Free will could be the result of 'background noise' in the brain, study suggests


#1

The concept of free will could be little more than the result of background noise in the brain, according to a recent study.

It has previously been suggested that our perceived ability to make autonomous choices is an illusion – and now scientists from the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis, have found that free will may actually be the result of electrical activity in the brain.

According to the research, published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, decisions could be predicted based on the pattern of brain activity immediately before a choice was made.

More:

independent.co.uk/news/science/free-will-could-be-the-result-of-background-noise-in-the-brain-study-suggests-9553678.html


#2

How do they jump from being able to predict behavior based on brain activity to the notion of free will? Am I missing something?

LOVE! :heart:


#3

We are missing the actual research paper. :rotfl:

My apology for laughing. There are probably lots of people who sit in front of a screen and focus on its central point while wires are attached to their head in order to make free will decisions about how to spend their money.

Seriously, when one studies the nitty-gritty methods and materials of this type of research, which can be valid for the specific amount of time a volunteer freely watches a screen, one discovers that generally 24/7 free will does not involve the “pressure” of a typical research experiment. Free will is a capability of our rational spiritual soul. Free will does not emerge from material human cells.

Please note that the late Benjamin Libet (referred to in the article) is an internationally recognized pioneer in the field of human consciousness. Many researchers have attempted to follow in his footsteps. Still, free will, as defined by Catholicism, has not been proved to be a material genetic function. There have been many interesting experiments demonstrating volition action in the brain, but the true source of the decision eludes researches. Or the experiment itself is so far removed from a true free will decision, that it cannot be connected to free will as taught by the Catholic Church.


#4

I would put this research in the same category as the attempt to weigh the soul when it leaves the body at death. They may or may not learn anything useful from it, but explaining away free will as a chemical reaction or electrical impulse will never fly.


#5

I don’t know. God performs His will through biological influences all the time. Why should this be any differently? As long as the theory isn’t deterministic, it is possible for a biological theory for the basis of free will to be accurate, in my opinion. However, the idea that our free will is an illusion is clearly a violation of Catholic doctrine.


#6

Well… I guess these people must justify their high income somehow,
So why not write up something to make it look like their doing something,
Humans are an intelligent pieces, an advanced spices , if that we’re not so,
Then we would be like cattle in the field,


#7

We are talking about human nature which is an unique unification of both the material world and the spiritual world. (Information source. CCC, 355-357) Therefore, along with a decomposing anatomy, the human person has a non-material rational spiritual soul directly created by God at conception. A proposal that biological influences are the basis or epiphenomenon for the free will capability of our spiritual soul is clearly a violation of Catholic doctrine found in CCC, 364-366.


#8

Well of course they aren’t the BASIS. But could they not be the mechanism through which our spiritual souls influence our neuronal activity?

Edit: Looking back, I see I used the word “basis” in my description. I agree that was a terrible choice of words and apologize for using it in my description. But I still think there should be a biological mechanism tied to our spiritual free will, a product of our unified body and soul.


#9

What you are referring to is the “mind/body relationship”. Usually in these discussions, the mind is considered rational thinking which is our spiritual soul. The spiritual soul uses our neural system which would be the mechanism. My apology. I can mentally understand the relationship of “mind/body” but I have trouble putting that into actual words. My suggestion is to stay away from any hint that the mind/soul is somehow a material part of our material/physical anatomy. From the brief description of the research paper in the post 1 article, I would say that the underlying goal is to demonstrate that what we experience as spiritually is really an illusion.


#10

What you are referring to is the “mind/body relationship”. Usually in these discussions, the mind is considered rational thinking which is our spiritual soul. The spiritual soul uses our brain, neural system, which would be the mechanism. My apology. I can mentally understand the relationship of “mind/body”, but I have trouble putting that into actual words. My suggestion is to stay away from any hint that the mind/soul is somehow a material part of our material/physical anatomy. From the brief description of the research paper in the post 1 article, I would say that the underlying goal is to demonstrate that what we experience as free will spiritually is really an illusion.


#11

I wish I could read it, but the site is demanding a subscription from me to view it. :frowning:


#12

Within each one of us is a vacuum that only God can fill


#13

Here’s more:

It has previously been suggested that our perceived ability to make autonomous choices is an illusion – and now scientists from the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis, have found that free will may actually be the result of electrical activity in the brain.

According to the research, published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, decisions could be predicted based on the pattern of brain activity immediately before a choice was made.

Volunteers in the study were asked to sit in front of a screen and focus on its central point while their brains’ electrical activity was recorded. They were then asked to make a decision to look either left or right when a cue symbol appeared on the screen, and then to report their decision.

The cue to look left or right appeared at random intervals, so the volunteers could not consciously or unconsciously prepare for it.

The brain has a normal level of so-called background noise; the researchers found that the pattern of activity in the brain in the seconds before the cue symbol appeared - before the volunteers knew they were going to make a choice - could predict the likely outcome of the decision.

“The state of the brain right before presentation of the cue determines whether you will attend to the left or to the right,” Bengson said.

And in an email to Live Science, Bengson said: “[Though] purposeful intentions, desires and goals drive our decisions in a linear cause-and-effect kind of way, our finding shows that our decisions are also influenced by neural noise within any given moment.

“This random firing, or noise, may even be the carrier upon which our consciousness rides, in the same way that radio static is used to carry a radio station.”

This latest experiment is an extension of psychologist Benjamin Libet’s 1970s research into the brain’s electrical activity immediately before a decision.

Libet asked volunteers to press a switch in response to a visual signal - but whereas he had to rely on the participants telling him when they made their choice, Bengson explained that the random nature of the new study meant that “we know people aren’t making the decision in advance”.

“It inserts a random effect that allows us to be freed from simple cause and effect,” Bengson said.


#14

Regardless of why we have free will, the fact is that we do have free will. That’s all that really matters to me. Although I must admit that the science behind it is rather interesting.


#15

The idea that there is no free will comes from naturalistic and mechanistic and reductionist thinking,which underpins the natural sciences. The mind and will are spiritual things,not reducible to natural causes or ‘mechanisms’.

This experiment confuses the supposed predictability of choice from patterns of background noise in the brain with the idea that choices are determined by background noise. The supposed predictability does not mean that brain noise determines what choices people make. How do the researchers know that the volunteers were not making decisions in advance of their head movements? One of the researchers said it was because of the random nature of the study,but that does not mean the volunteers could not have leaned toward a decision before acting on it. The patterns may reflect the working of the conscious mind toward a decision,not just background noise. And what is it about the patterns that makes them indicators of what choice will be made? And how can we distinguish whether or not the patterns of brain activity or background noise from the activity of consciousness? And how does background noise affect the conscious mind,if it is not heard by the conscious mind? If background noise does influence choice,this does not abolish free will,it only conditions it.


#16

They must have had a lot of background noise going on in their combined brains, when they made a free choice to research the topic, made a free choice to write the article, made a lot of free choices about the best way to write the article, made a free choice which edition to put it in, made a free choice to publish it, made a free choice to make a free choice …

Likewise the journalists and editors of the Independent must have had a lot of background noise in their brains when they decided to publish the reference to the article in their newspaper.

Ditto the drivers who delivered the paper, the newsagents who decided to stack it where it could be seen, ditto the people who decided to buy it, right down to the 13 or so Catholic Forums posters who decided to exercise their free choice to comment on it.

Boy, what a load of tripe.


#17

Strict materialists do not believe in the possibility of free will. They believe that all organisms, including humans, are simply complex biological machines. Like any machine, the output is determined by the input. Since our inputs are thought to be nothing more than a combination of gene products and environmental stimuli, there’s no room for free will. In other words, they believe that every action we have is a reaction to something else. Consequently, they feel the need to justify why it looks and feels like we have free will. If you’re a strict materialist I suppose this is what you come up with.

We, of course, are not strict materialists and can explain the existence of free will through our possession of a rational soul.


#18

When a reader carefully examines the description of the experiment, there is the immediate realization that the experiment does not replicate free will as taught by the Catholic Church. You may put that research into your circular file.


#19

The people who did this study probably have jars of leeches at home in case of injury, and drink copious amounts of mercury as an elixir for eternal life.

What a waste of time.


#20

So why are children under the age of 7 (age of reason) are incapable of committing sin? As the brain grows, so does the mind, and so does decision making aka free will. It definitely seems tied to biology.

If it has nothing to do with biology, why are infants and mentally retarded people incapable of making decisions (or decisions that warrant sin)? Infants and the mentally ill do not lack souls, but they do lack reason due to the lack of vrain growth.


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