Re: The stuff of misery

Massimo Pigliucci (
Tue, 07 Apr 1998 17:12:26 -0400

Dear Christopher,

> Hmmm. After thousands of years of various forms of totalitarianism,
> here
> we go again.

What are you talking about? The discussion about free will is about
understanding where human behavior comes from, and what are its limits.
Since lack of free will does NOT equate to predictable (and far less
*uniform*) behavior, it is a non-sequitur to say that admitting no free
will leads to totalitarianism.

> If there is no free-will, and thoughts and emotions, wishful thinking,
> or opinions, for example, merely come about by some sort of programmed
> (or otherwise) determined chemical and/or electrical (or whatever)
> causes then why try to convince me of it?

Well, I'm tempted to concede a point there... It sure feels like it is
hard to get what you referred to as intelligent and educated people to
admit false beliefs and truly self-evident (or at least very likely)
conclusions about the universe... ;-)

But, again, you're missing the point. No free will doesn't mean
inability to change your opinions, if you are programmed (by natural
selection) to be able to change your outputs in response to particular
inputs. That's all there is to discussions. It is only a matter of
finding out who among us has that program, as opposed to a completely
inflexible one. One, I would add, that natural selection would *not*
favor in a continuously changing environment...

So, there is no blatant inconsistency, and the "chemistry" you refer to
is infinitely more complex than the simple deterministic equation you
are using to refute my argument. Ever heard to emergent properties,
complexity theory and cellular automata? No time to get to that here,
but those are entire field of research that might clarify to you why
there is no inconsistency about thinking that there is no free will and
having honest discussions about it. Your view of free will is too

Finally, it seems to me - but clearly most members of this list disagree
- that if you claim something exists, the burden of proof is on *you*.
So, as it goes for god, so is for free will. What evidence do you have?
Where is it? Where is it coming from?

Thanks for the lively discussion,

Massimo Pigliucci, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolution
Society for the Study of Evolution "Dobzhansky" Awardee
Dept. of Botany, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-1100
phone 423-974-6221 fax 0978

Lab page Science & Society Darwin Day Rationalists of East Tennessee

"I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this." -- Emo Phillips ******************************************************************