We are taught to believe that we actively and consciously make decisions about our behavior. Since we decide what to do and not do, we are also responsible for our choices. A corollary belief is that we deserve to be punished for our ‘bad’ decisions and praised for our ‘good’ decisions. All religions have some version of the Christian notion of sin deeply imbedded in their core belief systems. In both the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible, there is frequent discussion of the painful results of sin. The God of the Old Testament is a frightening character indeed.
For the usual concept of sin to make any sense, there must be free will. There is an underlying assumption that we could make the ‘right’ decision or choice if only we would. If we don’t or won’t make the ‘right’ choice, then we must suffer the consequences. However, what does free will really mean? Recent scientific studies in neuroscience raise doubt about our ordinary ideas of free will. We will discuss several scientific articles which call into question the nature of free will, and consider the ramifications of a revised understanding of just how free we are to make our own choices.
A quotation from the article referenced below:
"There has been a long controversy as to whether subjectively ‘free’ decisions are determined by brain activity ahead of time. We found that the outcome of a decision can be encoded in brain activity of prefrontal and parietal cortex up to 10 s before it enters awareness. This delay presumably reﬂects the operation of a network of high-level control areas that begin to prepare an upcoming decision long before it enters awareness."
Assuming this experimental finding is accurate, what does it mean for the concept of free will?
If you are interested in attending the talk this Sunday, please RSVP as space is limited.
Below is one scientific article that will be considered in this talk.
Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain. NATURE NEUROSCIENCE VOLUME 11, NUMBER 5, MAY 2008. Chun Siong Soon, Marcel Brass, Hans-Jochen Heinze & John-Dylan Haynes.