I spent my morning as I usually do â€“ trapped on an MBTA train, waiting patiently for the “traffic” to clear up. That’s what the announcer said: “traffic,” as though we weren’t sitting on tracks underground in a closed system that should be relatively predictable seeing as it’s been running for the past hundred years or so.
In my bag, I had two boredom-fighters: one was the newspaper I picked up yesterday but had no time to read, and the other was a book I began yesterday that I was nearly finished. I pulled out the paper and noticed the horoscope â€“ I love reading yesterday’s horoscope, because it gives me that much more perspective on both what I did that day as well as the uselessness of astrology. Yesterday’s horoscope read simply, “Libra: Take control of your life.” I frightened the other passengers by literally laughing out loud, because the book that I had started yesterday and had been thinking about quite a bit was called The Myth of Free Will, a collection of essays edited by Cris Evatt.
Cris was kind enough to mail me her collection quite awhile ago, and I had flipped through it but didn’t get a good, in-depth read of it until yesterday. In short, I really enjoyed it. Great thinkers like Richard Dawkins, V. S. Ramachandran, and Sue Blackmore offer very brief thoughts on what free will is all about, and why it’s an illusion. It’s a subject I never gave much thought, and had you asked me last week whether or not I thought there was such a thing as free will I probably would have said I wasn’t sure. If you asked me today, I’d tell you that free will is more than likely one of the coolest, craziest illusions man experiences.
The essays themselves are ridiculously short and often repetitive, which I would probably cast as a criticism with any other subject. In the case of free will, though, it’s so weird and trippy that I appreciate the straightforward, easy-to-read style as an introduction to the topic. It leaves plenty of room for someone to pause and think, “Oh. Oh!” That will happen a lot, if this is your first foray into the subject.
We’ve talked about free will before on Skepchick: Stacey gave a good overview of the subject nearly two years ago. I admit this is an area where I’ve been intellectually lazy, assuming that the question of free will was philosophical navel-gazing. I was so very wrong, and doubly wrong to only skim the comments that followed that initial essay, not only because they’re very well-written and thought-provoking, but mostly because midway down I’ve just seen this:
Expatria // Jan 29, 2007 at 11:43 am
You write so well and so cogently, Iâ€™m always left wondering why you donâ€™t have your own blog for us all to read. Even a weekly update would be worthwhile! Iâ€™m certain that Iâ€™m not the only one who would love to see it, and since I encounter your comments on Pharyngula and BA as well, Iâ€™m sure youâ€™d pull in a cross-section of regular readership from fans of yours at all three places.
Which is not to say that you should stop commenting elsewhere, of courseâ€¦just that, you know, having one solid place for all of your insight would be a good thing
Considering that Blake now has a very successful SciBlog, and considering that none of us has free will, I do believe this means that Expatria’s comment, which in and of itself was one of many effects created by the Skepchick blog as a whole, was one of an integral series of causes leading to the eventual effect of Blake’s brain creating the blog.
And that’s how lack of free will means that Blake owes us all Cokes.