The Institute of Noetic Sciences publishes an annual “Shift” report. In The 2008 Shift Report: Changing the Story of Our Future, they describe an experiment on how our beliefs about free will affect our moral decisons.
In the study, a group of subjects read passages from The Astonishing Hypothesis by Nobel laureate biologist Francis Crick. In it, Crick suggests free will is an illusion. “Who you are is nothing but a pack of neurons.”
Others read more neutral statements as a control condition. The results of the study showed that participants who read anti-free will statements were significantly more likely to cheat on several experimental tasks.
(part of the above is paraphrased from the Report on the study by researchers Kathleen Vohs of the University of Minnesota and Jonathan Schooler of the University of British Columbia)
What then do we make of the inadvertent message of science, the “truth” that authorities have been promoting? This is classic mechanist thinking and is the key failure of current thought. Our culture is thick with ideas that lead to victim thinking, that we are a victim of our genes, our ancestry, our circumstances. Just watch how most people and the media talk constantly of blame.
If you don’t believe your life is your choice, where is consequence? Where the golden rule? What reason do you have to do right? If such ideas increase the likelihood of unethical actions, what are the consequences for society?
It is the height of folly to think that which is aware has arisen by accident from a bunch of neurons. And those neurons arose by accident from a chemical soup? Your brain is far more complex than a car. How would you feel if a car salesman tried to tell you the latest model appeared spontaneously? (no I’m not a creationist) When scientists step out of the bounds of their ability to study, they step out of science and into speculation. If they cannot explain consciousness, they are telling stories. Thats ego, not science. Thus, it is not the failure of science, it is the failure of the vision of men. Men who have used ‘science’ to promote their own sad story of the world. A story that is deeply embedded in our language and culture.
I’m not stating here that free will is the highest truth. But its certainly superior to victim thinking. Much as you may malign ideas like Law of Attraction, they do help many people “up”.
I was going to link to a prior post on free will vs determinism but it seems I have not touched on that here yet. Guess its time….