Jerry Coyne continues to obsess about free will, as he responds to a short book entitled, Free: Why Science Hasn’t Disproved Free Will.
What’s clear to me is that Coyne’s version of naturalistic atheism is incompatible with libertarian free will, thus he rejects the latter. You can see the incompatibility at work in Coyne’s mind:
If you are going to promulgate the idea that at a given point in time you can really make “alternative decisions”—decisions that you (rather than an errant electron) decide, then you are suggesting that humans can flout the laws of physics. This is magic.
While some people punt and say that you can have contracausal free will without flouting those laws, I don’t see how that’s possible. Such an attitude is profoundly anti-naturalistic given that are brains are made of molecules.
But Mele’s “ambitious free will” does flout the laws of physics, and in that sense the jury, which is physics, has already decided against it.
Of course, if naturalism/atheism are incompatible with libertarian free will, then that means my life-long, massive, direct experience with libertarian free will is evidence against naturalism/atheism.
Coyne is constantly flustered by the existence of the compatibilists. Yet perhaps our experience with free will is so strong that compatibilists exist mainly to prevent people from reaching the conclusion that naturalism/atheism are incompatible with free will. Take away the compatibilists and people will have to choose between the abstract, cloudy position of naturalism or their concrete experience with free will.
Anyway, Coyne’s response to the book is interesting:
I wasn’t impressed with the book. Mele does point out a few alternative interpretations to experiments like Benjamin Libet’s which apparently show that some decisions can be predicted with accuracy of up to 80% by brain-scanning as far as ten seconds before the actor is conscious of having made a decision. Some of Mele’s criticisms are useful, while others are not. Mele’s main objection is that the real decisions we make are based on rational pondering and consideration, and these decisions are very different from the simple binary choices predicted by brain-scanning studies. To that I reply “so what”?
What a weak reply. So what? It means that such studies don’t measure what they claim to be measuring. A simply binary choice is not the essence of reason. For example, when social justice actvists assert that a hate crime has been committed, I will have to rely on reason to assess the claim and reach a judgment about the liklihood of its veracity. In doing so, my brain behaves differently than when I choose heads or tails during a coin flip.
Take me writing this blog post about this topic instead of something else and posting it when I did using the words that I chose to make the points I chose to highlight. According to determinists like Coyne, if we were to replay the tape of life a million times, in each and every one of those million playbacks, I would choose to write and post the identical thing. In other words, I would not be responsible for this posting and its claims/words.
Sorry, but that does not strike me as a true or enlightened position.