Monday, November 13, 2023

Stanford Neurobiologist Says There Is No Such Thing As "Free Will"


After more than 40 years of studying humans and other primates, Stanford neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky has reached the conclusion that virtually all human behavior is as far beyond our conscious control as the division of cells or the beating of our hearts. (Of course, he had to.)

Therefore, we mustn’t harshly judge such heretofore disdained folks as drunk drivers, serial criminals, Hamas terrorists, and those who bring 29 items to the “8 items or less” lane.

Sapolsky said, “The world is really screwed up and made much, much more unfair by the fact that we reward people and punish people for things they have no control over. We’ve got no free will. Stop attributing stuff to us that isn’t there.”

Yes, this screwed up world would be a much, much better place if we stopped rewarding and punishing people based on their behavior. Incredibly, Sapolsky is a MacArthur “genius” grant winner, proving that the people who bestow that award are utterly clueless. (Through no fault of their own, of course!)

Indeed, the vast majority of neuroscientists and philosophers believe humans have at least some degree of free will. As do most of the rest of us. But perhaps we have no choice in the matter.

Sapolsky has a new book out, titled, “Determined: A Science of Life Without Free Will.” (I bet he just had to write it!) Doesn’t sound much like “science” to me. But maybe we should ask Dr. Fauci. The book chronicles the neurochemical influences that contribute to human behaviors, and analyzes the time, short or long, before we do what we do. Sapolsky had previously written a bestseller called, “Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst,” which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and received other accolades. This though he obviously failed to see that “behave,” meaning to choose to act correctly or properly, is rendered moot by his assertion that we have no control over what we do.

Sapolsky, like all adherents of determinism, believes that it’s impossible for a person in any situation to have acted differently than they did…due to factors beyond their—and our-- control. He quite literally believes that free will is a myth, and that society would be better off if it accepted that premise. He allows that change is possible, but only from external stimuli, much as a sea slug learns to reflexively retreat from an electrical shock.

 So much for the satisfaction of achievement or the shame of acting badly—or worse.

But hey, progress, right?!

That belief would sure make things a lot easier on us. It’s a progressive’s dream!

“I’d like to quit [smoking/drinking/fill in the blank] but I can’t. Anyway, it’s not up to me. And I’m sorry I shot you, but don’t blame moi! These things are beyond my control!”

“Honey, I can’t help sleeping with other women, so don’t judge me! It’s far beyond my conscious control!”

Yeah, that would be much better for society.

But maybe it wouldn’t all be bad. If I “misgendered” someone, nobody could blame me. And we would logically need to grant complete pardons to all Jan. 6ers, as they had no control over what they did.

Sapolsky must excuse me for saying he is a pathetic idiot of the highest order-- whose beliefs are a grave danger to society-- as I had no choice but to write this sentence.

If we all believed in determinism, we would spend much of our time waiting around for “factors beyond our control” to tell us what to do. But I choose not to do that. Cue the Canadian rock band Rush:

You can choose from phantom fears

And kindness that can kill

I will choose a path that’s clear

I will choose free will   

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