Category Archives: free will

Muddled thinking about determinism at the Discovery Institute

For some reason the Discovery Institute has a bit of an obsession with me, as they monitor this site and kvetch whenever I say something they can kvetch about at the no-comments-allowed Evolution News site. Usually it’s either Michael Egnor or David Klinghoffer doing the hatchet job, but this time we have Andrew Jones, someone […]

Michael Egnor gives a religionist’s view of free will and its implications for criminal justice

I really don’t like linking to Michael Egnor’s posts—or anybody’s posts—on Evolution News, the flaccid organ of the Discovery Institute. This is because, in the absence of evidence for intelligent design, the site has taken to ad hominem argumentation, ignoring evolution and simply attacking the evolutionary messengers. Egnor in particular has it in for me, […]

A computer scientist finds the question of free will uninteresting for bad reasons

UPDATE: Scott Aaronson has emailed me and pointed out that his views on this matter are set out in a clearer and longer way in a publicly available paper he wrote called “The ghost in the quantum Turing machine.”  It’s 85 pages long, I wasn’t aware of its existence, and it is probably above my […]

Determinism doesn’t mean that you can’t change your behavior, or help others to

I’m a free-will “incompatibilist”: someone who sees the existence of physical determinism as dispelling the idea of contracausal, you-could-have-done-otherwise “free will”, which is the notion of free will most common among people. Many people find my view disturbing and fatalistic, and I’m often posed this question: “If everything is determined by the laws of physics […]

“This American Life” on NPR covers (and denies the existence of) free will

NPR aired a two-part segment, “Where there is a will”, but the second part is about free will, and is hosted by producer David Kestenbaum, who rejects the idea of free will. He interviews two scientists (see below), both of whom also reject free will: Robert Sapolsky and Melissa Franklin. Note that none of the […]

New study: Belief in free will doesn’t make you act better

Is belief in free will necessary, as many claim, to keep society harmonious? The idea behind that claim is that if you’re a determinist, you’re going to be immoral, criminal, or nihilistic. But is there data supporting that claim? A couple of previous studies have found a positive association between “prosocial” (i.e., good) behavior and […]

Free will and moral responsibility: Gregg Caruso vs. Dan Dennett

The Aeon website has a good discussion between Dan Dennett, a free-will compatibilist, and Gregg Caruso, who calls himself a “hard incompatibilist”. (Caruso doesn’t call himself a “hard determinist” because he admits that some behaviors might be influenced by fundamental indeterminism, presumably of the quantum-mechanical sort.) The piece, called “Just deserts: Can we be held […]

Is belief in free will dangerous? Yuval Harari’s take

I’m sure most of you have heard of Yuval Noah Harari, a historian at Israel’s Hebrew University who wrote the mega best-sellers Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2014) and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2016).  I haven’t yet read either book, though I intend to read Sapiens. Wikipedia notes, however, that while the popular reception of that book […]

Sean Carroll on free will

In the tweet below you can hear two minutes of Official Website Physicist™ Sean Carroll discussing free will on the Freethought Prophet show.  In his tweet, host John Hamill says he was ” very deservedly schooled” by Sean, but I don’t think so. That is, Sean tried to school him, and Hamill might have felt […]

My podcast on free will at Left at the Valley

Left at the Valley is an atheist/science/politics podcast emanating from the Fraser Valley of Western Canada. I’ve been on it once before, talking about evolution, but this time they wanted to discuss free will. Before you get all het up and ready to pound the keys, I defined the kind of free will I’m discussing […]