No. of Recommendations: 5
The review conclusion was that Libet's study and many of those that followed had significant methodological errors and/or suffered from experimenter bias.

I don’t think that that’s an accurate representation of the paper. I can’t find anything in the paper that supports the contention that Libet’s study had significant methodological errors. In addition, it is only the interpretation that suffered from bias, and that bias is not limited to the experimenter. As Dubljevic says, “Basically, those who opposed free will interpreted the results to support their position, and vice versa." (my emphasis). There is bias on both sides in the interpretation of the data. That being said, one of the authors’ conclusions is “While almost all papers in our review reported a general pattern of average neural activity occurring before participants’ awareness of their intention to act, the relationship of this activity to their intention still needs to be established.” So, the problem is not that there is strongly conflicting data in the literature (i.e., some people observe the phenomenon and some don’t) but in trying to understand what the data tell us.

What is “free will?” What is “consciousness?” I think that part of the problem in these discussions is that these are essentially undefined. Free will and consciousness are things we feel, not things we measure. Are the real or are they akin to an optical illusion? Until you define them in a meaningful way that makes testable predictions, there’s no way to tell. The two concepts (concept might be an exaggeration) are often conflated. However, the two seem quite separate to me, and it is not immediately obvious that one requires the other.

You stated that free will could be described as “nonrandom indeterminacy.” I’m not completely sure what that means. Clearly, we can write computer algorithms that are nonrandom and these can be coupled with a quantum system to provide indeterminacy. I’m not sure that most people would say that that contraption has free will even though it satisfies your description.

Radiolab has had a couple episodes on the human brain that have stuck with me. One just came up again last week: https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/radiolab-loops . In the first segment, they describe a patient who has transient global amnesia. Every 90 seconds, the patient has the same conversation, over and over again. One person described her responses as robotic. If you’re given the same set of cues and you output the same response, it would seem that you lack indeterminacy. Did the woman lose her free will while she was experiencing amnesia?

The second episode is: https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/revising-fault-line . Essentially, it dug into the question of how you make choices and how aware you are of how you make those choices. The first story is a cool anecdote describing this guy who has chunks of his brain removed to treat his epilepsy with unfortunate consequences, but it’s still just an anecdote. The more interesting part deals with a study of parole judge decisions. If I remember the numbers correctly, the study showed that if you go before the parole board before they have lunch (or maybe it was a meal), you had something like a 3% chance of receiving parole. After lunch, that chance jumps to 60%. If you talk to the judges after the fact, they’ll describe some rationale that led to one person being paroled and one not being paroled. However, the data suggest that there’s something else strongly tipping the scales. IIRC, the neurologist they interview suggests that problem lies in cortical neurons. When your blood sugar is lower or you’re tired, you begin to sacrifice the cortical function that suppresses your baser urges. There are probably other models that could be invoked (at least in the parole board study) to explain the observations. However, whatever the cause, clearly there are decisions that you make without really being aware of why you make them.

The following article describes prolonged decoherence-recoherence occurring in photosynthesis.

Apparently, this is a hotly debated topic in physics. The data and/or interpretation on this topic are contradictory:
https://physicsworld.com/a/is-photosynthesis-quantum-ish/

-Anthony
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