More on free will:
It seems that I go on about choice quite a bit.  But I just read a review (Self Interest ECONOMIST vol. 401 no. 8765 December 17, 2011 page 140 reviewing Who’s in Charge?  Free Will and the Science of the Brain Michael Gazzaniga to be published in Britain by Constable & Robinson) of a book wading into the fray concerning whether free will exists. 

It was not always thus.  There was a time when people debated whether you could prove you exist.  That was pretty much settled by Descartes with his memorable, “I think.  Therefore I am.”  The “I” that thinks is the “I” that I am, any physical attributes being incidental.  Cool.  But they couldn’t let a good thing lie, so now the rejoinder is, “Oh, but do you really think?  Can you actually choose?  Or are you only deluding yourself?” 

Do I choose to delude myself?  If not, why are there people who do not so choose, who do not delude themselves? 

Much work is brought to bear from modern studies of the brain.  They rather leave me cold.  If I walk around outside barefoot, my feet get dirty.  That means I am a physical thing.  Any further observation is simply elaborating on an uncontested issue.  Sure they can do a brain scan and while scanning ask you to move your hand spontaneously without making a plan.  Just take a moment and do it.  And the brain scan reveals seconds ahead of time that the hand is about to move.  So what?  We all know that there are things going on up there that we are not aware of. 

Personally I look at cosmic events and think, “The future is indeterminate.  Therefore absolute causation from Monday to Tuesday cannot exist.  So there is room for free will.  The burden of proof must be on whomever says otherwise.” 

And I have a kind of sentimental attachment to the idea of free will.  It’s probably nothing more than the fact that those who deny free will seem so smug about it.

It is rather common in such debates for a person to say, “Of course I have free will.  Look.  I will raise my hand.”  And there is a brief demonstration. 

That is an unfortunate choice.  It seems we are just rather specialized apes.  And the one thing that makes an ape different from a monkey is the ability to hang from a branch.  A monkey scrambles along on top.  So there is nothing more thoroughly hardwired into our brains than, “When in doubt, reach up and try to grab a branch.”  Startle a tiny infant, and up go the arms.  Strike with a shell near a soldier, and up go the arms.  It’s instinct, pure and simple.  Not the best way to demonstrate free will.

But there is one thing I believe about the mind with total conviction.  When we think we have done something, we rationalize it.  We project our free will back in time.  I did it, so I must have meant to have done it.  And this is something that the book acknowledges.

We all know where I am going with this.  Having babies has been hardwired into us hundreds of times longer than dangling from branches.  If there is any instinct anywhere, it must be with reproduction.

But I regularly get the attitude, “People don’t have babies because they don’t want to.”  Maybe that is true, but if true, it is overriding an instinct older than breathing.  The only thing that could do that would be another instinct.  I certainly hope I am wrong on this, but the weight of the evidence I see is that what we have done to our mating strategy has thrown a switch, summoning an instinct that is also older than breathing, and telling us, “Your gene pool is too big.  You are doomed anyway.  Stop.” 

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