What should be the default view on Free Will? We talk about Free Will because we feel it in us and in the actions of all other. Even those attempting to disprove Free Will prove instead its existence by trying to persuade us, when lack of Free Will would make this effort futile. We can also see that dead matter is only moved by external forces hence does not have Free Will, and that the living act upon external forces and also what appears to be internally determination, aka Free Will. Therefore, the default position should be that we all have Free Will until one can demonstrate otherwise.
Free Will is the belief that at least some of our actions are not completely determined by agencies beyond our power. “Some” is more than “none”, but it does not have to be “most” or even “many”. Thus, the burden of proof against Free Will is impossibly high, as all – not just some – of our actions would have to be entirely – not just partly – determined by external forces to disprove Free Will. This proof has not and cannot be provided.
Indeed, Determinism is self-defeating as lack of Free Will would render all decisions illusory. The Sun, the dead, and the rocks do not decide anything, so why would a determinism proponent decide any more than these entities? And without decisions, ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘worry’, ‘fair’, ‘guilt’, ‘self’, and so on do not make any more sense either. Convincing others that Free Will is not true makes absolutely no sense if Free Will were indeed illusory.
So how do we know that we have Free Will? We cannot know for sure, but we infer Free Will the same way we infer reflex actions – we observe and feel. When we observe actions (ours or those of others) that seem nonrandom and unrelated to any known drivers we accept Free Will. Other times, we see automatic reflex or instinct responses and we consider those actions determined by external forces.
Like a muscle, Free Will (Willpower) gets tired and can be overwhelmed or destroyed by external forces. Free Will appears to decrease when suffering brain trauma, under the influence of chemicals, due to genetic conditions, or when infected with certain parasites. In non-human life forms, Free Will seems weaker than reflexes and instincts. Willpower failures are not evidence against Free Will, just as forces overpowering one’s muscles do not disprove the muscular system’s power. Free Will experiments (Libet and others) have been inconclusive so far.
Quantum mechanics indeterminacy invalidates determinism. In the double slit experiment, one can set up a perfectly deterministic setup yet every time the experiment is repeated, it cannot be known (except statistically) where the particle will end up even if the setup is calibrated to the n-th degree. This is totally different than the deterministic systems where the normal distribution of outputs can be narrowed by tightening the inputs / set-up with the theoretical conclusion that perfect inputs / set-up will result in perfect outputs (determinism).
Is Free Will then just a mix of Randomness and Determinism? No. Free Will is a function of the living. Randomness and Determinism apply equally to the inorganic, but only the living (organic) has Free Will. Anything less than 100% combination of Randomness and Determinism is not sufficient to disprove Free Will.
Many machines fully controlled by Randomness and Determinism have been built, yet none of them displays Free Will aside from the will of their human designer. ‘Artificial Intelligence’ is an ongoing pursuit, and AI machines will eventually be so good, that the naive observer will completely miss the human designers’ contribution and will falsely conclude that the machine perfectly mimics Free Will, hence “Free Will is just an illusion”.
Religious views are behind most of the arguments on both sides of the Free Will debate. While opponents see only an illusion created by Randomness and Determinism, Free Will proponents also see the touch of our Creator behind the machine that would otherwise indeed be just subject to Randomness and Determinism. Is God’s omniscience incompatible with our Free Will? Not at all. Many times parents know that children’s actions will end up badly, yet they chose to let the children exercise their Free Will anyway.