As I always say, it’s easier to convince a diehard creationist of the truth of evolution than to convince a diehard atheist of the fact that our behaviors are determined, and that we can’t make alternative choices at a given moment.Perhaps Coyne's disbelief in free will explains his rudeness.
Yet there are some enlightened folk who not only accept determinism but deny that a version of “free will” can be confected that preserves our notion of that term while accepting determinism. ...
D. Cameron Harbord: I’m always amazed by evolutionary biologists who evidently believe that we evolved all of that expensive decision-making machinery (in the brain) for no apparent purpose. Humans have devoted large amounts of their time and energy to both individual and collective decision making for at least 10’s, and probably 100´s, of thousands of years. What would be the point of evolving to waste so much time and energy in a deterministic universe? It’s a question that I wish believers in a deterministic universe would provide a satisfactory answer to.
Jerry Coyne: What would be the point? It just happened because some genes that affected rumination and behavior left more copies than others. Not all decision making “machinery” is evolved, of course: some is learned.
With all due respect, I don’t think you have the slightest idea what you’re haranguing about, and you clearly don’t understand evolution.
I have just answered your question in a satisfactory manner.
Harbord: I believe I that I do understand evolution, as I believe that you do also. Genes for “rumination”? The point is that the amount of time and energy spent in decision-making “rumination” (and discussion and argument and investigation) has been significant for modern humans, at least since the time we were living in hunter gatherer bands. It is at least a little mysterious why would evolve to be this way, if you are correct.
But then there is no current finding in physics that establishes the hypothesis of a deterministic universe, so there is no scientific finding that rules out the existence of free will.
Thank you very much for your kind reply.
Coyne: Well. we’ve established that you really don’t understand evolution, as you can’t see any selective advantage to evolving a more complex onboard computer in a social and bipedal animal.
What we’ve also established now is that you don’t understand physics, either. You clearly haven’t read the classical physics that establishes determinism; the laws of physics themselves are evidence for a deterministic universe. That we can land rockets on a comet establishes a deterministic universe, as does the fact that we can predict solar eclipses with great accuracy: to the second.
Do you want to try to misunderstand chemistry as well?
First, the physics. Classical physics does not establish determinism. Some of the simplest classical mechanical systems are chaotic, and thus indistinguishable from a nondeterministic system.
Second, the biology. The idea that we have genes for decision-making rumination, but we are never actually able to make decisions, is a little bizarre.
When animals devote a lot of energy to some activity, then there must be some payoff in terms of more or better offspring, or else it is an evolutionary puzzle that begs for an explanation.
Coyne is excited about the new best-selling book, Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, by Robert M. Sapolsky. It is apparently a long argument that our brains are fully programmed, with no free will.
From his Stanford publicist:
For me, the single most important question is how to construct a society that is just, safe, peaceful – all those good things – when people finally accept that there is no free will.He is a leftist Jewish atheist professor, so that is were he is coming from. Macleans:
I used to be polite and say stuff like I certainly can’t prove there isn’t free will. But no, there’s none. There simply is nothing compatible with a 21st century understanding of how the physical laws of the universe work to have room for some sort of volitional little homunculus crawling around in our heads that takes advice from the biological inputs but at the end of the day goes and makes this independent decision on its own. It’s just not compatible with anything we understand about how biology works. All that free will is, is the biology we don’t understand yet.My biggest quarrel with these leftist biologists is when they try to tell us about "21st century understanding of how the physical laws of the universe work". There is no such understanding that is contrary to free will.
There is no concept more American than "free will" — the idea that we're all gifted (probably by God) with the power to choose a path of success or destruction and bear responsibility for the resulting consequences. It's the whole reason we "punish" people for committing crimes. The idea is so ubiquitous that most people have never even pondered an alternative.Free will is American? They as might as well say it is a white Christian capitalist right-wing concept.
Neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky sees things differently. He's opposed to the concept of "free will." Instead, he believes that our behavior is made up of a complex and chaotic soup of so many factors that it's downright silly to think there's a singular, autonomous "you" calling the shots. He breaks all of this down in his new book, Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst. The tome is a buffet of neurology, philosophy, politics, evolutionary science, anthropology, history, and genetics. At times, its exhaustive in the number of variables considered when looking at human behavior, but that's Sapolsky's whole point: The decisions we make are a result of "prenatal environment, genes, and hormones, whether [our] parents were authoritative or egalitarian, whether [we] witnessed violence in childhood, when [we] had breakfast..."
It is funny how non-Christian leftist academics are so opposed to both genetic determinism and to free will.
Update: Sapolsky also says that Religion is a mental illness. He also says Jesus had some mental disorders. I think that doubting free will is a mental illness.