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Darwinian philosopher Michael Ruse muses on life

The Open Door, William Henry Fox Talbot (British, Dorset 1800–1877 Lacock), Salted paper print from paper negative
the open door/William Henry Fox Talbot (1800–1877)

From a perspective of nearly eighty years:

I come to my present state for two separate reasons. As a student of Charles Darwin, I am totally convinced – God or no God – that we are (as the 19th-century biologist Thomas Henry Huxley used to say) modified monkeys rather than modified mud. Culture is hugely important, but to ignore our biology is just wrong. Second, I am drawn, philosophically, to existentialism. A century after Darwin, Jean-Paul Sartre said that we are condemned to freedom, and I think he is right. Even if God does exist, He or She is irrelevant. The choices are ours.

Darwinian evolutionary theory shows how this all came about, historically, through the forces of nature. It suggests that there is no eternal future or, if there is, it is not relevant for the here and now. Rather, we must live life to the full, within the context of – liberated by – our Darwinian-created human nature.

Michael Ruse, “The meaning to life? The meaning to life? A Darwinian existentialist has his answers” at Aeon

He does not really address the fact that most naturalists don’t actually believe that the free will he assumes actually exists.

If there is no God and no free will, we are a good bit closer to nothing than to philosophy.

See also: Mind Matters News offers a number of articles on free will bu 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?

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.


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

Simply believing in something does not make it true. Believing in naturalism/materialism* does not make it true. Therefore, if all you have is a belief in naturalism/materialism you have failed to establish it is true. In other words, naturalism/materialism fails because it nothing more than a belief system. That’s rather ironic because its proponents claim that it’s a world view claims to be based on reason, logic and evidence… It fails on all three. It’s irrational then to even try to explain, or explain away, things like freewill, the reason (purpose and meaning) for our existence, the existence of mind or consciousness etc. [*Not all “naturalists” believe they are “materialists,” however, all materialists concede they are naturalists, since they believe that natural causes alone are sufficient to explain our existence. Of course this is all just a matter of semantics.] john_a_designer
>Rather, we must live life to the full, within the context of – liberated by – our Darwinian-created human nature. Human nature is what people naturally do when not constrained from the outside. It's what they do when nobody is looking. So for an idea of what our Darwinian-created human nature gets us, check the following: https://www.propublica.org/article/the-last-police-officer There you have it: The second nobody is watching, upstanding people are not going to be "living life to the full". Ruse is greatly confused and very spoiled by living in a civilized part of the world, insulated from true human nature. EDTA
AaronS1978, The OP only says "naturalists", but even if we assume that she meant only the most famous naturalists (or the loudest), I'm not sure if it's true, although it may be closer to 50/50 (hard to say for sure as it subjectively depends on whom one decides to include). You mentioned Dennett as a defender of free will, and the OP mentions Ruse; the late Stephen Jay Gould was a long-time defender of free will and opponent of biological determinism. Hitchens also believed in free will. And here's arguably the most famous (and loudest) naturalist of all, Richard Dawkins: This is from an interview:
I am very comfortable with the idea that we can override biology with free will. Indeed, I encourage people all the time to do it. Much of the message of my first book, "The Selfish Gene," was that we must understand what it means to be a gene machine, what it means to be programmed by genes, so that we are better equipped to escape, so that we are better equipped to use our big brains, use our conscience intelligence, to depart from the dictates of the selfish genes and to build for ourselves a new kind of life which as far as I am concerned the more un-Darwinian it is the better, because the Darwinian world in which our ancestors were selected is a very unpleasant world. Nature really is red in tooth and claw. And when we sit down together to argue out and discuss and decide upon how we want to run our societies, I think we should hold up Darwinism as an awful warning for how we should not organize our societies.
And from the Selfish Gene:
We have the power to defy the selfish genes of our birth and, if necessary, the selfish memes of our indoctrination. We can even discuss ways of deliberately cultivating and nurturing pure, disinterested altruism -- something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole history of the world. We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our own creators. We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.
Good user name Thank you for the pole I actually do appreciate seeing many philosophers believing in free well that does make me very happy but I believe the person that wrote the OP is referring to main stream new atheist philosophers from Sam Harris to Steve Pinker of which the vast majority of these main stream atheist absolutely do not believe in fee will My hats off to Daniel Dennett Even though I do not agree with him he does fight for the perspective a free well one way or another and he does feverishly fight AaronS1978
He really doesn’t understand the position of many Catholics and many other theologians First of all nature and God are indistinguishable nature is the hand of God the laws of physics are the hand of God to say that we were created by the laws of nature and god is irrelevant, when the laws of nature are caused by God is absolutely Looney Tunes Second of all according to OOL we are all modified mud So once again he cherry picks whatever science he wants to support him and his point of view. we came from primordial ooze, the mud, the muck of the world So we, much like everything else came from the earth upon God’s command and then God breathed the breath of life into us, our soul and we became human Again he doesn’t understand the perspective of theologians he just makes accusations and tosses them out there but wait there’s more! The choice is ours! This line is absolutely incompatible With his train of thought we are meat robots and many of his own think this there is no choice, the choice is not ours if blind naturalism is remotely correct, either we vastly do not understand our universe or we have zero free will and the fact that we even contemplate this stuff is insane So based off of the fact that just from this passage he obviously does not understand the logic of theologians even remotely he has no place nor does he have any right to make any muses about whether God is relevant or not because he is convinced that we are a modified monkey Good for you Michael good for you, you’re a modified monkey and your philosophy shows that AaronS1978
He does not really address the fact that most naturalists don’t actually believe that the free will he assumes actually exists.
Do you have a source for that? That's contrary to every poll I've seen, and it isn't even close. "Evolution, Religion and Free Will" 78% of evolutionary scientists identified as "pure naturalists", yet only 14% said they don't believe in free will And there's this poll of philosophers. 72.8% of philosophers identified with atheism, yet only 12.2% said they don't believe in free will goodusername

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