Science Hasn’t Refuted Free Will

Christian List in the Boston Review:

According to the skeptics, human actions aren’t the result of conscious choices but are caused by physical processes in the brain and body over which people have no control. Human beings are just complex physical machines, determined by the laws of nature and prior physical conditions as much as steam engines and the solar system are so determined. The idea of free will, the skeptics say, is a holdover from a naïve worldview that has been refuted by science, just as ghosts and spirits have been refuted. You have as little control over whether to continue to read this article as you have over the date of the next total solar eclipse visible from New York. (It is due to take place on May 1, 2079.)

Such free-will skepticism may not yet be embraced by the general public. Nor is it new; the philosophical debate about whether free will is compatible with determinism stretches back centuries, and the modern scientific debate has been roiling at least since the famous neuroscience experiments on the alleged neural causes of voluntary actions conducted by Benjamin Libet in the 1980s. Still, this skepticism makes trouble for some deeply held views about ourselves. The idea of free will is central to the way we understand ourselves as autonomous agents and to our practices of holding one another responsible.

More here.