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Michael Egnor on why Jerry Coyne can’t actually deny free will


He wants to and he tried to—at a speaking engagement at Williams U. But if he is a meat puppet, well, meat has no opinions:

Consider evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne ’s recent assertion at a talk at Williams University in Maryland that free will doesn’t exist and that all human actions are fully determined by material processes—biochemistry, neurophysiology, evolution, and such…

If we are just meat, as evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne insists, we cannot have a true opinion of the matter. Meat is neither right nor wrong. To have an opinion about free will implies that we accept it.

Michael Egnor, “Meat has no opinions” at Mind Matters News

Some of Michael Egnor’s other pieces on free will:

Can physics prove there is no free will? No, but it can make physicists incoherent when they write about free will

Does “alien hand syndrome” show that we don’t really have free will?

How can mere products of nature have free will?

Does brain stimulation research challenge free will?

Is free will a dangerous myth?


But is determinism true?

Wow! :) https://www.the-sun.com/lifestyle/tech/359723/elon-musk-promises-awesome-neuralink-headset-that-links-brain-to-computer-this-year/ PeterA
Here’s a presentation on the topic: https://youtu.be/SPu0z_np9d4 pw
BA77 that was my post, and understood I agree with you, but I also agree with Ed on this because most of the arguing on this topic comes really from what really constitutes as evidence, and in both cases it’s the observers interpretation. The closest they really have ever gotten to truly disproving free will was libet, and that just recently was debunked, only took 30 years. But if I where to venture an idea that free will could be truly disproven, it wouldn’t come from what influences your Decision or what physical processes where involved. It come from proven everything was epiphenominal Do you think that is even possible? AaronS1978
Truthfreedom - my comment was a joke. At least an attempt at one. Bob O'H
Bob O'H
– If you don’t know, ask a probate lawyer.
Do probate lawyers have "free-will", Bob? Do you know it? Truthfreedom
as to Ed George at 14:
"You also can’t disprove it without doing the same." E.G.: I agree, which is why I think it is pointless to argue either side of this issue.
^^^^ see post 7 and 8. https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/intelligent-design/michael-egnor-on-why-jerry-coyne-cant-actually-deny-free-will/#comment-691807 i.e. Falsifying, i.e. "disproving", the atheist's claim for determinism has been relatively easy, whereas "proving" the reality of free will, while not achieved with "100% scientific certainty", (nothing ever is proven with absolute "100% certainty" in science). has, nonetheless, for all practical purposes, achieved a impressive level of empirical verification that we can be extremely confident in. Might I also suggest that it might greatly help those who are trying to make blanket statements about how science operates to actually understand how science operates in the first place? Just a suggestion. bornagain77
Truthfreedom - if you don't know, ask a probate lawyer. Bob O'H
To be rational requires free will. It is a process of freely comparing abstract, immaterial concepts and arriving at conclusions following the rules of logic. There is a responsibility involved which gives a rational decision some integrity and value. If however, a person's thoughts are just determined and there is no free will, then people who claim such a thing should not act and speak as if free will, and rational choice actually exist. Nobody should be held accountable for whatever thoughts or conclusions they have since all are determined. Silver Asiatic
@Ed George
I agree, which is why I think it is pointless to argue either side of this issue.
WHAT is this free-will everyone keeps talking about? Truthfreedom
You also can’t disprove it without doing the same.
I agree, which is why I think it is pointless to argue either side of this issue. Ed George
Seversky, that’s definitely a straw man, same applied logic asks why under your pretense attempt to prove or change anyone’s mind here. You are wasting your time for the same reasons you think Egnor won’t change his, which inter you are following a depressive loop you can’t escape because you can’t help trying to prove us wrong. It’s all one massive waste of time you are trapped in. Or we have free will and there is reason for your effort, you decide AaronS1978
How can j. coyne (a naturalist ) know anything?
That is, the naturalist claims to know an external physical cosmos billions of light years in extent, and yet, his materialism forces the conclusion that he cannot know the external physical world at all – only images or neural patterns inside his own brain. Naturalism cannot escape its own epistemological nightmare.
https://strangenotions.com/naturalisms-epistemological-nightmare/ Truthfreedom
Doesn’t free will mean that you can change even your bedrock beliefs whenever you choose?
Yes. People change their views all the time. An honest person will change his views when he realizes that his current idea cannot be supported and that there is a better explanation. People convert from atheism to belief in God all the time. The opposite happens also. Those are free-will decisions. They're not even driven strictly by logic, since there are many people who see the truth of Design but it takes them a long time to give up materialism because they have an emotional attachment to atheism. If Michael Egnor saw clear evidence that refuted his views, I think he would change. Anthony Flew changed his mind on the ID inference. That was a free-will decision he made. Silver Asiatic
Can Michael Egnor become actually pro-evolution and anti-ID/creationism just by an effort of will?
ID is NOT anti-evolution, so your question doesn't make any sense. Free will can NEVER make all of the evidence supporting ID go away. Free will can NEVER produce positive evidence for blind watchmaker evolution. seversky is clearly driven to strawman caricatures. ET
Can Michael Egnor become actually...
Ask "physics", they are the ones doing the reasoning and creating an "illusory" self - Michael Egnor. "Physics" are very kind and usually "inform" the "illusory" self of the results. The illusory self is just an spectator. Curiously, "the illusory self" is "conscious" of its own "illusion"! Not joking, just more atheist/materialist lunacy. Harry Potter makes more sense. Truthfreedom
In quantum mechanics, free will is confirmed to be true for an astonishing "96% of the space-time volume of the past light cone"
Cosmic Bell Test Using Random Measurement Settings from High-Redshift Quasars – Anton Zeilinger – 14 June 2018 Abstract: In this Letter, we present a cosmic Bell experiment with polarization-entangled photons, in which measurement settings were determined based on real-time measurements of the wavelength of photons from high-redshift quasars, whose light was emitted billions of years ago; the experiment simultaneously ensures locality. Assuming fair sampling for all detected photons and that the wavelength of the quasar photons had not been selectively altered or previewed between emission and detection, we observe statistically significant violation of Bell’s inequality by 9.3 standard deviations, corresponding to an estimated p value of approx. 7.4 × 10^21. This experiment pushes back to at least approx. 7.8 Gyr ago the most recent time by which any local-realist influences could have exploited the “freedom-of-choice” loophole to engineer the observed Bell violation, excluding any such mechanism from 96% of the space-time volume of the past light cone of our experiment, extending from the big bang to today. https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.121.080403
As should be needless to say, that "96% of the space-time volume of the past light cone” is a fairly impressive bit of "controlling for millions (of billions) of other factors in the decision making process" in order to scientifically prove the reality of free will. In fact. Atheistic Naturalists are now stuck with the extremely absurd proposition of 'superdeterminism'. Which is the belief that all of their present actions are not the resuly of their own free will but were instead somehow 'suerdetermined' prior to the creation of the universe itself approx. 14 billion years ago. To which I say, if you truly believe that your free will choices were ‘superdetermined’ all the way back at the big bang, then all I can say is welcome to Christianity since ultra-strict Calvinists have, for centuries, held to a ‘superdeterminism’ view of reality. Moreover, the Intelligent Design advocate can also appeal to quantum mechanics itself to falsify the Darwinist's belief that nature itself is purely 'deterministic',,, (note that this does not 'prove' free will' with 100% certainty, it merely falsifies the Darwinian belief that nature is deterministic, i.e. Popper's falsification criteria)
BUT IS DETERMINISM TRUE? - Egnor Excerpt: In 1964, Irish physicist John Bell (1928–1990) published a paper titled “On the Einstein Podolsky Rosen Paradox”. In it, he observed that there is a way to test determinism at the quantum level by measuring the ratio of quantum states of particles emitted by radioactive decay.1 Bell’s experiment has now been done many times, and the answer is unequivocal: determinism at the quantum level is not true. Nature is not deterministic. The experiments showed that every quantum process entails some degree of “indeterminism”; that is, there are predictable probabilities but there is never certainty. If we knew the exact state of the universe at any given moment, we could still never know with certainty what would happen next. Technically, this means that there are no local “hidden variables” which really govern how things happen, as many determinists (including Albert Einstein) had hoped. Determinism in nature has been shown, scientifically, to be false. https://mindmatters.ai/2019/02/but-is-determinism-true/
Aside from all that,,, Dr. Egnor's main point in his article was not the fact that determinism has been falsified by quantum mechanics, but was the fact that the denial of free will by Darwinists is simply insane in that the claim undermines its own claim as to being true.
"the assertion that materialism is true is the implicit denial that materialism, or anything else, can be true.,,, When the history of modern materialism is written, it will be published in the psychiatry literature." - Egnor https://mindmatters.ai/2020/01/meat-has-no-opinions/
As Martin Cothran explains, "The claim that free will is an illusion requires the possibility that minds have the freedom to assent to a logical argument, a freedom denied by the claim itself. It is an assent that must, in order to remain logical and not physiological, presume a perspective outside the physical order."
Sam Harris's Free Will: The Medial Pre-Frontal Cortex Did It - Martin Cothran - November 9, 2012 Excerpt: There is something ironic about the position of thinkers like Harris on issues like this: they claim that their position is the result of the irresistible necessity of logic (in fact, they pride themselves on their logic). Their belief is the consequent, in a ground/consequent relation between their evidence and their conclusion. But their very stated position is that any mental state -- including their position on this issue -- is the effect of a physical, not logical cause. By their own logic, it isn't logic that demands their assent to the claim that free will is an illusion, but the prior chemical state of their brains. The only condition under which we could possibly find their argument convincing is if they are not true. The claim that free will is an illusion requires the possibility that minds have the freedom to assent to a logical argument, a freedom denied by the claim itself. It is an assent that must, in order to remain logical and not physiological, presume a perspective outside the physical order. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/11/sam_harriss_fre066221.html
In short, the claim from Atheistic Naturalists that they have no free will completely undermines any claim that they may make that they are making a rationally coherent argument in the first place:
(1) rationality implies a thinker in control of thoughts. (2) under materialism a thinker is an effect caused by processes in the brain (determinism). (3) in order for materialism to ground rationality a thinker (an effect) must control processes in the brain (a cause). (1)&(2) (4) no effect can control its cause. Therefore materialism cannot ground rationality. per Box UD
In short, the claim from Atheists that they do not have free will leads to catastrophic epistemological failure for them. All rationality, reason, and therefore all of science itself, is completely undermined in the atheist's claim that he does not have free will. One final note, allowing the Agent causality of God ‘back’ into physics, as the Christian founders of modern science originally envisioned,,,, (Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell, and Max Planck, to name a few of the Christian founders),,, and as quantum mechanics itself now empirically demands (with the closing of the free will loophole by Anton Zeilinger and company), rightly allowing the Agent causality of God ‘back’ into physics provides us with a very plausible resolution for the much sought after ‘theory of everything’ in that Christ’s resurrection from the dead provides an empirically backed reconciliation, via the Shroud of Turin, between quantum mechanics and general relativity into the much sought after ‘Theory of Everything”. Here are a few posts where I lay out and defend some of the evidence for that claim:
November 2019 – despite the fact that virtually everyone, including the vast majority of Christians, hold that the Copernican Principle is unquestionably true, the fact of the matter is that the Copernican Principle is now empirically shown, (via quantum mechanics and general relativity, etc..), to be a false assumption. https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/intelligent-design/so-then-maybe-we-are-privileged-observers/#comment-688855 (February 19, 2019) To support Isabel Piczek’s claim that the Shroud of Turin does indeed reveal a true ‘event horizon’, the following study states that ‘The bottom part of the cloth (containing the dorsal image) would have born all the weight of the man’s supine body, yet the dorsal image is not encoded with a greater amount of intensity than the frontal image.’,,, Moreover, besides gravity being dealt with, the shroud also gives us evidence that Quantum Mechanics was dealt with. In the following paper, it was found that it was not possible to describe the image formation on the Shroud in classical terms but they found it necessary to describe the formation of the image on the Shroud in discrete quantum terms. https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/intelligent-design/experiment-quantum-particles-can-violate-the-mathematical-pigeonhole-principle/#comment-673178 The evidence for the Shroud’s authenticity keeps growing. (Timeline of facts) – November 08, 2019 What Is the Shroud of Turin? Facts & History Everyone Should Know – Myra Adams and Russ Breault https://www.christianity.com/wiki/jesus-christ/what-is-the-shroud-of-turin.html
To give us a small glimpse of the power that was involved in Christ’s resurrection from the dead, the following recent article found that, ”it would take 34 Thousand Billion Watts of VUV radiations to make the image on the shroud. This output of electromagnetic energy remains beyond human technology.”
Astonishing discovery at Christ’s tomb supports Turin Shroud – NOV 26TH 2016 Excerpt: The first attempts made to reproduce the face on the Shroud by radiation, used a CO2 laser which produced an image on a linen fabric that is similar at a macroscopic level. However, microscopic analysis showed a coloring that is too deep and many charred linen threads, features that are incompatible with the Shroud image. Instead, the results of ENEA “show that a short and intense burst of VUV directional radiation can color a linen cloth so as to reproduce many of the peculiar characteristics of the body image on the Shroud of Turin, including shades of color, the surface color of the fibrils of the outer linen fabric, and the absence of fluorescence”. ‘However, Enea scientists warn, “it should be noted that the total power of VUV radiations required to instantly color the surface of linen that corresponds to a human of average height, body surface area equal to = 2000 MW/cm2 17000 cm2 = 34 thousand billion watts makes it impractical today to reproduce the entire Shroud image using a single laser excimer, since this power cannot be produced by any VUV light source built to date (the most powerful available on the market come to several billion watts )”. Comment The ENEA study of the Holy Shroud of Turin concluded that it would take 34 Thousand Billion Watts of VUV radiations to make the image on the shroud. This output of electromagnetic energy remains beyond human technology. http://westvirginianews.blogspot.com/2011/12/new-study-claims-shroud-of-turin-is.html
Colossians 1:15-20 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Ed George claims that,
The interesting thing is that you can’t prove free will without controlling for millions (of billions) of other factors in the decision making process.
AaronS1978 then comments,
You also can’t disprove it without doing the same
Then Bob O'H chimes in,
AaronS1978 – quite. That’s why I think these arguments (like those around whether there’s a soul) are a bit silly.
Well first off, it is important to note that theories can only be proven to be true in so far as the precision of our scientific instruments will allow us to prove them to be true, i.e. measurement accuracy. For instance, Special Relativity, General Relativity, Quantum Electrodynamics and Quantum Mechanics, are all proven to be true to almost absurd levels of precision in so far as measurement accuracy will allow.
"Recent experiments have confirmed, to within one part in one hundred million billion (10^17), that the speed of light does not change when an observer is in motion." Douglas Ell - "Counting To God" - pg. 41 - 2014 "When this paper was published (referring to the circa 1970 Hawking, Penrose paper) we could only prove General Relativity's reliability to 1% precision, today we can prove it to 15 places of decimal." Hugh Ross PhD. Astrophysics - quote taken from 8:40 mark of the following video debate Hugh Ross vs Lewis Wolpert - Is there evidence for a Cosmic Creator https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLMrDO0_WvQ The Most Precisely Tested Theory in the History of Science - May 5, 2011 Excerpt: So, which of the two (general relativity or QED) is The Most Precisely Tested Theory in the History of Science? It’s a little tough to quantify a title like that, but I think relativity can claim to have tested the smallest effects. Things like the aluminum ion clock experiments showing shifts in the rate of a clock set moving at a few m/s, or raised by a foot, measure relativistic shifts of a few parts in 10^16. That is, if one clock ticks 10,000,000,000,000,000 times, the other ticks 9,999,999,999,999,999 times. That’s an impressively tiny effect, but the measured value is in good agreement with the predictions of relativity. In the end, though, I have to give the nod to QED, because while the absolute effects in relativity may be smaller, the precision of the measurements in QED is more impressive. Experimental tests of relativity measure tiny shifts, but to only a few decimal places. Experimental tests of QED measure small shifts, but to an absurd number of decimal places. The most impressive of these is the “anomalous magnetic moment of the electron,” expressed is terms of a number g whose best measured value is: g/2 = 1.001 159 652 180 73 (28) Depending on how you want to count it, that’s either 11 or 14 digits of precision (the value you would expect without QED is exactly 1, so in some sense, the shift really starts with the first non-zero decimal place), which is just incredible. And QED correctly predicts all those decimal places (at least to within the measurement uncertainty, given by the two digits in parentheses at the end of that). http://scienceblogs.com/principles/2011/05/05/the-most-precisely-tested-theo/ Experimental non-classicality of an indivisible quantum system - Zeilinger 2011 Excerpt: Page 491: "This represents a violation of (Leggett's) inequality (3) by more than 120 standard deviations, demonstrating that no joint probability distribution is capable of describing our results." The violation also excludes any non-contextual hidden-variable model. The result does, however, agree well with quantum mechanical predictions, as we will show now.,,, https://vcq.quantum.at/fileadmin/Publications/Experimental%20non-classicality%20of%20an%20indivisible.pdf
To give a glimpse of just how insanely precise the measurement of 120 standard deviations is for Leggett's Inequality,,,
Standard deviation Excerpt: In statistics, the standard deviation (SD) (represented by the Greek letter sigma, ?),,, Particle physics uses a standard of "5 sigma" for the declaration of a discovery.[3] At five-sigma there is only one chance in nearly two million that a random fluctuation would yield the result. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_deviation#Particle_physics SSDD: a 22 sigma event is consistent with the physics of fair coins? - June 23, 2013 Excerpt: So 500 coins heads is (500-250)/11 = 22 standard deviations (22 sigma) from expectation! These numbers are so extreme, it’s probably inappropriate to even use the normal distribution’s approximation of the binomial distribution, and hence “22 sigma” just becomes a figure of speech in this extreme case… https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/mathematics/ssdd-a-22-sigma-event-is-consistent-with-the-physics-of-fair-coins/
It is also interesting to point out that Darwinian evolution simply has no experimental confirmation like this. As David Berlinski noted,
“On the other hand, I disagree that Darwin’s theory is as `solid as any explanation in science.; Disagree? I regard the claim as preposterous. Quantum electrodynamics is accurate to thirteen or so decimal places; so, too, general relativity. A leaf trembling in the wrong way would suffice to shatter either theory. What can Darwinian theory offer in comparison?” - Berlinski, D., “A Scientific Scandal?: David Berlinski & Critics,” Commentary, July 8, 2003
Secondly, in science there is no such thing as "100% absolute certainty", i.e. 100% 'proof', that a certain theory is undeniably true. There is always the possibility, however tenuous, that a certain theory will be falsified by some future measurement. In fact, this principle was clearly highlighted the other day, right here on UD, when News highlighted this article,
"Now, after spending two years dropping two objects of different mass into a free fall in a satellite, a group of scientists has concluded that Galileo and Einstein were right: The objects fell at a rate that was within two-trillionths of a percent of each other, according to a new study. This effect has been confirmed time and time again, as has Einstein’s theory of relativity — yet scientists still aren’t convinced that there isn’t some kind of exception somewhere. “Scientists have always had a difficult time actually accepting that nature should behave that way,” said senior author Peter Wolf, research director at the French National Center for Scientific Research’s Paris Observatory. Yasemin Sapakoglu, “Why physicists are determined to prove Galileo and Einstein wrong” at LiveScience https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/intelligent-design/effort-to-prove-galileo-and-einstein-wrong-fails/
In other words, Experimental physicists will always be trying to improve measurement accuracy in their experiments in order to try to disprove some aspect of a certain scientific theory. It is the nature of the game. For the layman, might I just state the obvious fact that once a theory has reached a certain level of 'absurd precision. i.e. 13 or so decimal places, and has also given us many modern inventions, i.e. cell phones, computers, lasers, etc.. as quantum mechanics has done, might I just offer the 'suggestion' that it might be safe to say that that theory is in all likelihood true? Also notice this particular caveat in all this, we cannot, as far as experimental physics itelf is concerned, ever be 100% certain that a certain theory is undeniably true, i.e. proven, but we can be certain that a theory has been falsified by experimental evidence. i.e. disproven. As Einstein himself noted,
"The scientific theorist is not to be envied. For Nature, or more precisely experiment, is an inexorable and not very friendly judge of his work. It never says "Yes" to a theory. In the most favorable cases it says "Maybe," and in the great majority of cases simply "No." If an experiment agrees with a theory it means for the latter "Maybe," and if it does not agree it means "No." - Einstein
In fact that principle highlighted by Einstein himself is exactly why Popper's falsification criteria is such a important criteria in science for judging whether a theory is even to be considered scientific or not.
“In so far as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable: and in so far as it is not falsifiable, it does not speak about reality.” - Karl R. Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery
And it is also important to note that, since Darwinists simply refuse to accept any of the many falsifying evidences against their theory, then that means that Darwinian evolution, at least how Darwnists themselves treat their theory, "does not speak about reality”, and therefore does not even qualify as a scientific theory in the first place, (again, at least how Darwinists themselves treat their theory). Now let's get back to free will itself. Darwinian evolution, since it is based on naturalism, denies the existence of free will altogether. Whereas on the other hand, Intelligent Design, since it obviously holds 'agent and/or intelligent causality' to be true, holds that free will must exist in some meaningful sense.
Do You Like SETI? Fine, Then Let’s Dump Methodological Naturalism - Paul Nelson Excerpt: Assessing the Damage MN Does to Freedom of Inquiry Epistemology — how we know — and ontology — what exists — are both affected by methodological naturalism. If we say, "We cannot know that a mind caused x," laying down an epistemological boundary defined by MN, then our ontology comprising real causes for x won’t include minds. MN entails an ontology in which minds are the consequence of physics, and thus, can only be placeholders for a more detailed causal account in which physics is the only (ultimate) actor. You didn’t write your email to me. Physics did, and informed you of that event after the fact. "That’s crazy," you reply, "I certainly did write my email." Okay, then — to what does the pronoun "I" in that sentence refer? Your personal agency; your mind. Are you supernatural? Who knows?,,, You are certainly an intelligent cause, however, and your intelligence does not collapse into physics. (If it does collapse — i.e., can be reduced without explanatory loss — we haven’t the faintest idea how, which amounts to the same thing.) To explain the effects you bring about in the world — such as your email, a real pattern — we must refer to you as a unique agent. https://evolutionnews.org/2014/09/do_you_like_set/
Moreover, the Intelligent Design Advocate can appeal directly to evidence from both neuroscience and quantum mechanics to prove that free will is true, (and again, in so far as measurement accuracy will allow, and especially where quantum mechanics itself is concerned))
January 2020 - Defense of Free Will (neurology and quantum mechanics) https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/intelligent-design/welcome-to-the-brave-new-world-of-science/#comment-690567
Can Michael Egnor become actually pro-evolution and anti-ID/creationism just by an effort of will? Doesn't free will mean that you can change even your bedrock beliefs whenever you choose? Seversky
If there were no free will among humans and humans are nothing more than animals, why did Pavlov get such different results from testing children than animals? BobRyan
AaronS1978 - quite. That's why I think these arguments (like those around whether there's a soul) are a bit silly. Bob O'H
You also can’t disprove it without doing the same AaronS1978
The really interesting thing is Eddie will never support what was posted in comment 1. ET
The interesting thing is that you can’t prove free will without controlling for millions (of billions) of other factors in the decision making process. Ed George

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