The meeting wound up with a bang yesterday. Harriet Hall gave a great talk on the medical harms that come to children through faith (also see FvF, last chapter), Lawrence Krauss talked about new physics research looking for gravitational waves (so far unsuccessful), I talked about free will, and Carolyn Porco gave a poetic and inspiring talk about her work on the Cassini imaging project.
After my free will talk, which I think at least made many people think about the hegemony of behavioral determinism (I don’t care so much whether they accept compatibilism or incompatibilism so long as they accept determinism), I was accosted by an angry jazz musician. He said that I had basically ruined his life (I am not exaggerating) by telling him that his “improvisations” were not really improvisations in the sense that he he (in a dualistic way) “decided” what riffs to play, but that they were were the determined product of unconscious processes. I tried to reassure him that they were still the product of his own brain, his own musical background, and his training that allowed him to improvise around what his fellow musicians were playing, but he didn’t find that reassuring. (Even Dawkins jumped in and tried to explain that this didn’t devalue the man’s art or abilities.)
I am starting to realize that one does undergo a mental transformation of sorts when one embraces determinism and jettisons the notion of dualistic agency, and that this transformation can in some ways be as unsettling and profound as rejecting the security blanket of God. But I took care in my talk to emphasize the salutary effects of realizing determinism, like being more empathic towards oneself (less self-recrimination), toward the unfortunates of society (by opposing the Republican “Just World” theory that people get what they deserve) and by reforming the criminal justice system.
But I digress. Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is looking especially cute:
A: Here you are! What are you doing here?
Hili: I’m delegating authority.
Ja: Tu jesteś! Co tu robisz?
Hili: Deleguję władzę.