“...And there are very decent philosophical arguments against determinism (and reductionism, which is also implied by this sort of claim)”This fits in with my impression that many see incompatibilist determinism a la Jerry Coyne as either “reductionism gone mad,” or, putting a positive spin on it, the logical consequence of reductionism applied to human brains.
If you were put in the same position twice — if the tape of your life could be rewound to the exact moment when you made a decision, with every circumstance leading up to that moment the same and all the molecules in the universe aligned in the same way — you could have chosen differently.To see the problem with this test, suppose we are interested in a different question: whether Alice loves Bob. I propose as a practical test of this proposition: “What you need to do is take a look at Alice’s brain and see if areas associated with Bob display amorous patterns of neural firing.”
"I'm writing a book on magic," I explain, and I'm asked, "Real magic?" By 'real magic' people mean miracles, thaumaturgical acts, and supernatural powers. "No," I answer: "Conjuring tricks, not real magic." Real magic, in other words, refers to the magic that is not real, while the magic that is real, that can actually be done, is not real magic.Now consider this passage from Jerry Coyne’s USA Today article:
The ineluctable scientific conclusion is that although we feel that we're characters in the play of our lives, rewriting our parts as we go along, in reality we’re puppets performing scripted parts written by the laws of physics. Most people find that idea intolerable, so powerful is our illusion that we really do make choices. (my emphasis).But um, Jerry, we do actually make choices, right? Don’t we? I mean, not in some amazingly deep philosophically or morally fraught sense of choice, as in “But did Hitler really have a choice to not be a monster?”, but in a basic, boring, everyday sense, as in “Do you want Froot Loops or muesli?” Surely you talk this way too, when you go home?
Choice…is a mechanical process compatible with determinism... The objection "The agent didn’t really make a choice, because the outcome was already predetermined" is as much a non sequitur as the objection "The motor didn’t really exert force, because the outcome was already predetermined."One final note: I have tried to interpret Jerry’s opinions as faithfully as possible, but I hope he will pardon me and let me know if he feels I have put words into his mouth. In truth so much has been written on this topic recently that it gets hard to keep people's opinions straight!