This is not necessarily the end of free will, since it never truly existed in the first place. Findings from neuroscience continue to reveal the specific genes and neurobiological features that drive a person’s thoughts and actions. This leaves little room for free will, especially when considering that conditions in the womb can affect a human being long into adulthood. Free will and personal responsibility are unscientific myths, since people didn’t choose the genes or childhood environment which shaped every aspect of their neuroanatomy. Research from the field of evolutionary psychology discusses the evolutionarily defined drives that people unconsciously pursue. Blogs like Barking up the Wrong Tree and The Situationist describe hundreds of ways in which people are unconsciously influenced.
Here is a list of researchers who display skepticism regarding free will:
Dr. Adrian Raine: The Psychopathology of Crime
Dr. Anthony Cashmore: The Lucretian Swerve
Dr. Bjoern Brembs: Free Will Similar in Animals, Humans – but Not so Free
Dr. Bruce Hood: The Science of Superstition
Dr. Chris Luck: Free Will
Dr. Christof Koch: How Physics and Neuroscience Dictate Your “Free” Will
Dr. Daniel Wegner: The Illusion of Conscious Will
Dr. Dario Maestripieri: Free Will – I Do Not Think It Is What You Think It Is
Dr. David Barash: Who’s in Charge Inside Your Head?
Dr. David Eagleman: The Brain on Trial
Dr. David Heddle: Jerry Coyne is 100% Correct on Free Will
Dr. David Levitsky: Free Will and the Obesity Epidemic
Dr. Deric Bownds: The “I” Illusion
Dr. Dirk De Ridder: The predictive brain and the “free will” illusion
Dr. Douglas Hofstadter: I am a Strange Loop
Dr. E.O. Wilson: Consilience
Dr. Gerard ‘t Hooft: Free Will – is Our Understanding Wrong?
Dr. Greg Graffin: Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin on Free Will
Dr. Henrik Walter: Neurophilosophy of Free Will
Dr. Henry Kong: Root of Thought
Dr. Itzhak Fried: How Free is Your Will?
Dr. Janna Levin: The Universe, Free-Will, and Janna Levin
Dr. Jason Castro: Introverts and Free Will
Dr. Jeffrey Ebert: Mistaking Randomness for Free Will
Dr. Jerry Coyne: Why You Don’t Really Have Free Will
Dr. Jesse Bering: Know Thyself, to No Avail
Dr. Joachim Krueger: The Curse of Free Will
Dr. John Bargh: The Will is Caused, Not Free
Dr. John-Dylan Haynes: Brain Scanners Can See Your Decisions Before You Make Them
Dr. Joseph Bisognano: Experimenters’ Free Will and Quantum Certainty
Dr. Joshua Greene: For the Law, Neuroscience Changes Nothing and Everything (PDF)
Dr. Laurence Tancredi: Hardwired Behavior
Dr. Lawrence Krauss: Can Science Tell Us Right from Wrong?
Dr. Lee Silver: Challenging Nature
Dr. Leonard Mlodinow: The Grand Design
Dr. Lubos Motl: Causality, Fate, and the Arrow of Time
Dr. Mano Singham: The Coming Death of the Idea of Free Will
Dr. Mark Hallett: Seeking Free Will in Our Brains – a Debate
Dr. Mark Pagel: Discover Dialogue
Dr. Martha Farah: Is Free Will an Illusion?
Dr. Marvin Minsky: Society of Mind
Dr. Matt Ridley: Chapter on Free Will in “Genome”
Dr. Michael Gazzaniga: Neuroscience Challenges Old Ideas about Free Will
Dr. Michel Desmurget: The Will to Power
Dr. Owen Flanagan: Free Will Chapter
Dr. Paul Bloom: Free Will Does Not Exist. So What?
Dr. Paul Davies: Undermining Free Will
Dr. Paul Latimer: Brain research illustrates how free will is an illusion
Dr. P.Z. Myers: I was Compelled to Post This
Dr. Patrick Haggard: I’m Just a Machine
Dr. Peter Atkins: A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations
Dr. Raj Raghunathan: Free Will Is an Illusion, So What?
Dr. Richard Dawkins: Let’s All Stop Beating Basil’s Car
Dr. Richard Restak: The Naked Brain
Dr. Robert Sapolsky: A Conversation with Robert Sapolsky and The Danger of Inadvertently Praising Zygomatic Arches
Dr. Ruud Custers: Think You’re Operating on Free Will? Think Again
Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder: Predetermined Lunch and Moral Responsibility
Dr. Sam Harris: Free Will (And Why You Still Don’t Have It)
Dr. Scott Aaronson: Computer Models Refute Free Will
Dr. Seth Lloyd: A Turing Test for Free Will
Dr. Shimon Edelman: The Happiness of Pursuit
Dr. Stephen Hawking: The Grand Design
Dr. Stephen Wolfram: Is the Universe a Computer?
Dr. Steve Hsu: Free Will and Determinism – a Physicist’s Perspective
Dr. Steven Pinker: Steven Pinker on Free Will
Dr. Susan Blackmore: Life Without Free Will
Dr. Thalia Wheatley: Actor Alan Alda Visits Dartmouth to Learn About Free Will
Dr. Thomas Cerner: What Makes You Tick?
Dr. Thomas Scott: Neuroscience May Supersede Ethics and Law
Dr. Uri Maoz: Free Will & Neuroscience
Dr. Victor Stenger: Free Will Is an Illusion
Dr. V.S. Ramachandran: Francis Crick’s “Dangerous” Idea
Dr. Vinod Kurup: Thoughts on Free Will
Dr. Will Provine: Scientists Debate Free Will
Dr. Wolf Singer: Deciphering the Brain’s Code
Based on arguments from neuroscience and physics, this appears to be a more accurate description of human behavior than obsolete ideas of “free will”:
1. A person’s actions are frequently driven by automatic neural processes.
2. These processes result from neurobiological states involving neurotransmitters, electrical activity, neuroanatomy, and other biological processes.
3. The state of the adult brain is determined by genetics, childhood experiences, and the current environment.
4. An individual may have a limited amount of what appears to observers to be free will as long as he or she has a functioning brain, especially a functioning prefrontal cortex.
5. Willpower is a finite resource. Performing actions that go against an individual’s personality (which is embedded in the brain) causes a reduction in the amount of that person’s willpower.
I’m staying with this explanation until I can find more precise scientific evidence on the topic. This biological pathway does not leave room for free will. An interesting project would be to go through as many published neuroscience and psychology studies as possible to find all the factors discovered thus far that influence human behavior.
Some interesting solutions to the problem of free will can be found in the world of physics. Professor Scott Aaronson of MIT has an ingenious idea of measuring free will described at the page Free Will and Quantum Clones. Dr. Aaronson discusses the idea of retrocausality. Dr. Jeff Tollaksen and Dr. Yakir Aharonov are working along similar lines, as described in the article Back From the Future. My skepticism about retrocausality is the same problem I had with the paranormal, as I described in my post Why the Paranormal Doesn’t Matter. If retrocausality exists, why can’t we alter the past to give ourselves everything we want? Is a matter of finding the right technologies to measure and influence particles in certain ways?
Even with this form of free will, constraints still exist on human behavior. Otherwise, we could have everything we could want. I first got interested in the paranormal because I thought it would fulfill my dreams, but I eventually realized that there are certain physical constraints on the universe. In a YouTube video, Dr. Michio Kaku says that uncertainty leaves room open for free will. The free will theorem of Dr. John Conway and Dr. Simon Kochen demonstrates that if humans have free will, particles also have free will. Quantum physics may act on the brain and human consciousness. Quantum indeterminism would mean that human behavior is random rather than deterministic. This still doesn’t open up room for free will. The will is still only as free as the laws of the universe allow.