Jerry Coyne Continues to Deny Free Will - Evolution News & Views

Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research.

Evolution News and Views
Culture and Ethics NEWS
 

Jerry Coyne Continues to Deny Free Will

At Why Evolution Is True, Jerry Coyne continues his bizarre, self-refuting denial of free will:

And I want to ask one question, similar to one I asked before, but one that's been reawakened by recent discussion. 

Which do you think is more valuable to humanity? 

a. Finding ways to tell humans that they have free will despite the incontrovertible fact that their actions are completely dictated by the laws of physics as instantiated in our bodies, brains and environments? That is, engaging in the honored philosophical practice of showing that our notion of "free will" can be compatible with determinism? 

or 

b. Telling people, based on our scientific knowledge of physics, neurology, and behavior, that our actions are predetermined rather than dictated by some ghost in our brains, and then sussing out the consequences of that conclusion and applying them to society? 

Of course my answer is b). 

"Valuable to humanity"? 

Coyne leaves out the third option. How about just telling the truth that we obviously have free will, and we have moral responsibility. 

Jerry is so blinkered by his materialist metaphysics that he can't admit the obvious. Free will is real, moral responsibility is real, and hard determinism is false. 

I don't really give a hoot about the varieties of compatibilism that have been offered by philosophers. They seem to me largely armchair exercises, and, in some cases, seem have been concocted to prevent society from the supposedly dire consequences of thinking that we don't have libertarian free will. What has compatibilism done for us lately -- or ever? Its only function seems to be to keep philosophers off the streets.

I agree with Coyne that compatibilism is not true. I think free will is true, and determinism is false. Coyne thinks determinism is true, and free will is false. We agree that determinism and free will can't both be true. 

However, Coyne's characterization of compatibilist arguments as "armchair exercises" is risible. Compatibilism in various flavors has been held by Aquinas, Hobbes, Hume, Locke, Schopenhauer, and Dennett, among many others. None are "armchair" philosophers, although that is a fit appellation for Coyne.

As to whether compatibilism is merely a strategy to "keep philosophers off the streets," I doubt that is true, but one can certainly make a case that evolutionary psychology -- a scientific discipline Coyne admires -- keeps Darwinists off the streets. (One can't help but conjure the image of an unemployed Darwinist panhandling with a sign: "Will tell just-so stories for food.") 

Coyne is clearly motivated in his bizarre denial of free will by his materialism. He can't admit that there is a cause in nature that is not reducible to physics. 

Yet determinism is already dead in physics.

First, we must understand what "determinism" means. It has a precise definition.  It means that for any given state in nature that undergoes change, only one ensuing state is possible, and that state is determined completely by the state of the system at the time of the change. Determinism means that everything in nature is determined, moment by moment, by that state that immediately precedes it. 

But determinism is plainly wrong. 

In quantum mechanics, the work of John Bell and Alan Aspect has demonstrated quite convincingly that there are no deterministic local hidden variables -- that is, in bound two-particle states in which the particles move apart, characteristics of the particles such as spin or polarization are not determined locally at the moment of separation, but instead arise with subsequent collapse of the waveform at the time of measurement. Initially after separation, the state of the particles is indeterminate. 

Quantum mechanics is indeterminate. Physical systems exist as ensembles of possible states in superimposition, reduced to one of the states by an act of measurement. The states of bound particles are not determined by any local variable at the moment of separation. Thus, it is not true that everything in nature is determined, moment by moment, by that state that immediately precedes it. 

Determinism in physics is junk science, motivated by materialism, which is a crude philosophical error. Coyne needs to abandon 19th-century physics and 19th-century philosophy, just like he needs to abandon 19th-century evolutionary biology.


FEATURES
 

TOP ARTICLES

TOP VIDEOS

TOP PODCASTS


more...