Do we have free will? Or is free will just an illusion?
The idea that free will is an illusion comes from several different paths.
There are religious people who claim everything is preordained. This seems to leave no place for free will, as all our actions are in accordance with a divine master plan.
There are others, some believers and some non-believers, who would claim that our genetics, our past experiences, and our current environment are what determine our actions.
Then there are the strange results from scientific research. A couple of examples:
- When neurologists make a patient's limb jerk by applying electricity to the part of the brain that controls that limb's movement, they find the patient claims to have intended to move the limb, and they even invent the reason. This indicates that the brain is able to fool itself into inventing a free will motive when the cause was external.
- In an experiment monitoring different areas of the brain, when the subjects could press a button whenever they wanted, showed that a message was sent to the muscles to act before a decision was made.
And yet, I know I have free will.
I have no problem rejecting the religious concept of preordination. I recognize that environment and genetics my predispose me to certain behaviors, but, to me, this does not mean I am "locked in" to one course of action. I can still choose to do something completely different.
The science is a little more troubling. But it has not demonstrated free will does not exist. Rather, it has shown that we still do not fully understand how the brain works.
I've observed a number of discussions on various message boards over the years, and even participated in a few. The majority of those that get into such discussions tend to be those who claim we have no free will. Yet, in making their postings attacking the existence of free will, they do not appear to be acting as automatons. Rather it seems they are making a conscious decision.
Without free will, how can we hold people accountable for their actions?
Without free will, why develop any purpose in life?
Without free will, why get out of bed in the morning?
Perhaps free will is just an illusion to make our lives bearable, but simple common sense tells me that my free will is reality.
Live your life as if free will is reality.
You have no choice.