Do you have free will? Now before you answer, think about this:
If you don’t have free will and you answer, “Yes, I do have free will,” why are you programmed to lie to yourself regarding free will?
On the other hand if you do have free will and you answer, “No, I don’t have free will,” why are you so mistaken about something that is so essential to your every action?
A new study on the brain has proven (yet again) that a person’s decision whether or not to press a button can be detected up to seven seconds before the person herself realizes she has made a decision. Get that? By the time you say to yourself, “OK, I am going to press that button” your brain has already decided the matter. Your self-talk about decision making is a delusion. You, and by “you” I mean the “you” that says, “OK, I am going to press that button” is simply a puppet responding to a decision made without you in your brain!
When I first read this I was troubled. I want to believe I have free will, but I am a science oriented person so if a scientist tells me otherwise who am I to disagree? Then I looked into this experiment a bit more deeply and realized that the only thing this test proves is that I have no free will when it comes to pressing buttons.
I spent the next day at home counting how many buttons I press (as opposed to switches I flip, levers I pull, dials I turn, etc.). Not counting the keys on my Powerbook G4 the number came to two: the button that starts my blender that makes my fruit drink in the morning, and the button that starts my toothbrush that cleans my teeth after I have had my fruit drink in the morning. I press the toothbrush button twice a day, the blender button once. Had I not spent the whole day indoors counting buttons, I might have taken my car somewhere and then I would have pressed a lot more buttons on my radio, cd player and air-conditioner, but I decided not to go out and to stay in counting buttons.
Or did I?
Maybe the test has implications beyond buttons. Maybe I decided to type that last sentence seven seconds before I actually typed it. Maybe I, the “I” that takes credit for whatever the brain has decided seven seconds before the “I” that takes credit for it even knows a decision has been made, is just commenting on decisions made by someone else, the real me, the real me that I have never met or known, because the only me I know is the seven-second-delay me who is really nothing much at all. I am simply an afterthought.
This idea is somewhat exciting. As an afterthought I am always surprised: What will that crazy ol’ brain of mine decide to do next? It could be anything. I have no idea. How about this: Let’s wait seven seconds to see what