What is the deal with free will?


Do we have it? What does it mean? What do new scientific theories and experiments have to say about the issue? How do your religious and cultural beliefs effect your ideas about free will? What gives that brownie (insert your addiction here) such gravitational force?


" . . . Free Willy is a movie about a boy trying to free a whale from living in mind-numbing, dorsal fin sagging, environmental captivity. Free will is a reality show about a creator giving his greatest creation - humans - the ability to free themselves from living a life governed completely by pre-ordained destiny. Free will is the gift that enables us to envision a future event or lifestyle and act to make it happen. It gives us the ability to make daily choices about the way we live. It even allows us to choose not to live at all. . . "


" . . . So if we think that this is the actual world and that physics best describes the actual world and that possible worlds do not exist in the same sense as the actual world does or that if they do they are describable by our physics as well then I think we are committed to dismissing free will as a fantasy. What happens is in a very real sense determined by what has happened, and we are mere components of a very large place. . . "


Mary Ann
Although the Yoruba worldview presents certain parts of one’s life as immutable, the time and place of one’s birth, one’s basic skills and aptitudes and the time of one’s death, much of one’s destiny can be softened or enhanced to provide the best life possible within the boundaries of that which can not be changed. If Oedipus has been born into a Yoruba family after he had been given the horrible prediction for his future, the seer would have asked the deities and ancestors what he and his parents could do to soften such a horrible fate.


Someone cuts you off in traffic and you curse them out. Now you’re not only one person back on the freeway, you’re angry, and you’re cursing. Why react this way? If given time to think about the options would you choose this one? Maybe you’d blow it off because you can’t do anything about it and you’d rather be happy than upset. Or maybe you’d speed up so that they couldn’t cut you off. Or maybe you’d chose to let them over out of your own volition. By examining the underlying motivations, or at least looking at a decision normally made without much thought, you have increased your options. I think this gives you more free will – because you are free to do more things. You may even choose the same response.


". . .You may think you decided to read this story -- but in fact, your brain made the decision long before you knew about it. In a study published Sunday in Nature Neuroscience, researchers using brain scanners could predict people's decisions seven seconds before the test subjects were even aware of making them. The decision studied -- whether to hit a button with one's left or right hand -- may not be representative of complicated choices that are more integrally tied to our sense of self-direction. Regardless, the findings raise profound questions about the nature of self and autonomy: How free is our will? Is conscious choice just an illusion? . . ."