Does free will exist?
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Free will means freedom from causation. Free will is consciously making choices about what to do in the absence of external coercion, and accepting responsibility for one's actions. There is no need to insist that free will is some kind of magical violation of causality. Free will is just another kind of cause. The causal process by which a person decides whether to marry is simply different from the processes that cause balls to roll downhill, ice to melt in the hot sun, a magnet to attract nails, or a stock price to rise and fall.
The evolution of free will began when living things began to make choices. The difference between plants and animals illustrates an important early step. Plants don't change their location and don't need brains to help them decide where to go. Animals do. Free will is an advanced form of the simple process of controlling oneself.
If culture is so successful, why don't other species use it? They can't because they lack the psychological innate capabilities it requires. Our ancestors evolved the ability to act in the ways necessary for culture to succeed. Free will likely will be found right there it's what enables humans to control their actions in precisely the ways required to build and operate complex social systems.
If you think of freedom as being able to do whatever you want, with no rules, you might be surprised to hear that free will is for following rules. Doing whatever you want is fully within the capability of any animal in the forest. Free will is for a far more advanced way of acting. It's what a creature might need in order to adjust its behavior to novel situations, to get what it wants while still following the complicated rules of the society. People must inhibit impulses and desires and find ways of satisfying them within the rules. People also consciously imagine various future scenarios ("If I do this, then that will happen, whereupon I would do something else, leading to another result...") and guide their present actions based on disciplined imagination.
Free will is an idea that people have yet to understand. Many scientists cannot imagine how the idea of free will could be reconciled with the laws of physics and chemistry. Brain researchers say that the brain is just a bunch of nerve cells that fire as a direct result of chemical and electrical events, with no room for free will. Others note that people are unaware of some causes of their behavior, such as unconscious cues or genetic predispositions, and extrapolate to suggest that all behavior may be caused that way, so that conscious choosing is an illusion.
Scientists take delight in (and advance their careers by) claiming to have disproved conventional wisdom, and so bashing free will is appealing. But their statements against free will can be misleading and are sometimes downright mistaken, as several thoughtful critics have pointed out.
Arguments about free will are mostly semantic arguments about definitions. Most experts who deny free will are arguing against peculiar, unscientific versions of the idea, such as that "free will" means that causality is not involved. Other scientists who argue against free will say that it means that a soul or other supernatural entity causes behavior, and not surprisingly they consider such explanations unscientific.
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