BIAS & FREE WILL


 

If you don’t think for yourself you will end up accepting the thoughts of others – that will make sure you won’t have a free will  


Do animals’ brains work just like a machine, pre-programmed by their natural predispositions? In relation to humans this question can be simply rephrased as: Do we have free will? We know illnesses as well as the amount of certain chemicals in our brains and bodies can significantly modify our thoughts and behavior; but does it follow that healthy humans are slaves to their genetics, their environment, and their human impulses, with no ability to make rational and purposeful decisions.

 

Philosophers have struggled with this question for millennia; but for the last generation sociologists and neuroscientists have firmed up their opinions on this issue. They seem to be sufficiently confident in their findings to promote the idea that free will is nothing more than a naïve illusion.

 

To a large extent the answer seems to depend on how free will is defined and that a definitive answer cannot be given. But we can examine the question logically. For example: the vast majority of people behave as if they can make choices and rational decisions; and this includes sociologists and neuroscientists. But logically, if a scientist believes their brain is an uncontrollable machine they must conclude their own findings will be of no practical use. Nevertheless they advocate techniques that can suppress "undesirable" human thoughts and actions, such as violent and criminal behavior, by a form of biofeedback or thought control.

 

But by the acknowledgement that some actions are "undesirable" the free will issue has now been subtly changed: a moral judgement has entered the picture. But scientists are hesitant to accept that people are free to make moral decisions because the concept of morality is difficult to explain in mechanistic or evolutionary terms. But most people believe that healthy, normal and efficient humans do have the ability to make moral decisions, and are responsible for those decisions. All authority and legal systems are based upon this assumption; as is the understanding that some people are worthy of blame and others are well-intentioned and praiseworthy. 

 

A thought experiment can clarify the issues relating to free will. Let's ask: how did I decide to write this about this topic of free will. The clear favourite of neuroscientists - 1] I was driven by an inescapable force generated by my brain’s structure and chemistry (perhaps imperfect) along with the random observations that have infiltrated into my brain over the years – a mechanism.  2] I chose to write this blog because I noticed the weather was not good for riding my mountain bike, which was first choice, so I went with my second choice of looking cool and intelligent by writing a hopefully thought-provoking article - a self-interested choice. 3] I studied the presentations of neuroscientists regarding the topic of free will and I deduced they are illogical, contain numerous anomalies, and are based upon questionable assumptions, so I felt compelled to point this out to readers - a moral obligation and a choice.

 

Neuroscientists confidently reject choice and morals (#2 and #3). They argue free choice has been proven by certain tests to be indistinguishable from mechanism, and morals can be rejected as they are also mechanistic and illusions, like free will itself. The reasoning appears circular and illogical as the findings can be correct only if the original premises are true.

 

Whenever it is stated or implied that a complex scientific question is confirmed (or other similar words), or that a particular group of people have gifts of authority unavailable to others, it is like a giant bias flag waving above their head (alternatively it is an admission of naivety or gullibility about the nature of science).  My experience has shown that the only way complex science can be confirmed is to stubbornly ignore inconsistencies or anomalies and to suppress logic.