Champions of free will, take heart. A landmark 1980s experiment that purported to show free will doesn't exist is being challenged.I have long been skeptical about that experiment also, because it does not seem to say anything about free will. Now these new experiments disprove the no-free-will interpretation.
In 1983, neuroscientist Benjamin Libet asked volunteers wearing scalp electrodes to flex a finger or wrist. When they did, the movements were preceded by a dip in the signals being recorded, called the "readiness potential". Libet interpreted this RP as the brain preparing for movement.
Crucially, the RP came a few tenths of a second before the volunteers said they had decided to move. Libet concluded that unconscious neural processesMovie Camera determine our actions before we are ever aware of making a decision.
Since then, others have quoted the experiment as evidence that free will is an illusion – a conclusion that was always controversial, particularly as there is no proof the RP represents a decision to move.
Long sceptical of Libet's interpretation, Jeff Miller and Judy Trevena of the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, attempted to tease apart what prompts the RP using a similar experiment, with a key twist.
Don't expect the determinists to give up easily, tho:
Marcel Brass of Ghent University in Belgium says it is wrong to use Miller and Trevena's results to reinterpret Libet's experiment, in which volunteers were not prompted to make a decision. The audio tone "changes the paradigm", so the two can't be compared, he says.Be wary of the paradigm-shifting mindreaders.