Alert reader Gregg has called my attention to a new study in neuroscience that overturns the Libet and Soon et al. studies by showing evidence for free will via brain scans. Practical Ethics reports on the study, to appear in this week’s Science:
According to the authors of the study, previous neuroscientific studies have failed to detect free will because they were looking for causation in the wrong place, or at the wrong level. Most neuroscientific techniques are aimed at detecting patterns of activity at a physical level, whether macro-level, cellular, or atomic. For example, the common fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) technique essentially measures differences in blood flow to various areas of the brain. As a result, previous studies have only been able to detect the physical causes of our thoughts and actions. The group now publishing in Science has developed a new type of scanner called a Metaphysical Field Imager. Using functional metaphysical field imaging (fMFI), the researchers can detect energy patterns as they occur at sub-physical (i.e. metaphysical) levels. When superimposed over a map of the physical brain, fMFI is able to reveal the exact timing and location of flashes of free will in the brain, as people make decisions. The experimenters were able to show that, in their experiments, a flash of free will occurred in the prefrontal cortex immediately before a playing card was freely picked, strongly indicating that the free will there produced the relevant behaviour.
Here’s a figure from the paper—an fMFI scan showing the transitory signature of free will (the orange area of activity) in the prefrontal cortex of a human brain:
I’ve long espoused the idea that free will is a phantasm: a comforting fiction built into us, perhaps, by natural selection, but a good scientist knows when he’s licked. I provisionally suspend my critiques of free will. Indeed, the newest findings mandate not compatibilism, but true dualistic free will.