In 2012, neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman admitted in Psychology Today that his own materialist view is an “unfalsifiable” leap of faith—true, of course, but not so honestly admitted in the past. Today, even the famous 1983 “Libet” experiment, once generally taken to demonstrate that there is no free will (because brain signals for action start before you are conscious of them), is now questioned in followup research.
The neuroscience test environment is, of course, highly artificial. As Economist editor Anthony Gottlieb observes,
… looking at flickers of activity inside our heads can be a misleading way to see how our minds work. This is because many of the distinctively human things that people do take place over time and outside their craniums.
In Financial Times, Julian Baggini also points out, “we may not have as much conscious control over our actions as we think we do, but people who deny we have any at all have simply drawn the wrong lessons from neuroscience.” Neuropsychiatrist Jeffrey Schwartz, author of The Mind and the Brain, notes pragmatically that whether or not we have free will, we do have “free won’t”. In real-life situations, the ability to say no is often the quality that matters most.
The social outcomes of “no free will” are also problematic.More.
One problem is that few pop science media sources have any incentive in putting all this together. It takes years of following news stories to track a pattern.
Many writers’ own philosophical commitments are such that they would rather not know that the effort to discredit the existence of the mind, except as the random dance of neurons in the brain, is basically a slowly building flop.
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– O’Leary for News. Denyse O’Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.