I had no choice but to share this article about a new book that says free will is an illusion

Originally published at: I had no choice but to share this article about a new book that says free will is an illusion | Boing Boing


I am determined to hang on to my illusion of free-will.


In “The End of the World, The Science and Ethics of Human Extinction “, John Leslie breaks up the causes into physical, biological, philosophical, others. So nuclear war, biosphere collapse, etc.

In the philosophical category are things like utilitarianism suggesting we should not have children anymore to reduce future human suffering.

This “humans have no free will” is definitely on the list of philosophical theories that could cause the end of the world. Whether because we stop doing stuff or start doing stuff.

(But if course I would pull that book from my library to write this.)


I knew you’d say that.


What is the evidence for free will (belief not being evidence)? So far as I know, no one has ever produced any. Which isn’t surprising, given that free will would require a causally-exempt system in a causally-determined universe. As with anything, one has to be open to evidence, but it has yet to materialize.


I saw some just this morning, when I decided to have an egg instead of peanut butter and honey with my toast. :person_shrugging:

Biochemical Puppets

Hey, I saw them once. They opened for Devo!


the only use determinism would have - and the only way to “prove” it - would be if you could accurately predict someone’s behavior. the starting conditions and moment to moment influences are near to infinite, meanwhile we can’t even solve Three-body problem - Wikipedia. so pretending there’s a measurable difference between determinism and free will ( and a way to “prove” one or the other ) feels downright silly

to put it another way, the only true map of the territory is the territory itself

free will or determinism? they’re indistinguishable, so why worry. the next time someone recreates the universe from scratch, we can compare and see


Cute. Evidence of choice or volition is not evidence of free will, obviously, but still, cute.

I’ve always been slightly puzzled by people who go with this line of rebuttal. It makes a certain amount of sense against a crude straw-determinist “you are such a meat puppet that reductionism will soon predict your every action! Mwahaha!” argument; but it isn’t really an argument for freedom, rather for some combination of ‘ok, determinism; but it’s too complex to be predictive’ and ‘actually there’s a lot of randomness there’.

The former isn’t even an argument against determinism, just against predictability; and the latter isn’t really an argument for freedom of will unless it’s some very esoteric flavor of freedom that dice, random number generators, and unstable radioisotopes possess that is quite unlike what we typically imagine freedom to be.


You can tone down the condescension any time now.


start by proving it’s deterministic. if you’re going to randomly challenge people on the internet to prove things, it seems only fair


Seth Meyers Idk GIF by Late Night with Seth Meyers

And also, be condescending about it in the process…


But they can’t help it.


it’s weird how individual people aren’t predictable, and - almost inevitably - there will be someone trying to bully a person who has a woman’s avatar or username on any given day

deterministic or not, people could choose to do better. they really could.


people could choose to do better. they really could.

Damn straight!


But do they have a choice in that? /s

decisions don't be a dick GIF

seth meyers GIF by Late Night with Seth Meyers


I’d be very interested to know if there has been any work, from the empirical psychology side, disentangling the effect of a relatively abstract belief that freedom of will is out of place in a universe that seems to deal in some mixture of causality and randomness; and the feelings of hopelessness(not necessarily founded on any particular position) created by direct experience with one’s choices appearing to have little or no impact on one’s environment and circumstances; or problems with volition, either in the direction of being unable to muster the impetus to do things or of being unable to refrain from impulsive behavior.

I’d love to see actual research; but I’d be shocked if the hedonic impact of abstract arguments for determinism is even a rounding error compared to (unrelated) feelings of akrasia, listlessness, or environmental helplessness.


Thank you. It is a semantic argument very similar (scientifically and culturally) to whether there is a god (or gods). It isn’t testable and ultimately is completely a question of faith.

The only point of free will I would feel confident saying is false* is the idea that only humans have it. We are not fundamentally different from other animals, and if we use free will to describe human behavior we should also consider non-humans to have free will

eta: *obviously it is also a question of faith whether or not there is a super special, human-only soul that grants free will to just us. Some ideas we just can’t consider as live hypotheses, and that is one for me



And yet we still have tons of people who are total dicks about what they believe or disbelieve.



One of the more memorable scenes from one of my favorite movies: