No. of Recommendations: 5
If you read the actual paper, you'll find there was substantial variation between studies in their experimental designs. No one has explicitly tried to reproduce Libet's study.

Which I think confirms my statement that there is an issue with replicability.

Alternatively, it could simply be a reflection on the fact that almost none of us get paid to simply reproduce previous studies. It could also reflect the fact that different labs have different tools at their disposal. For example, I currently collaborate with a bioengineering lab to study nerve repair. Their old collaborator had tools at their disposal that I don't, so I use a different set of measures. Does that mean that there are issues with the replicability of the old studies? No.

There is an analogous issue with studies of the expansion of the universe: Two different measurements produce significantly different estimates of the rate of expansion. Has this led scientists to conclude that the universe is not expanding because of issues of replicability? No. Likewise, every study in the vein of Libet finds activity related to decision-making occurring before awareness. They merely differ on how much earlier it occurs.

How do you determine if the difference between the predicted and the actual distributions are due to a "nonrandom" source? And, what does adding a nonrandom (deterministic) piece to an partly deterministic, partly nondeterministic entity do to provide "free will"?

Doesn't matter.

Of course it does. You asserted that some magic sauce has to be added to the meat machine that is our body in order for us to exhibit "free will." As far as I can tell, this magic sauce is an answer in search of a problem.

I’ll bring up the example of parole board decisions once again: the judges are making what they think are perfectly rational decisions all while factors outside of their awareness dominate the actual decision. 90% of their decision can be ascribed to low blood sugar!

You seem very dependent on this one study. How often has it been replicated? How large was its sample size?

The study covered 1,118 cases overseen by 8 judges spanning 50 days. Each day consisted of three sessions separated by food breaks. You can find the study here: Previous studies had looked at the impact of sugar or hunger on decision making, including:

Psychol Sci. 2008 Mar;19(3):255-60.
Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 5, no. 6, October 2010, pp. 450-457.
Front. Psychol., 23 May 2018 |
Psychological Bulletin 2016, Vol. 142, No. 5, 546–567

The point here is that people have a poor grasp on what's going on in their own head. Judges make the most poignant example since we expect them to be making decisions solely on the facts of the case. But, there is a wealth of literature that demonstrates otherwise:

Annual Review of Law and Social Science Vol. 13:203-229

So many factors that we aren't aware of influence our decisions:
The Review of Economic Studies, Volume 83, Issue 2, April 2016, Pages 460–480
Front Physiol. 2017 Sep 8;8:680.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Mar 8; 113(10): 2621–2624.

My claim from the very beginning is simply that the evidence against free will is poor.

The evidence for "free will" is poor, in large part because the definition of "free will" is so poor.

Can you name anything else that arises out of complexity that has properties that are totally absent in the component parts?


I can play the same contrarian game from the peanut gallery that you are with free will. What is your definition of life?

Maybe I've gotten you confused with someone else. I thought you had a Ph.D. in a biological field. No matter. In Biology, we generally require a living thing to exhibit the following traits:

Homeostasis: regulation of the internal environment to maintain a constant state

Organization: being structurally composed of one or more cells

Metabolism: transformation of energy by converting chemicals and energy into cellular components (anabolism) and decomposing organic matter (catabolism).

Growth: maintenance of a higher rate of anabolism than catabolism. A growing organism increases in size in all of its parts, rather than simply accumulating matter.

Adaptation: the ability to change over time in response to the environment.

Response to stimuli.

Reproduction: the ability to produce new individual organisms, either asexually from a single parent organism or sexually from two parent organisms, or the sterile offspring produced by reproduction.

I don't think that any of your examples meet this definition.

Can you give me a comparable description to define free will?

Since you seem to be suggesting that it is not possible to determine whether stuff like "a computer or a dish of neurons had subjective thoughts or was conscious"

Not at all. I'm suggesting that the current definition of "consciousness" is so useless that it can't be meaningfully applied. You made the claim, "We can't reduce it to smaller bits or recreate portions of consciousness in the lab or in a computer." Why not? You've certainly produced no evidence to support your claim.

Print the post  


What was Your Dumbest Investment?
Share it with us -- and learn from others' stories of flubs.
When Life Gives You Lemons
We all have had hardships and made poor decisions. The important thing is how we respond and grow. Read the story of a Fool who started from nothing, and looks to gain everything.
Contact Us
Contact Customer Service and other Fool departments here.
Work for Fools?
Winner of the Washingtonian great places to work, and Glassdoor #1 Company to Work For 2015! Have access to all of TMF's online and email products for FREE, and be paid for your contributions to TMF! Click the link and start your Fool career.