coyne_jerry-209x300Scientists say the darndest things.  Last January I blogged on an article Jerry Coyne wrote in USA Today regarding free will.  At one point he said, “So if we don’t have free will, what can we do? One possibility is to give in to a despairing nihilism and just stop doing anything. But that’s impossible, for our feeling of personal agency is so overwhelming that we have no choice but to pretend that we do choose and get on with our lives.”

Coyne is still spinning the same gobbledygook.  Recently, on Coyne’s own blog, a commentator took Coyne to task for acting as though humans have freedom, while being adamant that they do not.  Coyne responded:

Yes, I think that all human actions are predetermined and not under some kind of dualistic control. Nevertheless we all, including incompatibilists like myself, act as if we have choices, for our feeling of agency is strong. So please don’t say that I shouldn’t make “should” statements because of that. I will act as though I have free choices even though I don’t. And of course you have to admit that what I say, determined or not, can influence the future actions of others.

And yes, Templeton had no choice, but I can still call him out, and maybe that will affect other peoples’ behavior.

Or would you prefer that I give up writing this website since I can’t express any opinions, criticize or praise others, and so on since everything (including my opinions) are all determined by the laws of physics.

Your line of thinking means that all determinists, even those who are compatibilists, have no right to express opinions about anyone’s behavior.

In reference to Coyne’s response, nuclear physicist, Dave Heddle, commented on his own blog that

if all actions are predetermined then you cannot act as if you have choices. Acting is a volitional process of the very type you are denying. In your model there is no acting, there is only a differential equation of the universe cranking out its next time step. He is so close! He admits that in his world-view everything is predetermined, but in the next breath he obfuscates that unsavory factoid by claiming that he can “act” as though he has free choices. He can freely choose, he believes, to pretend that he can freely choose. And Jerry can’t, as he suggests, affect the behavior of others when he has already admitted that all human actions are predetermined.

Spot on!  Determinists who deny free will always end up affirming it through the back door.  They really do need to make philosophy courses part of the core curriculum in science programs!

HT: Scordova

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