Has neuroscience killed off free will?

I have started studying psychology and sociology in school this year and I have been fascinated by it.
But at the moment I am kind of depressed, as upon further inspection, it seems we are determined by
everything, including our thoughts of doing something by our choice.
This article pretty much explains my problem :

Some extra researches about this
Neuroscience scares me. I don’t know what to think of this. Any thoughts ?

Some of these studies just seem to say that our voluntary responses begin before we are aware of them beginning. Why does that make us think they are any less voluntary? It’s clear that our thoughts affect of actions, right? So then, the claim that we’ve made a decision before we’re conscious of making a decision just amounts to the claim that these thoughts have already affected our actions before we’re aware of them affecting our actions. Since the thoughts are OUR thoughts, I don’t see a problem.

1 Like

Some aspects of Psychology are behavioral and cognitive which involve biological and physiological processes. These, being physical, are not really dealing with the rational soul. Transpersonal psychology may include supernatural or metaphysical considerations, and also nonempirical approaches (hermeneutics and contemplative methodologies). Some in the field of transpersonal psychology have proposed that it should focus on the scientific study of the naturalistic (that is, physical and psychological) aspects of transpersonal phenomena. See the works of Jorge N. Ferrer, Ph.D. for one that does not restrict to the naturalistic.

Well they are our thoughts in a hypothethical way, but in practice it means no action we do was made by a concious decision, which is the basis for free will.

Why does it mean that no action we take was made by a conscious decision? Why doesn’t it just mean that we make conscious decisions before we are aware of making conscious decisions?

Isn’t the whole point of conciousness the state of being aware ?
That would mean that :

would be a contradiction.

I take it that a conscious decision is one that is caused by our conscious states – states like thinking, imagining, analyzing, and the like. One needn’t have a second-level awareness of the exact moment at which a decision is made in order to make a decision consciously.

In other words, I think one can be aware of X without being aware of being aware of X. This is what happens when a conscious decision precedes a conscious awareness of the decision.

isn’t being aware of X = being aware of being aware of X
since you are aware of everything you are aware, for example:
I make the decision to go skating.
How can I make a decision to go skating if I am not aware that I am making a decision ? Then its not a decision anymore, its either a subconcious thought or some weird type of fate.

I would call it a preconscious thought, not a subconscious one. It is the result of conscious processes of which we are aware, right?

I know I probably don’t make any sense, but I study psychology too and I’ve never been bothered by this, because I am my brain. I have never really viewed my brain as something that’s controlling my decisions.

I’m not an expert and also I’m too busy with my own psych work to log on and read the full articles so I can’t say much else, but I’m assuming they used a certain type of decision-making scenario? I’m interested to see the research where they look into people’s self regulation and decision making, how they control impulses or choose a better option even though they initially went with a different one. Whether that anticipated outcome can be changed by the person’s ‘free will’. Because I think that would tell us a lot more about free will. Humans are technically good people, but at the same time we are predisposed to sin, in a way. So this sounds silly but I don’t think those studies contradict the religion.

1 Like

The way I understand this is that split-second decisions (push the red or blue button when out see the stimulus) is less under our conscious control–but didn’t we already know that from lived experience?
But it’s pretty hard to argue that slower decisions work that way. For instance, choosing a job–first you look on a job site, then you submit a resume, then you agree to an interview, then you accept the job.
Can you really tell me there was no element of choice and decision making in any of that?
And yeah, philosophy majors like to debate “brain in a jar”, but I don’t think any of them really are convinced by it, or they’d just all curl up in a little ball, and not go on to write books and get married and buy houses and generally have a life.

1 Like

Pure baloney. They are claiming to have tested something they can’t actually test.

Look at it this way. Even if in many ways we’re “merely” super-complex machines, we’re such sophisticated machines that we can and-should be-held morally accountable for our actions, depending on other complexities such as age, knowledge, experiences, mental capacity, etc-and grace as well. I add grace because nothing about our identity in itself precludes the exist of God or our need to be accountable to Him. In fact, the higher the complexity of anything in this universe, the more probable that an intelligence-a mind-must reside behind it all as the designer/creator.

1 Like

God bless you DetectiveNiko and God bless every readers of the CAF.

Theologians know this subject and they teach it from very long time.


Quote: One is saved the moment one is initially justified.

Of course, a Calvinist can say (as a Thomistic Catholic would say) that both cooperations in the giving and the embracing of the eternal call are themselves produced (not just enabled) by God’s grace, and this is perfectly fine.

A Calvinist and a Catholic alike can say that our cooperation is produced (not just enabled) by God’s operation. No problem at all. End quote.

25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

27 And I will put my Spirit in you and CAUSE YOU [our cooperation is produced (not just enabled) by God’s operation] TO FOLLOW MY DECREES and be careful to keep my laws. – In the brackets added.

28 Then you will live in the land, I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. End quote.

Phil.2:13; “For it is God who works in you BOTH TO WILL and TO ACT for His good pleasure.”
Aquinas said, “God changes the will without forcing it.
But he can change the will from the fact that He himself operates in the will as He does in nature,” De Veritatis 22:9.




De gratia Christi 25, 26:
"For not only has God given us our ability and helps it, but He even works [brings about] willing and acting in us; not that we do not will or that we do not act, but that without His help we neither will anything good nor do it."
De gratia et libero arbitrio 16, 32:
"It is certain that we will when we will; but He brings it about that we will good. . . . It is certain that we act when we act, but He brings it about that we act, PROVIDING MOST EFFECTIVE POWERS TO THE WILL."

Similarly, the Council of Orange Canon 25 states, "In every good work, it is not we who begin … but He (God) first inspires us." (#329.2)
CCC 2022; “The divine initiative in the work of grace PRECEDES, PREPARES, and ELICITS the free response of man. …”
In other words, when God commands, He capacities the hearer to respond.
Our cooperation with the grace of God is produced (not just enabled) by God’s operation.

Yet the ability to respond is also His gift.

Here is some support for your theory

A person’s decisions are not at the mercy of unconscious and early brain waves,” the lead researcher, Dr. John-Dylan Haynes of Charité - Universitätsmedizin in Berlin, said in the study’s press release. “They are able to actively intervene in the decision-making process and interrupt a movement. Previously people have used the preparatory brain signals to argue against free will. Our study now shows that the freedom is much less limited than previously thought.

1 Like



CCCS = Catechism of the Catholic Church Simplified.

Explaining Justification
The grace of God’s Justification CCCS 1990-1991; Justification is God’s free gift which detaches man from enslavement to sin and reconciles him to God.

Justification is also our acceptance of God’s righteousness. In this gift, faith, hope, charity, and OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S WILL are given to us.

The Grace of God’s Call (1996-1998)
Justification comes from grace (God’s free and undeserved help) and is given to us to respond to his call.

This call to eternal life is supernatural, coming TOTALLY from God’s decision and surpassing ALL power of human intellect and will. End quote.

Acts 13:48; … As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

John 15:16; You did not chose Me, but I chose you.

John 6:65; … no one can come to Me unless it is granted to him by the Father.

John 6:44; No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him,

As you see DetectiveNiko; our salvation is 100 % God’s choice and 0 % our choice.

When God calls and draws an un-regenerated/carnal man into His service/salvation WITHOUT stimulus, merit, or condition and without regard to any future supernatural merits, His calling is backed up with an ABSOLUTE DECREE.

And in consequence of this DECREE, God gives them all the graces necessary for its accomplishment.DE FIDE Dogma. + Infallible teachings of the Trent. + The Grace of God’s Justification CCCS (1990-1991). + The Grace of God’s Call CCCS (1996-1998).

At Initial Justification God’s special grace The Gift of Final Perseverance given to EVERY initially Justified which grace INFALLIBLE makes sure every Initially Justified dies in the state of grace.DE FIDE Dogma. + Infallible teachings of the Trent.

Of course we are still responsible for our actions, even as God’s children/elect, cannot lose our salvation.

In the LIGHT OF THE ABOVE THEOLOGICAL FACTS, can anyone surprised that God’s will is to save EVERYONE and He will save EVERYONE.

Of course there are many other reasons as well that God’s will is to save everyone.

God bless you DetectiveNiko and God bless every readers of the CAF.


Oh this is interesting !
Thanks for this link. Helps a lot

I didn’t understand the difference between preconscious and subconscious decisions.
I think I get it now. Thank you very much !

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.