Why Belief in "Free Will" is ImportantSubmitted by Asclepius on Wed, 07/02/2014 - 14:46
While philosophers have long debated the existence of “free will,” social engineers through today's mass media seem determined to convince us that free will is just an illusion. For example, if you google news search “free will” as I just did, you will find the following headlines:
Free Will: Is Your Brain the Boss of You?
Scientists determine that 'Free Will' stems from background noise ...
Free Will may be an Illusion – CNET
Searching for the "Free Will" Neuron - Technology Review
The Uncomfortable Truth about Mind Control: Is “free will” simply a myth?
Below is an excerpt from the last headline above:
“In the Sixties, a groundbreaking series of experiments found that 65% of us would kill if ordered to do so. We have vain brains; we see ourselves as better than we really are. We like to think that we exercise free will; that put into a situation where we were challenged to do something we thought unacceptable then we'd refuse. But, if you believe that, then you are probably deluded. I make this claim, based partly on the work of psychologist Stanley Milgram. Milgram devised and carried out ingenious experiments that exposed the frailty and self-delusion that are central to our lives. He showed how easy it is to make ordinary people do terrible things; that "evil" often happens for the most mundane of reasons.”
Notice how the findings from Milgram’s famous study have been reframed by the author by calling the 65% who gave the shocks the “ordinary” people. However, the truth is quite clearly the reverse - the 35% who refused to give the shocks were “humane” and the 65% who complied were not. Thus, what the study actually demonstrated was that the majority of subjects were not psychologically “healthy.” For the author to imply that the subjects who refused commands to harm another were somehow "abnormal" is morally bankrupt and equivalent to apologizing for those who have committed acts of genocide throughout human history.
In fact, I would argue that the 65% who would harm another on command suffer from the "mental sickness" described and foretold in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, a book written in 1932 about the world we live in today where social engineering has created a population of passive servants for the corporate state.
“The real hopeless victims of mental illness [will] be found among those who appear to be most normal...They are "normal" not in.. the absolute sense of the word; [but] normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society… their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society [will be] a measure of their true mental sickness."
Regardless of whether or not we can actually prove that “free will” exists, the more important scientific question is how does the belief in “free will” serve humanity in our daily lives today?
What the news articles above fail to mention is that we have strong empirical evidence that inducing disbelief in “free will” increases cheating (1), aggression (2), and conformity (3), while decreasing helping behavior (2), self-control (4,5) and judgment (6). When viewed from this perspective, it raises profound questions regarding the true intentions of those who want to convince us that “free will” is an illusion.
The reality is that believing in “free will” may be fundamentally important to establishing and maintaining a society of free, self-governed, moral individuals. So, if we truly value Liberty, perhaps it’s time we start cultivating the belief in “free will.”
1. Vohs, K. D., & Schooler, J. W. (2008). The value of believing in free will: Encouraging a belief in determinism increases cheating. Psychological Science, 19, 49–54. http://refhub.elsevier.com/S1053-8100(14)00007-5/h0330
2. Baumeister, R. F., Masicampo, E. J., & DeWall, C. N. (2009). Prosocial benefits of feeling free: Disbelief in free will increases aggression and reduces helpfulness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 260–268. http://refhub.elsevier.com/S1053-8100(14)00007-5/h0020
3. Alquist, J. L., Ainsworth, S. E., & Baumeister, R. F. (2013). Determined to conform: Disbelief in free will increases conformity. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49, 80–86. http://refhub.elsevier.com/S1053-8100(14)00007-5/h0005
4. Rigoni, D., Kuhn, S., Gaudino, G., Sartori, G., & Brass, M. (2012). Reducing self-control by weakening belief in free will. Consciousness and Condition, 21, 1482–1490. http://refhub.elsevier.com/S1053-8100(14)00007-5/h0255
5. Rigoni, D., Kuhn, S., Sartori, G., & Brass, M. (2011). Inducing disbelief in free will alters brain correlates of preconscious motor preparation: The brain minds whether we believe in free will or not. Psychological Science, 22(5), 613–618. http://refhub.elsevier.com/S1053-8100(14)00007-5/h0255
6. Rigoni, D., Wilquin, H., Brass, M., & Burle, B. (2013). When errors do not matter: Weakening belief in intentional control impairs cognitive reaction to errors. Cognition, 127, 264–269. http://refhub.elsevier.com/S1053-8100(14)00007-5/h0260