Jerry Coyne says, “You don’t have free will.”

Professor of Biology, University of Chicago, Jerry Coyne argues that you have no free will. When you think you make a choice, he argues it was the only choice you could have made at that particular time and under those particular exact circumstances.

Jerry Coyne

Did you just order a cup of black coffee? Could you have ordered it with cream and sugar instead? Well, sure. If you’d wanted to. But evidently you didn’t want to. Can you choose to do something you don’t want to do? Well, sure again. You may choose cream and sugar next time just to show you can.

That doesn’t prove your point. You wanted to order sugar and cream to prove a point. You had conflicting desires, but you chose what you wanted most. You really didn’t want the cream and sugar, but you really did want to prove your point. Life is complicated and full of complex choices based on complex desires; but you do what you want most.

So if you really want something, can you decide you are not going to want it anymore? Suppose you have a pounding headache and you really wanted to stop hurting. Can you decide you’re going to like that headache, instead. Of course not. You want what you want, and you don’t want what you don’t.

I’ve realized for a long time that we don’t have as much free will as we usually like to think. You can choose to do what you want to do, but you cannot choose to do what you don’t want to do. And if you have conflicting desires, you’ll always choose what you desire most. Always!

That is your “choice,” to choose what you want and not what you don’t want. And you can’t do it any other way unless your desires change. Furthermore, you cannot change your own desires at will. Neither can I or anybody else.

Only Philosophy?

So it’s all philosophical? Yeah, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real.

But we know we have free will. Right? We make choices all the time. We can make any choice we want to, within the limits of our physical strength and other characteristics. Right. There’s that phrase “want to” again. Desire. We can only choose what do we want; not what we don’t want. How is that free?

Does it matter? Yes, in many ways. But it doesn’t stop people from living happy, fulfilling lives.

Watch the video. It’s 53 minutes, but it’ll make you think.

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