General, Research, Technology

How do we make decisions and is there free will?

A huge number of people believe that they themselvesdecide their own destiny, but is it so? Could seemingly unremarkable factors, such as the smell of chocolate chip cookies or spoiled meat, be decisive at the most crucial moment? Oddly enough, they can. Research has shown that the smell of chocolate chip cookies can actually make you feel more generous (assuming you're at a charity event), and that smelling bad when you make a big political decision is more likely to be conservative. But every day we are surrounded by hundreds and thousands of different smells, is it really because of them that we make certain decisions? Fortunately, no, because our decisions are influenced by a huge number of various factors, and some of them, for example, smells, are external factors, while others, invisible to us, are internal.

Is belief in free will akin to religious beliefs?

So, according to the results of recent scientific research, genes influence our behavior and decisions to some extent. So do we have free will and are we really in control of our own lives?

Genes and free will

The answer to the question of whether we have free willsearched - and continue to search - philosophers, theologians, neuroscientists and in general, all representatives of the human race. You can argue a lot about the nature of free will, and there are a huge number of books on this topic in the world, but in this article we will limit ourselves exclusively to scientific research data and try to understand to what extent genes determine our everyday decisions.

I think it's no secret to anyone that the scientificprogress made it possible to decipher the human genome, and today scientists can determine the individual genetic code - a sequence of 3.2 million "letters" of DNA - each of us. It may seem incredible, but previous research has shown that genes can influence not only for height, eye color, hair color or weight, but alsoon life expectancy, discernment and impulsivity. These traits are to one degree or another embedded in our genes, and sometimes thousands of genes take part in how we behave in a given situation.

Genes are responsible for the formation of the structure of any protein, be it an enzyme, receptor, neurotransmitter or hormone.

“Every human action at any moment of timeis determined by a variety of factors, ranging from gene evolution and generational lifestyles to current stress levels and hormones, ”Sapolsky writes.

Stanford University professor, neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky in his book "The biology of good and evil. How does science explain our actions? " writes that genes are meaningless outside the context of the environment, since the environment affects the work of genes, fixing the gene in one of two states - on / off.

Genes are controlled by signals from the outside world, while the outside world means any event on a scale from a cell to the Universe.

Robert Sapolsky, The Biology of Good and Evil. How does science explain our actions? "

In general, the scientist concludes that genes are not sodetermine a lot, they rather influence our behavior and this influence is diverse. Don't ask what a particular gene does, writes Sapolsky. “Ask what it does under certain conditions and within a certain network of interconnected genes (ie in the gene / gene / gene /… gene / environment) system.” The professor is currently working on a book on free will, while he is convinced that as such, free will does not exist. Well, we look forward to it.

Is belief in free will an illusion?

The biologist has about the same opinion.Anthony Cushmore, believing that belief in free will is akin to religious beliefs, since none of them conforms to the laws of the physical world. Simply put, free will simply doesn't match the way the physical world works.

In his 2010 study, Kushmore comparesa belief in free will with an earlier belief in vitalism - the belief that there are forces governing the biological world, different from those governing the physical world. The idea of ​​vitalism was discarded by scientists over 100 years ago and replaced with evidence that biological systems obey the laws of chemistry and physics, and not special biological laws for living things.

Genes are not a panacea, researchers say. The interaction of genes and the environment - this is where the answers to many questions lie

“I would like to convince biologists that a belief in free will is nothing more than an ongoing belief in vitalism (or, as I say, belief in magic),” Kashmore told PhysOrg

Cashmore claims there are deeperexplanations of why we think we have free will. He believes that there must be a genetic basis for consciousness and the associated belief in free will. Consciousness has an evolutionary selective advantage: it gives us the illusion of responsibility that is beneficial to society and individuals. “In reality, however, all behavioral decisions are nothing more than a reflection of our genetic and ecological history,” writes the author of the article.

How monstrously tragic: a world in which human free will is an illusion. If so it will be widely adopted by the massespeople, what will happen to the liberal political parties, to the justice system, and to humanism in general? Do you think there is free will? We will wait for the answer here, as well as in the comments to this article.