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It is astonishing to me the fervor with which some in the life sciences seek to dismantle the very concept of human freedom. The latest example comes from Penn biologist Anthony R. Cashmore in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , in an article in which he claims that human free will is fiction. Here’s the Abstract :

It is widely believed, at least in scientific circles, that living systems, including mankind, obey the natural physical laws. However, it is also commonly accepted that man has the capacity to make “free” conscious decisions that do not simply reflect the chemical makeup of the individual at the time of decision—this chemical makeup reflecting both the genetic and environmental history and a degree of stochasticism. Whereas philosophers have discussed for centuries the apparent lack of a causal component for free will, many biologists still seem to be remarkably at ease with this notion of free will; and furthermore, our judicial system is based on such a belief. It is the author’s contention that a belief in free will is nothing other than a continuing belief in vitalism—something biologists proudly believe they discarded well over 100 years ago.

This article is a classic example, not only of the many attempts to destroy human exceptionalism afoot in the sciences, but also, of how some in the life sciences (in particular) seek to supplant philosophy and religion as the sources for determining meaning (it would seem  there isn’t any), ethics, and morality. We should not let them get away with it.

More details and analysis over at Secondhand Smoke .

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