Free: Why Science Hasn’t Disproved Free Will by Alfred R. Mele

Pub Date Oct 1 2014

Does free will exist? The question has fueled heated debates spanning from philosophy to psychology and religion. The answer has major implications, and the stakes are high. To put it in the simple terms that have come to dominate these debates, if we are free to make our own decisions, we are accountable for what we do, and if we aren’t free, we’re off the hook.

There are neuroscientists who claim that our decisions are made unconsciously and are therefore outside of our control and social psychologists who argue that myriad imperceptible factors influence even our minor decisions to the extent that there is no room for free will. According to philosopher Alfred R. Mele, what they point to as hard and fast evidence that free will cannot exist actually leaves much room for doubt. If we look more closely at the major experiments that free will deniers cite, we can see large gaps where the light of possibility shines through.

In Free: Why Science Hasn’t Disproved Free Will, Mele lays out his opponents’ experiments simply and clearly, and proceeds to debunk their supposed findings, one by one, explaining how the experiments don’t provide the solid evidence for which they have been touted. There is powerful evidence that conscious decisions play an important role in our lives, and knowledge about situational influences can allow people to respond to those influences rationally rather than with blind obedience.

Mele also explores the meaning and ramifications of free will. What, exactly, does it mean to have free will — is it a state of our soul, or an undefinable openness to alternative decisions? Is it something natural and practical that is closely tied to moral responsibility? Since evidence suggests that denying the existence of free will actually encourages bad behavior, we have a duty to give it a fair chance.

Alfred R. Mele is a professor of philosophy at Florida State University. He is the director of Big Questions in Free Will, an investigation of the science, philosophy, and theology of free will, supported by a $4.4-million grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

“Ecology Is the New Theology” – Michael Dowd 2013 sermon

Published on Feb 25, 2013

“Ecology is the new theology; big history is the new Genesis,” declares Rev. Michael Dowd in a sermon urging religions to catch up with the “evidential reformation” pioneered by science.

Click timecodes to advance to topics:

00:10 – biblical scripture reading
00:53 – science scripture reading: Carl Sagan
01:20 – literature scripture reading: philosopher Loyal Rue

02:11 – core theme: “Ecology is the new theology; big history is the new genesis. Those who fail to understand that evidence is modern-day scripture, and that the world we live in is an honorable world, betray God and humanity in the most egregious of ways.”

03:21 – modern-day prophets, speaking on behalf of evidence

04:57 – God is a personification, not a person

07:14 – birth of science’s “clockwork universe” and religion’s response

09:01 – “Ecology is the new theology” for living in right relationship with reality

09:48 – the naturalizing of God, guidance, and good news

11:13 – out-of-date religion holds back response to climate change

12:35 – the “twin idolatries”: idolatry of the written word, idolatry of the otherworldly

15:59 – Michael’s un-naturalism rap: “Supernatural is unnatural is uninspiring”

18:19 – Idolatry of the otherworldly trivializes God, guidance, and good news

19:08 – “We’re not separate from nature; we are the Universe becoming conscious of itself”

20:39 – “the REAL-izing of God, guidance and good news” via science

21:12 – “scientific evidence, historic evidence, and cross-cultural evidence” = public revelation

23:42 – “Religions have been autistic for the last 500 years.”

24:29 – “We are committed to a just, healthy, and sustainably life-giving future.”

25:07 – intergenerational evil

25:22 – Climate change as fact, and action an ethical imperative

26:19 – “I believe that the baby boom generation will go down in history. . .”

26:59 – the need to internalize the costs of carbon through a carbon fee / tax

28:02 – how we approach death; the need to say “no” to costly interventions

29:21 – death, climate change, and the legacy of the baby boom generation

29:40 – Closing words: Carl Sagan, “Science is, at least in part, informed worship.”

Note: Dowd’s guest sermon was delivered 10 February 2013 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Santa Fe, New Mexico (USA). The original, full-length sermon appears on the congregation’s Youtube channel:

The exact url for Dowd’s sermon on that channel is…

The 30-minute version posted here was edited by Connie Barlow (aka ghostsofevolution).

Michael Dowd’s VIDEO and PUBLICATIONS page:….

Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World by Michael Dowd

View the updated version HERE

“Evolutionize Your Life” pt 1 of 2 with Michael Dowd

This first half of a 2-part series narrated by “evolutionary evangelist” Michael Dowd entails a thoroughly naturalistic overview of the first of three themes in this deep-time presentation: a practical and inspiring understanding of our evolved human nature. The four components of our quadrune brain, roughly in order of their evolutionary ancestry, are the centerpiece: Reptilian (Lizard Legacy), Paleomammalian (Furry Li’l Mammal), Neomammalian (Monkey Mind), and Advanced (prefrontal cortex, or Higher Porpoise).

Challenges (including addictions) ensue from the fact that we moderns are endowed with instincts that served our ancestors but are now mismatched in these times — especially in light of all the “supernormal stimuli” (drugs, alcohol, nicotine, slots gambling, video gaming, internet porn, romance novels, sitcoms, soap operas, reality tv) that our ancestors never faced and that (not surprisingly) can so easily seduce us now. Even those of us without recognized “addictions” too easily become overweight, owing to the abundance and instinctively alluring combinations of food items that our ancestors accessed only rarely in the wild: sugar, salts, and fats.

The deep-time insights of evolutionist David Sloan Wilson are highlighted, as is the work of evolutionary psychologist Deirdre Barrett.

“Evolutionize Your Life” pt 2 of 2, with Michael Dowd

Part 2 (final) of a 2-part series narrated by “evolutionary evangelist” Michael Dowd.

Here the two primary topics explored are (1) an evolutionary understanding of DEATH as “natural and generative at every level of reality — and no less sacred than life, and (2) the trajectory of BIG HISTORY, focusing on innovations that enable cooperation at ever greater scales — and thereby the growth of complexity.

Dowd also celebrates the great popularizers of an inspirational view of mainstream evolution, including cosmic evolution. Examples are shown of the great work of Neil de Grasse Tyson (his extemporaneous and powerful “sermon” at the Beyond Belief conference) and a collage of other science celebrants (incl Carl Sagan) autotuned and set to music by John Boswell (aka Symphony of Science).

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