Friday, September 25, 2009

On reading way to much into your data

Studies like this one are very annoying.

So you hook up some people to fMRIs and watch their heads while they make some decisions. And guess what? You can predict with better than 50% accuracy what they'll do slightly before they do it. Whoop-dee-freakin-do, what did you expect was going on inside their heads? Parties? Not inside the fMRI machines, that's for sure. See, the thing about brains is people use them to think and decide things.

The thing that actually annoys me, though, is the leap from "we can sorta kinda predict what they'll do" to "therefore, they do/do not have free will." I mean, whatever things your brain thinks are the result of physical processes that actually go on inside your skull. That's why people with head injuries get so seriously messed up. So if you spy on that process, why shouldn't you be able to get a good clue as to what the result will be? And what bearing does that have on free will? The brain will come to the conclusion it will come to. The physical process is the means by which that happens.

To complain about a lack of free will because your brain runs according to the laws of the universe is bizarre. They aren't limiting you or locking you into your choices. They enable your choices.

Anyway, it's about time for my core sleep so sorry if this makes no sense.

3 comments:

Andrew said...

Dan, how long will it take before you finally realize that *everything* can be reduced to the movement of subatomic particles? Honestly.

Actually, this reminds me of an interesting post on Bob Murphy's blog: http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2009/09/brain-and-mind-are-not-same-thing.html

daniel the smith said...

Silas kicked the subatomic particles that compose everyone's collective @$$ over there.

Anonymous said...

Do dead fish also have free will?

http://prefrontal.org/files/posters/Bennett-Salmon-2009.jpg