In his terminology, "libertarian free will" refers to the religious idea that we are able to act on our choices, and "incompatibilism" refers to his belief that scientific atheism requires believing that everything we do has been determined since the big bang. In the middle is "compatibilism", which says that determinism is compatible with our ordinary belief in free will, and hence you can believe in free will whether the laws of nature are determinist or not.
I stick to the hard science, and it has not resolved either determinism or free will, and probably never will. They are metaphysical beliefs. So I am a compatibilist, as I do not believe that they are inherently contradictory as philosophers use these terms.
In Coyne's analysis, if someone fails to reject free will, then some religious conspiracy must have bribed him into presenting that view:
The question is actually “are we free?” and, in the main, the interlocutors answer “yes.” After all, Templeton wants science to show that we still have free will, something that Dan Dennett mentioned the other day when reviewing Alfred Mele’s new book that defends free will (Dennett likes the book but suggested that Mele’s objectivity might have been compromised because his views are congenial to the source of his funding). Mele is in charge of two multimillion-dollar Templeton grants (here and here; see his response to Dennett here). One of them is the free will project touted in the ad.My guess is that Coyne is getting his funding from leftist atheist evolutionists, so I guess that explains his views. Or maybe they were pre-ordained since the big bang.
What especially bugs him is the idea that people will live more Christian lives if they know that they have the free will to make their own decisions. He has to spoil it by telling everyone that they are mindless soulless automatons descended from apes.
When Darwin famously told the Bishop of Worcester's wife about his theory of evolution, she remarked: Descended from the apes! My dear, let us hope that it is not true, but if it is, let us pray that it will not become generally known.The research does seem to show that people take more moral responsibility for their decisions if they believe that they had the free will to make those decisions.
Besides, what makes this whole argument from consequences bizarre is that research shows that most people’s conception of free will is not compatibilist, but libertarian. Yes, there’s one study showing a compatibilist belief in general, but most studies show the opposite. In my own discussions with scientists, many of them, while not explicit dualists, still believe in a libertarian free will in which there is an “I” who makes decisions at any given time, and could have decided otherwise. (I was surprised to learn that physicist Steve Weinberg, an atheist, believes this.)Back to physics here. It should not be surprising that a big shot atheist physicist believes in free will. I do not think that anyone's Nobel Prize acceptance speech said that he did nothing to deserve it except to carry out the commands that he was programmed to do.
Seriously, the law of physics are not known to be deterministic. Einstein famously complained about this in the 1930s, and the consensus was that Einstein was wrong.
The loudest argument for determinism from today's physicists comes from the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. They say that what appears to be chance is really the universe splitting into parallel universes. When all universes are taken into account, they are all determined from the big bang. Our free will is just an illusion arising from the fact that we do not care about the other universes that have no interaction with our own.
I disagree that determinism is a useless concept, and it can be tested scientifically, as in the tests of Bell’s inequality (it doesn’t hold on the quantum level). ... And there is no scientific evidence that quantum mechanics plays a role in human behavior on a macro level.He is badly confused. Tests of Bell's inequality do not show anything about determinism. They only show that certain deterministic non-quantum models are wrong. But the experiments favor quantum mechanics, so all the non-quantum models are wrong, as far as we know.
Quantum mechanics plays a role in all chemical reactions. Humans use chemical reactions in everything they do. If I decide to eat oatmeal for breakfast, we do not have a quantum mechanical description for how that decision works, but we don't have any other description either.
A difference between right-wingers and left-wingers is that left-wingers are frequently preoccupied with the motives of others. In this case, Coyne is upset that someone might defend free will out of Christian motives, or funding from a Christian organizations. You see this also in the recent American election, where many Democrats campaigned on motives while Republicans campaigned on results. I guess you see the world a lot differently if you do not believe in free will.
Update: Coyne complains again about the same Dennett article.