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Do fruit flies have free will?

Do fruit flies have free will? from

Free will and true spontaneity exist … in fruit flies. This is what scientists report in a groundbreaking study in the May 16, 2007 issue of the open-access journal PLoS ONE.


My comment: The article says "The term 'will' would not apply if our actions were completely random and it would not be 'free' if they were entirely determined." That's not quite correct. The fundamental issue is this: Our behavior must be fully determined by who and what we are--otherwise, it is not "our" behavior. To put it another way, "free will" and determinism are not, as is commonly believed, mutually exclusive. In fact, "free will" requires that our actions must be a deterministic function of our selves.

The key idea behind free will is neither randomness nor independence of its operation from deterministic law, past history or present stimuli. Free will does not imply any such conditions—and if it did, those conditions would argue against the idea that it is justified to assign moral significance to a person’s conduct.

If a person’s free will were truly random, truly non-deterministic, then that would completely exonerate the conduct of that person. Why should a person bear any moral responsibility for conduct that is intrinsically unpredictable, uncontrolled, random and not determined by anything whatsoever?

Free will requires only that a person’s conduct be determined as a function of who he is, and that he be capable of modifying his conduct in response to events. Strict determinism in no way prevents either of these requirements from being met—as artificial intelligence research clearly shows.

The only illusion connected with free will is the illusion that free will is incompatible with determinism, when in fact free will requires determinism. Just because your response to stimuli is strictly determined in no way denies you free will. Your response to stimuli must be determined by something. With no determinant to your choices, you would have no will at all. What better and more appropriate determinant of your behavior could there be, other than you yourself—your own state of being? The fact that your ‘outputs’ (responses to stimuli) are completely determined by your ‘inputs’ (incoming stimuli) does not change the fact that there must be a function that maps your inputs to your outputs: and that function is you, your essence, your brain, your mind, your personality, your soul.

You have free will precisely and only because you are able to map inputs to outputs, stimuli to responses, goals to actions and information to concepts and beliefs. What makes your will free is the fact that you have a transcendent, invariant goal: the meta-goal to acquire and achieve goals. It is you that must decide how best to achieve your meta-goal, based solely on who you are, what you know, how you feel and what you experience—independent of the will of any other creature. What more could one ask of free will?

Your will is free because it is independently yours, because it is a function of both external stimuli and your state of being, and does not depend on the will of anyone else. Is that not what freedom really is: independence from the will of others? Therefore, strict physical determinism does not mean that free will is an illusion. Free will does not require some random, non-deterministic or supernatural mechanism in order to exist

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