In “Do You Really Have Free Will? Of course. Here’s how it evolved,” we read,
There is no need to insist that free will is some kind of magical violation of causality. Free will is just another kind of cause. The causal process by which a person decides whether to marry is simply different from the processes that cause balls to roll downhill, ice to melt in the hot sun, a magnet to attract nails, or a stock price to rise and fall.
Well, right there, Roy Baumeister has ditched the materialism on which all Darwinian pop science journalism has been built. But he does it so cleverly that you don’t immediately notice:
Self-control counts as a kind of freedom because it begins with not acting on every impulse. The simple brain acts whenever something triggers a response: A hungry creature sees food and eats it. The most recently evolved parts of the human brain have an extensive mechanism for overriding those impulses, which enables us to reject food when we’re hungry, whether it’s because we’re dieting, vegetarian, keeping kosher, or mistrustful of the food. Self-control furnishes the possibility of acting from rational principles rather than acting on impulse.
Obviously, this is wrong. The whole point about rational principles is that they are rational whether they benefit us or not. So where did THAT come from?
But hey, Baumeister is safe from Darwin’s mob as long as he can continue to misrepresent the situation in this way. And that is probably all he wants or needs.
See also: The slow death of a pseudo-discipline
File in: Darwin’s wastebasket
Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose