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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(Hover over numbers on left for titles)

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 4.  What it All Means

 

Let’s talk about what it means that our wills and our reality are causal.  This is huge.  It represents a new stage of civilization.  It’s hard to think of a comparable shift in our world.  We went from thinking that our world was flat to understanding that our planet Earth is an orb.  We went from seeing ourselves as the center of the solar system to understanding that we are three planets out from that center.

But while these understandings might help with our astronomical model of reality, and help us get to the moon and back, they don’t really affect our personal day-to-day lives, and our lives as a civilization.  As we understand that free will is an illusion, and that causality, or cause and effect, is what determines everything, we begin to understand that it’s a paradigm shift in our consciousness that is happening in our overcoming this illusion of free will.

What will it mean to our world?  Naturally, we can only predict, because, not having a free will, we can’t compel ourselves, or the universe, to unfold in any certain way.  Truth is generally a better guide to what we do, and how we do what we do, than illusion.  I predict that by our world overcoming this illusion of free will, we’re going to create a much more intelligent, compassionate, and happy world.  

When we attribute free will to others and to ourselves, we will tend to blame others and ourselves for our misgiving – for what we do wrong.  When we have a causal will perspective, we understand that we’re doing these things not because we choose, but because the causal past has compelled us to do them.  Correctly perceiving our wills as causal can lead to greater compassion and non-judgment. 

For this episode, let’s take a look at how this correct understanding of human will effects our global civilization.  Let’s look at geo-political conflict between nations.  In large part, it’s based on our illusion of free will.  We say to ourselves “people from other countries have a free will, and they are doing something we consider threatening, so we are going to war with them.”  Our other option is for us to say to ourselves “alright, those other countries may be doing things that we consider threatening, and not in our best interest, but wait a minute.  The actions of those people from that country – the leaders, the government, the citizens – are completely compelled.  They don’t have a free will.”  From this perspective, punishing an entire country for things that nobody in that country could have done any other way doesn’t make sense.  I have every hope and expectation that our new causal reality era will bring out the best in us. 

This show is about the illusion of free will, the reality of causal will, but we should remember that causality is not limited to human will.  Causality controls everything.  Now is a good time for a “state-of-the-universe” explanation of how this is so.  Consider the state of the universe at this very moment in time.  The state of the universe at the immediately prior moment in time was what gave rise to it, and caused it to be.  The state of the universe at each subsequent moment is completely determined by its state at the preceding moment. 

That is the most objective, all-encompassing, universal description of causality possible.  It relates to the entire universe, state by state and moment by moment.  What we find is that we don’t have free wills.  We have causal wills because reality isn’t free; reality is causal.  Reality can’t decide to be one way or another.  It goes by certain laws and the causal progression of events.  It’s important to realize that causality extends beyond the human will to all of reality. 

Our world is very much like a movie.   I don’t know what you are doing right now besides reading this, but whatever it is, and whatever you did in the past, and what you will do in the future, is completely determined.  It is not up to you, and that is amazing.  Yes, reality is a movie.

What does this mean?  It means that the world is so much more “wonderful” than we have believed it to be.  If we’ve been so completely deluded about the nature of why we do everything we do, and about causality as it relates to human will, and we come to understand that our wills are causal – that everything is governed by cause and effect – that new understanding changes everything.  It makes reality far more wonderful than it is under the free will perspective.  The free will perspective just confuses everyone, because it doesn’t make sense.

Our whole lives are based on a premise that is wrong.  Of course, we’re not to blame for this.  We didn’t choose to be deluded in this way.  We didn’t choose to believe we have a free will.  That perspective was equally compelled.  The universe has compelled us to believe that a delusion is reality, and it seems that the universe is now compelling us to understand that free will is not the reality; causal will is.  I came to this understanding at least several decades ago, and it’s a fascinating realization.  To contemplate that everything

is a movie, and that we’re just actors, may have an element of unpleasantness, but that unpleasantness just comes from our ego.  We have a part of ourselves that says “I want to take credit for what I do.  I want it to be up to me.”  So, we give that up.  We instead see that there is no individual I; there is a one.  There is one universe, and one reality, that proceeds from moment to moment in a causal fashion.  That is what compels us to do everything we do.  It’s amazing that we have for at least two millennia fallen prey to this illusion of free will.

One thing that will likely result from our overcoming this illusion is that the world will become more intelligent, and routinely exercise greater intelligence.  Seeing human will as free is not intelligent.  There is absolutely no credible evidence that we have a free will, and there is conclusive, irrefutable evidence that our wills are causal.  Our world needs to change.  Just considering global warming and the recent global economic meltdown, we need to make great changes.  As we understand that our wills are causal rather than free, these changes will come about much more quickly and intelligently.  Overcoming the illusion of free will appears to be a great gift to humanity, and to the other forms of life with whom we share this Earth. 

Many people who have held the belief in free will are going to be challenged.  It’s a challenge on the scale of creationism vs. evolution.  Many of us still believe that there was and Adam and Eve, and that Eve was created from the rib of Adam.  Scientifically, we don’t believe that any more, but many people who once believed that now understand the overwhelming evidence against such a creation story, and in favor of evolution.   Overcoming the illusion of free will actually represents a much more profound challenge because it lies at the heart of who we are. 

We have the choice of seeing ourselves as gods who are able to think whatever we want at any time, or from the more humbling perspective that we are subjects.  We’re like pawns on a chessboard.  We’re doing the will of God, or the causal past.  That’s huge.  We’re going from the guiding philosophy that we have free will to the guiding philosophy that everything is causal; everything is a movie, and we’re just playing out our roles.  It’s absolutely amazing. 

As we go through our exploration, we’ll get into all of this in a lot of detail.  We’re going to bring physics, neuroscience, and psychology, into this.  There are various ways to understand why free will is impossible, and why both our reality and our human will must be causal, and we’ll go through them.  For now, let’s contemplate what this means to us as a civilization and as a humanity. 

I can’t think of a question like this that has confronted humanity in the past.  There was the Scopes Monkey trial decades ago about creationism vs. evolution, and that caught the attention of the international media.  But, years later, that issue is rarely talked about.  This question of human will is capturing our attention as one of the fundamental questions and issues of our time.  I’m not going to say it is a valid question, because the evidence against free will is so solid and compelling that it would not be truthful to present the matter as unresolved, at least objectively.

In other words, if our world was debating between whether two plus two equals four, or two plus two equals five, that’s not much of a debate.  But to many people, the truth about our human wills will be a revelation.  It is incumbent upon those of us who understand the causal nature of our will to help others understand this better.  We should mitigate the fears people may have, and address people’s misgivings about giving up their presumed god-like power to believe and think, and feel, what they want, regardless of anything.

Let’s talk about criminal justice.  This is extremely important.  Anyone who has ever been imprisoned, or who is in jail or prison now, is really being punished wrongly.  If somebody forced you to do something, and I mean absolutely forced you to the extent that you had no choice in the matter,  is it morally right and just for you to be punished for this thing that you absolutely had no choice but to do?  Our jails and prisons are filled with people who are suffering that fate. 

This is, of course, not our fault, because we don’t have the free will to have overcome the illusion of free will, and treated them more compassionately and intelligently in the past.  But, it’s something we should recognize.  Some of us will immediately ask, “Are you suggesting we give up laws and rules and order?”  No, I’m not suggesting that.  I’m asking, “How would you like to be in jail or prison being punished for something you were absolutely compelled to do?” 
What’s the answer?  Naturally, part of it is that we, as a people, have to be protected from each other and ourselves.  If somebody is going around doing things that are hurtful to themselves or others, certainly we need to take steps to prevent that kind of behavior.  The greatest good for the greatest number is a philosophy we cherish, and which forms the basis of our democracies.  By understanding that we don’t have a free will, we can catch those of us who would eventually turn to crime in their later years when they are very young, and condition them to not go that route. 

We now have so many people in jail and prison for what they had no choice but to do.  Transcending the illusion of free will is about how we are going to treat them.  It seems quite wrong to punish them in retribution.  There is the issue of punishment as a deterrent.  Punishment will, in many cases, prevent others from committing crimes, but my guess is that as we understand that our wills are causal and not free, we will perhaps separate those of us who need to be separated from society for whatever reason, for their own sake as well as for the sake of the rest of us, but we’ll do it without that sense of retribution.  We’ll do it without judgment or blame.

Two hundred years ago in the United States, our criminal justice system was more about penitence.  That’s why our prisons were called penitentiaries and reformatories.  Criminal justice back then was more about showing a person the error of their ways, but not through punishment as much as through relatively benign correction.  We’ve gone from that kind of system to one that punishes according to the notion of “just deserts.”  They did something evil, which makes them evil, so we’re just in making them suffer. 

God willing, once we are able to reform our criminal justice system, those of us who would otherwise resort to crimes that hurt our society and ourselves would probably be far less likely to do so.  Criminals often commit their crimes as a direct result of ascribing free will to another person.  They say “this person freely hurt me, so I’m going to hurt them back.”  Our criminal justice system is an area of civilization and society that this truth of our causal will relates to very directly from a moral perspective, and also from the perspective of alleviating unnecessary suffering.

Our awakening to the reality that our world and our human will is causal is revolutionary.  We will create what in many ways will amount to brand new world.  I don’t know how long this might take, and to be completely honest, I don’t know if it will happen.  If we don’t have free wills, we can’t know for sure whether the causal past will lead us to understand that it, and not us, is really responsible for everything.  But, from all of the evidence – our education, our development as a species, our becoming more intelligent and evolved – it seems this is clearly the way we are going.  We’re moving into an era where we will all very likely understand all of this.  Some talk about the dumbing down of America – how somehow we’ve become stupid.  The nature of human will is the kind of issue and question that can reawaken our intellect, and thereby help us all.
 

List of Episode Titles

 


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