Free Will == Brain Background Noise?

A brain filling via a funnelThe concept of free will could be little more than the result of background noise in the brain, according to a recent study.

Okay…

According to the research, published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, decisions could be predicted based on the pattern of brain activity immediately before a choice was made.

Well, looks like we can get into a bit of a “Does foreknowledge require predestination?” argument. But avoiding that tangent…

“The state of the brain right before presentation of the cue determines whether you will attend to the left or to the right,” Bengson said.

Well, a few thoughts:

  • Fair use means I can’t quote as much of the article as I wish. Please read the whole thing.
  • We Christians believe there is something beyond just the chemistry and electrical impulses of our bodies and brains. It may be true that Bengson can hook me up to a gadget that will figure out which way I will look. However, he cannot conclusively say that there isn’t anything causing the noise ahead of time (that then influences the direction I look).
  • There is a huge difference between an inconsequential choice like this and, say, whether you decide to cheat on your wife, give a homeless man a dinner, reject the outstretched hand of your Creator, etcetera. Maybe God built us so something that doesn’t matter is decided by random noise. Not so with consequential choices (and, I suspect, not so with the inconsequential ones either).

Regardless, and interesting article. As scientists of old proved, the fact that the One True God built a universe that followed natural laws made it so it was worth scientific investigation. More power to studies like this, as long as they understand the limits of what can be discovered, and don’t allow philosophical prejudices (e.g. that there is nothing supernatural) prevent them from following the evidence wherever it goes (or make conclusions that ignore other options).


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