I know this has been discussed before, but I have read Sam Harris' book Free Will and Michael Shermer's book The Believing Brain, and I must say that I agree with both authors. Studies show that our brains make a decision on an unconscious level three tenths of a second and sometimes more before we even consciously know we're going to act. To take a short quote from Shermer's book: "The neural activity that precedes the intention to act is inaccessible to our conscious mind, so we experience a sense of free will. But it is an illusion, caused by the fact that we cannot identify the cause of the awareness of our intention to act".
Research reveals various forms of dysfunction occurred in children that correlated with parenting styles. These dysfunctions carried on into adulthood. An individual may not realize the influence his/her upbringing has on his or her choices, believing he/she has free will. Children and adults who act out against authority figures may believe they have free will, when in fact, they react in counter-dependent ways. In other words, actions against an authority depend on something to push against. Counter-dependence is dependent behavior, sometimes, not very productive in adults.
Attachment; Research with monkeys was conducted studying socialization and attachment. It found that baby monkeys' attachment to their mother had more to do with the comfort she provided (comfort contact) than the food she provided.
Separation anxiety; Research on fear of being separated from one's caregiver was found when an infant or small child was placed in a strange situation where he/she was left alone or with a stranger briefly to see how he/she responded. This can give an idea of how securely attached he/she is to his/her caregiver.
Attachment can be rated as follows:
Secure: explores in presence of caregiver; is mildly distressed by caregiver's absence, but not overly so; goes to caregiver upon return for a bit then starts to explore again.
Resistant: clingy and acts alternatively happy and angry, acts as if afraid that caregiver may not return if they attempt to leave; highly distressed in caregiver's absence; gets clingy again upon caregiver's return.
Avoidance: infant does not stay near caregiver... seems to ignore caregiver instead; highly distressed when caregiver leaves, but does not go to caregiver upon return.
Disorganized: Infant appears to actively ignore parent, behaves more fearfully than affectionately towards caregiver.
Causes of insecure attachment? Parenting styles vary wildly from culture to culture, and most peoples' parenting styles are not overly consistent from day to day, but it appears that truly abusive, neglectful, or highly erratic parental behavior is likely to be a factor in behavior dysfunction producing coping strategies that do not work for them as children or adults. Thinking they have free will, they fail to realize beliefs and behaviors developed from pre-natal influences and childhood contribute to their problems. It is relatively easy to train individuals out of childlike behaviors into mentally healthy, mature adult ones. They can have mastery over behaviors learned from infancy and from innate tendencies of the individual that get in the way of their flourishing.
Harlow, H., et al. Effects of maternal and peer separations on young monkeys. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry & Allied Disciplines. (1976), v. 17(2), 101-112.
Ainsworth, Mary D. Salter; Bell, Silvia M.; Stayton, Donelda J.
Woodhead, Martin (Ed); Carr, Ronnie (Ed); Light, Paul (Ed), (1991). Becoming a person. Child development in social context, Vol. 1., (pp. 30-55). Florence, KY, US: Taylor & Frances/Routledge, xiii, 358 pp.
Bowlby, John. A Secure Base: Parent-Child Attachment and Healthy Human Development (Aug 31, 1988)
I like this reply that you posted. How did you come across this research ? I find it very informative.
Anthony, when I returned to college in 1975, I wanted answers to personal dilemmas I faced. I didn't know what a healthy family did or how they looked so my first effort in completing my undergraduate degree in psychology was to define a healthy family. In the course of that training, I watched some terrible films of research on monkeys. I haven't seen them in years, but looked at them again to write the above piece. I was heartsick at what I saw and remembered how awful they were the first time I saw them. I will offer only one as an example, and this technique has been judged unethical research.
Notice that Dr. Marlow stated at the end of this video that the baby monkey, taken from his mother at birth and placed with wire mothers, one that provided food, the other provided a cloth body. Dr. Marlow stated at the end of the video the baby appeared affectionate, secure, normal, happy, and curious.
I did not see, in 1975, that the baby looked as Dr. Marlow described, I saw, then and now, a neurotic, helpless, frightened, baby without protection of a warm, loving mother who could hug back and protect him. The baby could go to a cloth covered wire mother, or a wire mother with food. The pitiful baby chose cloth over food.
Although these procedures are no longer allowed because of ethical violations, and human babies could not be subjected to such research, this and many other such films revealed different aspects of newborn development.
Without the consent of psychology, the free will is somewhat what we supposed to possess.
The logical argument for free will:
1. Hard determinism is true or false.
2. If hard determinism is false, free will is true.
3. Even if hard determinism is true, I still believe that free will is true.
4. If I still believe that free will is true, then it is because hard determinism caused me to so believe.
5. If hard determinism is true, and it caused me to believe that free will is true, then free will is true.
6. Believing that hard determinism is true is compatible with free will, because a person whose will is free can believe things that are false.
Therefore, free will is true.
I'm not sure how you jumped to the conclusion that free will is true simply if you can believe in things that are false. It may be that you were destined to believe in false things. Why assume that just because you believe in false things, that this somehow denotes free will?
As I said in #5, if I was destined to believe false things, then my beliefs are true, because I am being consistent with my destiny.
Every path we take leads from one point to another. If hard determinism is true, then we have no control over the path we take - it is determined before we even start our journey. If the path leads me over a cliff, that was my destiny. It wasn't "bad luck," because luck implies that there was another opportunity available to me, and hard determinism rejects the notion of opportunity. If hard determinism is true, then whatever path I take, and whatever destination I arrive at, I was supposed to.
The same is true with my thoughts and beliefs. If I believe in free will, it's because I was supposed to. If I am supposed to believe it, how could it be false? I would never accept a false belief if I had the opportunity to choose a true one. If hard determinism has caused me to believe in free will, then such belief is the result of natural processes over which I have no control, no opportunity to do otherwise. If my belief in free will is false, then that implies that the universe is set up to create false beliefs. But this is an example of the logical fallacy of special pleading, because there is nothing else in the universe that is false, so how could hard determinism cause false beliefs if it doesn't cause falseness anywhere else in the universe?
So, if hard determinism is true, then my belief in free will is the consequence of hard determinism. Unless someone can show another instance where hard determinism caused something to be false, we have no reason to believe that hard determinism causes beliefs to be false.
I believe free will is true. If I was destined to believe such, then free will must be true.
If free will is true, then hard determinism is false.
"As I said in #5, if I was destined to believe false things, then my beliefs are true, because I am being consistent with my destiny."
This sounds like a sophistry. It does not follow that if one were destined to believe false things that their beliefs would necessarily be true, or even contingently true. Say, for example, you were destined to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Your belief being destined does not make Jesus Christ the Son of God in truth.
And in what way are you using the word destiny ?
My best guess is that neither determinism nor free will is the case. Many forces shape who we are, how we think, and what we do. Some are clearly beyond our control, others not. The important thing is conditioning—the narrowing of choices and the expanision of capacities through training and repetition.
For example, bodily conditioning through exercise. Most people find that once they start to exercise, they enjoy the feeling—the released endorphins—and want to continue regular exercise. In doing so their capacity for exercise is increased. (Not always to their benefit: I once had a student who was addicted to running and could not stop even when he got mononucleosis. His continued exertion during sickness put him out of action for two years.)
The same conditioning effect applies to everything you do regularly. You do not start out each day making new choices of what to eat for breakfast, what to wear to work, or how to get to your job. You repeat the same patterns roughly over and over because circumstances and choices have led to a conditioned response. Can you change that response? Certainly, but usually you do when you need to—new job, new partner, etc.
In your job you do the same things over and over, but with better results and greater reliability, making you a more valuable employee as the years go on. In handling difficult situations and people you become more proficient.
The important thing about humans is not whether or not they have free will, but that they are capable of learning new patterns of thought and action as the need arises and their curiosity impels them.
I find your observations keenly perceptive Dr. Clark. I find you to be very insightful.