The debate over our free will has been around for far longer than I care to research. As creatures who posses a fair abundance of intelligence, we would like to think that we are completely in control of what we do. Unlike the savage ape or hedgehog, we have the cognitive capacity to decide, to make choices, to determine our own fates.
However, there have been a large number of theories that either lessen or eradicate humanity’s ability to self-determinate. If you’re of a religious bent, you might argue that God has determined what you’re going to do long before you were even born. Or maybe there’s Fate and, once again, your destiny is writ in stone.
Science has its own theories for why humans are nothing more than biological computers that are incapable of true free will, but some of those make even less sense than the religious reasons. For example, there have been studies that show that the conscious brain rationalizes actions after it has made the decision to act.
Now, I have a big problem with this particular scientific explanation for the lack of free will. No matter how you cut it, your brain is making decisions, whether it’s subconscious or conscious. That unique, three-pound lump of tissue in your skull is calling the shots. Whereas the theologians and philosophers say that an independent third-party entity is dictating your actions (hence a complete lack of control), neurologists are saying that your own brain (gasp!) is in control. I fail to see how this constitutes a lack of free will.
An author talks about an experience where a neurologist controls his hand using electrical stimulus. He talks about the creepy feeling of an stranger moving his hand. To me, this experience shows pretty clearly that we’re in control of ourselves (for the most part) if it’s so obvious when we don’t have control.
Free will, as I define it, is the individual’s ability to determine his or her own fate. And, by that definition, neurologists have done nothing but map out just how our brains do just that.