View Full Version : Is free will an illusion? New research says yes.

Richard Amiel McGough
08-03-2012, 03:50 PM
From phys.org:

Free will is an illusion, biologist says
Three different models explain the causal mechanism of free will and the flow of information between unconscious neural activity and conscious thought (GES = genes, environment, stochasticism). In A, the intuitive model, there is no causal component for will. Will influences conscious thought, which in turn influences unconscious neural activity to direct behavior. In B, a causal component of will is introduced: unconscious neural activity and GES. But now will loses its “freedom.” In C, the model that Cashmore advocates, will is dispensed with. Conscious thought is simply a reflection of, rather than an influence on, unconscious neural activity, which directs behavior. The dotted arrow 2 in C indicates a subservient role of conscious thought in directing behavior. Credit: Anthony Cashmore.

(PhysOrg.com) -- When biologist Anthony Cashmore claims that the concept of free will is an illusion, he's not breaking any new ground. At least as far back as the ancient Greeks, people have wondered how humans seem to have the ability to make their own personal decisions in a manner lacking any causal component other than their desire to "will" something. But Cashmore, Professor of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania, says that many biologists today still cling to the idea of free will, and reject the idea that we are simply conscious machines, completely controlled by a combination of our chemistry and external environmental forces.

In a recent study, Cashmore has argued that a belief in free will is akin to religious beliefs, since neither complies with the laws of the physical world. One of the basic premises of biology and biochemistry is that biological systems are nothing more than a bag of chemicals that obey chemical and physical laws. Generally, we have no problem with the “bag of chemicals” notion when it comes to bacteria, plants, and similar entities. So why is it so difficult to say the same about humans or other “higher level” species, when we’re all governed by the same laws?

I find the connection between the belief in free will and religion intriguing since many Christians try to explain evil, the Garden story, and the need for "faith" in terms of free will.

08-04-2012, 06:03 AM
Good Morning Richard,
I remember reading an article back in the 90's where scientists were mapping brain activity, and they found that the areas of the brain involved with conscious thought always fired up AFTER the area that controls muscle movement. So did the person really decide beforehand to pick up their cup of coffee and take a swig? Or did they become conscious of their hand moving towards the cup and feel like the decision was made by them? This discovery implies that the conscious mind plays the role of rationalizing the actions of the body after the fact, and not directing in the actions.

In a biblical paradigm, I am not sure if man was like this at first or if it was a result of the "fall". It seems to me to be the case that humans have always been wired this way, and that this concept is described in scripture as "nakedness". That word in Hebrew derives it's meaning from the concept of smoothness and being "slippery". Something you can't quite get a handle on. Seems similar to the idea of not being able to control things consciously. Paul talked about doing things that he willed not to do. Before the fall we were unaware of not being in control. Hence, no shame over something we were ignorant of.

08-04-2012, 06:58 AM
:egad:It wasn't his grandmother or a maiden aunt who provided Joseph with the coat of many colors--it was his father! [Egad!] A parallel, or prophetic illustration, of how Jesus came "in a body prepared", Heb10:5, to offer salvation to all colors and races of men. Just as that Joseph in Egypt was a type of saviour to his people, in providing them with bread, so Jesus came in his own time as the "true bread", Jn6:35.

The nakedness of the flesh is a physical reality for us to compare with spiritual nakedness. Adam & Eve got their eyes opened (fig. of speech) after they'd eaten from the Tree, and now we do the same when we become aware of the truth of God's Word. Initially they dressed in fig leaves (covering from the fig tree), but the LORD provided coats of animal skins -- a figure of the spiritual Robe which comes from the Lamb of God.

Are you dressed to go to heaven? Is the Garment of Praise a fit?
Warriors wear the Armor of God, and a smile that will not quit.
Some say you'll go there naked, just the way you came to earth...
But when I get that picture, I know why heaven's filled with mirth!

This rhyme stresses the comparison between literal and figurative garments, because teachers use examples and analogy to explain new subjects. Teachers who deny the allegories fail to recognize this tremendous race card, in the comparison of the coat of many colors with Jesus' body. Salvation is for any whosoever, no matter the color, and to be "clothed upon" with a spiritual garment is more for the long-haul than the 'covering' of the body. :D