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March 12, 2016 / compassioninpolitics

Critique of Hume’s Fork–Understanding the Limits of Science in Light of Human Reality and Progress

I got the question “what do neuroscientists think of free will?” I found it problematic because neuroscience isn’t a good discipline to discover free will and wrote the following…..

I’m not a neuroscientist. However, asking a neuroscientist if we have free will is like asking a historian how to become a star basketball player or about the water cycle.

Neuroscience isn’t meant to find free will. More to the point naturalistic science isn’t meant to find free will. **In fact, its very search for causality is to eliminate both free will and the subjective (including the personality and identity).** Given that orientation–you probably want to approach those as the limits to science.

As such attempting to use science to find free will or discover if free will exists in the first place.

The question also parallels a bit the husband in a 25 year marriage who asks the neuroscientist or the chemist if his wife loves him? Well, lets be honest–the husband has 25 years of data on that question of experience. Chemistry and neuroscience can’t provide definitive answers. Science is great at answering certain types of questions…but is hardly suited to answer all our questions.

Not to mention, we can’t spend $5,000 to $50,000 on lab research every time we have a personal question…..or else it would result in paralysis.
Thus….at some level we have to rely on personal knowledge and inference for our very survivals. We never have 100% information for our decisions. We have to take action in the context of not knowing everything about everything.

Life is multi-dimensional….thats why the library has multiple sections of books and the bookstores have multiple sections of books. What would Jeff Bezos think or what would Barnes and Noble think if you told them to get rid of all their books except the science books, because those would be the only ones worth reading or using. They would probably think you were out of your head and ultimately crazy….or at a minimum that you didn’t fully appreciate the value that the other disciplines have historically provided to us or the ways in which the other academic disciplines can improve our own lives.

In fact….why have universities and departments…..or why get a university degree if that knowledge isn’t valuable for problem solving, critical thinking, communication, relationships, or finding meaning and purpose. Actually the last half of those are things that the liberal arts and philosophy excel at, that science has incredible limits when dealing with.

I’ve written a number of times about the limits of science on Compassion in Politics and those are available for your curiosity and reading pleasure here

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