News: September/October 2012
Free Will: New Lab Results Change Picture • Italian Town Appoints Municipal Philosopher • Philos and Scientists to Seek Immortality — News reports by Sue Roberts & Tim Wilkinson
My Brain Didn’t Make Me Do It
Free will: In August, neuroscientist Aaron Schurger published some interesting results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, casting new light on famous experiments performed thirty years ago by Benjamin Libet. Libet showed that an electroencephalograph (EEG) could reliably identify a ‘readiness potential’ in his subjects’ brains about half a second before they reported being conscious of wanting to make a voluntary movement. Some concluded that Libet’s results were evidence against free will. Others – Philosophy Now’s Raymond Tallis prominent among them – have argued that Libet’s work has no such implications.
Schurger still saw the readiness potential in his experiments, but after combining EEG measurements with random stimuli and measuring response times, he told New Scientist that “…what looks like a pre-conscious decision process may not in fact reflect a decision at all … If we are correct, then the Libet experiment does not count as evidence against the possibility of conscious will.