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New neuroscience findings: Free will is back in town?

This is different. In “Brain might not stand in the way of free will” (New Scientist, 08 August 2012), Anil Ananthaswamy reports ,

“Libet argued that our brain has already decided to move well before we have a conscious intention to move,” says Schurger. “We argue that what looks like a pre-conscious decision process may not in fact reflect a decision at all. It only looks that way because of the nature of spontaneous brain activity.”

So what does this say about free will? “If we are correct, then the Libet experiment does not count as evidence against the possibility of conscious will,” says Schurger.

Cognitive neuroscientist Anil Seth of the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK, is impressed by the work, but also circumspect about what it says about free will. “It’s a more satisfying mechanistic explanation of the readiness potential. But it doesn’t bounce conscious free will suddenly back into the picture,” he says. “Showing that one aspect of the Libet experiment can be open to interpretation does not mean that all arguments against conscious free will need to be ejected.”

No, but this is in New Scientist, mind you, and they’d be pretty swift to embrace any arguments against free will that they thought they could sustain.

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4 Responses to New neuroscience findings: Free will is back in town?

  1. …, then the Libet experiment does not count as evidence against the possibility of conscious will

    A number of people, including some free will deniers, have long been saying that about the Libet experiment.

  2. Here are a few notes on ‘free will’ from the quantum mechanic perspective:

    In the following video, at the 37:00 minute mark, Anton Zeilinger, a leading researcher in quantum teleportation with many breakthroughs under his belt, humorously reflects on just how deeply determinism has been undermined by quantum mechanics by saying such a deep lack of determinism may provide some of us a loop hole when they meet God on judgment day;

    Prof Anton Zeilinger speaks on quantum physics. at UCT – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3ZPWW5NOrw

    Personally, I feel that such a deep undermining of determinism by quantum mechanics, far from providing a ‘loop hole’ on judgement day, actually restores free will to its rightful place in the grand scheme of things, thus making God’s final judgments on men’s souls all the more fully binding since man truly is a ‘free moral agent’ in the grand scheme of things as Theism has always held. This following recent study solidly backs this ‘free will’ conclusion up:

    Can quantum theory be improved? – July 23, 2012
    Excerpt: However, in the new paper, the physicists have experimentally demonstrated that there cannot exist any alternative theory that increases the predictive probability of quantum theory by more than 0.165, with the only assumption being that measurement (observation) parameters can be chosen independently (free choice assumption) of the other parameters of the theory.,,,
    ,, the experimental results provide the tightest constraints yet on alternatives to quantum theory. The findings imply that quantum theory is close to optimal in terms of its predictive power, even when the predictions are completely random.
    http://phys.org/news/2012-07-quantum-theory.html

    These following experiments reflect just how deeply’ our ‘free will’ choices are imbedded in quantum reality:

    Quantum physics mimics spooky action into the past – April 23, 2012
    Excerpt: The authors experimentally realized a “Gedankenexperiment” called “delayed-choice entanglement swapping”, formulated by Asher Peres in the year 2000. Two pairs of entangled photons are produced, and one photon from each pair is sent to a party called Victor. Of the two remaining photons, one photon is sent to the party Alice and one is sent to the party Bob. Victor can now choose between two kinds of measurements. If he decides to measure his two photons in a way such that they are forced to be in an entangled state, then also Alice’s and Bob’s photon pair becomes entangled. If Victor chooses to measure his particles individually, Alice’s and Bob’s photon pair ends up in a separable state. Modern quantum optics technology allowed the team to delay Victor’s choice and measurement with respect to the measurements which Alice and Bob perform on their photons. “We found that whether Alice’s and Bob’s photons are entangled and show quantum correlations or are separable and show classical correlations can be decided after they have been measured”, explains Xiao-song Ma, lead author of the study.
    According to the famous words of Albert Einstein, the effects of quantum entanglement appear as “spooky action at a distance”. The recent experiment has gone one remarkable step further. “Within a naïve classical world view, quantum mechanics can even mimic an influence of future actions on past events”, says Anton Zeilinger.
    http://phys.org/news/2012-04-q.....ction.html

    Of course, as a Calvinist would maintain, this still does not negate the fact that God knows beforehand what your free will choice will be but, at least, it does completely undermine the absurdity of determinism that is held by the materialistic position(i.e. no free will).

    Neuroscientist: “The Most Seamless Illusions Ever Created” – April 2012
    Excerpt: We have so much confidence in our materialist assumptions (which are assumptions, not facts) that something like free will is denied in principle. Maybe it doesn’t exist, but I don’t really know that. Either way, it doesn’t matter because if free will and consciousness are just an illusion, they are the most seamless illusions ever created. Film maker James Cameron wishes he had special effects that good.
    Matthew D. Lieberman – neuroscientist – materialist – UCLA professor
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....sions.html

    Verse and music:

    Joshua 24:15
    But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

    As for Me and My House – John Waller
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjRiNL1HKns

    of somewhat related note to the OP is this research article that ENV highlighted yesterday:

    Modular Biological Complexity – Christof Koch – August 2012
    Summary: It has been argued that the technological capability to fully simulate the human brain on digital computers will exist within a decade. This is taken to imply that we will comprehend its functioning, eliminate all diseases, and “upload” ourselves to computers (1). Although such predictions excite the imagination, they are not based on a sound assessment of the complexity of living systems. Such systems are characterized by large numbers of highly heterogeneous components, be they genes, proteins, or cells. These components interact causally in myriad ways across a very large spectrum of space-time, from nanometers to meters and from microseconds to years. A complete understanding of these systems demands that a large fraction of these interactions be experimentally or computationally probed. This is very difficult.,,,
    This is bad news. Consider a neuronal synapse — the presynaptic terminal has an estimated 1000 distinct proteins. Fully analyzing their possible interactions would take about 2000 years. Or consider the task of fully characterizing the visual cortex of the mouse — about 2 million neurons. Under the extreme assumption that the neurons in these systems can all interact with each other, analyzing the various combinations will take about 10 million years…, even though it is assumed that the underlying technology (in computers used to try to understand the biological interactions) speeds up by an order of magnitude each year. ,,,
    Improved technologies for observing and probing biological systems has only led to discoveries of further levels of complexity that need to be dealt with. This process has not yet run its course. We are far away from understanding cell biology, genomes, or brains, and turning this understanding into practical knowledge.
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cont.....31.summary

    ENV’s review of the implications of the preceding article for ID is here:

    “Complexity Brake” Defies Evolution – August 8, 2012
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....62961.html

  3. Psalm 2:4 indicates that the Lord actually laughs at the amazing foolishness of men.

    Imagine the laugh he must get from fools who “choose” not to believe in free will.

    It’s such a truly foolish and self-contradictory position, even a human can laugh at it.

  4. ‘This is taken to imply that we will comprehend its functioning, eliminate all diseases, and “upload” ourselves to computers (1). Although such predictions excite the imagination, they are not based on a sound assessment of the complexity of living systems.’

    No personhood, no mind, and since when has materialism accounted for personhood, even presumed to do so (better pretend it doesn’t exist)?

    It is as simple as that. The corollary is what atheists fear, with mind now well-established as being prior to matter. ‘I..nte… ll…igent design…’ tremble… tremble. ‘Oooh err!’ as Bill Bunter would say. Or was it just, ‘Yaroo!’.

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