Old news for the doggedly intellectual but still interesting.
Defending free will: A fruit fly makes choices (Reuters, By Julie Steenhuysen, CHICAGO | Wed May 16, 2007)
Lacking external input, Brembs said he had expected a pattern of entirely random movement or noise -- akin to static on a radio that is tuned between stations. Instead, the flies showed a pattern of flight that was generated spontaneously by the brain and could not have been random.
"The decision for the fly to turn left or turn right, which it changes all the time, has to come from the design of the brain," Brembs said. ...
George Sugihara, a mathematical biologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego..., said the pattern of variability shown by the fly's choices revealed a non-linear signature -- something typical of many biological processes.
"We show free will 'can' exist, but we do not 'prove' it does," Sugihara said.
"Our results eliminate two alternative explanations of this spontaneous turning behavior that would run counter to free will, namely randomness and pure determinism," he said in an e-mail.
He said the results address the middle ground between simple determinism -- the brain as an input-output machine -- and utterly random behavior.
"We speculate that if free will exists, it is in this middle ground," he said.
On the other hand, if I think I don't gots it, you better watch your wallet, or I'll gets it!
Scientists say free will probably doesn't exist, but urge: "Don't stop believing!" (Scientific American, Jesse Bering | Apr 6, 2010)
One of the most striking findings to emerge recently in the science of free will is that when people believe—or are led to believe—that free will is just an illusion, they tend to become more antisocial. ...
Vohs and Schooler’s findings reveal a rather strange dilemma facing social scientists: if a deterministic understanding of human behavior encourages antisocial behavior, how can we scientists justify communicating our deterministic research findings? In fact, there’s a rather shocking line in this Psychological Science article, one that I nearly overlooked on my first pass. Vohs and Schooler write that:If exposure to deterministic messages increases the likelihood of unethical actions, then identifying approaches for insulating the public against this danger becomes imperative.
Perhaps you missed it on your first reading too, but the authors are making an extraordinary suggestion. They seem to be claiming that the public “can’t handle the truth,” and that we should somehow be protecting them (lying to them?) about the true causes of human social behaviors. ...
If [a] deterministic understanding of [a licentious] man’s behaviors leads you to feel even a smidgeon more sympathy for him than you otherwise might have had, that reaction is precisely what Vohs and Schooler are warning us about. How can we fault this “pack of neurons”—let alone punish him—for acting as his nature dictates, even if our own nature would have steered us otherwise? What’s more, shouldn’t we be more sympathetic of our own moral shortcomings? After all, we can’t help who we are either. Right?
In fact, a study published last year in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin by Roy Baumeister and his colleagues found that simply by exposing people to deterministic statements such as, “Like everything else in the universe, all human actions follow from prior events and ultimately can be understood in terms of the movement of molecules” made them act more aggressively and selfishly compared to those who read statements endorsing the idea of free will....