A quick one prompted by Uncommon Descent’s ongoing campaign against reductionist psychology. UD links to this blog about a book by David Eagleman, which is another of those efforts to show that neuroscience increasingly demonstrates that free will is an illusion.
Science 2.0 comments that Eagleman’s work will be rejected, especially his wise suggestions for improving society, because the masses will not accept the shattering of their illusions of self-determination.
UD’s angle is that maybe they will reject it because, collectively, they know it is nonsense. Which is fair enough. But Eagleman’s thesis is actually refuted by the Science 2.0 piece and even by the book itself.
The blogger writes of Eagleman’s book and a similar work by Michael Shermer:
Both books, though, offer information that many people will not be willing to accept: the idea that we are not the masters of our own destiny, not in control.
He then offers arguments for this unwillingness, based mainly on the self-flattering nature of the mind illusion. But he neglects the obvious point that unwillingness, or his own more enlightened willingness to accept the evidence, necessarily assumes the reality of will.
Granted, later down the piece he says in frustration:
…most people will ultimately reject this information, just as Shermer’s books will not find favorable reactions from the masses. Our very wiring, our neurobiology, makes it almost certain that most will reject the idea that they are not in control, that their identity can be reduced to a three pound pink jello-like substance that is an electrochemical soup.
But notice how “our” wiring makes it “almost” certain that “they” will reject the idea. How come it didn’t make it utterly certain that he, and Eagleman and Shermer, didn’t also reject it? The necessary implication is that they are not of the masses – that they are made of better stuff. In other words that they have bucked the system by actually having the free-will to understand that the masses do not have free-will. Whereas the masses, not having free-will, are incapable of perceiving that they are deluded into believing they have.
It’s the old myth of science’s objectivity, of course. Science is objective and I am a scientist. So I am objective. I study you, so you are a subject, and subjective.
Says the blog in conclusion:
…the reality is that it’s likely that people who pick it up already knew a great deal of that information he presents and he may merely be preaching to the choir.
If Eagleman is right, then of course it’s much worse than that. He’s just a zombie parroting noise to a choir of zombies. Only they’re under the illusion that he’s preaching knowledge.