No Illusions 22 – News Roundup for March 15, 2011

Show notes for this episode:

A Different Perspective on Fukushima from Atomic Insights by @atomicrod

Atomtronics, Or Atoms Spun By Laser Beams, Could Replace Electronics

Glenn Greenwald: WH forces P.J. Crowley to resign for condemning abuse of Manning

The liberal game of silencing the messenger by John Pilger

Ross Garnaut says science on climate change is stronger

As we sleep, speedy brain waves boost our ability to learn

Buddhism and the Brain

Melvyn Bragg & The Philosophers on Free Will

The Feds Poisoned Alcohol during Prohibition and Murdered at Least 10,000 People

The Maze Of Free Will

Galen Strawson is a British philosopher and literary critic who works primarily on philosophy of mind, metaphysics (including free will, panpsychism, the mind-body problem, and the self), John Locke, David Hume and Kant.

Like I have argued here many times, Strawson doesn’t believe that Free Will exists. According to his ‘basic argument’:

  1. You do what you do, in any given situation, because of the way you are.
  2. So in order to be ultimately responsible for what you do, you have to be ultimately responsible for the way you are — at least in certain crucial mental respects.
  3. But you cannot be ultimately responsible for the way you are in any respect at all.
  4. So you cannot be ultimately responsible for what you do.

Sounds good to me.

Here’s an article that he recently wrote for the NYTimes.

Max Planck Scientists Agree With Me That Free Will Is An Illusion

I’ve been trying to explain to people for 20 years that free will is an illusion. I’ve covered the subject on a few podcasts, including this one and this one with Dr Susan Blackmore. I even mad a simple flowchart explaining why it must be an illusion. Now, finally, some neuroscientists have agreed with me.

According to Wired:

Long before you’re consciously aware of making a decision, your mind has already made it. If that’s the case, do people actually make decisions? Or is every choice — even the choice to prepare for future choices — an unthinking, mechanistic procedure over which an illusory self-awareness is laid? Those questions are raised by a study conducted by Max Planck Institute neuroscientists and published Sunday in Nature Neuroscience. Test subjects chose whether to push a button with their right or left hand; seven seconds before they experienced making the choice, their brain activity already predicted their final decisions.

(via Cameron Collie via Is Free Will an Illusion? | Wired Science |

You may say “who cares?” Well you should. It’s incredibly important to understand. It’s easily as important as understanding that the Earth orbits the Sun and not the other way around. It will change your life. At least, that’s been my experience and the experience of lots of people I know.

Free Will Is An Illusion (like God) – by Susan Blackmore


So why do we feel as though we are having a single stream of conscious experiences? Perhaps it was useful for our past survival to have a false model of ourselves, to attribute our body’s actions to an inner self, and to see the world in terms of spiritual forces and non-physical agents, when there are no such things. Perhaps it is possible to give up these illusions by practising watching the mind.

Susan was a guest on G’Day World talking about free will back in May 2008.

Read the rest of her recent article in The Guardian here.