, and John-Dylan Haynes – January 26, 2016
    https://www.pnas.org/content/113/4/1080

    Moreover, as to instantaneous action in the brain in general, the following study found “Multielectrode recordings have revealed zero time lag synchronization among remote cerebral cortical areas.”

    ,,, zero time lag neuronal synchrony despite long conduction delays – 2008
    Excerpt: Multielectrode recordings have revealed zero time lag synchronization among remote cerebral cortical areas. However, the axonal conduction delays among such distant regions can amount to several tens of milliseconds. It is still unclear which mechanism is giving rise to isochronous discharge of widely distributed neurons, despite such latencies,,,
    Remarkably, synchrony of neuronal activity is not limited to short-range interactions within a cortical patch. Interareal synchronization across cortical regions including interhemispheric areas has been observed in several tasks (7, 9, 11–14).,,,
    Beyond its functional relevance, the zero time lag synchrony among such distant neuronal ensembles must be established by mechanisms that are able to compensate for the delays involved in the neuronal communication.
    Latencies in conducting nerve impulses down axonal processes can amount to delays of several tens of milliseconds between the generation of a spike in a presynaptic cell and the elicitation of a postsynaptic potential (16). The question is how, despite such temporal delays, the reciprocal interactions between two brain regions can lead to the associated neural populations to fire in unison (i.e. zero time lag).,,,
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm.....MC2575223/

    As the following article states, “It’s certainly true that electrical activity in the brain is synchronised over distances that cannot be easily explained. Electrical signals travel too slowly to do this job, so something else must be at work.,,,, It’s a big jump to assume that photons do this job.”

    The Puzzling Role Of Biophotons In The Brain – Dec. 17, 2010
    Excerpt: It’s certainly true that electrical activity in the brain is synchronised over distances that cannot be easily explained. Electrical signals travel too slowly to do this job, so something else must be at work.,,,
    ,,, It’s a big jump to assume that photons do this job.
    http://www.technologyreview.co.....the-brain/

    As to ‘something else must be at work’, I hold that it must be quantum entanglement itself that must be at work in order to explain “zero time lag synchrony among such distant neuronal ensembles”.

    Indeed, despite the fact that it was previously held, by Darwinists, to be impossible for quantum entanglement to occur within biological systems because of the amount of background noice that they assumed to be present within biological systems, quantum entanglement is now found to be ubiquitous within biological systems.,,, In every important biomolecule.

    Quantum entanglement in hot systems – 2011
    Excerpt: The authors remark that this reverses the previous orthodoxy, which held that quantum effects could not exist in biological systems because of the amount of noise in these systems.,,, Environmental noise here drives a persistent and cyclic generation of new entanglement.,,, In summary, the authors say that they have demonstrated that entanglement can recur even in a hot noisy environment. In biological systems this can be related to changes in the conformation of macromolecules.
    http://quantum-mind.co.uk/quan.....t-systems/

    Quantum criticality in a wide range of important biomolecules – Mar. 6, 2015
    Excerpt: “Most of the molecules taking part actively in biochemical processes are tuned exactly to the transition point and are critical conductors,” they say.
    That’s a discovery that is as important as it is unexpected. “These findings suggest an entirely new and universal mechanism of conductance in biology very different from the one used in electrical circuits.”
    The permutations of possible energy levels of biomolecules is huge so the possibility of finding even one (biomolecule) that is in the quantum critical state by accident is mind-bogglingly small and, to all intents and purposes, impossible.,, of the order of 10^-50 of possible small biomolecules and even less for proteins,”,,,
    “what exactly is the advantage that criticality confers?”
    https://medium.com/the-physics-arxiv-blog/the-origin-of-life-and-the-hidden-role-of-quantum-criticality-ca4707924552

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    As well, DNA itself does not belong to the world of classical mechanics but instead belongs to the world of quantum mechanics. In the following video, at the 22:20 minute mark, Dr Rieper shows why the high temperatures of biological systems do not prevent DNA from having quantum entanglement and then at 24:00 minute mark Dr Rieper goes on to remark that practically the whole DNA molecule can be viewed as quantum information with classical information embedded within it.

    “What happens is this classical information (of DNA) is embedded, sandwiched, into the quantum information (of DNA). And most likely this classical information is never accessed because it is inside all the quantum information. You can only access the quantum information or the electron clouds and the protons. So mathematically you can describe that as a quantum/classical state.”
    Elisabeth Rieper – Classical and Quantum Information in DNA – video (Longitudinal Quantum Information resides along the entire length of DNA discussed at the 19:30 minute mark; at 24:00 minute mark Dr Rieper remarks that practically the whole DNA molecule can be viewed as quantum information with classical information embedded within it)
    https://youtu.be/2nqHOnVTxJE?t=1176

    The interesting thing about finding quantum entanglement to be ubiquitous within biological systems in that Quantum Entanglement is a non-local, beyond space and time, effect.

    Looking beyond space and time to cope with quantum theory – 29 October 2012
    Excerpt: “Our result gives weight to the idea that quantum correlations somehow arise from outside spacetime, in the sense that no story in space and time can describe them,”
    http://www.quantumlah.org/high.....uences.php

    Moreover, quantum information is conserved,,, i.e. quantum information ‘cannot be created nor destroyed.’

    Quantum no-hiding theorem experimentally confirmed for first time – 2011
    Excerpt: In the classical world, information can be copied and deleted at will. In the quantum world, however, the conservation of quantum information means that information cannot be created nor destroyed. This concept stems from two fundamental theorems of quantum mechanics: the no-cloning theorem and the no-deleting theorem. A third and related theorem, called the no-hiding theorem, addresses information loss in the quantum world. According to the no-hiding theorem, if information is missing from one system (which may happen when the system interacts with the environment), then the information is simply residing somewhere else in the Universe; in other words, the missing information cannot be hidden in the correlations between a system and its environment.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....tally.html

    The implication of finding ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, and ‘conserved’, quantum information in molecular biology on such a massive scale, in every important biomolecule in our bodies, is fairly, and pleasantly, obvious.
    That pleasant implication, of course, being the fact that we now have very strong empirical evidence suggesting that we do indeed have an eternal soul that is capable of living beyond the death of our material bodies. As Stuart Hameroff states in the following article, the quantum information,,, isn’t destroyed. It can’t be destroyed.,,, it’s possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body. Perhaps indefinitely as a soul.”

    Leading Scientists Say Consciousness Cannot Die It Goes Back To The Universe – Oct. 19, 2017 – Spiritual
    Excerpt: “Let’s say the heart stops beating. The blood stops flowing. The microtubules lose their quantum state. But the quantum information, which is in the microtubules, isn’t destroyed. It can’t be destroyed. It just distributes and dissipates to the universe at large. If a patient is resuscitated, revived, this quantum information can go back into the microtubules and the patient says, “I had a near death experience. I saw a white light. I saw a tunnel. I saw my dead relatives.,,” Now if they’re not revived and the patient dies, then it’s possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body. Perhaps indefinitely as a soul.”
    – Stuart Hameroff – Quantum Entangled Consciousness – Life After Death – video (5:00 minute mark)
    https://www.disclose.tv/leading-scientists-say-consciousness-cannot-die-it-goes-back-to-the-universe-315604

    Verse:

    Mark 8:37
    Is anything worth more than your soul?

    Supplemental notes:

    Darwinian Materialism vs. Quantum Biology – video
    https://youtu.be/LHdD2Am1g5Y

    Darwinian Materialism vs. Quantum Biology – Part II – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSig2CsjKbg

    Evidence suggesting that quantum mechanisms are at play on the macro level of the human body itself is also revealed in the following article where it is revealed that a subject perceives a sensory stimulus on the skin at the moment the skin is touched, before the stimulus reaches the brain and before full deliberative consciousness occurs.

    Do Perceptions Happen in Your Brain? – Michael Egnor – December 1, 2015
    Excerpt: The sensory experiments of Benjamin Libet, a neuroscientist at U.C. San Francisco in the mid 20th century, demonstrated that a subject perceives a sensory stimulus on the skin at the moment the skin is touched, before the stimulus reaches the brain and before full deliberative consciousness occurs. Libet was flabbergasted by this result,,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....01261.html

    As Libet himself remarked, “In spite of the delay for a sensory experience, subjectively there appears to be no delay.”

    Reflections on the interaction of the mind and brain – Benjamin Libet – 2006
    Excerpt: “In spite of the delay for a sensory experience, subjectively there appears to be no delay.”
    – Benjamin_Libet
    https://web.archive.org/web/20110718052421/http://www.telefonica.net/web2/lupelandia/piramidescerebro/Libet.pdf

  4. 4
    polistra says:

    The whole question is intrinsically and permanently unanswerable and undiscussable and untestable. What’s more, nothing in life really depends on the answer, so there’s no practical USE in the discussion. We always act as if we have free will. Sane people make decisions based on sense inputs and memory, and we USUALLY know which decisions are externally forced and which are within our power to decide. All of this is the same whether the underlying atoms are strictly determinate or not. The determinate atoms are pushing us to feel that we have deciding power, OR we truly have deciding power. The DECISIONS are the same no matter what’s happening at the atomic level.

  5. 5
    doubter says:

    “…nothing in life really depends on the answer, so there’s no practical USE in the discussion.”

    Nothing but perhaps addressing the wide-spread alienation, spiritual exhaustion and despair in modern society, which largely stems from all the spirit-deadening implications of the materialist neuroscientific mindset. These implications being for example that since the mind is the physical brain, a human being is a nothing but a highly evolved animal, all meaning and purpose is totally subjective, free will is illusory, and an afterlife is fantasy, the stuff of dreams.

  6. 6
    AaronS1978 says:

    @bb77
    Aaron Schurger’s latest experiments have been very powerful against the post decision model

    https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/09/free-will-bereitschaftspotential/597736/

    https://neurophil-freewill.org/

    He gives a lot of info on the topic and he was the first one to shift the paradigm

    He is really worth researching because he explains a lot of the details about Libet’s paradigm that many lay people don’t have details on. Many of those details take much of the wind out of the post decision model and the no free will conclusion

    Important facts like 20% of participants in these experiments don’t even show RP when acting and others have RP that’s super slow to rise whiles some people’s RP can be less then half the time of the 500 milliseconds average

    Stuff willusionists Conveniently don’t disclose

    @ Polistra
    I agree with you on almost all you stated, the problem is the discussion on freewill became a tug of war on the interpretation on how we exist and who gets to define it. Hence the fight. Because that definition is important to how we live and value things

    If we have it or not it can definitely be taken away both physically and mentally

  7. 7
    jawa says:

    In a recent (2020-10-29) episode of “Closer to Truth” at time mark 06:41 Raymond Kurzweil said this:
    “we can actually get a measure of how much complexity is in the brain, because the design of the brain is in the genome…”

    “the design of the brain is in the genome”? huh?

    design?

    BTW, the design of the brain is in the genome? Really?

    The genome contains information that is necessary, but insufficient, for building the brain.

    The entire biological system is required.

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