The “little god” of Free Will

December 15, 2010

“Yale psychologist Paul Bloom wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece back in 2004 that “The great conflict between science and religion in the last century was over evolutionary biology. In this century, it will be over psychology, and the stakes are nothing less than our souls.” Coming on the heels of the new atheism, there’s a growing awareness of the other major thrust of a fully developed naturalism: the challenge to the soul (the “little god”) and its companion concept of contra-causal free will. Extending our skepticism about the supernatural inward to the psyche is the next logical step for the naturalistically inclined. Below is a roundup of some recent articles, some of which raise determinist anxieties, some of which argue that we can safely naturalize ourselves without losing anything but our illusions. True, this takes a bit of conceptual and psychological rejiggering and no doubt some will miss the soul, just as some miss god. But the challenge to these last vestiges of dualistic supernaturalism might serve as a tonic for jaded sensibilities, and those that consider themselves tough-minded will get to test their mettle. At the very least it will be fascinating to watch what’s been a largely academic debate about free will play out in the public arena. Optimistically, the growing awareness of our fully natural nature might bring with it a second enlightenment, a true coming of age as a species, aware of itself as one of nature’s more interesting experiments in conscious agenthood.”

To check out the articles, scroll down to the “2007 Free Will Roundup”.


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