Friday, January 18, 2013

Jerry Coyne is 100% Correct on Free Will

When the man gets it right, well, he gets it right. And this time he did.

He is correct that there is no way to rescue the common view of free will in a purely natural universe. Quantum determinacy won't help you. Chaos theory won't help you. Coyne (like Bill Provine) is refreshingly forthright here.

Suppose by free will we mean that from the a given initial state at time t0 we can steer the universe to one of two very different states at time t1 by making, freely, choice A or choice B. If that is free will then there is really only one way to explain it: by invoking the supernatural. (Or by invoking the atheistic equivalent, philosophical woo.)

We are not puppets in Calvinism. No sir. But we are puppet-slaves to differential equations in a universe without God.


  1. It's very funny that you think that you have defined "free will" by saying you are "making, freely, choice A or choice B".

    The main problem with free will is not that it doesn't exist; it's that nobody seems to be able to define it.

    1. Jeffrey,

      It is easy to define it. It is a choice not predetermined by the differential equation (or the Hamiltonian) of the universe. It is neither predictable nor, by quantum intederminacy, random.

      You can say (as Coyne does) that it does not exist, but it is easy to define.

    2. That's not the definition that most philosophers use, but it at least has the benefit of being more rigorous. And if that's your definition, then I think it is reasonable to say that it does not exist.

  2. "Free Will" is whatever God says you have when God says you have it.

  3. "Free Will" is whatever God says you have when God says you have it.

    What a deep contribution. I won't ask for your definition of "consciousness".

  4. Actually it's 'C', and we call somewhat ambiguously call it 'quantum consciousness'.

    The physical body is just a domain vehicle, and the brain an interface to its functions (~90%), and a programmable action dissector/selector (~10%), which I debate with allot.

    Although free to an extent, and certainly 'influenced' by prior events, it is NOT solely determined by those events. Or is this reply 'predetermined'?

    David's view of Calvinism is correct, but determinism is just as philosophically fatuous.

    1. Lee Bowman,

      Not even religious woo can compete with philosophical woo. Have fun with that model, and watch out for being Sokal'ed.