Last week I published an article claiming that free will does not and cannot exist. Unfortunately, I neglected to define “free will,” a serious omission.
Wikipedia says, “Free will is the ability to choose between different possible courses, unimpeded.
Psychology Today says, “If we have free will, we can consciously make decisions that are not determined by the physics and biology of our brains.
Encyclopedia Brittanica says, “Free will, in humans, is the power or capacity to choose among alternatives or to act in certain situations independently of natural, social, or divine restraints.
So if free will is to exist, it must exist unimpeded, outside the physics and biology of our brains, independently of natural, social or divine restrains.
In short, it would have to be magic, not science, for magic is the only thing that meets the above criteria.
Consider these excerpts from an article in Discover Magazine:
Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes
Your ancestors’ lousy childhoods or excellent adventures might change your personality, bequeathing anxiety or resilience by altering the epigenetic expressions of genes in the brain.
Originally these epigenetic changes were believed to occur only during fetal development. But pioneering studies showed that molecular bric-a-brac could be added to DNA in adulthood.
Without any change to DNA at all, methyl groups could be added or subtracted, and the changes were inherited much like a mutation in a gene.
According to the new insights of behavioral epigenetics, traumatic experiences in our past, or in our recent ancestors’ past, leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA.
Our experiences, and those of our forebears, are never gone, even if they have been forgotten. They become a part of us, a molecular residue holding fast to our genetic scaffolding.
The DNA remains the same, but psychological and behavioral tendencies are inherited.
You might have inherited not just your grandmother’s knobby knees, but also her predisposition toward depression caused by the neglect she suffered as a newborn.
If your personality, psychological and behavior tendencies and your predisposition toward depression, not only are part of your DNA, but are inherited, how does this square with the notion of making decisions not determined by the physics and biology of our brains?
The attachment of methyl groups (to DNA) significantly alters the behavior of whichever gene they wed, inhibiting its transcription.
In the pups of inattentive mouse mothers, genes regulating sensitivity to stress hormones, are highly methylated; in the pups of conscientious moms, the genes for the glucocorticoid receptors were rarely methylated.
(Experimenters took yet another litter of rats raised by rotten mothers. After the usual damage had been done, they infused the mouse brains with trichostatin A, a drug that can remove methyl groups.
These animals showed none of the behavioral deficits usually seen in such offspring, and their brains showed none of the epigenetic changes.
In short, brain chemicals altered personality and behavior, which is obvious in humans, too.
Consider the personality and behavior changes in humans who have been drinking, taking other drugs, suffering from post-partum depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or physical brain damage.
Think of what free will — “decisions that are not determined by the physics and biology of our brains” — means for these people.
Their decisions and behavior, indeed all our decisions and behavior, clearly are determined by the physics and biology of their brains.
And here is a finding the Trump administration should heed:
The early stress of separation from a biological parent impacts long-term programming of genome function.
The parent-child forced separation of immigrant families permanently changes the children’s brains and thus their future life’s behaviors.
Our immigration methods are creating malformed children, who will engage in maladopted actions.
But we cannot control what we do and what we believe.
Some people believe that while animals don’t have free will — their actions supposedly are based solely on instinct — humans do. The author wrote:
“We know humans have free will because we’re able to evaluate a set of different options and make a conscious decision as to which of them we’re going to choose.”
But doesn’t a pride of lions on the hunt “evaluate a set of different options” and make decisions about them? Would that be “free will”?
Functional Fingerprint’ May Identify Brains Over a Lifetime, By Raleigh McElvery, Quanta Magazine, August 16, 2018
The physical links between brain regions, collectively known as the “connectome,” differentiate us from one another.
The functional connectome maps the brain regions that coordinate to carry out specific tasks and to influence behavior.
Identifying, tracking and modeling the functional connectome could expose how brain signatures lead to variations in behavior and, in some cases, confer a higher risk of developing certain neuropsychiatric conditions.
Roughly 30 percent of the connectome is unique to the individual. The majority of these regions tend to govern “higher order” tasks that require more cognitive processing, such as learning, memory and attention.
The brain is a physical object. It, and the rest of the nervous system are composed of atoms, which in turn are composed of smaller quantum particles.
The actions of atoms and quantum particles are controlled, in a cause/effect manner, by other atoms, particles and fields, dating back to the beginning of time.
All our actions and beliefs “are determined by the physics and biology of our brains.” There is no known force that can bypass the atoms, quantum particles, the physics and biology of our brains.
The human nervous system does all our thinking and planning, and directs all our actions.
There is no scientific basis for the existence of something called “free will.” It is an illusion, created by our brains, to explain our efforts to control our actions.
Everything you do, believe, and imagine results from the physical actions of physical atoms in your nervous system — actions precipitated by other physical atoms, quantum particles and fields — all beyond your control or consciousness.
There is no non-physical “free will” force that you control by some mysterious, non-physical means.
I wrote this article because I wanted to. And you read it because you wanted to.
But we wanted to because the quantum particles in our nervous systems created those desires. We are Pavlov’s dogs.
We do not control the universe; the universe controls us. Free will simply is not science. Free will is pseudo-science.
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Twitter: @rodgermitchell; Search #monetarysovereignty
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