EXPLORING THE ILLUSION OF FREE WILL 

Chandler Klebs

George Ortega

Creating a world of far less blame,
guilt, arrogance and envy

The world's first, and already successful*  initiative, including two TV shows, to popularize the refutation of free will *How it happened

John Searle, the13th ranked post-1900 philosopher, says that our world overcoming the free will illusion "would be a bigger revolution in our thinking than Einstein, or Copernicus, or Newton, or Galileo, or Darwin -- it would alter our whole conception of our relation with the universe." 

The Washington Post, The New York Times, Psychology Today, Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, The Atlantic, The Guardian, USA Today, The Telegraph, Time Magazine, Scientific American, NPR Radio, The Economist, and Science Magazine  all affirm that free will is an illusion

Chandler Klebs is the new administrator of this site. He's also the Executive Producer of the Free Will, Science, and Religion and Impersonal Opinion podcasts.

Exploring the Illusion of Free Will is two TV shows - WHITE PLAINS NY TV and NYC LIVE CALL-IN TVfour books - George'sGeorge's, Nick's, and Chandler's one meetups - NYC, one website, and Internet video and audio -  YOU TUBE  iTUNES AUDIO PODCAST  PUBLIC DOMAIN VIDEOS & MP3s, one blog - EXOGENOUS AGENCY and one forum for discussions -  GEORGE AND CHANDLER ON FREE WILL

Quick Links to YouTube Episodes: 1-10  11-20  21-30  31-40  41-50  51-60  61-70  71-80  81-90  91-110  101-110  111-120  121-130  131-140  141-150  151-160  161-170  171-180 

Quick Links to 18 Episode Transcripts: ( by title 01 02  03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14  15  16  17  18

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Titles Episodes
   
01-10 01-10
   
11-20 11-20
   
21-30 21-30
   
31-40 31-40
   
41-50 41-50
   
51-60 51-60
   
61-70 61-70
   
71-80 71-80
   
81-90 81-90
   
91-100 91-100
   

101-110

101-110

   

111-120

111-120

   

121-130

121-130

 

 

131-140

131-140
   

141-150

141-150
   

151-160

151-160
   

161-170

161-170
   

171-180

171-180
   
   
 
Site Features
 

Free Will Refutations in Major Publications

 

Free Will Refuted in the Blogs

 

Free Will Refuted on YouTube

 

Recent books for the public and academia refuting free will

 

Edited and Revised Transcripts of the First Eighteen Episodes

 

Quotes Disaffirming Free Will and Affirming Determinism by the Famous

 

Absurd Free Will Defenses by Major Institutions and Publications Who Should Know Better

 

Claiming credit for public awareness that free will is an illusion

 
 

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 Will
 
 

YouTube Collection


 

Transcripts of the First Eighteen Episodes

 

Episode 2.  Proving Causal Will in Real Time

 

Today I’m going to show how our wills are causal, and not free, by looking at the matter in real time.  We’re going to look at what’s happening right now, and what happened preceding the show.  We’ll start with the idea that I’m sitting here alone doing the show, when the plan was to do this with a co-host.

We’re going to prove and demonstrate in real time that I, and by extension, you, don’t have a free will.  In the last episode, I went through the idea that thoughts just come into our minds.  Before I say something, I have absolutely no idea what it is that I’m going to say.  Think about that.  Throughout our days, we’re thinking all of the time, and these thoughts and things we say are just coming into our head.

Let’s focus on our real-time analysis.  I want to make it as easy as possible for you to appreciate the significance of this topic – this question of whether human beings have a free will or not -- and I want you to understand very clearly why we don’t have a free will.  I want you to understand this, based on the science and a real-time analysis of what is going on.  If I had a free will, I would be choosing words that would probably explain this far better.  I have relatively good communications and explanatory skills.  But in my estimation, they are not nearly as good as they would be if I had a free will -- if I could will myself to think and say whatever I wanted.

You might say to yourself “Well, you could, if you wanted to, improve your presentation skills so you would be much better.”  Yeah, granted.  But, either because I think that my presentation skills are good enough, or because there is something else preventing me from improving these skills, this hasn’t happened.  I’ve done television for about four years, so this isn’t something that is new to me.  I understand my strengths and limitations in this.

Earlier, I instructed the director to have more camera changes.  I thought it would be a good thing for this show, and maybe it will be.  But I noticed also that when the camera changes and I’m in mid-thought, this might have a tendency to distract me.  That’s in fact what happened.  I lost my train of thought when the camera changed.  If I had a free will, I would not have chosen to lose my train of thought.  The director’s act -- someone else’s action -- resulted in the thoughts, or lack of them, that I was having.

Let’s explore some benefits of understanding that our wills are causal rather than free.  If I believed in a free will, I might be tempted to be angry with the director for having made the camera change when he did.  But, understanding that he has, and that I have, and that we all have, a causal will makes it easy to not blame or hold the other person, or myself, responsible.  This is a godsend, and a wonderful perspective from which to view reality. 

Let’s look for more ways to demonstrate in real-time why we don’t have a free will.  I’m not exactly sure what I want to talk about next.  This thought just came to me that I could talk about not knowing what to say next, and use that as an example of why we don’t have a free will.  While I was thinking about what I was going to say, this thought just came to me from who knows where.

You could say that it came from my mind, or from “me.”  But, think about it -- why couldn’t I think of something to say?  Because I don’t have a free will.  Having a free will means being able to think and say and do whatever you want, within certain logical and scientific parameters.  The notion of free will does not, of course, mean that we can fly without an airplane because of other reasons like physical laws, gravity being one.  But, in terms of our decisions – what we say, what we think, what we feel – the reality is that those things are simply not up to us. 

We’ve been thinking about thoughts.  Let’s think about feelings.  How am I feeling?  I’m a little cold.  I feel cold, and the coldness makes me a little nervous.  That is going to effect my presentation.  Here’s another example.  Today is overcast.  It drizzled a little this morning, and is threatening to rain.  That affects our mood.  That affects how we feel.  That’s going to affect this show.  If I’m not in control of either how high or low a person sets a thermostat in a video recording studio or the weather, then I’m not in control of things that are impacting what I say, and how I say them.  That’s a good way of understanding why what we do and think and feel is really not up to us.  It’s, most generally, really up to everything, because everything is inexorably connected.

In Buddhism, there is the idea that there is no real individual self.  The individual self is an illusion.  When you think about it, it’s true because we have physical bodies, and they are influenced by temperature, light, the atmosphere, other people, and many other factors outside of us.  The more accurate reality is that we are everything.  We are completely connected to everything else.  In other words, there is no separation between me and this chair, and this set, and the people in the director’s booth, and people outside of the studio.  We are all completely connected to everything else, and that’s the way the universe is.  It’s all one. 

Let’s explore sleep.  Last night I slept well.  I knew I was going to tape four shows on my own, and I knew it was going to be tough.  I knew that I wanted to be as lucid and sharp as possible, and I knew that would happen best if I had proper sleep.  I made sure I got to sleep early last night.  When I got a late night call, I got off quickly so I wouldn’t stress myself.  The amount of sleep I got last night is effecting my presentation today.  I’m much more energetic than I would have been if I got hardly any sleep.  What’s happening today is directly related, and influenced, by that factor.  

I chose, for better or worse, to not eat breakfast this morning.  My stomach is a little tight, and I didn’t think food would benefit my presentation.  I could have been wrong; I don’t know.  But, clearly, anyone who has breakfast every day, or who has breakfast some days and not others, will tell you that whether you have food or not in your stomach will make a difference in what you think, feel, say, and do. 

The point that I’m making is that whether or not we eat food, and what kind of food we eat, makes a difference.  As does how much sleep we get, and how we’re dressed.  If I was dressed in a tie and jacket, and my main audience wasn’t going to be college students, I probably would have gotten a haircut, and be talking differently.  This would be a different presentation.  It’s the fact that I have college students in mind as the main audience that causes me to dress in a certain way, and have a certain haircut, and that then causes me to act in a certain way.

You might think that my wanting college students as my primary audience was a freely willed decision.   But was it?  The reason I decided on college students as the primary audience is that 1) I’m aware that many colleges and universities have their own cable TV station on campus, that they use to present shows to the students, and sometimes the local off-campus community and, 2) I know that sometimes they are looking for shows.  Sometimes they don’t have enough programming to fill all of their time-slots.  I know these two things.  I also know that college students are curious about this matter of human will, and about free will being an illusion.  They take philosophy courses, and their minds are open to new ideas.  

So, my knowing something about college TV stations and college students made it make sense to me that college students should be the primary audience.  Is that a free will decision?  No, because we’re governed by a reason imperative, and we’re compelled by nature to do what we think is going to make the most sense.  If I think college students are going to be the best audience for disseminating this information, am I going to tailor this show to ten-year-olds or eighty-year-olds?  No.  We are compelled by nature to always decide what makes the most sense to us.  Sometimes we’ll look back in hindsight, and say to ourselves “Well, it seemed like the best option at the time,” but knowing later what we didn’t apparently know then, we realize that maybe it wasn’t. 

Our reality is very much like a movie.  What I’m doing right now is completely compelled.  None of it is up to me.  I’m like an actor whose every word has been scripted, every gesture has been scripted, and every feeling has been scripted.  My whole presentation has been scripted by the causal past. 

How are we to understand all of this?  One way is that, if you’re religious, chances are you believe God is all-powerful, and that what S/He says goes.  In other words, if God very genuinely wants you to do something, you’re absolutely going to do it.  S/He’s got the power.  Do you think you can actually do something that God wants to prevent you from doing?  No. 

There’s an objection some people might have about this.  If God is all-powerful, then certainly S/He can give you a free will.  But, that statement is internally inconsistent, and here’s why.  Can God create a boulder so large that even S/He can’t lift it?  When you think about that question, then you understand that this whole idea of an all-powerful God doesn’t truly stand up to reason.  What you end up concluding, which is a complete mind-blower in another sense, is that perhaps God’s actions are completely compelled, and that S/He doesn’t have a free will either.  Think also about this following question.  Can God, if S/He so chose, cease existing, along with the rest of the universe that S/He created?  I don’t know, but the idea is that if God is all-powerful, then there is absolutely no way that we have any power at all.  If S/He’s granting us a free will, then God cannot be all-powerful.  If we’re doing things that S/He would rather that we didn’t do, and S/He is powerless to prevent us, that is not all-powerful.  That is not omnipotent. 

Let’s think of another real-time explanation of why free will is an illusion, and why our will is causal.  Right now, I’m trying to think of another way to explain it, but either my mind is tired, or for some other reason, it’s not coming to me.  I’m saying to myself “Hey, it would be nice if I could explain this in a different way,” but it is simply not coming to me.  If I had a free will, I would know exactly what to say.  I know this subject cold, but my mind tends to function better when I’m interacting with another person. 

We don’t have a free will, but what we can take home that is really fortunate is that we’re hard-wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain.  Everybody is.  Because of that, as each day, and month, and year, and generation, and era goes by, we’re presumably getting better as individuals and as a species at moving toward pleasure, and away from pain.  Because of this, it’s really not terrible at all that we don’t have a free will.  In fact, it’s better that we don’t, because if we were not guided by this hedonic imperative to always seek pleasure and avoid pain, and by an accompanying moral imperative to always try to do good, our decisions would simply be haphazard.  It’s great to know that the universe has compelled us to have those basic motivations.

That’s a good place to end.  This series is going to be revolutionary.  We’re going to change the world.  There are times for ideas, and the time for humanity to overcome, and benefit greatly from overcoming, the illusion of free will, is here.  It’s going to be exciting and fun. 

 

List of Episode Titles

 


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