Science, philosophy and the possibility of free will

Vic asked:

According to philosophy, and science. Humans decisions are based on human experience, and past genetics thus humans have no free will. So if I choose the color blue, its really not me choosing by my brain choosing for me. If I make a decision, is really not me making a decision but my brain based on predetermined historic genetics. In some cases even free will can be an illusion. How can all of this make any sense? If my life is an illusion of my genetics then how can I even trust a scientist who makes conclusions on a topic? what if the scientist in question and his conclusion is an illusion? or a conclusion based on his genetics?

Also, how or where does reasoning or intelligence fall under if assuming that all of our thoughts are controlled by genetics?

Answer by Tony Fahey

Hi Vic, as the above contains several questions relating loosely to the same issue, I have decided to answer that which I believe is the most central to the matter at hand, that your claim that, ‘According to philosophy, and science. Humans decisions are based on human experience, and past genetics thus humans have no free will’. First of allI would love to know from whence came the evidence to support such an assertion. As one whose interests cover both philosophy and science, I must say I have never come across arguments from either discipline supporting such a claim. Whilst I agree, to some extent, that empirical experience, social conditioning,and genetics have, what might be described as a determinist influence on one’s thinking, emotions, and behaviour, in general, to argue that these influences obviate one’s ability to think for oneself is a step too far.

Indeed, I would go further and argue that it is actually science and philosophy that provides one with the knowledge and courage to shed one’s self of these influences, to think for oneself: to have free will, and to live an authentic life.


Answer by Geoffrey Klempner

I would emphasize the very good point you make, Vic, about the scientist ‘drawing conclusions’ about our lack of free will. What the scientist who rejects free will has to say is that there is no such thing, in reality, as ‘drawing a conclusion’. Depressing as this may seem, some are prepared to say this for the sake of (what they perceive as) consistency. But then, why should we be obliged to listen?


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