Free Will or Fate? Theology and Science Unite To Discuss, Debate and Tackle Humanity’s BIG Question!

Posted By on August 12, 2019

Free Will or Fate? Theology and Science Unite To Discuss, Debate and Tackle Humanity’s BIG Question! I decide as I decide I do as I do free
will sits at the center of human thought behavior morality and responsibility but
what may seem obvious may be strangely not so we find people claiming it’s
obvious that there’s no free will we find people claiming it’s obvious that
there is free well there’s no doubt about it it’s perhaps the most dramatic
irresolvable clash in the whole of philosophy we have inconsistent views
each of which is supported by overwhelming reasons it’s a mystery to
me what’s wrong with one of these arguments so I regard free will as a
complete mystery ow you believe that God knows the future
right right I do you also believe that human beings have free will I believe
that too right how do you reconcile the two well first of all I’d have to ask
why there’s a problem about that here’s the deep problem of free will on
the one hand our human sense is that our actions are fully free on the other hand
our scientific sense is that every action is determined by a prior action
what is free will do we have free will that’s the big question
free will is such a big question that the John Templeton Foundation has funded
a multi-year study with experts in science philosophy and theology the
project is called big questions in free will it has 60 participants for
conferences numerous experiments in papers all to research tests discuss and
debate free will I’m Robert Lawrence Kuhn and closer to truth follows the
project asking the big questions in free will the four-year big questions in free will
project kicks off in Tallahassee Florida on the campus of Florida State
University where participants gather to present their findings state their cases
and deliberate the implications the leader of the project professor alfred
miele invites me to the first conference and starts with this favorite analogy
for describing free will somewhere along the line i thought of a gas station
analogy for free well so at gas stations you can get regular gas you can get mid
grade gas or you can get premium the regular way of thinking about free will
is like this sufficient for having free well would be just that you’re sane and
rational nobody’s pushing you around there’s no compulsion or coercion that
would be enough when you bump up to the mid grade you need to add something to
this and what you have to add is that at the very moment you’ve made a decision
everything being the same right up until then you could have done otherwise so
that’s the mid grade conception on the third one that’s not enough for free
will either you also need to have a non-physical soul or a non-physical mind three conceptions are free we’ll each
with its own issues but why dedicate multiple years and significant resources
to explore in free will what makes free will a big question one
that explores the deep nature of reality or human existence pretty well is a big
question because humans struggle with understanding it humans have this need
to explain and to postulate something like free will helps you understand why
certain actions are unique why certain things are unpredictable why certain
things are new because somebody freely creatively did something that you didn’t
expect what happened before free will is at the heart of our
conception of ourselves and our conception of being morally responsible
agents so if people feel like they have free will they feel like they’re in
control of their laws and they feel like what they do matters and if they don’t
feel like they have free will they feel like what they do is not making an
impact on the world and that relates to our conceptions of more responsibility
and it might end up affecting the way we understand legal responsibility as well
I think of free will as a new kind of controlling and producing behavior that
was produced by evolution but that sets us apart from other creatures we have
basic desires the same as they do every animal gets hungry and when it gets
hungry it wants to eat we do that too but we might refrain from eating because
we’re on a diet or it’s a religious holiday or the food
belongs to someone else our freewill is one of the basic human traits some
people are going around saying there’s no such thing as free well it’s an
illusion blah blah blah I think people are upset by that partly because it
denies one of the basic facts of human experience how does the big questions in free will
project address the issues if the world is determined can we have for you will
is free will and illusion is free will required for moral responsibility what
happens to free will when God is involved
I’ll merely explains that the project is divided into three wings science
philosophy theology so in the science wing who are the scientists what are the
kinds of problems they’re working on well there are neuro scientists social
psychologists cognitive psychologists neuroscientists are working on roughly
what goes on in the brain when people make decisions also the sense or feeling
of causing something of being an agent as opposed to you know something
happening to you the social psychologists are studying things like
the effects of people’s beliefs about free will on their behavior and they’re
studying things like willpower in the conceptual underpinnings wing our main
questions are traditional philosophical questions like what are the necessary
conditions for free will and the theologians are dealing with questions
about divine freedom and questions about the connection between the possible
existence of God and human freedom so do you see a cross-pollination between
these three wings I do the philosophers and scientists meet together at three
conferences and there will be a lot of productive exchange of ideas I begin with the science wing for
science to explain free will it needs start with the seat of thought and
emotion the brain what does brain science say about free
will I ask owl muley for some history I’ll start with an experiment that
really got the ball rolling that’s by a neuroscientist named Benjamin Libet so
the task subjects had was to flex a wrist whenever they felt like it and
then after they flexed they would report where a spot was on a very fast clock
when they first felt the urge intention which will decision to flex and they
were hooked up to two machines so they were getting EEG readings from the scalp
and they were getting muscle motion readings with an electro Maya graph and
what he discovered is that when subjects were regularly reminded not to plan in
advance when to flex you got an EEG ramp-up that started at five hundred and
fifty milliseconds before the muscle burst and that’s about a half a second
that’s a long time in brain terms half a second oh it sure is now the average
time of first reported awareness of this mental event the decision or intention
or whatever was 206 milliseconds before the muscle about a fifth of a second
that’s right so there’s a lag between the EEG ramped
up and this reported time of first which seems to indicate that the brain without
our conscious knowledge is already planning and then I’m suddenly aware of
it as if my consciousness my so-called free will is sort of a froth it’s just
kind of riding along but has no impact on really what’s a that’s exactly right
so his thought is the brain is making these decisions about a third of a
second before you become aware of them so it’s making them unconsciously
freewill has to be a conscious process so free wills not involved many scientists concluded that the lipid
experiment abolished free will but EEG readings on the scalp are weak
it’s difficult to get precise measurements insulated from the brain
one neuroscientist and the big questions at free will project
Christof Koch is working to improve libbets experiment by recording directly
on the brain and by examining decisions that have consequences christophe your
experiment involves real-time work with patients who have electrodes implanted
for medical reasons what is the basic science the basic neurobiology behind
the experiment or experiment a basic variant of a famous experiment by
Benjamin Libet we’re trying to understand in your own on mechanism that
underlie voluntary decision that traditionally people would say involves
freewill and we know from from previous experiments there are several components
to this one component relates to this feeling that psychologists now called
authorship or agency lift my right hand and I have a feeling that I not you not
my parents or my friends were responsible for me lifting this hand we
know there’s a specific locus in the brain that generates this the in this
conscious sensation we would like to separate that out from the neural
mechanism that actually give rise to what I personally feel is this voluntary
action what are the actual mechanism within the the decision first taken and
what part of the brain involved in what sequence so finally I lift my right hand
and more interesting from a practical perspective can I predict this ahead of
time can I maybe read off your brain signal so I can know one second ahead of
time are you going to move the right hand are you going to move the lesson
the other thing we’re interested in is choices that involve deliberations
because that also brings in moral judgment should I be doing this this is
a wise idea am I gonna hurt somebody etc and so
there we were devising a slightly different paradigm where we where we
play a simple game where the patient is free to move one or the other hand at
some command we live both of our hands however if you lift the same hand as I
do then you win $1 and if we do this yeah you see here then I win $1 and once
again this is closer to the real decision that we care
about because it has consequences then you deliver it rather than decide
doesn’t matter I pick this or this they’re exactly identical I can take out
both I have to take one Christophe sends me to cedars-sinai Medical Center in
West Los Angeles I’ll have a ringside seat watching the brain make real-world
decisions a patient has graciously allowed me to observe as she undergoes
brain surgery for epilepsy and then afterwards as she participates in
experiments of decision-making and free will I meet the neurosurgeon dr. Adam
Mammal arc we do an operation a craniotomy where we open the skull and
put a sheet of electrodes on the surface of the brain it covers the area that we
think is involved plus the periphery around it dr. Malik introduces his
patient every week of her life since she was a baby
audrey has endured multiple epileptic seizures now she can be cured we’ll be
able to record their seizures but we’ll also be able to map the different areas
of brain function okay and we can also do other tests to really try to
understand not specifically how your brain works but how the brain works in
general okay and one of the questions that we’re very interested in studying
is how do you make conscious decisions it’s a remarkable procedure by charting
Audrey’s brainwaves neurosurgeons create a fine-grained map of her brain enabling
them to locate and remove the lesion that causes her seizures at the same
time neuroscientists can examine brain activity during decision-making seeking
brain based facts about free will a week later at Caltech Kristoff’s
partner neuroscientist hurry mouse shows me the results basically the patient and
I are playing a simple version of rock scissors paper that that children play
if I raise the mirror image of what you raised and let’s say I win okay and if
we raise the same hand so if you raise your right hand I raise the right hand
and then then you win we start with $5 and every time she wins I give her ten
cents so I lose ten cents and she gains ten cents and if she loses it’s the
other way around and if she doesn’t react quickly enough because the idea of
course you can always just wait to see otherwise doing
we just deduct ten cents so it’s it becomes competitive we play for about 50
rounds what we are interested in is finding the difference between
preparatory activity towards moving the left hand versus moving the right hand
should be able to predict which hand you will raise before the go signal telling
you to raise your hand is even there so we have this grid here which is much
closer to the source of the signal then you would have if it was EEG and it’s
sitting here and there’s Nora’s that the tissue and the skull and everything that
the attenuation of the signal and you know know where it’s coming from
so here were much closer to the signal so the squid is in her head here and
from this grid we see these wires coming out from here it goes into these panels
here and from there there’s a wire that goes to a system that records and does
some analysis and from that system through another wire that you kind of
maybe see here goes into this machine and I get a beep either on the right ear
or on the left ear which tells me to raise my right hand or my left hand in
order to beat the patient and this is half a second before the go signal so I
know what I need to move and I just wait half a second for the go signal and move
it okay let’s let’s let’s see what really happened okay
this is counting down five four three two one and then go go go and we raised
our hands so if I win my side of the response box lights up and blue and if
she wins her side of the response box lights in red five four three two one go
and this time I win and then we try it again and so this goes on like that for
about 50 trials here’s a screen behind Audrey she can’t see it and the screen
shows an arrow which hand she’s going to raise according to the real-time system
she’s about to raise her right hand and it was it was just that the outcomes are
like in just a fraction of a second before she was right at for the go
signal right so this time she did raise the hand that the arrow was pointing at
and again it was correct she raised to hand the arrow was pointing at so we
were able to beat her and we played three times we I was able to win with
relatively large margin two of those three times and she was competitive
about it it had meaning yeah that was the important thing for us okay so what
are the implications for free will here well if I can predict what you’re doing
when you’re when your decision is making a difference it might be stronger
evidence that these unconscious processes are affecting also these types
of decisions that are more important for more responsibility and implications of
what you’re saying though is that if you are able to predict this to the degree
of accuracy that you can our brain is making our decisions and we’re not it
does give us some philosophical pause about what freewill is so orient Kristoff replicate libbets
experiment with more precision literally on the brain and the results are similar
Ori can predict what Audrey is going to do even before Audrey herself is aware
of our own inner decision to do it does this suggest that free will is an
illusion that our conscious decision to act does not cause us to act but can
science really explain free will I asked philosopher Jean Ann Ismael who focuses
on science at its most fundamental level physics if physics is the most
fundamental science then everything that there is in the world including
ourselves and including free will if there is free will ultimately has to be
at least implicitly included in the description of the world that’s given us
by physics so from that point of view everything else that’s described by the
special Sciences including neuroscience social psychology ordinary psychology
that’s all ultimately a more coarse-grained description of what’s
described completely and precisely and at the most fine-grained level in
physics so the goal of physics is ultimately to at least implicitly
encompass all of what there is including all the you know phenomenal feel that is
the way listening to a symphony feels to you it’s a matter of great controversy
and it’s an unsettled question whether physics ever will be able to resolve
that goal I think right now it’s not the case in my view that we have any
knock-down arguments that that’s not possible but even if physics could explain
everything would that make free will and illusion
free will and illusion it just doesn’t seem right it seems more a philosophical
question soak and philosophy help I ask ow mealy to explain the philosophy of
free will we have to start with this notion of determinism and determinism is
the idea that a complete description of the condition of the universe at any
point in time together was a complete list of all the laws of nature would
entail all other truths about the universe including all truths about
everything you’ll ever do that’s determinism some philosophers say well
you can’t have free well in that case because you could never have done
otherwise than you did well suppose determinism isn’t true then what do you
have now well they say randomness at the point of decision and so that’s that
free will either that’s what they say either way then there’s no free will but
still people feel as though they’re free and so the claim is well that feeling is
an illusion so there are philosophers called compatible lists and compatible
say that even if determinism is true people can act freely what compatibles
think is that what you need is to be responsive to reasons in a certain way
so that if the reasons had been different you would or might have acted
differently even though there was no possibility that the reasons were
different based on the universe that we live in that’s right the other way to go
is to say no you’re right freewill does require that determinism
be false but the falsity of determinism doesn’t just put you at the mercy of
chance or randomness or luck you’re still enough in control of what you do
to act freely that kind of response is called a libertarian response so the pro
freewill views them divided into those two camps my own view
is this either compatibilism is true or libertarianism is true that either/or
proposition is more credible than the opposing proposition which is no free
will either way free will is an illusion philosophers propose these two basic
mechanisms to explain free will compatibilism and libertarianism but
they differ dramatically in characterizing free will both counter
the claim made largely by scientists that free will is an illusion al
concludes that free will is not an illusion that either compatibilism or
libertarianism is correct but as for which is correct he is not prepared to
decide of the two philosophical positions
compatibilism seems the more perplexing if the Turman ism is true every event
caused by a prior event how could we ever act freely i asked peter van
inwagen an authority on the philosophy of freewill need to find compatible isms
perplexing in the history of the problem of free will there has been a long
tradition of philosophers sandwich you can have both you could have freewill in
a world that was completely deterministic and I remember the first
time this view was pointed out to me and I said but wait a minute I said if my if
my actions are the inevitable causal consequence of the past I don’t have any
choice about what I went out in the past and I don’t have any choice about what
evolved out of it according to the laws of nature I can’t work miracles I can’t
change the laws of nature so I don’t think that’s right I don’t think I can
do this other thing but this was only one side of the problem pretty well
because simply to show that freewill is incompatible with determinism is well
let’s really to pose the problem in a much more in a much more pressing form
because there are also good arguments to show that freewill is incompatible with
in determinism if you knew that it was just a matter of in deterministic chance
which which thing you would do at a certain point in time you wouldn’t be
able to promise to do one of the other you would just have to wait and see what
would happen so I have tried to work on this problem to put all this together to
find the place where that allows both free will and moral responsibility in
the world that’s certainly either deterministic or in deterministic for
more than 40 years now and I confess myself just baffled by this problem it
is too difficult for me Peter can argue that free will is not
compatible with determinism and not compatible with in determinism and
because these are the only possibilities then free will would be impossible or
nonsensical to Peter neither compatibilism nor libertarianism
at least in their present formulations can account for free will but in no way
does he think that free will is an illusion perhaps the confusion comes at a more
basic level perhaps we should refine the basic terms free and will I asked
philosopher Walter Senate Armstrong I take free to mean there’s no barrier of
the relevant sort and where we’re talking about freedom in the in the
context of free will and free action we’re talking mainly about physical
barriers or psychological barriers to doing the things that you want to do and
to say that you’re free to do it is then to say there are no relevant physical or
psychological barriers to you doing the thing you want to do so the classic
critical question is to say could you have done something otherwise right but
notice the word could doesn’t really help people seem to think it’s clear
what counts as could and what counts is could not but you might say oh can you
come in the movie with me tonight no I can’t come I’ve got to work well it’s
not that it’s physically impossible it’s that it would be too costly for me
because I need to get this work done so even the word could has this relevant it
to say you can do something is again to say there’s no relevant barrier or
constraint is relevant there because in any circumstance you have to determine
what’s the relevant barrier that defines freedom right and that’s going to depend
on what your interest is right if your interest is whether or not to hold
someone responsible for example then certain kinds of barriers are going to
be deemed relevant it might be relevant that the person is delusional doesn’t
know what they’re doing it might be relevant that they are locked into their
room that’s why they couldn’t leave him and get to work and
whereas the fact that it’s caused in a certain way in your brain I think would
not be relevant if the context is about whether to hold the person morally
responsible because after all our desires are lodged in our brains there
are patterns in our brains that lead us to do the things that we move and so to
say that the wiring of my brain is what cause me to do it is just another way of
describing the same situation as I’m doing it because I want to do it so once
we get clear about what we mean by freedom then we can ask our wills really
free in that sense that we care about but no matter definitions of freedom
science claims that because the feeling of making a choice comes after brain
activity correlated with that choice freewill is not what it seems and may
indeed be an illusion I asked philosopher Eddie na meais who thinks
that when it comes to freewill distinctions between science and
philosophy aren’t so clear well to start with I think the brain scientists do use
philosophical arguments they might not always realize it but they’re using
arguments by suggesting that a particular definition of freewill is the
right one and then trying to show that their data undermines that they’re all
looking at what happens right before you typically do something rather
unimportant like deciding or picking whether to choose your you know push a
right button or a left button but what they haven’t shown is that when you’re
doing something important or making a decision about what college we’re gonna
go to or who you’re gonna marry or whether you’re gonna have children that
the sort of planning and conscious thinking you do there doesn’t get a hold
on your actions downstream but is that not just a different in degree as
opposed to a difference in kind couldn’t the same argument hold that every piece
of that there’s something in the brain going on before we’re conscious of it
right and and I think that’s the sort of philosophical argument that comes into
play because they’re assuming that this shows sort of a universal determinism
causation before we’re aware of what we’re doing but
the key is to recognize that just because something is caused doesn’t mean
that it’s not a cause so even if there’s earlier stuff happening in the brain
that might cause the brain activity that’s involved in my conscious planning
that doesn’t mean that my conscious planning doesn’t play a causal role and
what I do here’s the crucial part we have no idea how that works so
consciousness is still a mystery in the sense that we don’t have a good
theory of how to explain how the conscious mental processes are related
to the neural processes the illusion here to turn it around is that the
conscious states do do something once we recognize the connection you’re saying
freewill is not an illusion no if consciousness were actually cut out of
the picture then it would be an illusion but I don’t think any of the evidence
has suggested that yet well one team of scientists claims that
they may have such evidence at least evidence that a feeling of agency
personal authorship or conscious awareness is not required for
decision-making the team has found a clever way to eliminate agency or
conscious awareness in the decision process I asked one team member Talia
Wheatley a social scientist at Dartmouth to explain now you have a research
project part of this big questions in freewill project that is going to use
hypnosis that’s right how’s that could work well hypnosis is
an excellent tool that is just really coming into its own and cognitive
neuroscience I think for a long time it’s got this sort of checkered history
of being part of the stage circus act black magic and so science wasn’t going
to touch it with a ten-foot pole and then with the advent of neuroimaging we
started to see oh this is a real thing it’s an altered state of consciousness
it’s something that’s happening in the brain that we can study scientifically
and utilize exploit because what is great about hypnosis is that you can
hypnotize someone to do a behavior that would just unfold as it would normally
but they lack agency for that behaviors they’re creating it but they don’t have
the feeling of authorship of that action and we’re really interested in what’s
that authorship feeling doing if anything which is free well which is
very well so the basic idea with what we want to do is use hypnosis to take away
this conscious awareness that you’re about to move and see do you still move
if you’re if you don’t know you’re about to do it and does the neural activity
look the same if nothing changes then it suggests that becoming aware that you’re
about to move isn’t really instrumental to your movement if we show the opposite
that it just changed things we don’t really get the movement or the neural
activity looks completely different then it is doing something and we need to
take that into account and maybe I need to revise my strong stance that free
will is an illusion yeah maybe yeah Talia takes me to watch our experiment I
want you to just relax as much as possible get yourself in a comfortable
position take a few deep breaths once the subject is hypnotized Tolley
instructs her to perform actions actions that will be triggered after she wakes
up but without the conscious feeling that she is willing those actions
herself a little later you will watch some video clips each video clip will
have a red arrow next to it if the red arrow is on the right side of the video
you will squeeze the ball in your right hand she will watch a screen and squeeze
a ball when she sees an arrow she will assume that this is an involuntary
action when in fact it was implanted by the hypnosis you’ll remember nothing of
what has happened until I say to you now you can remember everything three-two-one wide awake alright let
yourself wake up so it was the last thing you remember before you woke up
sitting in the chair and yeah nothing else besides that let’s go do the
experiment Hey now as in the limit experiment the
subject is fitted with electrodes on her scalp and arms to measure electrical
impulses in her brain and muscle movements in her arms but this time the
subject is told that the electrodes on her arms will stimulate her muscles so
she will believe that her arm movements which are really triggered by hypnotic
suggestion are not voluntary not affected by her conscious thoughts
they’re gonna be just viewing some short nature videos they’ll be about 20
seconds each and none will be a little pause Talia’s research assistant shows
me the real-time results show in each video clip of 20 seconds there would be
one one squeak so see she just squeezed with her left
arm so that’s what a squeeze of the stress ball that’s what we want to see so there she just moved to write our
health and so that’s the muscle potential phone her right arm so what
we’ll be looking at is the data proceeding leading up right to that
squeeze later Thalia brings the subject out of hypnosis now you can remember
everything now you can remember everything
then they reattach the electrodes and ask the subject to contract our arm
muscles voluntarily to see if there is any difference when conscious decision
making enters the process after the experiment I meet with Thalia and her
partner in the project neuroscientists Peter see to discuss and debate the
results so this is Kaley that’s Kaylee’s data are we looking at well zero is when
she made a squeeze right and the red line is when she made a squeeze based on
due to the post open otic suggestion and the blue line is when she made a squeeze
because she decided consciously to do so and you can see that the lines are
largely overlapping and so what’s the significance of that well it shows that
motor action and the accompanying redness nerdiness potentials aren’t
don’t require the sort of feeling of authorship of agency of your action they
unfold naturally with or without it and how does that comport with each of your
views of the nature of free will I think that it’s a problem for the sense that
we have though at any moment we could decide to do otherwise that this
conscious feeling of being sort of free agents making decisions this is I think
a problem for that view okay you disagree with that I think well I mean I
think that I don’t think what we have you know proven that consciousness plays
no role we’ve shown that consciousness is not necessary for making a volitional
or endogenous motor act but that is not where free will lies it lies in this
totally different domain where you’re trying to decide who to marry
you’re trying to decide whether to learn Spanish or although the question is why
do we have a feeling I I agree with you that this is relatively meaningless but
we still have a sense of when we decided to do it why do we have it for something
to be causal it has to be indicative of the future a future event the and
something going on now causes something in the future but these kinds of
judgments that we’re talking about that I did it or about what just happened I
have to decided to do it yes but these are a retrospective they’re due to a
comparison of what’s intended or planned and what is actually being executed
heylia’s and IO we’ve had these debates for seven years now ever since she came
to Dartmouth you’ve been duking it out I think actually we agree we don’t agree
on the definition of the term free will that’s where the disagreement what does
free will mean I think it means that I could choose otherwise in the moment
right and I think it means you can choose otherwise in the future the
system can make choices now that will have an influence on what will happen in
the future but is that a fundamental difference yes it’s a different sign of
kind not just degree what do you think I think that I mean the jury’s out we just
we just don’t know I don’t think that there’s a different kind of neural
causality at that that plays out the fact that we found an example where
consciousness appears not to play a role in subsequent acts doesn’t mean the
consciousness does not play a role in all subsequent acts no granted but it
does just demonstrate it here sure tahleen Peter agree that conscious
awareness does not affect simple actions like squeezing a ball but they disagree
on whether that feeling of agency can affect more complex decisions like whom
to marry both make their case using the same hypnosis data to support their
divergent views both concur that the brain activity prior to the apparently
free will decision was the same under hypnosis with no conscious awareness as
it was without hypnosis with full conscious awareness in Talia’s view
conscious awareness is not needed for so-called freewill decisions in Peters
view freewill does not reside in these simple decisions we can choose otherwise
but not in the present in the future free will is not getting any simpler I
ask about the implications so it has to be the case that you know neural
activity generates later neural activity so there’s only neurons in our brain
there’s not magical you know elves or anything so I don’t disagree that
there’s neuronal causation that doesn’t mean that there’s no role for
consciousness and freely willing because there could be this other role for
example that you have to play scenarios out internally and play options out and
evaluate them and then select among them I don’t think that the lipid task is
getting at that what we need to do is focus on where the action is which is in
working memory and deliberative processing Peter thinks freewill lies in
meaningful deliberation in planning evaluating and choosing future actions
his theory gives conscious awareness essential role in future-oriented
decision-making even if his experiment showed that it
has no role in the moment of meaningless action if conscious awareness does play
a role in free will how would it work I asked Tim Bain a philosopher of mind who
focuses on consciousness role in volition and how it may connect to free
will consciousness is important and necessary
for certain types of action for certain types of functions so patients who are
in a vegetative state can do very little and a recent work using an fMRI study
functional magnetic resonance imaging study asked a patient to engage in some
voluntary imagery they asked this vegetative state patient to imagine
walking around her house for 30 seconds and then asked her to imagine playing
tennis for 30 seconds and we know that these types of imagery because they
involve different types of behavior different contents trigger different
types of the brain and they looked at her brain patterns over the 30 seconds
and it looked like she was following these commands and the authors of the
study concluded that she was conscious even though she hadn’t engaged in any
outward behavioral manifestations of consciousness the reason why they took
the neural activation to be evidence of consciousness in his patient was that
they took the neural activation to be evidence of agency voluntary agency so
that’s a manifestation of the link that many people find very plausible between
certain times of action intentional action voluntary action and
consciousness so that’s the nexus between consciousness and free will
exactly because you need the consciousness to have the volition to
that in a nutshell is the idea although Tim Link’s consciousness to
free will one neuroscientists and the big
questions in free will project is sure that our feeling of free will is an
illusion – Patrick Haggard the debate is settled
that’s why I go to London to see him I think in some strong sense free will is
an illusion in neuroscience we have a real problem with the idea that a
conscious event which is somehow independent of the brain which is
occurring only in the mind but not in the brain can somehow trigger the brain
activity which then triggers the movement of my arm from the neuro
scientific point of view there is no conscious mind independent of the brain
so the the way that we think about free will and ever everyday lies in which
Descartes summarized for us is that our conscious thoughts cause our actions but
really this is not neuro scientifically possible so no neuro scientists are
really surprised by the result of deliberate experiment because
consciousness has got to be a product of our brain activity because Patrick
already thinks free will is an illusion he uses the Liberty contain makes
decisions so during the whole yellow period of that rotating circle you need
to be preparing the intention to press that key and you actually press it just
when the yellow circle turns green and we’re going to be trying to see
whether we can spot anything in your brainwaves corresponding to those
intentions great and then we’re just gonna leave you to get on with it and
we’ll be back in about five minutes is that Alright yeah
thanks very much so go for it here we go so now that we’ve found out how to
measure the code in the brain for the action that you are about to make we’ve
been playing in the second part of the project with looking at the dynamics of
that code how flexible it is and in particular how quickly it can change
I’ve been interested in the strength of individual decisions so if I choose to
do something can I do it really strongly or kind of just decide to do it do
decisions come by degrees or are they a simple binary yes/no kind of thing
Jennifer how was that okay good now we’re going to ask you to develop an
intention to go left or there right and then suddenly switch it to go right or
to go left so we’re going to give you the arrow in the center of the circle
right at start which explains the intention we want you to have and then
as the yellow circle rotates on the screen it’ll give a little very brief
green flash and that’s our signal to you that you have to switch your intention
to make the other action think left switch
good think right
switch good Patrick shows me the results of his
experiment first the baseline condition in which he asked his subject to
maintain a single intention to go left or right
in green we can see the individual trials for the trials where the person
is going to press with their right hand when the circle ends and in red where
they’re going to press with their left so in the second condition we were
asking her to switch from a left intention to a right intentional from a
right intention to a left intention so what we shown here is a clear change in
the position of the green and red trace on the y-axis at the point where the
circle gave a little flash telling her to switch what we can see is when she’s
was originally intending to press with her right hand and was asked to switch
then this trace goes down and we can see it crosses over the trace that
corresponds to intending to press to the left hand and switching to the right
we’re trying to work out not only when intentions develop but how they evolve
over time and in particularly how how rapidly they can be switched because
it’s very common that you develop an intention and then you might change your
mind perhaps you change your mind at the last
moment and actually perhaps that’s really useful so it might well be that
one feels like punching somebody in the face yeah that’s not very good but
what’s really bad is you if you actually do it here so the ability to change an
intention or switch an intention or suspended is probably extremely
important in terms of self-control and in the long run I think there’s a very
strong relation between the neuroscience of free will and the way that we control
our behaviors as social animals Patrick raises a real-world issue the social
impact of how we characterize decision making our justice system of crime and
punishment is based on how we make decisions
if we are to be held responsible for an action shouldn’t it have been chosen
freely so is freewill necessary for moral responsibility this is another big
question that the project explores I begin with al mealy the dominant view in
philosophy is that free will is a necessary condition for moral
responsibility so that a person who has no free will is not morally responsible
for anything there are ways to try to separate the two pull them apart you can
think about them as different views about places to put the bars on one view
of free will all you need to have it is to be sane rational no gun to your head
have good information and make decisions on the basis of the good information you
have so that’s it’s a relatively low bar for free will and you might think well
that’s a good bar for moral responsibility too but then you might
think oh yeah but those conditions I gave you and suggested that they were
sufficient for free will are consistent with determinism and you might think but
free will requires that determinism be false so then you might raise the bar
for free will over there but you might think but the bar for moral
responsibility doesn’t have to be raised up to there that can stay down here then
you have a view according to which moral responsibility doesn’t require freewill
another school of thought is know how free well really is required for moral
responsibility and if you think the bar for moral responsibility should be where
we said it you know relatively low that’s where you need to bring the bar
for free will so you know it’s a really subtle and interesting set of issues to
Al free will and moral responsibility can be teased apart making the problem
more complex but free will and moral responsibility
do not exist in isolation social and cultural factors are involved I turn to
Roy Baumeister a leading social psychologist at Florida State who ties
the evolution of free will to the need for moral responsibility reversing the
traditional cause-and-effect the idea of free will is that the person could act
differently a moral judgment is essentially a judgment about should that
person have acted differently the same with a legal judgment that should the
person have done something else rather than rob the liquor store so the
judgment that the person should act differently is based on the assumption
that the person could act differently so tomorrow we’re thinking and this at
least in this very simple sense of free will that is essential to moral
responsibility now the argument goes the other way too why did we evolve free
will why we develop that capacity the ability to act morally is one of the
crucial things that makes us human that enables us to function well one of the
most basic norms is reciprocity all other cultures do if you do something to
me I should do it back to you that’s a kind of moral idea um but to control our
behavior by it and actually pay someone back for it for having for something
they’ve done for us that that requires a sense of moral responsibility requires
that higher mentality so developing this better sense of moral responsibility was
crucial for our developing of of culture and goes with this new way of
controlling our behaviors that you know I think goes by the name free will some
people object to the term free will and you know then it goes by what is
mistaken for free will if indeed free will and moral
responsibilities developed through evolution science should tell us more
about them I ask Adina Russkies a neuroscientist and a philosopher who
studies have brain imaging impacts philosophical questions the first big
breakthrough in a sense was putting people in the scanner and having them
make moral judgments and looking at this really complicated activity and being
able to see what parts of the brain are active when people make certain kinds of
moral judgments for one thing we can see that when people make judgments that
doing harm is bad for instance that there are parts of the brain that are
usually involved in emotional reactions that are active and it suggests that
moral thinking at least as normal people do it is not a purely rational process
okay if you’ve now shown that emotions which we don’t have conscious control
over can’t affect decision-making does that degrade the level of free will
and moral decisions there’s no reason to think that we have to have control over
every aspect of our decision-making in order to freely choose and we know we
don’t have control over all kinds of things we don’t have control over our
genetics we don’t have control over our upbringing we don’t have a lot of
control over our environment and so the fact that there are parts of our brain
that we don’t have control over also doesn’t seem to make it impossible to
have free will so I think there’s a lot about freewill that has to do with these
higher-level executive processes and our ability to control our own reactions and
ultimately what we’re interested in is what are our actions not what our
judgments are our thoughts do you ever envision a time where brain scans can be
used in some legal forensic approach to whether a person was fully responsible
for their actions in a freewheel sense my prediction is it’s not that far off
but no matter what the images say you still have to make some kind of
normative decision that isn’t going to come out of the images alone about
what’s our standard for responsible behavior when is somebody so so impaired
that they can’t be held responsible so that decision doesn’t go away just
because we have more fine-grain ways of looking at the brain Talia Wheatley also studies what happens
in the brain when we make moral decisions for her the key lies in
distinguishing diverse meanings of the word morality I think we first have to
define our terms because free will mean lots of different things but morality
also it’s we’re just using one word there but it’s not clear that it’s one
unified thing for example you can think that it would be immoral to eat your dog
or you can get some moral to cheat on your taxes and it’s not clear that those
are really the same kind of judgment you make how can you determine is it in fact
one sense of morality that’s just expressed in two ways or two radically
different kinds of things that we’re constructing well one experiment we’ve
done to help answer that question is to write scenarios that are either
disgusting or harmful or dishonest so you’ve got disgusting scenarios but
they’re not harmful they’re not dishonest and you’ve got harmful ones
that are not disgusting or dishonest and dishonest was not harmful or disgusting
even cleanly separate these types of moral judgment can you give me some
examples without being too offensive to me okay disgusting
man is walking through the woods and he comes across a dead deer and he decides
to have sex with the deer he uses a condom there’s no harm involved there’s
no consent issues it is disgusting it is disgusting but it’s not harmful and it’s
not dishonest right that’s just purely just very disgusting right then there’s
the case of harm so for example two people are walking upstairs and one says
something to make fun of the other person and the other person hits them
back really hard and they tumble back on the stairs it’s harmful but it’s not
dishonest or disgusting okay and then there’s cases where there’s dishonesty
for example the bank makes an arab puts a little more money in your checking
account than what you really should get from your salary you don’t tell the bank
that’s dishonest it’s not disgusting it’s not harmful okay so you’ve got
these cleanly separated and then we see what happens in the brain when you’re
processing these kinds of transgressions and what are you find we find that very
different systems are used for each of these different kinds of transgressions
so there doesn’t seem to be a moral center a moral module in the brain in
any kind of monolithic sense there seems you seem to recruit different kinds of
reasoning areas to understand these different things and we can’t really
answer the question of what the relationship is between freewill and
morality until we really understand what we’re dealing with morality what does
morality mean and because I don’t really believe in a conscious freewill
it makes questions our moral responsibility but if he for me to say so if morality is a composite of diverse
meanings as is freewill then figuring out how freewill affects moral
responsibility gets tougher still and a free will itself is an illusion as
Thalia suggests how then moral responsibility for Walter Senate
Armstrong the term responsibility is equally crucial what do we mean when we
say someone is responsible how do we decide what are the theories so to say
that someone’s responsible is to say that they are the kind of creature who
is appropriately subject to some kind of negative sanction or punishment then
there gonna be a lot of different theories about when people are
responsible in that sense they’re mesh theories where the question is whether
your desires fit together in the right way so an addict who can’t control
whether or not they take drugs well they’re still going to be responsible if
they’re happy being an addict but they’re not going to be responsible if
they wish they could quit and they’ve tried and they and they
failed the main competing theory in philosophy these days is the reasons
responsiveness theory that you’re responsible when you’re able to respond
two reasons first you can detect when you have a reason to do something or not
to do it and then you act accordingly if you have a reason to do it you do it if
you have a reason not to do it you don’t do it but I actually hold a theory that
I think in a way captures both of the truths behind those approaches it’s
called the deep self theory and the idea is that you’re responsible for actions
when those actions issue from you one might say that the fact that your
desires mesh in the right way shows that it’s part of your deep self might say
that the the fact that you’re responding to the relevant reasons shows that as
part of your deep self there was an individual who lived in Virginia in the
year 2000 and here’s perfectly normal and started to collect pornography all
of a sudden and by the summer he was collecting child pornography and in
September of that year he molested his stepdaughter they
convicted him of child molestation and by October he was losing coordination
and he was soliciting staff in the sex treatment program that he had been
committed to all of a sudden they have to kick him out of this program send him
to jail right before he’s sentenced they do an MRI and sure enough he’s got a big
right orbital frontal tumor which they take out and when they take it out he’s
fine no more desire to have sex with kids but then ten months later tumor
grows back now he’s got that desire back again they take it out again then it’s
gone again it it looks for all the evidence that we’ve got like the tumor
is causing this behavior not him and what’s making him do these things is
something outside himself and that’s I think the basic intuition behind saying
he’s not really morally responsible so the burden is going to be where do you
draw the line between tomber case and the normal person to be
able to say these people are responsible and those people are not responsible and
my answer that question is there gonna be degrees of responsibility part of the
problem is that the law often wants to say this person’s guilty we’re gonna
send him to prison or they’re not guilty and we’re gonna let them out that forces
a dichotomy in a situation that really is essentially a continuum responsibility judgment guilt punishment
the chain of causation begins with responsibility which depends on our
beliefs about free will so could our beliefs about free will determine how we
exercise it this is a question for social psychologists several are
participating in the big questions in free will project I asked al Miele to
describe their work and its relevance al it’s been a year since the projects
and the big questions of free will project have been going on and many of
the science projects are in the social psychology of free will what is that
what kind of progress have we seen are you satisfied
oh I’m really happy with the results so far so they’re studying a variety of
things in social psychology of freewill so the effects of people’s beliefs about
free will on their behavior is one another one is how people think about
free will what they take it to be one thing they test is the effect of lowered
confidence that you have free will on your behavior and one way to induce
lower confidence is you make these fake newspaper stories where you have fake
scientists saying there’s no free will and they had people read that and then
they had a task in which they could cheat those people the people who read
the no free will article cheated significantly more often than the
control group who read just a neutral thing why do people behave
earth when they read that there’s no free will when their confidence goes
down well it could be simple like they’re thinking hey I don’t have free
will you can’t blame me I might as well go ahead and cheat and steal and and
behave aggressively another possible explanation is that people’s motivation
just to do things in general sort of goes down so if they have these urges
they don’t have much motivation to combat them you know it’s sort of it has
sort of a depressing effect let’s say the news that you have no free will
Roy Baumeister is doing some really interesting work on self-control which
is related to free will if you have no self-control at all then you’re just
gonna act on your strongest urge and you don’t seem freeze you more at the mercy
of your urges self-control seems a novel approach to free will can our capacity
for self-control affect the degree of our free will I should learn more by
asking about Roy’s work my goal as a research psychologist is to figure out
what happens inside the mind and so forth that produces the behavior I got
in studying free will by virtue of my research on self-control self-control is
difficult so it depletes some energy and after that you’re not as good at
self-control until you you were punished when we found that the same energy is
also used for decision-making and initiative and I said okay well this is
bigger than self-control that’s when we started talking about free will Roy is
conducting two kinds of experiments on freewill the first examines beliefs
about freewill and how they can change Robert this is Michael Ann teaser for
the experiment yes this was all his idea he came up with the idea that we could
manipulate people’s beliefs about free will by manipulating their bodies States
okay so there’s two conditions participants in one condition they
demonstrate a voluntary response so they bounce the ball in one hand and catch it
in the other they get the feeling of deliberately
consciously controlling their bodies and that should increase their belief in
free will because it’d be calls attention to how they mentally control
about their actions then participants in the other condition
they have their involuntary reflex is triggered
so I blow a puff of air into their eyes and then I shine a light – you know
stimulate their pupillary reflexes it’s not something you use freewill for it’s
an automatic response that should kind of cue you into the idea that your body
works like a robot and that you don’t have free will okay so now I’m just
gonna have you complete this questionnaire about your beliefs and
attitudes Royce theory proves to be correct subjects who perform voluntary
action to report a stronger belief in free will while subjects whose
involuntary reflexes were triggered report a weaker belief the important
idea here is that beliefs about free will are flexible or malleable subject
to cues even coming inside ourselves and perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that
the philosophers have been debating this for four centuries haven’t reached a
decision yet because even each person’s own beliefs might change so you know
what we might think of as a medical physical opinion and this very abstract
way is in fact something that’s influenced by cues coming from inside
our bodies and it can go up or down next Roy investigates the individual
psychology of free will asking whether our capacity to exercise free will can
change in Roy’s theory making freewill decisions takes energy and since bodily
energy is finite the more decisions we make the less free will we have Roy and
his assistant show me the experiment first we have people make a variety of
decisions this first task is a is a choice task so there’s a variety of
products on the screen and I’ll ask you to make choices between the two products
one on each side and then we bring them over to the ice bath and we put their
hand in the ice water and see how long they can take it but
how long they wait until they can actually feel pain and then also how
long they can last total when you feel pain at first say now and when you can’t
fare the pain any longer remove your hand and say stop all right to determine how prior choices
affects subjects willpower Roy repeats this experiment but with one crucial
difference subjects view the same products but now do not choose between
them this is the control people in the control condition tend to last about a
minute on average and after making choices they only last about 45 seconds
that’s a big difference if you think about it it is so willpower is like a
kind of muscle exhausted by repetition the more we use it the harder to
continue to use it yes this means that freewill has biological constraints is
this a new kind of freewill philosophers have been debating for centuries yes or
no do people have free will or not we should stop trying to give a yes or no
answer to it people say free will and instead say how hard is it or how much
does it take for this person to exert free action what are the things that
will make free action easier what are the things that will impede free action
for Roy psychology shows the working complexity of free will how we view it
how we exercise it and what our capacity is for free action how do these
complexities come about how do they develop over time
how does free will develop in childhood I ask developmental psychologist Alison
Gopnik who studies freewill in children there are many many many different
elements to our concept about something as complex as freewill and as an adult
all of them are sort of lumped together but if you’re a developmentalist what
you realize is that when you look at children some pieces of an idea like
free will seem to be in place really early and other pieces only develop much
later and only develop as a result of particular kinds of experiences or
influences what we’ve discovered is that some concepts of free will the basic
concept of choice the basic concept of agency rather surprisingly seem to be
there even in very very young children even in infants the concept that you can
act freely if you’re not externally constrained seems to be there in a ver
full form by the time children are about four but other ideas like the idea that
you could act against your own desires don’t seem to be in place until later so
if you ask a four-year-old here’s a cookie in this cookie is delicious and
you really want the cookie can you simply decide not to take the cookie
before you’re out say no they understand the words they understand about being
able to do otherwise in other contexts but they think that if you actually
really have the desire there’s no way that you can overcome that desire the
interesting thing is that if you ask a six-year-old the same question the
six-year-old acts like a philosopher the six-year-olds not only say yes you can
overcome your desire but they say the reason why you can do that is because
you’re autonomous you’re they have these wonderful phrases you’re the boss of
yourself nobody can tell you what to do your brain lets you do it you want to
but if you ask about moral questions could you do something that would make
somebody else sad then it’s not until about eight or nine years old the
children say well it would be wrong to do it but you could actually act
otherwise then a by a moral constraint and it’s interesting because there at
least some notions for example that think that moral responsibility depends
on our concept of free will and in some ways the developmental research suggests
the opposite it suggests that we have a notion of moral responsibility in place
and there’s lots of evidence that even again even infants have some basic moral
notions and ideas and the link between that and free will is actually something
that’s only developing much later moral responsibility before free will does the
developmental sequence and children affect the philosophical underpinnings
of free will it certainly sets apart facets of free will
there is another discipline that also expands our appreciation of free will
the third wing of the big questions in free will project theology even
imagining the existence of a Supreme Being a greatest possible being subjects
free will to extreme conditions which may reveal free wills inner workings one
does not have to believe in God to appreciate how philosophers of religion
seek to solve the puzzles of God and free will al Miele introduces their
thinking the theological part of the grant deals
mainly with questions about divine freedom but also with questions about
the bearing of God if God exists or as possible on human freedom the questions
about divine freedom are interesting for example if God is perfect can he do
anything other than what’s best but if you can’t do anything other than what’s
best then how can he be free questions about God’s connection to human beings
more interesting for example if God exists in his omniscient Uno’s in
advance everything that will ever do how could we possibly do it freely so these
are really old chestnut questions to find out more about the project’s
theology wing I go to the University of st. Thomas and st. Paul where
philosophers of religion gather for the theology of freewill workshop we start
with God and human freedom if God knows the future if God literally knows today
what I’m going to do tomorrow then how are my actions not constrained
I asked philosopher peter van inwagen to explain the problem so God knows
everything that I’m going to do in the future some say in the year 1900 for
example he knew that I’d be sitting here at this table talking to you well was I
able to decline your kind invitation to come and talk well suppose I have a new
God in 1900 knew that I was going to be here talking to you now he believed it
that was a state that he was in then I can’t go into a future in which he
wasn’t in their state because they would be changing the past I’ve heard it’s
just it’s over and done with God did believe that or he didn’t but then I
must go into a future in which God was wrong back then but that’s not it’s not
possible for God to be wrong any being that could be wrong wouldn’t be God and
those are the only possibilities so it doesn’t look like I am unable to do
anything else Peter’s point is that because God can
never be wrong and because God’s knowledge now includes propositions
about events in the future then those future events cannot change
how then free will Brian left Oh a philosopher of religion
at Oxford attending the workshop claims he knows how God stands outside of time
and from that standpoint he can simply see the things that to us are in the
future I so just as it doesn’t infringe on my freedom for you to be watching me
speak it doesn’t infringe on my freedom for God to have seen me speak from all
eternity and what what do you mean by God sees it
when I see you what’s happening is that I have knowledge which is caused by your
impact on me you know light reflects off you goes in the eyes zips around the
brain eventually I know it for God we get rid of the most of the details of
that process we simply say there’s me here and somehow I caused God to have a
cognitive state that’s it’s like observation in that his cognitive state
is caused by what I’m doing and it’s perfect right right it cannot be
otherwise right and yet even though it cannot be otherwise you still have a
freedom that we call libertarian which means technically that you could do
otherwise say that I have freedom is to say well I’m doing this one thing and
God sees that I could have done something else and had I been doing that
other thing God would have from all eternity seemed that perfectly and every
bit of it and that’s a coherent concept I hope so does Brian’s timeless God resolve the
problem of divine foreknowledge and human free will
peter van inwagen thinks not and he tells me why as Boethius san agustin and
Aquinas have taught us God is outside time he sees the whole past present and
future once but he doesn’t even see a moving volume of the present in there he
just sees the whole thing at once maybe so as Aquinas says when the Bible
says that God did something at some particular time that meant that was when
the effect in the temporal world of one of his actions was well one of the
effects in the temporal world is to reveal to say a prophet what the future
is going to be suppose he revealed to a prophet in the year 1900 that I was
going to be speaking to you here today and odd things God he can do as he likes
and then what would we say about my ability to decline your invitation and
not be here well I can’t change the fact that the Prophet said that in 1900 I
can’t change the fact that it was divinely revealed to the Prophet I can’t
make a divine revelation to a prophet to have been false all those things are
impossible so I think there is a genuine problem to Peter even a timeless God cannot
escape the paradox of divine foreknowledge versus freewill philosopher of religion humic an has a
radical solution he asserts God’s extreme sovereignty over everything and
proposes a way to reconcile that with human freedom when God creates us or
creates the universe two things are true first of all God is
not a temporal being so he creates everything at once and the other thing
is that God doesn’t choose among options it’s not as if that there there are two
versions of Bob Coon and humic ants one of pair of whom have this conversation
the other pair don’t and then God selects them and that’s not
what happens what happens is just us and what God does first is he creates us so
he doesn’t select a thing the only selecting this done is done by
you and me and in framing questions and giving answers and there’s no reason why
that can’t be free and God knows that only because God’s not in time or
because God actually created it that’s that’s yeah but that’s what it really is
God is not in time true but he he knows it by creating it and the whole process
is what he creates not just bits and pieces of it he doesn’t jump in and
produce a result from time to time the whole thing is the result only an
inferior God would have to plan what universe he’s gonna grab what’s he going
to do huge free will seems a kind of theological compatibilism even though
God creates everything and causes everything because there are no
possibilities other than what is nothing has done to you to make you do anything
I’m just gonna be neutral but theological compatibilism has its
problems what does Brian left–oh think even if
compatibles and worse without God it might not work with God so if you’re
gonna be a theological compatible list you’re gonna say God has determined
everything we do and yet we’re in some sense free as we do it well that means
God determines all the evil we do and that means that God is the cause of all
human evil all humans suffer and so on well God couldn’t be
the cause of all that if he’s perfectly good it’s because there’s a problem
about the permission of human evil that I want to hang on to human free will
because I want to say that’s our our doing that that’s your escape clause yes
Brian differentiates God causing from God permitting this means that God can
enable human free will in our present while still maintaining providential
control of our future and be absolved from the problem of evil giving God full
sovereignty and humans full freedom maybe theologically desirable but it is
logically challenging philosopher of religion Matthews grant the organizer of
the theology of free will workshop offers a different kind of argument
God is the the creator the cause the source of everything that exists apart
from himself so any any entity other than God God would be the cause of so
what does that mean for creaturely actions I think a lot of people think if
you hold that that strong conception where our very actions are caused by God
then you get a kind of theological determinism which would be incompatible
with libertarian and theological determinism means that not just that God
knows what you’re going to do but God is literally causing what you’re going to
do it in order to fulfill his plan or whatever yeah and I want to hold that
God is is causing our action but not determining it the key is having the
right account of of divine agency if God decrees that I access such and such a
way it’s not possible that I not act in such a rich way rather what it what it
is for God to cause my act or to cause any other creature is simply for my act
to be causally dependent directly immediately on God but if God causing acts does not
determine acts what happens to God’s omniscience I put the question to peter
van inwagen there are things that it’s not possible
for any being to know and therefore there are things that the greatest
possible being couldn’t know nobody except descartes thinks that it tells
against God’s omnipotence that he’s not able to draw around square let’s just
define our missions as being as knowing whatever an omnipotent being would be
able to know what you’re doing with that analysis is degrading God’s providence
but don’t see how it undermines his providential care for us no I think the
more serious charges that they degrade the idea of God as a perfect being and
unlimited being which of course implies no limitation so knowledge I don’t think
that it undercuts his omniscience to say that he doesn’t for know the free
actions of future beings because I don’t think that’s a possible kind of
knowledge to Peter God can be perfect and still not know human future actions
because there are no facts about the future to now no even for a perfect
being what makes God a perfect being God is supposed to be all-powerful
all-knowing all good and also all free what does it mean for God to be all free
is God able to do anything is God free to sin why marry improve must God always
do the best the test is whether God has real choices or is tightly bound by
God’s own nature I ask Brian left out what God’s freedom might possibly mean
we ordinarily understand freedom as having options having choices being able
to do one thing or another and there have been arguments that God really
doesn’t have options or choices his goodness
kind of limits and his rationality kind of limits what his options would be for
example suppose that there really is a best thing God can bring about well if
you’re perfectly good truly you want the best and if you’ve got perfect
rationality you see what the best is and if you’ve got the power to do it then
well then you just do the best and so bang if you’re god you’re stuck with the
best kind of a slave to it yeah those sound like significant problems so how
do you begin to address them okay one broad picture of God sort of sees him as
this perfectly rational cosmic computer of objective value and it’s an
uncomfortable sort of picture because for one thing it makes us sort of the
winners of a lucky divine lottery for every creature there could be a slightly
better one and if there’s no best God would have no best guided reason to pick
one creature rather than the other so what would he do well in this picture he
just kind of draws a card what do you know we came out so that’s not a picture
of God that I find congenial a second picture of God would say well when
there’s no best and maybe even when there is a best he’s got personal
preferences and those guide him he’s got likes dislikes loves more of a
personality passions uh and those can also guide his choices so are you saying
that God’s love can enhance God’s freedom by challenging or contradicting
God’s rationality it does enhance his freedom if God can have loves then he
can sort of speak be free from the domination of the best
I suppose just for the sake of argument that there was a best creature God could
possibly make super archangel if God was bound to the best he’d have to make that
sort of thing but suppose also that’s not what he loves what he loves is
things like you and me if he can follow his loves he can make us instead or us
in addition uh whereas if he was just bound for the best
that would be all he ever reason for doing so Brian poses the problem of
God’s freedom if God is perfectly rational and perfectly good God would
seem without option or choice God must always do the best
Brian rejects this kind of robotic God he favors a God who has preferences
desires loves this kind of God is not bound to the best and thus has free will
but how then is God a perfect being what makes for a more perfect God a God who
can choose or a God who can only remain perfect gene Zimmerman a philosopher of
religion at Rutgers takes the traditional view that God can be both
perfect and free I’d like to think that we can retain the traditional conception
of God as unable to do anything wrong impeccable and nevertheless free in a
morally significant sense the way I would hope to do that is to ask the
question what is it about human free will that’s significant if we’re
determined to do what we do by things outside of us then we are not the source
of the kind of character that we develop then we wouldn’t be free in God’s case
that’s not a danger God has nothing outside of God that’s constraining God
God has always existed didn’t pop into existence with a built in nature that
wasn’t God’s own doing so to speak so the things that about us that require
the that there be in determinism in our lifetime in order for us to be the
partial author of what kind of person we turn out to be
those threats to our our autonomy they’re not there for god to Dean even
though God’s perfection limits God’s options because all of God’s actions are
generated from within God God has ultimate freedom I return to Brian left
town pressing him whether God is able to do
other than which God does the big question about God’s freedom is how much
His goodness limits his range of choices does his
goodness so constrain his choices that he can’t choose to do an overall evil
act all right I’m inclined to say that yes it does constrain him that way
so that makes God less free in some sense than you and I in one respect
he’s got fewer options I accept that mm-hmm when thinking about God is a
perfect being you’ve got a place where goodness and freedom has to be balanced
in a certain way you can emphasize the freedom but that would take away from
the perfection of His goodness because it would leave him with a possibility of
doing evil or you can emphasize the goodness but if you push that far enough
you’re taking away from the profession of his freedom you’ve got to choose one
or the other I think the balance of the arguments is for choosing perfect
goodness for God the fundamental obligation is to be what he is still to
Peter van in wagon we’re left with the mystery of free will for God as for us
we don’t understand free will very well in my view it better if we don’t
understand it in the case of persons I don’t think that we’re going to
understand it well enough in the case of God to say there’s a problem here about
why God would choose one thing rather than the other one there wasn’t some
good reason to choose this one if state of affairs a is better than state of
affairs B maybe God is constrained by his nature to choose a if he chooses
either but if they’re of equal value what God chooses to do them can’t be
simply a product of his nature I think whether there’s a created world at all
though does depend on concentrate choice consider God as the ultimate stress test
for freewill like physics can be advanced by the extreme conditions of a
black hole so freewill can be advanced by the
extreme conditions of a Supreme Being by subjecting the tenets of freewill to the
traits of God we enrich understanding of freewill thus the theology wing of the
project expands our appreciation of what it means for God and for us to be free the end of the big questions and free
will project approaches it has been four years of study research experimentation
contemplation for years of thinking afresh about one of humankind’s most
profound questions what has been learned what are the advances what are the
outcomes what comes next at the final conference at Florida State
participants offer their impressions so philosophers talk about free will they
will talk about exerting self control they’ll talk about making rational wise
decisions that are good in the long run but they’d know if showing that those
are really linked in some some fundamental way but our research shows
that yes those draw in the same research they affect each other they even have
common underlying physiological basis and body and brain processes so we can
say yes there is some meaningful causal links between self control and
decision-making so it is appropriate to put those together under the broader
term to be called free will and that way I think we can we can advance the debate
as the yellow circle rotates on the screen I think the work that we’ve been
doing this project suggests that if you do believe in free will it may not be as
strong as you think it is and I find that quite surprising because in our
everyday lives we’re very attached to our idea of free will switch but it
turns out that in terms of the brain’s representations of the different actions
that I do make or don’t make the code is actually surprisingly weak we think we
have a strong and determining will but I think that our brain is always a little
bit uncertain when it has to make up its own mind as it were so one thing I’ve
learned from talking to philosophers and my colleagues and neuroscience about
free will is that people mean different things by free will and so it leads to a
quagmire of confusion and sort of quarrelsome Mis because people mean
different things to focus on the final act as the key place where a free will
is active I think is a mistake that’s sort of the end product of a whole chain
of actions that preceded so my hope is that people will stop emphasizing so
much you know this very proximal late stage of the game where people happen to
move a finger which might anyway just be an automat highs act so basically
putting the lipid paradigm behind me and I hope that the field will put it behind
it and focus on free will where the action is which I believe is
the imagination the project has been great actually it’s been really
eye-opening these meetings bring together people with such different
backgrounds and views and expertise that it’s so educational to listen to
everybody else’s talks I was really pleased that there was actually a
project on free will because I think it marked a sort of coming-of-age of
interest in the field to have a project which is academically well founded which
has got some excellent researchers involved in it and which is using a
range of interdisciplinary measures some scientific some more philosophical to
approach what must be one of the really crucial questions about being human I
don’t think our group reached a consensus which you know shouldn’t be
surprising these issues have been around for thousands of years and people have a
reason to consensus I think one big lesson of this project is that any type
of serious cooperation between scientists and philosophers needs to go
on for years scientists are not going to listen to an argument by a philosopher I
go you got it and philosophers are not gonna Wow with it I never thought of
that I’m gonna totally change my views it’s not gonna happen they have to spend
a lot of time working with each other in detail and one of the great things about
this project has been conference of the start conference in the middle
conference at the end lots of work in between it’s only that type of sustained
activity that’s going to change the isolation of these fields so I have
great hope that this type of project will bring science and philosophy a lot
closer together but not if we simply get together for a weekend that’s not gonna
do it and that’s what I love about this kind of project is the fact that it goes
on and on and on and I’m very sorry to see it end
what I’m happiest about is that I was able to help bring together a lot of
really smart people who are very productive from a lot of different
disciplines and get them to work together the scientists in the project
have gained new respect for philosophers the Philosopher’s have gained new
respect for scientists they’re designing experiments together some of the
scientific work is theoretically more sophisticated than it had been in my
opinion so this is just going to get amplified into the future they’ll train
new people to do this kind of thing they’ll keep working with each other in
the sort of interdisciplinary approach to philosophical issues will improve an
increase I’m very happy about that what does it mean for freewill to be a
big question freewill probes human mind in nature is seeking insight in essence
if there’d ever be meaning in purpose freewill would be one window through
which we might see it the big questions in freewill project is complete by
bringing together diverse disciplines philosophy neuroscience psychology
theology the project enriches appreciation of primary questions and
suggests avenues for further research case in point
al Millie’s new project also supported by the John Templeton Foundation the
philosophy and science of self-control scientists and philosophers discover
they can work together designing experiments thinking through problems
conundrums persist and disagreements remain artificial harmony is no panacea
freewill has displayed it’s breathtaking scope from the electrical activity of a
single brain to the ineffable nature of a Supreme Being freewill is more complex
than many had imagined and the claims of some scientists that free will is an
illusion have been tempered there is a truth of free will we are now closer to
it you thank you for watching this video my
friends I hope you really enjoyed it make sure you leave a comment below and
please subscribe to this channel I want to give you so much more thank you and
I’ll see you next time Free Will or Fate? Theology and Science Unite To Discuss, Debate and Tackle Humanity’s BIG Question!

Posted by Lewis Heart

This article has 3 comments

  1. This debate can be ended quickly. I have developed a test for determining whether or not humans use free will in their decision-making. I tested the decision-making of the freest minds in America. They failed miserably!!! A free copy is available to anyone desiring it.

  2. Free will is a very natural, fundamental and indefatigable truth.

    The so called "determinism/pre-wired" is colonialists/white supremacists theory for the purpose of maintaining the status quo.

    "Manifest destiny" has been the agenda of settler caucasian Americans.

    This video is nothing but one of the propagandas of caucasian colonisers/settlers to make the world believe them and accept their "fate". There is no such thing as "fate". It is a lie!
    This video is a deception!


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