Picture: hourglasses. Benjamin Libet’s experimental finding that decisions had in effect already been made before the conscious mind became aware of making them is both famous and controversial; now new research (published in a ‘Brief Communication’ in Nature Neuroscience by Chun Siong Soon, Marcel Brass, Hans-Jochen Heinze and John-Dylan Haynes) goes beyond it. Whereas the delay between decision and awareness detected by Libet lasted 500 milliseconds, the new research seems to show that decisions can be predicted up to ten seconds before the deciders are aware of having made up their minds.

The breakthrough here, like so many recent advances, comes from the use of fMRI scanning. Libet could only measure electrical activity, and had to use the Readiness Potential (RP) as an indicator that a decision had been made: the new research can go much further, mapping activity in a number of brain regions and applying statistical pattern recognition techniques to see whether any of it could be used to predict the subject’s decision.

The design of the experiments varied slightly from Libet’s original ingenious set-up. This time a series of letters was displayed on a screen. The subject were asked to press either a right or a left button at a moment chosen by them; they then identified the letter which had been displayed at the moment they felt themselves deciding to press either right or left. In the main series of experiments, no time constraints were imposed.

Two regions proved to show activity which predicted the subject’s choice: primary motor cortex and the Supplementary Motor Area (SMA) – the SMA is the source of the RP which Libet used in his research. In the SMA the researchers found activity which predicted the decision some five seconds before the moment of conscious awareness, but it was elsewhere that the earliest signs appeared – in the frontopolar cortex and the precuneus. Here the subject’s decision could be seen as much as seven seconds ahead of time: allowing for the delay in the fMRI response, this tots up to a real figure of ten seconds. One contrast with earlier findings is that there was no activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex: the researchers hypothesise that this was because the design of their experiment did not require subjects to remember previous button presses. Another difference, of course, is the huge delay of five seconds in the SMA, which one would have expected to be comparable with the findings of earlier, RP-based research. Here the suggested explanation is that in the new experiments the timing of button presses was wholly unconstrained so that there was more time for activity to build up. The time delay in the fMRI study apparently means that the possibility that there was additional activity within the last few hundred milliseconds cannot be excluded: I conjecture that this offers another possible explanation if the RP studies actually detected a late spike which the fMRI couldn’t detect.

The experimenters also ran a series of experiments where the subject chose left or right at a pre-determined time: this does not seem to have shortened the delays, but it showed up a difference between the activation in the frontopolar cortex and the precuneus: briefly, it looks as if the former peaks at the earliest stage, with the precuneus ‘storing’ the decision through more continuous activation.

What is the significance of these new findings? The researchers suggest the results do three things: they show that the delay is not confined to areas which are closely associated with motor activity, but begins in ‘higher’ areas; they demonstrate clearly that the activity relates to identifiable decisions, not just general preparation; and they rule out one of the main lines of attack on Libet’s findings, namely that the small delay observed is a result of mistiming, error, or misunderstanding of the chronology. That seems correct – a variety of arguments of differing degrees of subtlety have been launched against the timings of Libet’s original work. Although Libet himself was scrupulous about demonstrating solid reasons for his conclusions, it always seemed that a delay of a few hundred milliseconds might perhaps be attributable to some sort of error in the book-keeping, especially since timing a decision is obviously a tricky business. A delay of ten seconds is altogether harder to explain away.

However, it seems to me that while the new results close off one line of attack, they reinforce another – the claim that these experiments do not represent normal decision making. We do not typically make random decisions at a random moment of our choosing, and it can therefore fairly be argued that the research has narrower implications than might appear, or even that they are merely a strange by-product of the peculiar mental processes the subjects were asked to undertake. While the delay was restricted to half a second, it was intuitively believable that all our normal decisions were subject to a similar time-lag – surprising, but believable. A delay of ten seconds in normal conscious thought is not credible at all; it’s easy to think of cases where an unexpected contingency arises and we act on it thoughtfully and consciously within much shorter periods than that.

The researchers might well bite the bullet so far as that goes, accepting that their results show only that the delay can be as long as ten seconds, not that it invariably is. Libet himself, had he lived to see these results might perhaps have been tempted to elaborate his idea of ‘free won’t’ – that while decisions build up in our brains for a period before we are aware of them, the conscious mind retains a kind of veto at the last moment.

What would be best of all, of course, is further research into decisions made in more real-life circumstances, though devising a way in which decisions can be identified and timed accurately in such circumstances is something of a challenge.

In the meantime, is this another blow to the idea of free will generally? The research will certainly hearten hard determinists, but personally I remain a compatibilist. I think making a decision and becoming aware of having made that decision are two different things, and I have no deep problem with the idea that they may occur at different times. The delay between decision and awareness does not mean the decision wasn’t ours, any more than the short delay before we hear our own voice means we didn’t intend what we said. Others, I know, will feel that this relegates consciousness to the status of an epiphenomenon.

27 Comments

  1. 1. Rodger Cunningham says:

    I’m with you on this, though I’d go further, being a noncompatibilist. That, however, is beside the point here. As Hodgson says, the only clincher is the choice itself. Any voluntarist account, compatibilist or otherwise, has to distinguish between a choice between alternatives, driven by concentrated attention to them, and the narrative awareness of that decision. Unfortunately we often confuse the matter by using “conscious” to mean “narrative.”

  2. 2. Michael Baggot says:

    I would contend here that these experiments reveal nothing whatever about free-will. The decisions to act and the details of the act itself are made prior to the onset of each trial when the subject agrees to abide by the experimenters instructions. The subsequent brain activity derives from the subjects attempts to implement an arbitrary delaying action; this is not a natural or evolved functionality. What possible behavioral advantage could it afford? The RP at 800 ms or whatever signifies not that a decision has been made but that some contrived delaying mechanism has finished its routine and the planned action can now be carried out. Any repetitive physical or mental routine (stage business) can serve this purpose but the accompanying brain activity is only speciously connected to the physical events required by the experiment.

    Michael Baggot

  3. 3. Rasputin says:

    Well I believe that I can explain the findings easily:

    WE* ARE ALL TRAPPED INSIDE THE MATRIX!!! Ahhh!!!

    * Ofcourse when I say “WE” I mean me. It’s a lot easier to simulate one conscious entity, “you” see? :)

  4. 4. Paul Maurice Martin says:

    I’m inclined to agree with you and see any time delays as beside-the-point (behind the point?) technical glitches, so to speak.

    To my thinking the free will/determinism debate could go on forever for the simple reason that we don’t get do-overs in this universe. It’s impossible to verify either that we could or could not have done anything differently.

  5. 5. Michael Dorenbosch says:

    I agree with Michael Baggot that the article is mainly about brain activity. However, if there are so many seconds tot prepare conscious action, a next step could be trying to block the steps in the activity leading tot decision and consciousness.

    As far as I can see, the article isn’t about the fee will. Nevertheless I agree with Paul Maurice that we don’t get do-overs in the universe. Science we never does, because time is still irreversible in the majority of cases. Nevertheless we agree on the principle of reproducibility. So it is in research on the free will.

    However to me the “free-will”-question isn’t about do-overs. The question seems the first place; are we free to do anyway? Aim I, for instance, free to choose just one option that is suboptimal to me? As far as I know, there is not one example that is pointing in that direction. We, including our brain activity, seem to be trapped in some optimal foraging program. So maybe, do-overs won’t be needed after all..

  6. 6. Alex G. says:

    This experiment is certainly evidence against free will. In fact, the entire discussion of free will is sort of stalled out at this point. Obviously free will has not been proven or disproven. But on the one hand we have science, which has found that everything in the universe larger than the quantum scale behaves in a deterministic way, and if it ever seems to behave in a non-deterministic way, that is only because the system is of sufficient complexity that it is difficult to conceptualize _all_ of the deterministic factors(e.g. the weather).

    On the other hand, we have the first person perspective of consciousness. From this perspective, it certainly feels like we have free will. However, there is no evidence associated with this belief, and on the contrary there is a tremendous amount of evidence for determinism in non-quantum systems. If we believe that free will is possible as a function of the brain, we must believe that something very unique is going on inside the brain. We know that it’s not made of anything special, so maybe it’s some special configuration of regular substances that yields something so important and unique?

    My point is that if we really think about free will in a scientific way, and think about it compared to __everything___ else that we have understood scientifically, it is completely different. Which I guess is true of consciousness in general. We are left asking ourselves,”What the heck could this possibly look like, when we find scientific evidence of it?” The fact that we can’t — at this point — conceptualize what ‘it’ will look like, certainly does not mean that it doesn’t exist. It just means that there is some fundamental misunderstanding that we are living by/with, either about the brain, or about everything. Invenstigating this misunderstanding is what will eventually allow the consciousness, that we know is real, a place in science and conventional understanding.

    I personally believe in free will, because I am a human and the architecture of my psychology is such that I feel like I have it as much as I feel anything. I also believe that there is no evidence for free will. However, things like the presentiment experiments, the Global Consciousness Project, and the incorperation of quantum effects into brain function like in the Orch OR theory, seem to me to be a pretty good recipe for something approximating free will, if there ever was one.

  7. 7. Steve S. says:

    I think everybody is missing the real significance of these new findings. Yes, it’s surprising that Libet’s 1/2-second delay is extended up to 10 sec. But in this experiment, with a choice between two buttons, they were able to predict WHICH one the subject would choose, up to 7 seconds in advance of their supposedly free decision, with an accuracy of 71%. That’s hard predictive science, and should be very disturbing to voluntarists of whatever ilk.

    Of course, that remaining 29% leaves plenty of room for “free won’t”, and I think those cases should be further explored, perhaps combining the fMRI with RP electrical activity. Eg., are there two spikes before a false prediction, indicating a vetoed decision?

  8. 8. Rodger Cunningham says:

    Since most of our so-called decisions consist simply of determining what we’d like to do, it’s hardly surprising or disturbing that this shows up in the brain before we consciously access it. This is also why collective decisions are so statistically predictable, a fact that fosters among economists etc. the illusion that free will is an illusion.

  9. 9. Aaron Noah Hoorwitz says:

    Is there a place for Heysenberg’s Uncertainty Principle in the delay between first sensation in the Libet studies and the awareness of it 500 miliseconds later? Despite all the messy and probabilistic work that the brain is doing beforehand, certainly well beyond Heysenberg’s quantity of uncertainty and certainly beyond Fechners “just-noticeable-difference,” there is a certain instant before we actually becoming aware of something. Is that too long of a period in the macroscopic world to qualify as quantum uncertainty? Or does consciousness qualify because of its elasticity and the difficulty in measuring with this kind of precision?

  10. 10. Peter says:

    The only honest answer is that I don’t know, Aaron, but I believe Libet’s experiments dealt with stuff at a sufficiently macro level for classical physics to be fine.

  11. 11. Joseph Raffanello says:

    The biggest problem I have with experiments like these is that the “free will side” and the “anti-free will side” are never treated equally. The fact that there isn’t even an adequate term to describe someone who simply doesn’t believe in free will highlights my point. People treat these opposing ideologies as if they are two opposing theories both requiring evidence for their validation. They are NOT two opposing theories. Free will is a theory, anti-free will is not a theory. LIke atheism it simply doesn’t make any claims. It is this lack of a claim that defines the position. The fact of the matter is that belief in free will requires active belief. Not believing in free will doesn’t require anything. It should be our default view and not until evidence is presented for free will should we even consider such a theory.

    Instead the situation we are clearly in is that evidence is mounting against free will while no evidence is provided for free will and still, even intelligent people look for whatever gap they can find in the evidence so there may be some possibility that free will exists. I find it humorous when atheists criticiize believers for their obvious god of the gaps fallacies but then turn around and use the same fallacy for free will. Free will of the Gaps.

  12. 12. Dr Paul; Marston says:

    I am puzzled why, if you are a compatibilist, it makes any difference if the brain mechanisms determining choice precede or succeed the self-awareness of having made a “decision”. Since in compatibilism it is all determninistic anyway, what difference would it make? Surely then consciousness must just be epiphenomenal in any case?

  13. 13. Peter says:

    I suppose it needn’t necessarily be a problem for you, but I think many compatibilists would take it that consciousness, whatever they deemed it to be, was part of the decision-making process – so to have evidence that suggested it wasn’t would still be problematic to them.

  14. 14. Ron says:

    It seems to me as though an experiment to test for “free-wont” could easily be administered.

    Red LED in visual sight of the experiment.

    Subjects are instructed to take their actions, however if the LED is lit to take no action.

    LED is set to light at random intervals.

    There will be corresponding times when the LED is lit between RP and the action itself. Action or inaction of the subject during these times would indicate if a conscious veto exists or not.

    I think that if we are making decisions 7-10 seconds before they actually occur however then it’s pretty obvious that conscious veto has to exist however. Otherwise busy crosswalks would be pretty dangerous places. That is unless this report is making the claim that we’re all perceiving reality 7-10 seconds in the past. Now that would be quite the claim.

  15. 15. Ron says:

    Better yet why not run this experiment of subjects that are playing a first person shooting game. It should be easy enough to determine which RP corresponds with a common action like firing a weapon. When it’s all said and done did the player fire each and every time the RP dictated, or did last split-second changes in environment and situation allow for conscious veto? This would seem to be a very good standard of testing that models real-world last minute decision making that is outside the constraints of predetermined test models.

  16. 16. Aiden Gregg says:

    It’s certainly intriguing that a decision to press one key or another can be predicted several seconds in advance from brain activity. However, I question the practical and metaphysical significance of the finding.

    Here’s why. Quite simply, the decision to press one key or another was completely *arbitrary*. That is, subjects had no reason to press one key or the other. In particular, there were no criteria for subjects to weigh up, nor were any consequences riding on their decision. This scenario is obviously completely unlike everyday scenarios where free will is alleged to operate. (The same criticism applies to Libet’s original experiment.)

    Moreover, what did subjects base their decision to press one key or another on? They must have based it on *something*: after all, a decision can be haphazard, but never random. I submit that subjects based their decision on a capricious mental bias for left or right, rooted in some sort of fluctuating dominance in perception (as with a Necker cube). Presumably, this bias had its own neural roots. I submit that these roots drove the physiological signatures identified in the study.

    Looked at in this way, the study merely shows that the *basis* on which *arbitrary* decisions are made has a neural correlate that emerges several seconds before the decision itself.

    Is that a reason, per se, to disbelieve in free will?

  17. 17. Ronald K. Olson says:

    Note from author: This is an edited version of the previous post. It addresses the the observation that most of our common every-day behaviors do not apparently have the luxury of a seven to ten second period of preparation; driving a car, for instance; hitting a baseball, or playing tennis. This post addresses this issue.

    March 15, 2009
    Sunday
    12:03 p.m.
    Brain Function’s Self-destruct Phenomenon

    In both Libet’s and Soon’s papers, they mention there is associated with the SMA a sort of emergency off switch attached to the workings of brain function. Initial brain function occurs, .327 second before awareness the preparatory directives are held in escrow in the SMA, seven to ten seconds after the initiation of brain function we become consciously aware of the prepared behavior stored in the SMA, and shortly thereafter the preparations become behavior. During this last step, somewhere after awareness and before implementation of the directives, when verbally cued, the brain seems to have the ability to, at the very last moment, negate all previous preparation and abort the behavior. The directives short circuit and self-destruct. Free-will advocates point to this as evidence of some sort of self autonomy; of the presence of a free-will; some sort of choice phenomenon housed within the concept of contingency. In one essay, this phenomenon was referred to as free-won’t as opposed to free-will.

    On the PBS program, Closer To Truth, one of the brain scientists described thought processes this way. The brain is obsessively assessing data and anticipating future needs. He explained that the brain assesses and anticipates so as to create scenarios that have potential for future use. At any one point in time, the brain has a maelstrom of predictive behavioral strings going so as to be prepared to respond to whatever nuance the incoming data eventually presents as the stimulus requiring some sort of a response. The human, being subject to the restrictions of a single entity, can only do one thing at a time, and so only one of these scenarios will reach fruition. To this end, each of these strings has a “self-destruct” capability. When incoming data begins to provide a more precise picture of the stimulus it must respond to, these strings gradually self-destruct until there is only one string left. This becomes the response. Being surprise intolerant, the brain is obsessively beginning and terminating a constant flow of potential scenarios created from an unimaginably massive reservoir of thoroughly cross-referenced data from past experience, plus all the incoming data from the present on-going contemporary experience. According to data from Soon’s study, each of these strings of potential behavioral scenarios has a life-span of no more than ten seconds.

    In Libet’s and Soon’s studies, they noted that if at the last moment the individual was told not to perform the action brain function had prepared them to perform, the individual could quickly respond and not perform the action. It seems entirely logical that the concept of stop, having been experienced to the point of mind numbing redundancy, has a well established neural pathway which is capable of responding at the speed of an electron and thus the “self-destruct” mechanism attached to the scenario which is about to become behavior is triggered and the behavior is aborted. This self-destruct mechanism is almost always a function of brain activity performed while the data is stored in the pre-awareness realm of SMA. Should the surviving behavioral string pass through the moment of awareness, this self-destruct mechanism is still intact and subject to current experiential demands. Ordinarily, what physics-based brain function has determined to be inappropriate for the occasion is destroyed while what physics-based brain function has determined to be the most appropriate response carries the day.

    Experience and practice improve the brain’s ability to predict scenarios which are more likely to meet the individual’s behavioral needs. An individual often does not have the luxury of a seven to ten second period of time to develop an appropriate response. Driving is one of these instances. The individual must create an arsenal of experience so that when an emergency presents itself, brain function is ready with an appropriate response. This helps explain why fatal accidents are more common among teenagers than older experienced drivers. In Libet’s study, he found that onset of RP (readiness potential, roughly equating to Soon’s SMA, or supplemental motor area) averaged .535 millisecond before actuation of the behavior. Awareness of the upcoming activity occurred at .204 millisecond before actuation of the behavior. As these are averages, it is assumed there were times when RP was less than half a second before actuation of the behavior making awareness of the behavior less than two tenths of a second before the action. This is split-second timing! While driving, individuals often find themselves making avoidance maneuvers before they even know they are doing it; a reality that both affirms the validity of brain function preceding conscious awareness and saves lives! Repetitive practice can prepare even the less than average brain for events requiring a split-second response, but those with top of the line hardware are the individuals capable of producing and manipulating a massive number of potential scenarios and are thus the ones who excel. Those with the economy model make do.

    The brain is constantly fine-tuning its bank of pertinent data into more quickly accessable and increasingly appropriate potential scenarios. In a study in which an individual played a video game, rested for two hours, and then played the same game again, the individual’s skill level always increased. It is hypothesized that while the individual was sleeping the brain was sifting through the experiential debris, sellecting successful scenerios and eliminating unsuccessful scenarios. Having processed the data, the individual’s brain was better prepared for the second video game session and that experience then provided the brain with more data which the brain again processed during the individual’s rest period. That those who excel at a task are almost always are of superior intelligence is no accident. Fine-tuning ones game requires a phenomenal amount of brain activity and only the best brains are capable of such behavior. A professional must have a plethora of finely tuned potential scenarios flooding their SMA. This ability demands a pristine state of the art brain (genetics) and years of intense practice (experience).

  18. 18. david says:

    fasinating but with horrific implications espeically in terms of sequence of events. The reasearch shows a variation between conciuoss awarness of some events and others. The implications are mindbogling! Take two events A and B. With A your phone rings. With B you touch a plate which is too hot. Suppose both events occur simultanoeusly and there is someone watching you in the room too as an independant timekeeper. Supposidly the time dealy for normal events (upto a few seconds) would be longer than for unconciuss decisions (eg taking your hand away from the hot plate) yet if both events acutally occured together you would in fact experience dropping the hot plate BEFORE you hear the phone ring, depsite that the two events occur simultaneously. OK thats weird enough but what about the person in the room. As they arent toucing the hot plate they wont feel the unconciuss need to drop it so they would witness events at the same time!!! How would that work? Would they automatically agree with you (say the universe splitting into two to acomodate both views, it would have to if you think about it!) or youd constantly argue about the timing. What if there was an atomic clock in the room at the same time? You would experience the same time TWICE (once for the hot plate, once for the phone call because they both occured at an identical time cand since he clock moves forward rapidly you would see the number jump back to the origional!)while someone else would witness the time ONCE. It would be interessting to test!

  19. 19. Ronald K. Olson says:

    I wrote an essay titled, “Not Just Precise, But Seamlessly Perfect;” it’s on my website, http://www.beneficentparentalism.com in the Philosophy section. When we say “at an identical time,” we reduce the universe to our perception of time in which one billionth of a second is pretty impressive. Within the universe any of our time measurements is infinitely divisible making each event occurring in one/”nfinitieth”of the unit. I’m not sure any two events within the universe occur at an identical time.

    I know those unwilling to release their grasp on their free-will mindset are going to focus on this sort of a conundrum. Just recently, I was pushing the button on my car radio that selects the next available station; the search button. One push and it searches…the next push selects. I would push the search button, hear the song, go through my brain’s storage of songs, remember if I liked it, or not, and then if I liked it, push the button once; if I didn’t like it, push the button twice to find the next station. This happened so fast sometimes it was frightening! I beleive it was Daniel Wegner of Harvard in his book, The Illusion of Conscious Will, in which it was stated that all the processes necessary to produce our behaviors are impossibly complex even with a state of the art brain, man would not be able to consciously manipulate the data and produce our incredibly choreographed behaviors, whether that behavior be thought or motor related. Oddly enough, both behaviors are physical in nature because they demand physics-based interactions within our skull. But your are right! All this stuff would be delightful to test. The odd thing is, as intriguing as this mind/body thing is in light of the brain function/conscious awareness discoveries, it was an astounding twenty-five years between Benjamin Libit’s study (1983) and Soon and colleagues’ study (2008).

    Steve Pinker and Daniel Wegner, both of Harvard, are connundrums in and of themselves. Both have thoroughly put the cabosh on free-will. Both are certain that free-will does not exist, but they don’t seem to have any curiosity regarding how determined universe principles applied ot mankind’s societies should look like. Daniel Wegner actually stated, (paraphrased in my words) I know free-will is a lie, but it can actually be a rather useful lie! When is it ever useful to build any structure on a false concept? That’s the stuff of superstition and religion. From the beginning of human history to the present mankind has established its social interaction on a false concept, on an intuitive free-will social mindset, on a lie! Mathematics, the physical and natural sciences have experienced stable and continuous growth because they are established on determined universe principles as stated in the Scientific Method. The social sciences have experienced cyclic collapse and horrific destruction [war, bigotry, genocide, social stratification, insane distributions of wealth, etc.] because they have insisted that man possesses a free and independent, an autonomous free-will. As there is no scientific support for free-will, free-will is a faith-based system of belief. In the common vernacular, faith-based systems of belief are called religions. While bashing free-will-based theologies, these Harvard boys are just as deeply entrenched within the Free-Will Religion as those they are bashing. Of such is the free-will mentality.

    The end of the intuitive free-will social mindset and the beginning of a world-wide effort to adhere to the empiricism-based determined universe mindset is the next epoch in mankind’s history…that is assuming, of course, mankind doesn’t extinct itself!

  20. 20. benjamin talbot says:

    I like the line about superstition and religion. I fail to see how science isn’t simply fully accepted superstition and religion. Everything you are all talking about is more conjecture than you’ll ever find in a church.

  21. 21. Ronald K. Olson says:

    January 3, 2010
    Sunday
    11:23 p.m.

    Ben, I’m curious about your thought: “I fail to see how science isn’t simply fully accepted superstition and religion.” I’m uncertain what you are saying.

    The Scientific Method is the lynchpin of full acceptance in the science community because it demands rigorous testing and unfailing repeatability. If a theory or a hypothesis can not stand up against the Scientific Method, it remains a theory or a hypothesis. In the science community, as with religion and superstition, theory and hypothesis are attempts at explaining some inexplicable reality. If the theory or hypothesis cannot be tested with invariable repetition, it requires faith and belief; some degree of subjectivity, which means not everyone is going to accept it. When a theory or hypothesis can be tested and the results support the theory or hypothesis with nauseating redundancy, it is accepted as sound science, as fact, as a nugget of Knowledge, as Truth. When this is the case, it really doesn’t matter how one wants things to be, how viscerally one reacts, or how comforting it is to society. It is a reality one must adjust to, because reality and Truth will not adjust to us.

    Soon and colleagues’ study satisfied the Scientific Method and therefore it must be digested; it must be assimilated; society must soberly address their findings. I have many pet beliefs, many of which probably qualify as superstitions, but as best as I am able I strive to recognize them and suppress their emotional appeal when I am considering my life’s foundations. When establishing ones foundations, if the options are, faith and belief, or Truth and Knowledge, I’ll always use Truth and Knowledge. Faith and belief are the stuff of religion and superstition. Truth and Knowledge are the stuff of authentic science. In this sense, authentic, fearless science will always incorporate religion and superstition into its metabolic structure. Like a living organism, authentic science will devour a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, process it, use what is useable, and dispose of the rest. Authentic science will consider new ideas, devise a test and thoroughly test it. Whatever portions of the new idea repeatedly satisfy the Scientific Method; these become part of the structure. Those portions that fail the test are disposed of.

    The crucial difference between faith and belief, and Truth and Knowledge is, not every one must accept that which is founded on faith and belief, whereas, what has tested and proven to be Truth and Knowledge must eventually be accepted if one is to live harmoniously with nature. The tragic irony for mankind is that what seems so intuitively real, free-will, is founded on faith and belief, while what assaults our egos and pride, a determined universe, is founded on Truth and Knowledge. For all of its existence, mankind’s societies have been dissonant with nature. The consequences are all around us. When a species overwhelmingly opposes nature; when a society continually functions in opposition to nature’s Truth and Knowledge, there can be only one result: Extinction.

    Blessings,

    ron

  22. 22. John says:

    If a succession of events occurs deterministically then how can the will be “free”? Any explanation of “free will” in terms of sequences of Newtonian physical events is not an explanation of “free will”, it might be an explanation of how a decision is taken but it is unrelated to the problem of whether or not the decision was fully determined. Decisions that rely on Newtonian explanations are no more “free will” than the “decision” as to whether a ball will bounce.

  23. 23. MIchael says:

    One of the main problems in conducting social psychological experiments (and other types, is the problem of reactivity.

    If the subject is made aware of what is being tested, well you can’t get a clear picture or result from the automatic behavior measure.

    Top down processing (combined with affect) is a powerful conscious strategy in cognitive and behavioral therapy.

    Top down strategies are by nature exercises in free will.

  24. 24. Chuck says:

    The decision to act, and the awareness of that decision, are all part of a pre-existing deterministic sequence fed into the brain like a player piano roll from what could be called “the future”. Decision to veto an action is also part of such a sequence.

    Before any physical event occurs in a person’s life, that person has already experienced the event in a more subtle universe in which events are occurring upstream of his or her position on a timeline. Deju Vu is simply the awareness of the pre-experienced event. The Bible calls this universe “Heaven”. “Thou shall be done on earth, as it is in heaven” You shall do in your earthly life what you have already done in your heavenly life (imagination).

    The human brain plays these player piano roll events by firing neurons in an on-off fashion. Each neuron firing imparts information about aspects of a seemingly external environment in which events are happening. In such a way, we are led to believe in the twin lies of “ownership” (I am an independent person possessing a body in an objective physical universe), and “agency” (I have decided to act and have also executed the decision). These dual illusions of physicality enable us to weave a tall story about our life which becomes our “personal history”. Without these illusions we could never say “I graduated from high school”. Do ownership and agency actually exist? No. At birth we had neither. The world presented to our senses was one flat picture with no subject-object relationship. Slowly we were fed the sensory lie that a separate mother was “out there” talking to us, touching us, feeding us.

    Physicality is an educational system that employs illusion to high advantage. By fooling us into believing in ownership and agency, we escape the feedback loop that immobilized us during our heavenly existence prior to the fall into knowledge. This was described as the fall of Adam and Eve in the Bible. By separating earthly existence and placing it downstream of our heavenly existence, we are able to have time to think and form fresh imagination images independent of our sensory stimulus. Without this time gap, we would forever recreate only what we see and feel in the present.

    We are all Gods who are actually omnipresent, but in such as state, there is no where to go, and nothing to do. A very boring existence. We invented the lies of ownership and agency, and we invented the context of physicality in which they operate. We created them as tools to frame and define our Godhood. Omnipresence has no meaning unless it is contrasted with locality. Eternal youth (our real state of existence) has no meaning unless contrasted with the lie of age.

    Yes, free will is a lie, but an extremely useful one.

  25. 25. Jon says:

    Foolish Earth humans, there exists a power that created all the universe and the multitude of diverse life forms. This creator of all things is the “Universal Consciousness”, or simply called the “Creation”. It is the immeasurable mystery suspended in immeasurable expanse, a fragment of which inhabits the earth human in spirit form. The culmination of all ideals and progress as well as the fulfillment of the purpose for which the earth human exists lies within one’s unification with one’s own spirit. When this occurs, the evolution of one’s consciousness begins. Go to http://www.futureofmankind.co.uk to learn more

  26. 26. Jon says:

    The information I provided in my previous reply was made possible for me to experience, become knowledgable and cognitive of, and thus reveal here as a result of extraterrestrial human beings who have brought forth the truth of reality for all of mankind to become aware of and knowing about and therefore consciously evolving their consciousness which is the purpose for which the earth human exists. The evolution of the consciousness is made possible through the teachings of the spirit which are the teachings of the truth and the teachings of life. To fulfill the purpose for which the earth human exists go to http://www.futureofmankind.co.uk

  27. 27. Free Will Believes in Sam Harris | Cathi Carol says:

    […] Unconscious decisions Peter, Conscious Entities (blog), April 17, 2008 […]

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