The Instigator
Pro (for)
4 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Humans Do Not Have "Free Will"

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/6/2017 Category: Science
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 540 times Debate No: 105603
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (6)
Votes (1)




First off, I am an atheist and thus I don't believe that "souls" exist. I believe that, as humans, we are simply biological organisms and nothing more. We are not some "special species" as many people seem to believe, the fact of the matter is simply that we have a consciousness and are self-aware. But let's move onto the debate, shall we?

So right off the bat, let me just say one thing: the concept of humans having "free will" is, in my opinion, quite absurd. By saying we have free will, we are implicitly stating that things such as "souls" exist and that we are more than our biological bodies. As I said before, I believe that humans are simply biological organisms, nothing else. I believe that our actions are simply the result of our brain processing various stimuli and causing our body to react in the most appropriate way, based not only on the current stimuli but also the experiences of the past. This essentially means that WE are not choosing what we do, our body is simply reacting to inputs, the same way a computer does.

In fact, a computer is a very apt example, for humans are, in essence, biological computers. Computers, AI's in particular, take in inputs and then return the most logical output. Sound familiar? Well, it should, because this is the exact same way that humans, and pretty much all other organisms as well, function. The only difference is that computers are not made up of organic components, while humans are.

Robert Sapolsky, who is a renowned primatologist and neuroendocrinologist (as well as a professor at Stanford University), recently published his book Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (I strongly recommend this, as it is an amazing read) is an avid believer that free will does not exist and in this book, he examines human behavior and why it occurs the way it does. He speaks about how this concept of not having free will scares most people, and thus causes them to develop a strong belief that "free will" does indeed exist, even if that belief contradicts science itself. I find this to be very true, people do indeed avoid what scares them, even if they have to lie to themselves in order to do so. But nonetheless, I believe that we need to accept that free will is just a concept that we came up with in order to satisfy our delusions that, as human beings, we are some sort of special entity.

In summary, the concept of having free will goes directly against biological principles and its main function is just to satisfy our egocentric delusions that we are "special".



I wish to thank the instigator for the opportunity to engage in a thoughtful debate. I am fascinated by the opportunity to discourse in favor of the existence of free will. I find Pro’s position, respectfully, to be a interesting one to hold.

Pro initiates his Round #1 with the statement that he does not believe in souls, nor a higher being, as he is an atheist. This is really the crux of the position he holds. The logical extension of denial of anything which is not material or physical in nature. Robert Sapolsky, to no great surprise, is of the same sort.

Response: Human behavior cannot be reduced to merely actions consistent with a ‘biological computer’ , as Pro describes it. This is nothing more than an attempt to explain away any and all responsibility for action and behavior. However, even among those who do not believe in a higher being, the denial of the existence of free will is an outlier. It is an extreme point of view. Even Stephen Cave, writing in the Atlantic (neither of which is exactly a champion of religion), defends the existence of free will. He simply attributes free will to the brain, but admits nonetheless that it is free will. (1)

Argument: Free will does exist, and is a reality. One need not ascribe to belief in a deity or a higher order to admit this real fact of our being. The existence of free will and its explanation does not properly lie in the physical sciences, as it has been assumed by the quoted author Robert Sapolsky. In belongs to the discipline of philosophy. This discipline would not be rejected by any right thinking individual, any more than language arts should be denied as they are not mathematical or physical sciences. All of the disciplines have a proper sphere of operation. Trying to impose physical rules on the entirety of the human mind, with its moral decision, empathy for others, etc., is a failed effort from its beginning. According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Nearly every major figure in the history of philosophy has had something or other to say about free will. The present section considers three of the most prominent theories of what the will is.” (2)

Conclusion: As Pro kept his opening argument brief, I will in fairness to him conclude my response and defer to his Round #2.



Debate Round No. 1


Before I begin I would like to thank Con for giving me the chance to debate the existence of free will, as this is a topic which I am quite interested in. I am looking forward to reading what Con has to say on this issue and I hope that I will be able to learn from this experience.


To start off, I would like to agree with Con on two things:

1. My opinion on this issue is indeed an extreme one.

2. The crux of my argument is indeed my lack of belief in the existence of souls or some sort of “higher being”, for I would have no problem with the concept of free will if I did believe in such things.


Human behavior cannot be compared to a “biological computer”

Con began his response by stating that “human behavior cannot be reduced to merely actions consistent with a ‘biological computer’. I would disagree with this statement, as I believe that the two can most certainly be compared to one another. I believe that Con is underestimating the sheer power that computers hold and I would attempt to explain my belief in a more thorough way.

First off, I am both a scientist and programmer myself, and so I have first-hand experience with the topic of ai and biological computers. The brain is already being mimicked in ai across the world using what are called neural networks. They replicate the way that our brains learn using neurons and said ai perform extraordinarily well. In time, an ai will be created which has the ability to replicate not only the learning processes of the human brain but the emotional ones as well. It is all a matter of programming. This clearly demonstrates that human behavior CAN be, as Con put it, “reduced” to actions consistent with a biological computer, for, in essence, that is what humans truly are. I believe that Con, and in no way am I attempting to ridicule, insult, or look down upon him, just doesn’t understand enough about ai and how they function, to properly make the argument that humans cannot be thought of as biological computers.

This issue is one of a philosophical nature, not a scientific one

While I would indeed agree that the debate on free will is generally considered to be within the realm of philosophy, I believe that before it should be allowed into a philosophical debate, it should first have a scientific basis, which in my belief it does not. Con stated that “trying to impose physical rules on the entirety of the human mind, with its moral decision, empathy for others, etc., is a failed effort from its beginning”. I believe that this assertion is absolutely preposterous because science already accurately does this. Empathy can be quite easily explained by science and morals are not a part of the human mind, they were created by humans due to the fact that human societies would fall to ruin without them. We needed morals because, without them, man would steal, rape, and kill his fellow man. I realize that Con is Catholic, and therefore likely has a different view on the concept of morality than I do, but I hope that he will be able to come to the agreement that morality is not inherent, for even within the confines of religion I believe that morality is said to have been created by God and taught to the human race through prophets. If I am wrong, which I very well may be, I hope that Con will correct my misinformed beliefs.

Furthermore, I would like to disagree with Con on his belief that disciplines have their own “spheres of operation”, and that various issues must reside within only one of these “spheres”. If I were to continue with Con’s idea of using spheres, I would make the assertion that these various spheres actually intersect with one another and that issues can reside within multiple spheres at one time, free will being one of these issues.

Free will being attributed to the brain

Having read Mr. Cave’s article in the Atlantic, I would have to respectfully disagree with several of his statements. His main point within this article is that free will does exist in the form of the decisions that we make, and that said free will is attributed to our brains themselves. My view on this is that the decisions we make aren’t truly “decisions”, they are just results of the various chemical reactions occurring within our brains. Our life experiences, particularly those that occurred within our childhood, have already been proven to mold our personality and change how we react to various circumstances. Many, if not all, serial killers have had traumatic childhood experiences which warped their brains and literally changed the biological makeup of their brains. When certain areas of the brain are damaged, particularly the amygdala, it has been found that violent impulses all but vanish and people begin to have great trouble even recognizing the emotion of anger on the faces of other people. Yet another example of our brain deciding how we react to choices is the fact that when we hold cold drinks we tend to interpret the personalities of others as being colder. All of these examples are evidence that free will does not exist and that our brains are what cause us to act as we do.


As I have stated throughout my various rebuttals of Con’s statements. I believe that:

1. Human beings can indeed be described as biological computers and Con’s belief that they cannot stems from what I believe to be a simple case of not fully understanding the subject. (Yet again, I mean no disrespect towards Con, I am only stating what I believe to be the case).

2. I do not reject the discipline of philosophy, in fact, I have GREAT respect for it, but as I said, the issue of free will is first and foremost a scientific one, and only after it has a scientific basis can it move on into the realm of philosophy.

3. Even though people such as Stephen Cave say that free will DOES exist and that it is based within the brain, I would make the statement that the decisions which occur within our brains are based entirely on chemical/biological reactions, that our decisions aren’t truly “decisions” which we are making.

I look forward to hearing Con’s response, and I would thank him again for carrying out this debate in both a civilized and intelligent manner.



Round #2 Rebuttal

In Round #2, Pro states clearly in the opener that his views are extreme, and are founded in atheism. Con would agree at first glance, that Pro has correctly inferred that even the majority of atheists recognize their own ability to make decisions freely, and their actions therefore merit reward or retribution accordingly. This is an indirect admission that the convoluted process of explaining away rational, conscious behavior as being programmed and unavoidable is goal oriented.

Pro again in the last round insists the comparison between the human mind and a computer are comparable. We all know intuitively this is not the case. Of course, the neuroscientist has a vested interest in discounting intuitive knowledge. It stands as a contradiction to the contrived equation of our thoughts and decision making to the process of information by inventions of man. Pro says Con underestimates the power of AI. Con would counter that Pro is simply undermining the power of the human intellect to further his field of endeavor. Being a neuroscientist in no way makes one a master of the knowledge of humanity. It is the height of presumption for man to believe he is capable of producing any object capable of matching or surpassing intelligent thought, joined to a living being.

Anyone who can think freely and independently, as most do, is well aware of our freedom of decision making. You could ask someone to propose any course of action to you at random, and you could freely choose either in advance or prior to the course of action being proposed, assent to it or oppose it. The individual making the choice acts independent of the actor, and the actor acts independently of any ‘programming’ the atheist asserts he suffers. We can act against our own best interests; we can imagine what no programmer has put in our heads. We can do things no computer, now or in the future will do.

I was under the impression I was engaging in a discussion about free will. I was not aware until after the instigator announced he is sandbagging and now proposes he is correct in his error as he is among the masters of knowledge of how thought works (or doesn’t work). I have worked in the real world. When you get outside the cubicle, you find some of the most intellectually vapid people are the pointy headed intellectuals.

I thought I had the stomach for this debate. I do not. I really have no desire to engage in debate with someone who believes he can replicate scientific proof that we have no free will, that we make no choices. It’s just too preposterous for me. This is not the approach I thought Pro was taking. It’s just ridiculous. I can only compare it to debates I have seen proposing the earth is flat. I just can’t engage at that level. I don’t want to argue the obvious against those who can’t see it.

Best of luck to Pro. My apologies for having taken this debate.
Debate Round No. 2


What Con has done in his rebuttal is present a straw man. Con states that I have presented my evidence as "scientific proof", which I have not done and do not plan to do. Con was likely referring to the evidence I used to back up my arguments. Evidence and proof are two vastly different things. Whereas proof implies that something is unequivocally true, evidence only serves to back something up. This means that evidence can exist that supports something and yet said thing can still turn out to be untrue. I was not, as Con appears to think, implying that my evidence proves my point of view, merely that it backs it up.

Con also states that I am claiming I am "a master of the knowledge of humanity" despite that fact that I have done no such thing. I merely stated my credentials, which serves to show that I am not just throwing facts around; I have proper knowledge on the subject at hand. This argument of Con's is yet another straw man.

Con also decides that the human brain is unable to be surpassed, which is simply a rubbish statement. I would encourage Con to do a little more research on this subject and I will link him to some easy to understand Wikipedia pages on the subject after I finish up my response.

And now we reach the part where I must admit; I got a little ticked off. Con asserts that my arguments are comparable to those made by flat-earthers, whose ideas are those of insane conspiracy theorists. Con implies that I am somehow "replicating scientific proof" and that I am somehow below him. I take great offense to that statement. I have provided numerous pieces of evidence to support my position and I have presented my arguments in a logical, orderly fashion. I am saddened by Con's words and I hope that he will see reason.

Finally, Con resorts to stating, and I quote, "I don't want to argue the obvious against those who can't see it.". By stating this, Con is refusing to continue the debate and basically admitting defeat. One cannot state that the correct way of thinking is "obvious" when the topic is one of such great complexity. I was expecting great things from Con after I examined his past debates, so I am disappointed that he would end our debate in such a way. But nonetheless, I wish him the best of luck in his future debates and I hope that he will avoid acting as he did within mine when debating in the future.


It is not my intent to forfeit a round and hang this debate and prevent voting for my opponent. I defer to my opponent to proceed to the next round. I have made the choice to cease the debate of my own free will.
Debate Round No. 3


If that is what Con has chosen to do, then so be it. I thank him for the debate.


I appreciate Pro's understanding of my lack of desire to continue this debate. If course I would expect one who believes I had no say in the choice I made to be accepting of it. My decision was, according to Pro, inevitable.
Debate Round No. 4


I would like to point out that I never argued that things are inevitable, just that free will does not exist. While these two things may sound similar, I can assure that they are not. Again, I thank Con for this debate, even if he chose to leave it unfinished.


I appreciate Pro's understanding of my lack of desire to continue this debate. If course I would expect one who believes I had no say in the choice I made to be accepting of it. My decision was, according to Pro, inevitable.
Debate Round No. 5
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
>Reported vote: backwardseden// Mod action: Removed<

6 points to Pro (Conduct, Arguments, Sources). Reasons for voting decision: "It is not my intent to forfeit a round..." but con did it anyway which is something he insists others should never do unto him. Also "I thought I had the stomach for this debate. I do not." So con should take the heat and lose this debate. Regardless, since he believes in god he has no free will, none, as the links presented in the comments area clearly show.

[*Reason for removal*] (1) Arguments are insufficiently explained. The voter appears to justify his decision based on a couple of quotes that don"t appear to be arguments presented in the debate, yet the voter is required to assess specific arguments from both sides in order to award these points. (2) Sources are insufficiently explained. The voter references "links presented in the comments area" as a reason to award these points, yet the only sources that may be assessed are those presented in the debate. The voter is required to assess specific sources in the debate to award these points.
Posted by Throwback 2 years ago
@Makuma, no worries, he doesn't speak for anyone but himself even though he tries to make you guilty by association. I'm surprised he hasn't mentioned here my 15% rating on the Big Issues compared to his 100%. I have tried many times to explain that one to him. I'm sure you see the humor in that, not to mention indicating the level on which he's operating.
Posted by Makuma 2 years ago
Backwardseden....what is wrong with you. Are you a child? I mean seriously, throwbarf..THROWBARF? You're just making yourself look like a pathetic infant who can't handle people having different opinions than your own. You are embarrassing yourself and making atheists (including me) look like immature pricks . I would appreciate it if you would refrain from childish insults and give other people the respect which they deserve. Throwback is an articulate, intelligent, and polite gentleman and despite the fact that I disagree with him on numerous issues, I still respect him and don't reduce myself to using playground insults in order to make my self feel better. Please reevaluate what you are doing with your life and grow up.
Posted by Throwback 2 years ago
I have no doubt makuma is an intelligent atheist. You do him no favors by trying to associate him with yourself.
Posted by backwardseden 2 years ago
Throwbarf believes in god, therefore he has 0% free will. None. No exceptions. We as atheists, are smart, intelligent and have an education, unlike our hero and friend and we do not believe in god, therefore we DO have free will. Therefore Throwbarf's arguments are null and void.
An All Knowing god versus Free Will: The Greatest Religious Contradiction
Free Will With god
How god Favors Evil
Does god allow Free Will?
Posted by Makuma 2 years ago
I would like to apologize, for I forgot to include the links about artificial intelligence in my last response. Here they are:
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by DawnBringerRiven 2 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: Con failed to grasp Pro's arguments throughout the debate. Con spends most of their arguments claiming the existence of free will to be common knowledge without providing evidence of this being the case. Example of Con not grasping Pro's arguments - Pro asserts that humans can be compared to biological computers and provides evidence to this as A.I. can accurately replicate human thought and actions. Con only attempts to refute this claim by stating Pro lacks common sense and that Human Intelligence surpasses A.I. This does not make sense as A.I. beats humans at intelligence constantly at chess, video games, and certainly memory. Pro was not speaking of human intelligence in the first place, but of human emotion and impulse. Con forfeits many rounds. Convincing argument point to Pro. Although Con seems to be respectful, his choice words certainly aren't. Con states that Pro lacks common sense multiple times. Conduct point to Pro.

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