My so-called free will

Mind-bending article from the NYT:

“Is it an illusion? That’s the question,” said Michael Silberstein, a science philosopher at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. Another question, he added, is whether talking about this in public will fan the culture wars.

“If people freak at evolution, etc.,” he wrote in an e-mail message, “how much more will they freak if scientists and philosophers tell them they are nothing more than sophisticated meat machines, and is that conclusion now clearly warranted or is it premature?”

Daniel C. Dennett, a philosopher and cognitive scientist at Tufts University who has written extensively about free will, said that “when we consider whether free will is an illusion or reality, we are looking into an abyss. What seems to confront us is a plunge into nihilism and despair.”

Mark Hallett, a researcher with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said, “Free will does exist, but it’s a perception, not a power or a driving force. People experience free will. They have the sense they are free.

“The more you scrutinize it, the more you realize you don’t have it,” he said.

Dr. Libet found that brain signals associated with choosing actions occurred half a second before the subject was conscious of deciding to make them.

The order of brain activities seemed to be perception of motion, and then decision, rather than the other way around.

In short, the conscious brain was only playing catch-up to what the unconscious brain was already doing. The decision to act was an illusion, the monkey making up a story about what the tiger had already done.

So choice is followed by the perception of choice, not vice versa. The choice is made by the brain, after which the cognitive part of the brain perceives the act of choosing. How strange.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Matthew 25
    Jan 07, 2007 @ 12:12:00

    My head just turned 360 degrees without me thinking about it.

    Reply

  2. Absatou
    Jan 07, 2007 @ 12:57:00

    philosophers & useless scientists are so full of sh!t. You know all these people interprete everything their own way, then when there is nothing more to interprete, they just take the most obvious facts & make people believe they are not true.

    Reply

  3. Patty
    Jan 07, 2007 @ 13:51:00

    Interesting article. I do believe that our unconscious is more in contol of our actions than our conscious brains…now I want to read the whole article. Thanks Timmy!
    i love this line "much more will they freak if scientists and philosophers tell them they are nothing more than sophisticated meat machines"

    Reply

  4. Lightfoot Letters
    Feb 10, 2009 @ 09:58:00

    Very interesting post. A journey that could lead you into the light. Or, a journey that could lead you into the darkness. Dare I say the choice is yours?

    Reply

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