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At Mind Matters News: Michael Egnor’s challenge to two atheists who deny free will

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Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor is challenging evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne and philosopher Massimo Pigliucci.

He thinks there is too much of this no-free-will nonsense in the science blogosphere. “If Pigliucci or Coyne would like to debate free will, they can consider this a challenge from me”:


The question as to whether free will is real turns then on whether there is always compulsion in nature. And that question turns whether every physical event has a physical cause — a cause dictated by the laws of nature, as understood by physicists. The answer to this is clear: it is not true that every physical event has a physical cause. There are at least four categories of physical events that do not have physical causes:

Big Bang
Big Bang cosmology

1) The Big Bang had no physical cause. The Big Bang was the primordial physical event that could not have had a physical cause, because the Big Bang itself was the origin of the “physical.” In other words, the whole universe — i.e., everything that is physical — did not have a physical cause, which would seem to be the ultimate negation of the assertion that “every physical event has a physical cause.” The truth is that no physical event ultimately had a physical cause.

2) The effects of the singularities at the centers of black holes have no physical cause because a singularity is not physical thing. It is undefined in modern physics and thus, whatever it is, it is not a physical cause.

3) All gravitational effects in curved space time have no physical cause, for two reasons. First, space time is not physical. Second, energy is not conserved in curved space time according to general relativity. All materialist understandings of physical cause entail an exchange of energy, so if energy is not conserved then there is no justification for arguing that all physical effects have physical causes.

4) Quantum entanglement is not physical causation. Entangled particles can be billions of light-years apart and yet the waveform collapse of one particle can instantaneously determine the state of the distant particle. According to special relativity, causation of a physical nature cannot exceed the speed of light. Thus quantum entanglement is not an example of a physical cause.

Free will denialism is a bizarre cult. It’s not even wrong — it’s self-refuting nonsense. That a philosopher/biologist with the educational credentials of Massimo Pigliucci would endorse such gibberish is a scandal. It’s evidence for the stranglehold that materialism and atheism have on otherwise able minds.

The science blogosphere is polluted with materialist and atheist rubbish of this sort and free will denial is at the top of the pile. If Massimo Pigliucci or Jerry Coyne would like to debate free will, they can consider this a challenge from me. We can debate it anywhere — in blog posts, on YouTube, or in person. Pick the forum. It would be a delight to have a “conversation” with meat.

Michael Egnor, “My challenge to two atheists who deny free will” at Mind Matters News (February 10, 2022)

Takehome: Free will has no physical cause? At least four categories of events in nature have no physical cause. Free will denial isn’t science, just atheism in a lab coat


Mind Matters News offers a number of articles on free will by neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Egnor including
Can physics prove there is no free will? No, but it can make physicists incoherent when they write about free will. It’s hilarious. Sabine Hossenfelder misses the irony that she insists that people “change their minds” by accepting her assertion that they… can’t change their minds.

Does “alien hand syndrome” show that we don’t really have free will? One woman’s left hand seemed to have a mind of its own. Did it? Alien hand syndrome doesn’t mean that free will is not real. In fact, it clarifies exactly what free will is and what it isn’t.

But is determinism true? Does science show that we fated to want whatever we want? Modern science—both theoretical and experimental—strongly supports the reality of free will.

How can mere products of nature have free will? Materialists don’t like the outcome of their philosophy but twisting logic won’t change it

Does brain stimulation research challenge free will? If we can be forced to want something, is the will still free?

and

Is free will a dangerous myth? The denial of free will is a much more dangerous myth

Also: Do quasars provide evidence for free will? Possibly. They certainly rule out experimenter interference.

and

Can free will even be an illusion? Michael Egnor reiterates the freeing implications of quantum indeterminacy

Also, by Baylor University’s Robert J. Marks: Quantum randomness gives nature free will Whether or not quantum randomness explains how our brains work, it may help us create unbreakable encryption codes

12 Replies to “At Mind Matters News: Michael Egnor’s challenge to two atheists who deny free will

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    As to:

    My challenge to two atheists who deny free will” – Michael Egnor – February 10, 2022
    Excerpt: There are at least four categories of physical events that do not have physical causes:
    1) The Big Bang had no physical cause.,,,
    2) The effects of the singularities at the centers of black holes have no physical cause,,,
    3) All gravitational effects in curved space time have no physical cause,,,,
    4) Quantum entanglement is not physical causation.,,
    https://mindmatters.ai/2022/02/my-challenge-to-two-atheists-who-deny-free-will/

    Dr. Egnor could very easily add a number 5 to his list, ” 5) the ‘immaterial’ mathematics used by physicists to describe all 4 of those preceding things also has no physical cause.”

    Naturalism and Self-Refutation – Michael Egnor – January 31, 2018
    Excerpt: Mathematics is certainly something we do. Is mathematics “included in the space-time continuum [with] basic elements … described by physics”?,,, What is the physics behind the Pythagorean theorem? After all, no actual triangle is perfect, and thus no actual triangle in nature has sides such that the Pythagorean theorem holds. There is no real triangle in which the sum of the squares of the sides exactly equals the square of the hypotenuse. That holds true for all of geometry. Geometry is about concepts, not about anything in the natural world or about anything that can be described by physics. What is the “physics” of the fact that the area of a circle is pi multiplied by the square of the radius? And of course what is natural and physical about imaginary numbers, infinite series, irrational numbers, and the mathematics of more than three spatial dimensions?,,,
    https://evolutionnews.org/2018/01/naturalism-and-self-refutation/

    Moreover, unlike the first four examples that Dr. Egnor listed for non-physical causes, there is a, more or less, direct connection between the existence of mathematics and the existence of free will.

    Namely, “Human mathematicians are able to create axioms (in mathematics), but a computer program cannot do this without violating information conservation. Creating new axioms and free will are shown to be different aspects of the same phenomena: the creation of new information.”

    Algorithmic Information Theory, Free Will and the Turing Test – Douglas S. Robertson
    Excerpt: Chaitin’s Algorithmic Information Theory shows that information is conserved under formal mathematical operations and, equivalently, under computer operations. This conservation law puts a new perspective on many familiar problems related to artificial intelligence. For example, the famous “Turing test” for artificial intelligence could be defeated by simply asking for a new axiom in mathematics. Human mathematicians are able to create axioms, but a computer program cannot do this without violating information conservation. Creating new axioms and free will are shown to be different aspects of the same phenomena: the creation of new information.
    http://cires.colorado.edu/~dou...../info8.pdf

    On top of that fairly direct connection between the existence of (immaterial) mathematics and the existence of free will, no less than Eugene Wigner and Albert Einstein themselves are both on record as to regarding it to be a quote-unquote “miracle’ that mathematics should even be applicable to the universe in the first place,

    The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences – Eugene Wigner – 1960
    Excerpt: ,,certainly it is hard to believe that our reasoning power was brought, by Darwin’s process of natural selection, to the perfection which it seems to possess.,,,
    It is difficult to avoid the impression that a miracle confronts us here, quite comparable in its striking nature to the miracle that the human mind can string a thousand arguments together without getting itself into contradictions, or to the two miracles of the existence of laws of nature and of the human mind’s capacity to divine them.,,,
    The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning.
    http://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc.....igner.html

    On the Rational Order of the World: a Letter to Maurice Solovine – Albert Einstein – March 30, 1952
    Excerpt: “You find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world (to the extent that we are authorized to speak of such a comprehensibility) as a miracle or as an eternal mystery. Well, a priori, one should expect a chaotic world, which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way .. the kind of order created by Newton’s theory of gravitation, for example, is wholly different. Even if a man proposes the axioms of the theory, the success of such a project presupposes a high degree of ordering of the objective world, and this could not be expected a priori. That is the ‘miracle’ which is constantly reinforced as our knowledge expands.
    There lies the weakness of positivists and professional atheists who are elated because they feel that they have not only successfully rid the world of gods but “bared the miracles.”
    -Albert Einstein
    http://inters.org/Einstein-Letter-Solovine

    And the last time I checked, miracles were the sole province of God!

    Verse:

    John 3:2
    The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

    Of supplemental note, the closing of the ‘freedom of choice’ loophole by Anton Zeilinger and company in 2018 is also highly relevant.

  2. 2
    chuckdarwin says:

    Egnor states:

    If Pigliucci or Coyne would like to debate free will, they can consider this a challenge from me.

    Perhaps Pigliucci and Coyne don’t feel a compelling need “to debate free will” with anyone. After all, it likely would turn out to be a monumental waste of time…

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    ChuckyD, “it likely would turn out to be a monumental waste of time…”

    But ChuckyD, how can anything possibly NOT be “a monumental waste of time’ within the utterly hopeless Nihilism that permeates the atheist’s worldview?

    “There is no self in, around, or as part of anyone’s body. There can’t be. So there really isn’t any enduring self that ever could wake up morning after morning worrying about why it should bother getting out of bed. The self is just another illusion, like the illusion that thought is about stuff or that we carry around plans and purposes that give meaning to what our body does. Every morning’s introspectively fantasized self is a new one, remarkably similar to the one that consciousness ceased fantasizing when we fell sleep sometime the night before. Whatever purpose yesterday’s self thought it contrived to set the alarm last night, today’s newly fictionalized self is not identical to yesterday’s. It’s on its own, having to deal with the whole problem of why to bother getting out of bed all over again.”
    – A.Rosenberg, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality, ch.10

    Verse:

    1 Peter 1:3
    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

  4. 4
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Pigliucci is a philosophy professor.
    Kind of hard to imagine that he’d find a debate about free will to be a waste of time.
    If philosophers didn’t engage in debate there wouldn’t be much use for their field of study.

  5. 5
    Silver Asiatic says:

    I believe CD is a Deist – or was at least last time I heard.
    That point does not surface very often. But the God of Deism is an immaterial entity that actually does something – with creative powers. We call that “creationism” – a god that creates things from nothing and a self-existing being.
    Aristotle was a deist – believing in the first, all powerful, all knowing, all present – creative cause.
    That gives a lot of meaning to the universe and human life – as Aristotle explains.
    So, arguing for “mindless evolution” doesn’t work in the Deist worldview since there is a Mind behind all of it anyway.
    The Deist God could have front-loaded all sorts of design into the process – and certainly had to create the elements of the universe including the laws.
    “The Architect of the Universe” – is a Creator.
    All the Deists believed that – the Masons put it into the American founding.

  6. 6
    jerry says:

    Pigliucci chose stoicism as a way of life and recommends it to others.

    Kind of ironic if he denies free will.

  7. 7
    Silver Asiatic says:

    It’s definitely ironic for Pigliucci to claim stoicism. Yes, I think he argues for a universe devoid of purpose and meaning, and therefore against free-will (evolutionary determinism). He’s a contradiction and I always suspect him as wavering between atheism and faith. Why bother teaching philosophy if there’s no purpose?

    I’ve also tried to nudge CD into talking about his own religion but so far he hasn’t wanted to do that much. Deism could have several flavors. There could be just an impersonal, invisible machine out there that did something at the beginning. Or it could be an intelligent being, something that we could relate to, deserving of honor and thanks.
    The American freemason founders felt “the god of nature” (deist god) was worthy of respect and some Masons had worship rituals.
    The deist god created something – usually thought to be the laws of nature. We would think that god is worthy of thanks at the very least.

  8. 8
    jerry says:

    I’ve also tried to nudge CD into talking about his own religion but so far he hasn’t wanted to do that much

    He has elaborated on his religious training and background.

    16 years of Catholic education. But with all this religious training he is a phony because he will not answer a challenge and instead only makes disparaging comments here and there.

    He is a non serious person as Is nearly every anti ID person. One has to be not genuine to be so.

    The real question is why they do it. Why be fake all the time?

  9. 9
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Jerry

    16 years of Catholic education.

    I missed that – wow, ok. All I remember from previous discussions is he said he’s a Deist.

    But with all this religious training he is a phony because he will not answer a challenge and instead only makes disparaging comments here and there.

    Exactly. If you want to learn something, engage in a real discussion and show yourself to be genuine, then offer your point of view and defend it. Don’t just throw insults and weak attacks. What’s the alternative that you’re defending? Why should we believe your worldview? – give us a convincing case for it and stand up for yourself. But that almost never happens.

    The real question is why they do it. Why be fake all the time?

    That’s the big question and after many years in these discussions – I really don’t know. Something is wrong, that’s for sure.

  10. 10
    chuckdarwin says:

    SA and Jerry
    What’s the big mystery? I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I comment on this blog because of my interest in the evolution-intelligent design debate. I’ve also made it clear that my undergraduate training is in biology, that I have a Catholic educational background and I sympathize with deism. I don’t keep that current with cutting edge biology because I never used my bio degree except for a couple years teaching science as a Peace Corps volunteer 40+ years ago in Africa.
    Jerry (I think) commenting on my participation on this blog states:

    But with all this religious training he is a phony because he will not answer a challenge and instead only makes disparaging comments here and there.

    First, I don’t owe anyone answers or comments on every question posed, particularly pointless, rhetorical questions or questions that have no meaningful answer. While on occasion I will make a snide or sarcastic remark, that is hardly the sum total of my participation. I have frequently posted detailed, substantive comments, particularly related to evolutionary topics, and especially when I think that the subject is being misrepresented or the commenter is simply wrong in their understanding of biology. And most times, my sarcasm contains more than a little truth.
    I have not engaged in any ad hominem or cut-and-paste, irrelevant or repetitive posts. I haven’t referred to anyone on the blog as stupid, insincere (i.e. “phony”), idiotic or some other epithet. Finally, while I have aggressively attacked Christianity and intelligent design as belief systems, I don’t believe I have attacked or belittled anyone’s beliefs in Christianity or ID per se. People are completely free to believe what they want. I’m not here to convince or proselytize, but to simply follow some interesting comments and occasionally offer another point of view…

  11. 11
    jerry says:

    While on occasion I will make a snide or sarcastic remark, that is hardly the sum total of my participation. I have frequently posted detailed, substantive comments, particularly related to evolutionary topics, and especially when I think that the subject is being misrepresented or the commenter is simply wrong in their understanding of biology

    I must have missed anything substantive. It’s possible there was one or two.

  12. 12
    Silver Asiatic says:

    CD – I appreciate your explanation. I was surprised by your Catholic education and was wondering about your attack on Christianity, considering that attack also implies a defense (of Deism, I’d think in your case).

    I’m not here to convince or proselytize, but to simply follow some interesting comments and occasionally offer another point of view…

    That is appreciated, but I think it’s kind-of a debate atmosphere here and I’d look for an attempt to convince if you have an alternative view. Most IDists are looking for the truth of things and if someone else thinks they have it, I think it’s important to bring it out.
    This is especially true with religion and philosophy which is the basis and foundation of one’s belief in an “origins story” of some kind. Deism is a lot different than materialism.
    Also, I hardly ever see Deists in these discussions so it would be good to hear your defense of that.
    But again, I appreciate your commentary nonetheless.

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