You Don't Have Free Will, But Don't Worry.
Have you ever stopped to ponder the existence of free will? It's an intriguing concept that has likely crossed the minds of everyone at some point. However, when we examine the laws of nature, we start to see that the notion of free will is both incompatible and meaningless. While this idea may challenge our beliefs, it's important to listen to what science has to say on the matter. In this video, I will delve into the reasons why free will does not exist and why there are more pressing matters to concern ourselves with.
Before we dive deeper into the topic, let's establish what we mean by "free will." Most of us intuitively think of free will as the ability to choose among possible futures in the present moment. It aligns with our experience of how the world appears to function. However, it's crucial to note that this definition may differ from what philosophers have proposed. For the purposes of this discussion, we'll focus on the concept of free will as the ability to select which possible future becomes reality.
To understand why free will falls short, we must explore the laws of nature. All known laws of nature operate through differential equations, which can calculate the outcome of a given situation based on initial conditions. These deterministic laws dictate that everything in the universe, including our brains, follows a predetermined path that was set in motion at the moment of the big bang. In other words, the future is determined by the present.
While some may argue that chaos or quantum mechanics introduce unpredictability, this doesn't grant us the free will we desire. Chaos, despite its apparent randomness, remains deterministic. Quantum events, on the other hand, are fundamentally random and not influenced by external factors, including ourselves. Thus, the combination of determinism and randomness in the laws of nature does not allow for the kind of free will we envision.
Some philosophers have attempted to redefine free will to find a compromise between the laws of nature and this cherished concept. For instance, they propose that free will means being unpredictable. However, unpredictability does not equate to free will. Furthermore, others suggest that free will exists when our decisions are driven by internal processes rather than external influences. Yet, even with internal dominance, our decisions remain determined or random. These attempts at redefining free will do not hold up when scrutinized.
When we believe we are exercising free will, we are actually experiencing the impression of it. Our brains go through complex calculations to make decisions, and during this process, we are unaware of the outcome until it reveals itself. Our self-awareness meshes with this lack of predictability, creating the illusion of free will. It is the synergy between our introspection and the unpredictable nature of our decision-making that leads to this perception.
One concern raised against discrediting free will is that it may erode people's moral behavior. The argument suggests that if individuals know free will doesn't exist, they may disregard the consequences of their actions. However, this is a fallacious view. Our actions have repercussions, not because of free will, but because those affected will respond accordingly. Our existence is driven by a software that seeks to optimize our well-being. If harm is caused, responsibility lies not in the notion of free will but in the problematic behavior itself.
Studies purporting to link disbelief in free will to immoral behavior often fail to properly investigate the nuances of the subject. Priming participants to think fatalistically, rather than challenging free will directly, skews the outcomes. In fact, recent studies have demonstrated a positive impact on moral decision-making when free will is disregarded. Disbelief in free will encourages empathetic behaviors rather than detracting from them.
In acknowledging the illusion of free will, we challenge our preconceived notions of decision-making. While it may be difficult to think of ourselves in any other way, we must recognize that our decisions are greatly influenced by the information we absorb. By understanding how our thinking apparatus operates and shining a light on cognitive biases and logical fallacies, we can maximize our decision-making potential. It is through this understanding that we can truly make the best of the thinking apparatus we possess.
Free will, a concept deeply ingrained in our sense of self, ultimately crumbles when confronted with the laws of nature. Its incompatibility and logical incoherence render it an empty illusion. At the heart of decision-making lies the impression of free will, woven together by our self-awareness and our inability to predict outcomes. Rather than clinging to this illusion, let us embrace a new perspective that enriches our understanding of cognitive biases and deepens our critical thinking abilities. As we step into the future, let curiosity guide us, always eager to see what our thinking will reveal.