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Yet another “myth of free will” claim

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From Matthew Mackinnon at Psychology Today:

Illusion of Choice: The Myth of Free Will

It is at this point that you have the conscious experience of, “I chose to wink with my right eye.” The human brain is a logical machine and it seeks to establish linear causation regardless of the temporal reality. The fact that your prediction aligned with the actual action is interpreted by your brain to mean that your conscious thought caused the action. In reality, your thought, “I chose to wink my right eye,” is nothing more than a retroactive inference generated in an attempt to transmute a largely unconscious process into a conscious one. More.

These claims come in many varieties but their outcome, if not their purpose, is transparent: No one, including the naturalist atheist, is responsible for what he does. Consider what that means for issues like intellectual freedom and responsible government.

See also: Free will viewed in the brain?

Freed from the fear of free will

Another naturalist slam at free will


How can we believe in naturalism if we have no choice?

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5 Replies to “Yet another “myth of free will” claim

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    It is fascinating that subconscious parts of the brain show preparatory activity prior to the conscious decision to act is fascinating in itself but it raises an equally fascinating question. If the subconscious mind is capable of preparing and initiating actions on its own, why go to the bother of feeding information to the conscious mind that creates the illusion of conscious decision-making?

  2. 2
    JDH says:

    The belief in free will as an after the fact decision of the mind to match reality has a spectacular problem. What is the proper scenario for the easily accomplished time delayed response?

    For example, If i asked 100 people to raise there right hand after 10 seconds, how many of them could accurately do it. I would think 100%.

    So how is this explained by the “seeks to establish linear causation” crowd. Did we subconsciously mutually decide upon a 10 second interval, and then wait out the 10 seconds and then finally after 10 seconds the brain establishes that I had actually asked for 10 seconds. What about 100 seconds? What about 10 hours?

    The fact that human intelligence can choose to do things at an arbitrary time in the future puts the nail in the offing of the “seeks to establish linear causation” theory of free will.

    I really can’t stand people like Matthew Mackinnon who deny the obvious failings of their latest attempt to avoid the existence of free will.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    A few notes to Libet’s work i.e. ‘readiness potential’:

    Do Benjamin Libet’s Experiments Show that Free Will Is an Illusion? – Michael Egnor – January 15, 2014
    Excerpt: Materialists often invoke the experiments of Benjamin Libet when they deny free will.,,,
    (Yet) Libet himself was a strong defender of free will, and he interpreted his own experiments as validating free will. He noted that his subjects often vetoed the unconscious “decision” after the readiness potential appeared.
    ,,,”The role of conscious free will would be, then, not to initiate a voluntary act, but rather to control whether the act takes place. We may view the unconscious initiatives for voluntary actions as ‘bubbling up’ in the brain. The conscious-will then selects which of these initiatives may go forward to an action or which ones to veto and abort, with no act appearing.” – Libet
    Libet even observed that his experimental confirmation of free will accorded with the traditional religious understanding of free will:,,,

    The Case for the Soul: Refuting Physicalist Objections – video
    Computers vs. Qualia, Libet and ‘Free won’t’, Split Brain (unified attention of brain despite split hemispheres, as well, visual and motion information is shared between the two hemispheres despite the hemispheres being split),

    The following experimental work directly refuted the materialists’ claim that determinism was proven by Libet’s work

    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.

    Also of note on Libet’s work:

    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 and hypothesized that “the subjective timing of the experience is (automatically) referred backwards in time.” Yet Aristotle offered a much simpler and logically coherent explanation — the stimulus on the skin is perceived on the skin, not in the brain. Perception occurs at the location of the stimulus, not in the brain.

    Quantum ‘retro-causality’ and ‘quantum biology’ provides the correct mechanism for explaining the preceding experimental result:

    As well, the following meta-analysis on anticipatory changes is also of related interest

    Can Your Body Sense Future Events Without Any External Clue? (meta-analysis of 26 reports published between 1978 and 2010) – (Oct. 22, 2012)
    Excerpt: “But our analysis suggests that if you were tuned into your body, you might be able to detect these anticipatory changes between two and 10 seconds beforehand,,,
    This phenomenon is sometimes called “presentiment,” as in “sensing the future,” but Mossbridge said she and other researchers are not sure whether people are really sensing the future.
    “I like to call the phenomenon ‘anomalous anticipatory activity,'” she said. “The phenomenon is anomalous, some scientists argue, because we can’t explain it using present-day understanding about how biology works; though explanations related to recent quantum biological findings could potentially make sense. It’s anticipatory because it seems to predict future physiological changes in response to an important event without any known clues, and it’s an activity because it consists of changes in the cardiopulmonary, skin and nervous systems.”

    Moreover, in direct contradiction to the atheistic claim that our thoughts are merely the result of whatever state our material brain happens to be in, ‘Brain Plasticity’, the ability to alter the structure of the brain from a person’s focused intention, has now been established by Jeffrey Schwartz, as well as among other researchers.

    The Case for the Soul – InspiringPhilosophy – (4:03 minute mark, Brain Plasticity including Schwartz’s work) – Oct. 2014 – video
    The Mind is able to modify the brain (brain plasticity). Moreover, Idealism explains all anomalous evidence of personality changes due to brain injury, whereas physicalism cannot explain mind.

    The Case for the Soul: Quantum Biology – (7:25 minute mark – Brain Plasticity and Mindfulness control of DNA expression)

    Quote of note:

    “As I remarked earlier, this may present an “insuperable” difficulty for some scientists of materialists bent, but the fact remains, and is demonstrated by research, that non-material mind acts on material brain.”
    Sir John Eccles – Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1963 – (as quoted in Cousins, 1985, pp. 61-62,85-86)

    Moreover, in quantum mechanics, the claim that past material states determine future conscious choices (determinism) is directly falsified by the fact that present conscious choices effect past material states:

    “If we attempt to attribute an objective meaning to the quantum state of a single system, curious paradoxes appear: quantum effects mimic not only instantaneous action-at-a-distance but also, as seen here, influence of future actions on past events, even after these events have been irrevocably recorded.”
    Asher Peres, Delayed choice for entanglement swapping. J. Mod. Opt. 47, 139-143 (2000).

    Quantum physics mimics spooky action into the past – April 23, 2012
    Excerpt: According to the famous words of Albert Einstein, the effects of quantum entanglement appear as “spooky action at a distance”. The recent experiment has gone one remarkable step further. “Within a naïve classical world view, quantum mechanics can even mimic an influence of future actions on past events”, says Anton Zeilinger.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    You can see a little better explanation of the “delayed-choice entanglement swapping” experiment at the 9:11 minute mark of the following video:

    Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser Experiment Explained – 2014 video

    In other words, if my conscious choices really are just merely the result of whatever state the material particles in my brain happen to be in in the past (deterministic) how in blue blazes are my present choices on how to measure a particle instantaneously effecting the state of other material particles in the past? This experiment is simply impossible for any coherent materialistic presupposition that holds that my current thoughts are merely the result of whatever state the particles of my brain happened to be in in the past!

    Moreover, due to these recent advances in quantum mechanics, the materialist is now forced to claim that our free will choices, if they were determined, instead of being determined by the random jostling of the material particles in our brain, as atheists had originally claimed, is now forced to claim that our free will choices, if they really were determined, were somehow ‘superdetermined’ almost all the way back to the Big Bang itself:

    But why is the quantum world thought spooky anyway? – September 1, 2015
    Excerpt: Zeilinger also notes that there remains one last, somewhat philosophical loophole, first identified by Bell himself: the possibility that hidden variables could somehow manipulate the experimenters’ choices of what properties to measure, tricking them into thinking quantum theory is correct.,,,
    Leifer is less troubled by this ‘freedom-of-choice loophole’, however. “It could be that there is some kind of superdeterminism, so that the choice of measurement settings was determined at the Big Bang,” he says. “We can never prove that is not the case, so I think it’s fair to say that most physicists don’t worry too much about this.”

    Closing the ‘free will’ loophole: Using distant quasars to test Bell’s theorem – February 20, 2014

    And in this recent video Prof. Anton Zeilinger mentions that the freedom of choice loophole is closed:

    Prof. Anton Zeilinger of the University of Vienna at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology lecture:
    Entangled Photons – from Bell Tests (closing all loopholes, including the freedom of choice loophole, at 16:40 minute mark) to Applications – Published on Jul 25, 2016

    Here is a more detailed explanation of the closing of the freedom of choice loophole

    Significant-loophole-free test of Bell’s theorem with entangled photons – Dec. 2015
    Excerpt page 5:
    By closing the freedom-of-choice loophole to one natural stopping point—the first moment at which the particles come into existence—we reduce the possible local-realist explanations to truly exotic hypotheses. Any theory seeking to explain our result by exploiting this loophole would require to originate before the emission event and to influence setting choices derived from spontaneous emission. It has been suggested that setting choices determined by events from distant cosmological sources could push this limit back by billions of years [46].

    Here is a video lecture of the preceding paper:

    Marissa Giustina: Significant loophole-free test of Bell’s theorem with entangled photons – video
    Published on Jul 5, 2016

    Moreover, if you truly believe that your free will choices were somehow ‘superdetermined’ all the way back at the big bang, then I say welcome to Christianity since strict Calvinists have, for centuries, held to a ‘superdeterminism’ view of reality.

    Here is an excellent sermon by Tim Keller that gets the strict Calvinist’s ‘God is omniscient we are not’ position across very well.

    Does God Control Everything? – Tim Keller – (God’s sovereignty, evil, and our free will, how do they mesh? Short answer? God’s Omniscience!) – video (12:00 minute mark)

    Of personal note, although, because of my high view of God’s sovereignty, I lean heavily towards Calvinism, for the most part, being true, none-the-less, because of ‘personal responsibility’ side of the debate, I hold that some amount of personal free will has to be in play. Especially in regards to personally accepting or rejecting Christ.

    “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.”
    – C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

    As CS Lewis clearly pointed out, although free will is often thought of as allowing someone to choose between a veritable infinity of options, in a theistic view of reality that veritable infinity of options all boils down to just two options. Eternal life, (infinity if you will), with God, or Eternal life, (infinity again if you will), without God.

    And exactly as would be expected if the Christian view of reality were correct, we find two very different eternities in reality. An ‘infinitely destructive’ eternity associated with General Relativity and a extremely orderly eternity associated with Special Relativity:

    Special and General Relativity compared to Heavenly and Hellish Near Death Experiences – video

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Moreover, due to the finding of conserved non-local ‘quantum information’ in our bodies, in every DNA and protein molecule, the Christian Theist is now also vindicated in his belief that we have a transcendent component to our body that lives past the death of our material bodies:

    Molecular Biology – 19th Century Materialism meets 21st Century Quantum Mechanics – video

    Scientific evidence that we do indeed have an eternal soul (Elaboration on Talbott’s question “What power holds off that moment — precisely for a lifetime, and not a moment longer?”)– video 2016


    –Deuteronomy 30: 19-20
    I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days.”

    Of supplemental note, all of the preceding experimental work establishing the reality of free will is kind of beside the point since the denial of free will, by materialists, is a self defeating proposition in that it undermines science itself by undermining our ability to give our assent to the truthfulness of an argument:

    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.

    (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

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