EXPLORING THE ILLUSION OF FREE WILL 
 
 

George Ortega,
Producer

Nick Vale

Chandler Klebs

Nomi

Creating a world without blame and guilt

The world's first, and already successful*  initiative, including two TV shows, to popularize the refutation of free will 

*How it happened 

John Searle, the13th ranked post-1900 philosopher, says that our world overcoming the free will illusion "would be a bigger revolution in our thinking than Einstein, or Copernicus, or Newton, or Galileo, or Darwin -- it would alter our whole conception of our relation with the universe." 

The Washington Post, The New York Times, Psychology Today, Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, The Atlantic, The Guardian, USA Today, The Telegraph, Time Magazine, Scientific American, NPR Radio, The Economist, and Science Magazine  all affirm that free will is an illusion.


NEW FEATURE:
Complete online text and pdf download of EXPLORING THE ILLUSION OF FREE WILL, SECOND EDITION by George Ortega

 

Exploring the Illusion of Free Will is two TV shows - WHITE PLAINS NY TV and NYC LIVE CALL-IN TV,  several books - Mine and  Enel's,  and Chandler's one meetup - NYC, this website, Internet video and audio -  YOU TUBE  iTUNES AUDIO PODCAST  PUBLIC DOMAIN VIDEOS & MP3s, and a blog - EXOGENOUS AGENCY

 
Quick Links to the YouTube Episodes: 01-10  11-20  21-30  31-40  41-50  51-60  61-70  71-80  81-90 91-100  101-110  111-120  121-130  131-140  141-150  151-160  161-170  171-180  181-190  191-200  201-210  211-216
 

Quick Links to the 2013 Exploring the Illusion of Free Will, 2nd Edition Chapters: ( by titleIntro. to 2011 edition  Intro. to 2013 digital edition 1  (2 omitted)  3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   Epilogue  Books Refuting Free Will...

 

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Free Will Refutations in Major Publications

 

Free Will Refuted in the Blogs

 

Free Will Refuted on YouTube

 

Recent books for the public and academia refuting free will

 

Edited and Revised Transcripts of the First Eighteen Episodes

 

Quotes Disaffirming Free Will and Affirming Determinism by the Famous

 

Absurd Free Will Defenses by Major Institutions and Publications Who Should Know Better

 

Claiming credit for public awareness that free will is an illusion

 
 

More Featured Episodes

10. Why Change as the basic Universal Process Makes Free Will Impossible

13. Overcoming Blame, Guilt, Envy and Arrogance by Overcoming the Illusion of Free Will

16. Overcoming the Illusion of Free Will as an Evolutionary Leap in Human Consciousness

17. Revitalizing Religion through Transcending the Illusion of Free Will

26. Because Essential Elements of Every Decision are Stored in Our Unconscious, Free Will is Impossible.

38. The Messenger and I Have Evolved Human Consciousness

50. Freud Popularized the Unconscious.  Ortega is Popularizing Unconscious Will

60. Ten Ways to Refute Free Will

 
 

Landmark Coverage Refuting Free Will

 

USA Today - "Why you don't really have free will by Jerry Coyne January 1, 2012

"The debate about free will, long the purview of philosophers alone, has been given new life by scientists, especially neuroscientists studying how the brain works. And what they're finding supports the idea that free will is a complete illusion."


Time Magazine - "Think You're Operating on Free Will? Think Again" by Eben Harrell July 2, 2010

"In an intriguing review in the July 2 edition of the journal Science, published online Thursday, Ruud Custers and Henk Aarts of Utrecht University in the Netherlands lay out the mounting evidence of the power of what they term the 'unconscious will.'...John Bargh of Yale University, who 10 years ago predicted many of the findings discussed by Custers and Aarts in a paper entitled "The Unbearable Automaticity of Being," called the Science paper a "landmark — nothing like this has been in Science before."


The New York Times - "Your Move: The Maze of Free Will" by Galen Strawson July 22, 2010

"Some people think that quantum mechanics shows that determinism is false, and so holds out a hope that we can be ultimately responsible for what we do. But even if quantum mechanics had shown that determinism is false (it hasn’t), the question would remain: how can indeterminism, objective randomness, help in any way whatever to make you responsible for your actions? The answer to this question is easy. It can’t."

The Atlantic - "The Brain on Trial" by David Eagleman July/August 2011

"In modern science, it is difficult to find the gap into which to slip free will—the uncaused causer—because there seems to be no part of the machinery that does not follow in a causal relationship from the other parts."

The Telegraph - "Neuroscience, free will and determinism: 'I'm just a machine'" by Tom Chivers October 12, 2010

"The philosophical definition of free will uses the phrase 'could have done otherwise'... "As a neuroscientist, you've got to be a determinist. There are physical laws, which the electrical and chemical events in the brain obey. Under identical circumstances, you couldn't have done otherwise; there's no 'I' which can say 'I want to do otherwise'."


The Guardian - "Guilty but not responsible?" by Rosiland English May 29, 2012

"The discovery that humans possess a determined will has profound implications for moral responsibility. Indeed, Harris is even critical of the idea that free will is "intuitive": he says careful introspection can cast doubt on free will. In an earlier book on morality, Harris argues 'Thoughts simply arise in the brain. What else could they do? The truth about us is even stranger than we may suppose: The illusion of free will is itself an illusion'"


Psychology Today - "Free Will Is an Illusion, So What?" by

If you think carefully about any decision you have made in the past, you will recognize that all of them were ultimately based on similar—genetic or social—inputs to which you had been exposed. And you will also discover that you had no control over these inputs, which means that you had no free will in taking the decisions you did.

Complete List

 
 


A brief history of determined vs. free will ideas

Cause and Effect – At about the 5th century BC, in his work On the Mind, the Greek Philosopher Leucippus penned the earliest known universal statement describing what we today understand as determinism, or the law of cause and effect

“Nothing happens at random, but everything for a reason and by necessity.”

Human Will – The concepts of will and free will are actually Christian in orgin. It was Saint Paul in his Letter to the Romans, which is dated at about 58 A.D., who first discovered this thing we call human will. He came to it by recognizing that he could not often do as much right as he wanted. Saint Paul wrote in Romans 7:15 that:

“I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t.” I do what I don’t want to – what I hate.” (Translation – The Living Bible)

Free Will -- Nothing new was said on the matter for the next few hundred years until St. Augustine grappled with the concepts of evil and justice. Saint Augustine wrote in his book De Libero Arbitrio, 386-395 A.D., (translated as “On Free Will”)

“Evil deeds are punished by the justice of God. They would not be punished justly if they had not been performed voluntarily.”

The problem he saw was that if human beings do not have a free will, it would be unfair for God to arbitrarily reward or punish us. St. Augustine concluded that God could not be unfair, and so he created the concept of a human free will, whereby we earn our reward or punishment by what we freely do.

Scientific concepts relating to the determined will vs. free will question

Classical Mechanics -- In 1687 Sir Isaac Newton publishes his “Laws of Motions” that mathematically describes the physical universe as acting in a mechanistic manner according to the principle of cause and effect.

Classical Mechanics is a completely deterministic theory

Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle -- In 1925 Warner Heisenberg describes mathematically that…

We can measure the position of a particle or the momentum of a particle (momentum meaning its direction and velocity), but we cannot simultaneously measure the position and momentum of a particle.

Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics -- Niels Bohr and others make the following assertions;

1) Particles do not have a simultaneous position and momentum.

2) Elementary particles behave indeterministically, and are not subject to the principle of cause and effect.

Believers in free will saw the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics as providing a possibility for free will to exist. They asserted that if elementary particles behave indeterministically, they are not subject to the principle of cause and effect that prohibits free will.

But, as noted above, it eventually became apparent that indeterminism also prohibits free will.

 

Exploring the Illusion of Free Will, 2nd Edition Chapters

Intro. to the 2011 1st. edition 

Intro. to the 2013 2nd. edition (digital version)

1 How I came to see my causal will

2 Proving causal will in real time (omitted)

3 Morality within a causal will perspective

4 What it all means

5 We Do Not "Experience" Free Will

6 How the Hedonic Imperative Makes Free Will Impossible

7 How the Unsolicited Participation of the Unconscious Makes Free Will Impossible

8 Asking When a Child Gains it Illuminates the Incoherence of the Concept "Free Will"

9 Overcoming our Reluctance to Overcome the Illusion of Free Will

10 Why Change as the Basic Universal Process Makes Free Will Impossible

11 The Absurdity of Varying Degrees of Free Will

12 Why the Concept of Free Will is Incoherent

13 Overcoming Blame, Guilt, Envy and Arrogance by Overcoming the Illusion of Free Will

14 Why Both Causality and Randomness Make Free Will Impossible

15 Why Frankfurt's “Second Order Desires” Do Not Allow for a Free Will

16 Overcoming the Illusion of Free Will as an Evolutionary Leap in Human Consciousness

17 Revitalizing Religion through Transcending the Illusion of Free Will

18 Why Humans Cannot Circumvent Natural Law to Gain a Free Wil
l

Epilogue: How Refuting Free Will Went From  Academia to the Public Spotlight – with hyperlinked  articles in major publications – 2004-2012

Books Refuting Free Will and  Fundamental Moral Responsibility
 

 

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Chapters of the 2013 Exploring the Illusion of Free Will, Second Edition

 
Introduction to the 2013 Digital Edition

The year following the release of the first edition of Exploring the Illusion of Free Will on December 2, 1011 saw an explosion of coverage on the illusion of free will both in the mainstream press and in the Internet blogosphere. During this time, The New York Times, USA Today, The Atlantic and other major newspapers and magazines published often first-ever pieces refuting free will. Scientific American Mind, in fact, featured a cover story on the free will illusion in their May/June, 2012 print issue. I have compiled a virtually complete hyperlinked list of that coverage, and included it in the epilogue.
I have also included a hyperlinked listing of books throughout history, both in and out of print, devoted to refuting the notion of free will. In this second edition introduction, I have additionally outlined a brief history of some of the major causes and landmarks in this unprecedented public awakening to, and interest in, the question of whether or not we have a free will.

Along with this new interest among the public regarding who we humans truly are and what causes us to do what we do has come substantial misconception about the term free will. In this introduction, I clarify some of this confusion so that we can arrive at a clear and specific understanding of what the vast majority of philosophers and social scientists mean when they say that free will is an illusion. The term free will is generally taken to mean that we human beings are free to think, feel, say and do whatever we want regardless of:

To whom we were born, and how they raised us

Where we were born, and where grew up

What we learned, or didn't learn, in school and from life in general

How young or old we are

How smart or not we are

What experiences we’ve had, or haven’t had

What type of personality we have

What our genetic makeup is, including whether we were born male or female

What our unconscious mind happens to be doing

Our preferences, needs and desires

And various other factors


That’s what the vast majority of philosophers and scientists mean when they refer to free will. The basic reason we humans do not have a free will is because of the principle of causality, which is better known as the law of cause and effect, and is also referred to as, or held to be synonymous with, the concept of determinism. Causality basically means that everything that happens is caused. Things don't just happen. The most general and comprehensive description of this principle is that the state of the universe at one moment is the complete cause of the state of the universe at the next moment and the complete effect of the state of the universe at the previous moment. From this, it follows that the ensuing chain of universal causality stretches back in time to before the Earth was created and reaches forward in time into the indefinite future. That’s essentially the reason free will is an illusion. Through the process of cause and effect, the universe long before we were born has predetermined everything that happens in our universe today, including everything we think, feel, say and do. We can also understand why free will is impossible through other means.

In science there was once a debate over whether what we humans do is the result of nature or nurture. Scientists ultimately proved that human behavior results from both our genetic endowment and our environment. But, neither nature nor nurture, nor their combination, allows for a free will. If you are beginning to see why we human beings do not have a free will, this is a good place to consider two important caveats. Understanding that we do not have a free will does not give us permission to do whatever we want, does not mean we must passively accept bad behavior from others, does not mean we must do away with our rules, governments, and principles of law, and will not cause civilization to crumble.
 

A brief history of determined vs. free will ideas

Cause and Effect – At about the 5th century BC, in his work On the Mind, the Greek Philosopher Leucippus penned the earliest known universal statement describing what we today understand as determinism, or the law of cause and effect: “Nothing happens at random, but everything for a reason and by necessity.”  

Human Will – Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, which is dated at about 58 A.D., recognized that he could not often do as much good as he wanted. He wrote in Romans 7:15 that: “I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t.” I do what I don’t want to – what I hate.” (Translation – The Living Bible) 

Free Will – A few hundred years later, Augustine was grappling with the concepts of evil and justice, and wrote in his book De Libero Arbitrio, 386-395 A.D., (translated as “On Free Will”) that “Evil deeds are punished by the justice of God. They would not be punished justly if they had not been performed voluntarily.” The problem he saw was that if humans do not have a free will, it would be unfair for God to arbitrarily reward or punish us. Augustine concluded that God could not be unfair, and so he invoked the concept of a human free will, whereby we earn our reward or punishment by what we freely choose.  

Classical Mechanics – In 1687 Sir Isaac Newton published his “Laws of Motions” that mathematically describes the physical universe as acting mechanistically according to the principle of cause and effect. Classical Mechanics is a completely deterministic theory.

Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle – In 1927 Warner Heisenberg described mathematically why we cannot simultaneously measure the position and momentum, and other conjugate variables, of a particle.  

Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics – Niels Bohr and others asserted that elementary particles do not have a simultaneous position and momentum, and that they are not subject to the principle of cause and effect. Believers in free will saw the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics as providing a possibility for free will to exist. They asserted that if elementary particles behave indeterministically, they are not subject to the principle of cause and effect that prohibits free will. But, as noted, it became apparent that indeterminism, or the idea that certain actions including human choices have no cause, prohibits free will perhaps even more strongly than does determinism.  

Other Sciences, and Free Will During the last several decades, the idea of free will has been repeatedly refuted by geneticists, neuroscientists, sociologists, and psychologists, who have devised various experiments to explain why we do not have a free will. In 1964, neuroscientist Hans Kornhuber discovered what has come to be known as “the readiness potential.” He used an electromyogram, or EMG, to measure the muscle activity of a person’s finger as it flexed, and an electroencephalogram, or EEG, to measure the person’s brain activity. He detected brain activity before the finger flexed, and called that activity the readiness potential. The readiness potential signals that muscle activity is absolutely and irrevocably set to occur.

In the 1980s, neurophysiologist Benjamin Libet used Kornhuber’s findings to explore the determined will vs. free will question. Like Kornhuber, he attached an EMG and EEG to his subjects. He instructed them to flex their wrist whenever they wished, and to tell him exactly when they made their decision. Libet found that the readiness potential occurred about 550 milliseconds before the wrist flexed. But the subjects became aware of their decision to flex their wrist about 300 milliseconds before they flexed their wrist. This experiment showed that the subjects had unconsciously decided to flex their wrist 200 milliseconds before they were consciously aware of their decision. Since their decision was initiated at the level of the unconscious, flexing their wrist could not have been consciously, or freely, willed.

During the mid 90s, Yale psychologist John Bargh and his colleagues studied the effects of priming on our human will. Bargh assigned two groups of subjects the task of making sentences from scrambled words. The target group’s words – gray, wrinkled, wise, Florida, and Bingo – were chosen to prime the stereotype of “elderly.” The control group was given neutral words. After finishing their task, the two groups were observed as they walked toward an elevator to leave the building. Bargh observed that the target group consistently walked to the elevator at a slower pace than did the control group. His experiment shows how our unconscious is responsible for behavior we ordinarily assume is under our conscious, or free, control. In a second experiment, Bargh and his colleagues primed his target groups for either rudeness or politeness. Again, Bargh assigned the scrambled word task to each group. The “Rudeness” group was assigned words like aggressively, bold, rude, annoyingly, interrupt and audaciously. The “Politeness” group was assigned words like respect, honor, considerate, appreciate and patiently. After completing the sentence task, the subjects from each group were instructed to notify one of Bargh’s colleagues that they were done. Bargh, however, instructed his colleague to remain busy in conversation for ten minutes, so that the subjects would either have to wait a long while or interrupt the conversation.

As it turned out, before the ten minutes had elapsed 67 percent of the subjects primed for rudeness interrupted Bargh’s colleague, while only 6 percent of the subjects primed for politeness interrupted. Also, very interestingly, when Bargh asked his subjects why they interrupted or chose to patiently wait, they offered creative answers, but none showed any awareness of the unconscious priming that had compelled their choices. These are just a few of the dozens of scientific experiments from various scientific disciplines that reveal that decisions we ordinarily attribute to a "free" will are actually caused by factors completely outside of our control.  

Why all of this matters – Let’s look at two individuals, Grace and John. Grace learned from everyone she ever knew that voting is the right and moral thing to do. John learned from everyone he ever knew that voting is wrong and immoral. Grace always votes. John never votes. Should we consider Grace praiseworthy for always voting? Should we blame John for never voting? Should Grace feel proud of always voting, and should John feel ashamed or guilty of never voting?

We can explore this notion of fundamental accountability through another example. Ten big guys walk into a room, take hold of a person, force him to grasp a magic marker, and despite his resistance, make him scribble FREEBIRD in large letters on the floor in front of him. Would it be right to hold him accountable for this action? Basically all of our choices are as completely forced or compelled as were the person’s in this example. On an individual level, the belief in free will leads to irrational blame, guilt, arrogance, and envy. It causes blame at the expense of understanding and problem solving. It causes guilt rather than acceptance. It causes arrogance rather than gratitude. It causes us to envy others at the expense of positive self-regard.

On a societal level, the belief in free will leads to irrational condemnation, punishment and indifference. The U.S. accounts for about 5 percent of the global population, but is responsible for 25 percent of incarcerations throughout the world. During the last hundred years, our criminal justice system has moved from reform (as in reformatory and penitentiary) to condemnation, revenge, retribution and hateful punishment. Regrettably, no prisoner has ever truly had a choice but to do what they did. While we must certainly protect ourselves from those who pose a threat to our safety and rights, to the extent we acknowledge the true causal nature of our human will, we would do so with far more understanding and compassion. Also, we would better appreciate the value of reaching potential criminals when they are still young, thereby lessening the likelihood that they will resort to crimes as adults. In our world, every day over 20,000 children aged five and under die of largely preventable poverty-related causes. Sadly, many of us from rich countries justify our indifference toward them by blaming their parents for, of their own free will, having them, or for, of their own free will, not working hard enough to feed and care for them.  
 

How would transcending the illusion of free will create a better world?

We would see the world from a new, refreshingly different perspective.

It would represent a giant leap forward in the evolution of human consciousness.

We would navigate our reality according to the known facts of our universe.

It would enable us to be better people.

Next chapter


 

List of Chapters

 
Intro. to 2011 edition  Intro. to 2013 digital edition 1  (2 omitted)  3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   Epilogue  Books Refuting Free Will...
 


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