The blog series that began with Environmental Clues, Shaping Behavior and Free Will (1) and included 3 blogs commenting on Jerry Coyne’s USA TODAY article Why We don’t Really Have Free Will is now available as one document as a PDF: Free Will and Biology (PDF).
Coyne, a respected evolutionary biologist, is also philosophically committed to materialism and atheism. He makes what for me is a puzzling argument that while there is no such thing as free will or consciousness or self (all illusions, he claims, created by biochemistry and genetics) that somehow a kinder, gentler humanity will emerge when we throw off the illusion of self and self control and free will. The argument is puzzling because if in fact as he argues we have no free will and everything we do is simply the end result of millions of years of biochemical evolution, and if in fact no non-material force can make material objects do anything, how will “knowledge” change our behavior? It is some form of magical gnostic thinking. It seems to me for Coyne to be consistent, he must acknowledge that we are merely the biochemical products of evolution and therefore cannot change our behavior (humans will be humans) because of genetic determinism and thus no conscious change in human behavior or social behavior is possible no matter whether we rely on science or religion. Thus his optimism that acknowledging that there is no free will can alter human behavior is a gnostic belief – his own magical thinking which he so despises in theists. He offers no proof (in fact I don’t think there is any) for his philosophical claims that a world guided by atheistic materialism will be one in which humans treat humans more humanely; yet he claims to be guided purely by science not by a system of beliefs. His assumptions and beliefs read into and re-interpret the science he selectively offers with the result being of course that his interpretation of the world proves what he believes. This doesn’t seem to be the scientific method at all.
A list of my blog series available as PDFs is available at Blog Series Available as PDFs.