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Upcoming Episodes


Free Will Refutations in Major Publications


Recent books for the public and academia refuting free will


Free Will Refuted in the Blogs


Edited and Revised Transcripts of the First Eighteen Episodes


More Featured Episodes

10. Why Change as the basic Universal Process Makes Free Will Impossible

13. Overcoming Blame, Guilt, Envy and Arrogance by Overcoming the Illusion of Free Will

16. Overcoming the Illusion of Free Will as an Evolutionary Leap in Human Consciousness

17. Revitalizing Religion through Transcending the Illusion of Free Will

26. Because Essential Elements of Every Decision are Stored in Our Unconscious, Free Will is Impossible.

38. The Messenger and I Have Evolved Human Consciousness

50. Freud Popularized the Unconscious.  Ortega is Popularizing Unconscious Will

60. Ten Ways to Refute Free Will


Landmark Coverage Refuting Free Will


USA Today - "Why you don't really have free will by Jerry Coyne January 1, 2012

"The debate about free will, long the purview of philosophers alone, has been given new life by scientists, especially neuroscientists studying how the brain works. And what they're finding supports the idea that free will is a complete illusion."

Time Magazine - "Think You're Operating on Free Will? Think Again" by Eben Harrell July 2, 2010

"In an intriguing review in the July 2 edition of the journal Science, published online Thursday, Ruud Custers and Henk Aarts of Utrecht University in the Netherlands lay out the mounting evidence of the power of what they term the 'unconscious will.'...John Bargh of Yale University, who 10 years ago predicted many of the findings discussed by Custers and Aarts in a paper entitled "The Unbearable Automaticity of Being," called the Science paper a "landmark — nothing like this has been in Science before."

The New York Times - "Your Move: The Maze of Free Will" by Galen Strawson July 22, 2010

"Some people think that quantum mechanics shows that determinism is false, and so holds out a hope that we can be ultimately responsible for what we do. But even if quantum mechanics had shown that determinism is false (it hasn’t), the question would remain: how can indeterminism, objective randomness, help in any way whatever to make you responsible for your actions? The answer to this question is easy. It can’t."

The Atlantic - "The Brain on Trial" by David Eagleman July/August 2011

"In modern science, it is difficult to find the gap into which to slip free will—the uncaused causer—because there seems to be no part of the machinery that does not follow in a causal relationship from the other parts."

The Telegraph - "Neuroscience, free will and determinism: 'I'm just a machine'" by Tom Chivers October 12, 2010

"The philosophical definition of free will uses the phrase 'could have done otherwise'... "As a neuroscientist, you've got to be a determinist. There are physical laws, which the electrical and chemical events in the brain obey. Under identical circumstances, you couldn't have done otherwise; there's no 'I' which can say 'I want to do otherwise'."

The Guardian - "Guilty but not responsible?" by Rosiland English May 29, 2012

"The discovery that humans possess a determined will has profound implications for moral responsibility. Indeed, Harris is even critical of the idea that free will is "intuitive": he says careful introspection can cast doubt on free will. In an earlier book on morality, Harris argues 'Thoughts simply arise in the brain. What else could they do? The truth about us is even stranger than we may suppose: The illusion of free will is itself an illusion'"

Psychology Today - "Free Will Is an Illusion, So What?" by

If you think carefully about any decision you have made in the past, you will recognize that all of them were ultimately based on similar—genetic or social—inputs to which you had been exposed. And you will also discover that you had no control over these inputs, which means that you had no free will in taking the decisions you did.

Complete List


A brief history of determined vs. free will ideas

Cause and Effect – At about the 5th century BC, in his work On the Mind, the Greek Philosopher Leucippus penned the earliest known universal statement describing what we today understand as determinism, or the law of cause and effect

“Nothing happens at random, but everything for a reason and by necessity.”

Human Will – The concepts of will and free will are actually Christian in orgin. It was Saint Paul in his Letter to the Romans, which is dated at about 58 A.D., who first discovered this thing we call human will. He came to it by recognizing that he could not often do as much right as he wanted. Saint Paul wrote in Romans 7:15 that:

“I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t.” I do what I don’t want to – what I hate.” (Translation – The Living Bible)

Free Will -- Nothing new was said on the matter for the next few hundred years until St. Augustine grappled with the concepts of evil and justice. Saint Augustine wrote in his book De Libero Arbitrio, 386-395 A.D., (translated as “On Free Will”)

“Evil deeds are punished by the justice of God. They would not be punished justly if they had not been performed voluntarily.”

The problem he saw was that if human beings do not have a free will, it would be unfair for God to arbitrarily reward or punish us. St. Augustine concluded that God could not be unfair, and so he created the concept of a human free will, whereby we earn our reward or punishment by what we freely do.

Scientific concepts relating to the determined will vs. free will question

Classical Mechanics -- In 1687 Sir Isaac Newton publishes his “Laws of Motions” that mathematically describes the physical universe as acting in a mechanistic manner according to the principle of cause and effect.

Classical Mechanics is a completely deterministic theory

Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle -- In 1925 Warner Heisenberg describes mathematically that…

We can measure the position of a particle or the momentum of a particle (momentum meaning its direction and velocity), but we cannot simultaneously measure the position and momentum of a particle.

Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics -- Niels Bohr and others make the following assertions;

1) Particles do not have a simultaneous position and momentum.

2) Elementary particles behave indeterministically, and are not subject to the principle of cause and effect.

Believers in free will saw the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics as providing a possibility for free will to exist. They asserted that if elementary particles behave indeterministically, they are not subject to the principle of cause and effect that prohibits free will.

But, as noted above, it eventually became apparent that indeterminism also prohibits free will.


Edited Transcripts of the First Eighteen Episodes
01 How I came to see my causal will

02 Proving causal will in real time

03 Morality within a causal will perspective

04 What it all means

05 We Do Not "Experience" Free Will

06 How the Hedonic Imperative Makes Free Will Impossible

07 How the Unsolicited Participation of the Unconscious Makes Free Will Impossible

08 Asking When a Child Gains it Illuminates the Incoherence of the Concept "Free Will"

09 Overcoming our Reluctance to Overcome the Illusion of Free Will

10 Why Change as the Basic Universal Process Makes Free Will Impossible

11 The Absurdity of Varying Degrees of Free Will

12 Why the Concept of Free Will is Incoherent

13 Overcoming Blame, Guilt, Envy and Arrogance by Overcoming the Illusion of Free Will

14 Why Both Causality and Randomness Make Free Will Impossible

15 Why Frankfurt's “Second Order Desires” Do Not Allow for a Free Will

16 Overcoming the Illusion of Free Will as an Evolutionary Leap in Human Consciousness

17 Revitalizing Religion through Transcending the Illusion of Free Will

18 Why Humans Cannot Circumvent Natural Law to Gain a Free Wil

YouTube Collection

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1-10   11-20    21-30    31-40




The Impossibility of Free Will

by George Ortega
February 28, 2000


There is no free will.  The notion that we have a will separate from that of God is similar in kind to the mistaken belief, a few centuries ago, that our planet was the center of the universe, or, that life exists only on our planet.

Man has long been consumed by a need to glorify himself beyond what evidence justifies.  The belief that we human beings have the power, or will, to decide what we think, say or do is, perhaps, the most blatant and pervasive example of this need.  Let us proceed directly to an examination and refutation of the myth of free will.

Upon reading this sentence, you will experience a reaction. This reaction, of which you are by now undoubtedly aware, was probably slight.  Most likely it expressed recognition of the obvious truth in the statement.  In no way willed it into your consciousness, it came of its own accord.

When you finish reading the following sentence, you will have a much different reaction.  The planet Earth will explode tomorrow.  Initially, you probably emotionally considered the prospect of the Earth, and hence, all you know and love, ending so very soon. This reaction was most likely quickly followed by a reasonable judgment that the statement is most probably mistaken.  Again, you neither willed the emotional or subsequent cognitive reaction to the sentence. They both came to you of their own accord.

Let us now proceed to the investigation of a conscious decision. After reading this sentence, if you wish, form the image of a starry sky in your mind. By now, you have probably decided either to form the image suggested or to resist doing so and opt instead for, perhaps, a thought expressing refusal to do so.

If, in fact, you formed the image of a starry sky, you did so perhaps simply because you found no objection to following my suggestion. If, on the other hand, you refused, you must have had sufficient reason, like, for example, the thought that participating in such an exercise was unnecessary to your understanding the matter of free will.

In either case, while it may at first appear that you willed your decision whether or not to form the image, upon further analysis, we discover that this decision, as in our first exercise, came to you from outside of your own will.

The evidence is simple and obvious.  If you formed the starry sky image, you would have done this because nothing in your past experience provided sufficient objection to your doing so. If you did not, on the other hand, clearly you refused because your past experience led you to believe your doing so would be either unnecessary or unwise. Perhaps you had previously read philosophical arguments suggesting similar exercises and learned that they distracted one from more than illumined an understanding of the matter under consideration.  In both cases, then, the determining factor was your past experience and not your will.

It might be imagined that one's past experience, nonetheless, results from one's will, however, this argument is easily refuted when we accept the premise that, to the best of our knowledge, human beings do not decide to be born as human beings.  Nor do we decide to whom we are born, in what country, how we would be raised, or what manner of personality we would develop.

Returning to our example, a person forming the starry sky image might have developed a personality forbidding the study of philosophy, and his past circumstances provided no reason to do so. A second person, on the other hand, may either have been granted the kind of personality which led him to investigate arguments like this in his past, or he may have, in fact, been led to investigating philosophical arguments by, for example, a required high school or college course.

It should be clear from the proceeding that thoughts and feelings simply come into one's consciousness based upon factors outside of one's self such as influences deriving from one's past.  Hence, with regard to thoughts and feelings, free will plays no part.

The reasoning refuting the idea that anything we do or say is a result of our having free will is exactly the same as apply to thoughts and feelings, however, for the sake of greater understanding, let us now investigate the cause or causes of what we do and say with the following example.

In this case we present this argument in a more simple and direct manner.   A person lifts his hand to hail a taxi.  Again, we are tempted to conclude that this person of a free will performed the act, until we examine his motive or motives.

For our example, we accept that the person wished to take a taxi ride to a certain destination and that the person was standing along a street looking for a taxi.

Upon seeing a taxi traveling in his direction, he recalls from past experience that to hail a taxi, one lifts his hand and motions in a communicative manner.  What other choice could the person have in this situation?  The answer, of course, is none.  Circumstances, and his recall of past experience, not his will, have determined
his actions.

At this point, one might consider that while the person waving his hand was an act of necessity rather than free will, the circumstances that determined this act, his decision to take a taxi, may have been an act of free will.

To investigate this possibility, we need simply select one reason, from the many possible, why the person might wish to hail a taxi.  Let us select the one reason that would appear to be most based upon the individual's seeming free will; He simply felt like taking a taxi rather than walking.  This, of course, now takes us back to our initial understanding that thoughts, feelings, and decisions are not derived from free will.  In the present example, the person simply felt like riding in a taxi. He could not explain why he felt this way. He simply did, and this is sufficient evidence that the feeling came on its own. Before we leave this example, let us suppose he, instead, wished a taxi ride because he felt too tired to walk. In this instance we are led back to the understanding that a past event, the unpleasantness of walking while tired, and not free will, led to his wish to take a taxi.

The previous paragraphs should suffice to demonstrate the impossibility of free will.  The remaining question becomes, "if free will does not dictate our feelings thoughts and actions, what does?"

We have begun to answer this question by citing that circumstances and past experience are the two determinants, working in tandem, to determine every thought or action.  In the starry sky example, the circumstance of my suggestion dictated the question as to whether or not to form an image, and past experience dictated whether or not that image would be a starry sky.  In the taxi example, the circumstance of wanting to ride a taxi determines the question of hailing or not, and past experience determines that hailing is an act necessary to obtain the taxi.

The negation of free will has historically been termed Determinism; the understanding that every action is guided by the law of cause and effect.  This law states that every effect (or action,) is determined by a previous cause or causes.

Let us follow a string of effects and their causes as far back as possible, eliminating, for the sake of clarity and brevity, many intermediate causes.  The subject in our example will be the reader.  You were caused, or "created," by your parents.  They were caused by their parents.  Skipping many generations, your ancestors were created by non-human beings of the ape family.  Again skipping many generations, the apes descended from single celled organisms. The cause giving rise to these organisms was the planet Earth. Again skipping all in between, the word we use to describe that which created our planet and everything else within our universe is God; hence the popular definition of God as the "First Cause."

At this point, let me make clear that while the word God has specific religious connotations, in this context, God is defined simply as the preceder to, or creator of, everything.  Actually there is good reason for confusion when scientifically discussing a creator or first cause.   Logic dictates that even the first cause must have had a previous cause, presenting a question that transcends logic altogether.

Notwithstanding, now that we have gained a clear understanding of Determinism and how every thought, feeling, and action is governed by the law of cause and effect, and have demonstrated the impossibility of free will, let us explore what promise this holds with regard to human life in our present day.

The mistaken belief in free will gives rise to four mistaken conclusions.  1.  We are to be credited for the good we do. 2. We are responsible for the wrong we do.  3.  Others are to be credited for the good they do.  4.  Others are to be held responsible for the wrong they do.

The result from these mistaken conclusions is our becoming separated from ourselves and our remaining separated from each other.

Simply explained, the first mistaken conclusion gives rise to feelings of conceit or unhealthy pride which ultimately separate one from one's "true" self and create an unnecessary barrier between others and oneself.  The second mistaken notion gives rise to unnecessary feelings of guilt and contempt for oneself which cause needless suffering and, again, also separate oneself from others. The third mistaken notion causes us to see others as being better than ourselves leading to unwise envy and unnecessary feelings of inferiority.  The forth mistaken notion causes us to wrongly blame and punish others for their imperfections leading to a continuing cycle of vengeance and revenge.

If we, as a species, are to evolve to a higher state than that in which we presently find ourselves, with its ubiquitous anxiety and suffering, we must first overcome our belief in free will and then not simply understand, but also emotionally integrate, the fact that we are governed by the principle of determinism.

To refuse doing so is to, as it were, continue to believe in a flat Earth and never dare venture past its illusory horizon.  The scientific community, which has for over a century understood that the laws of cause and effect govern everything on our planet, is best suited to leading our population beyond the mistaken belief in free will to a proper understanding of determinism.  To refrain, for fear of a world religious community as unable to move past the notion of free will as they are to move past the notion of Creationism, in today's world, is no longer justified.