Category Archives: free will

The myth of responsibility and the lottery of life

This four-minute video on free will and responsibility, narrated by polymath Raoul Martinez, was posted by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (RSA). Martinez’s point is one I’ve made here many times, and will surely get pushback from: determinism rules human behavior, and our “choices” are all predetermined by […]

Robert Sapolsky takes on free will in “Behave”

I wasn’t able to finish Robert Sapolsky’s relatively new book, Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, for two reasons. First, I found the opening several hundred pages pretty boring. Despite Sapolsky’s valiant attempt to write engagingly—and he can do so in places—the material was a tedious disquisition on hormones, neurons, and other material […]

Clarification: Weinstein post

I wrote my post on Harvey Weinstein typing as fast as I could as we were getting ready to board our plane, and would have made it more concise (and hopefully more thoughtful) if I was able to brain faster. The point I was trying to make was simply this: regardless of whether someone commits […]

Harvey Weinstein, creep or psychopath?

As always, when I write this kind of column about determinism, and in particular about the behavior of Harvey Weinstein, I must begin by saying that his behavior was reprehensible, immensely harmful, and warrants severe punishment, judicially so if the courts find him guilty of rape or sexual assault. I weep for the women who […]

Dawkins and Krauss on free will

One thing that’s distressed me a bit is the unwillingness of my Big Name Atheist Friends to speak frankly about free will. When asked, as Richard Dawkins was below, what they think of it, they often mumble or deflect the question. Richard’s answer here is the same one he gave when I asked him the […]

A philosopher tries to rescue free will by claiming that individuals exercise “choice” according to their “beliefs, desires,and intentions”

Although I’m suffering from jet lag, I’ll treat you today to a post on free will and “compatibilism”. Yes, I can hear the groans of distress as I write this, but my advice to you is the same as my advice to those who complain about Milo Yiannopoulos lecturing at Berkeley: if you don’t want […]

Agatha Christie on determinism and criminal justice

Reader John found a passage in a nearly 90 year old Agatha Christie novel that presages the views of Sam Harris, Robert Sapolsky, and many other determinists on the application of determinism to our justice system. This is what John sent: I  just read an Agatha Christie novel called “The Murder at the Vicarage” (published […]

Robert Sapolsky and Sam Harris on neurobiology, free will, and baboons

I’ve recently been introduced to neurobiologist and science writer Robert Sapolsky (see my post here), and am looking forward to reading his new book Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst. Apparently a lot of the book is devoted to the topic of free will, which was a big part of the […]

Did Hitler have free will?

Ron Rosenbaum’s 1998 book, Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil, got a lot of critical approbation, much of it apparently for the author’s argument that many “Hitler studies” arrived at conclusions that were simply a projection of the authors’ preconceived biases onto the Hitler story. Here’s a bit of the original New […]

How determinism can help insurance companies deny medical claims

I think this article—which could have come from The Onion but actually came from another “joke news site,” The Beaverton—is hilarious.  Here’s an excerpt; I hope compatibilists have a sense of humor! Chicago, IL – American health insurers have begun classifying all medical claims as pre-existing conditions and refusing to offer settlements because of the […]