Free Will - Freedom of Choice - Individuality
Is it just an illusion?
The human brain is a fascinating organ that is largely still a mystery. The expanse of our unyielding grey matter continues to tempt droves of inquisitive people to explore its depths in order to understand, leverage and exploit its potential.
In 2012, I became aware of the musical talents that were unleashed on a person by the name of Derek Amato who acquired the ability to compose and play the piano after sustaining a rather serious head injury. This man’s life changed when he unveiled a remarkable musical talent that seemingly had always existed, albeit locked away deep within the recesses of his brain.
There are other cases that have been reported where these hidden savant like talents have emerged post a person’s head trauma. Although, it is deemed to be rare in occurrence, the point here is that it can and does happen. What fascinates me the most is that it appears that the recipients of these new talents don’t seem to have previously held an obsessive interest in the area to which their talent is presented.
There was a man who was known as the sleeping prophet in the late 1800’s who was called Edgar Cayce. In a transient state he was able to execute medical diagnosis’s of people, make predictions and had on occasion referenced past lives. Of all the psychics I have researched, his story seems to in my opinion, hold some validity. Given my penchant for writing fiction, I tend to explore the world from the parameter of anything that we conceive or are yet to conceive, holds possibility. I don’t discount the probability that we have experienced life in various forms, nor do I close myself off to the idea of clairvoyance. Which leads me to my desire to pich to you my next thought.
What if the trauma sustained by an individuals head injury creates a bridge in the cerebral vortex that reconnects to an aspect of a persons past lifetimes and that the only reason we rarely detect the occurrence of this hypothesized new synapses, is because we only identify the possibility of its existence in individuals who had displayed an exceptional talent acquired post the trauma. It is easy to overlook a change in a persons disposition and personality if the adjustment is negligible.
Does it sound too far fetched?
People who are having organ transplants are being studied as it appears that the recipients can alter in personality and indeed appear to gain the dominant traits of the donor. How is that possible? It’s only an organ right?
“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein
The complexities of the minutiae are slowly being peeled back to show that our concept of free will, freedom of choice and individuality are comprised of far more than just our mind. We are driven by all aspects of influence that stems from the cells within our bodies, right through to the bacteria and parasites that we host. Then there are the obvious plethora of external factors of environment, culture, belief systems, that add a spectrum of conscious and unconscious overlays.
Scientific research, and even simpler than this, asking questions and being willing to find ways to identify the answers is a healthy way to advance toward the discovery of new possibilities. This two minute video gives you a brief and very clever explanation of the Libet experiment on the existence of free will.
BBC Radio 4 – The Libet Experiment: Is Free Will Just an Illusion?
What I really enjoyed about the experiment was the stimulus of conversation post his findings. The results of his curiosity drove people to question the very existence of Free Will. In essence, the experiment depends on the subjective interpretation of the person’s experience. This to me is the greatest flaw in the experiment and makes the results devoid of any true validity, other than to say that Libet clearly has more faith in peoples ability to be in a conscious state of awareness, than perhaps I do. His need to rely on his subjects to tell him their perceived recording of the time they felt the signal to move is in itself suggestive and therefore compromised the test. A cleaner way to have approached this might have been to have the subjects listen to a series of commands and for them to be given the freedom to decide how they wish to react to any given request. As an added measure, throw in the word ‘yawn,’ so that it could be captured. This known subliminal trigger, which is deemed involuntary could then be assessed in contrast to the other choices and behaviors. Hence, relying on the ECG as the sole tool for assessment. (Just a side thought).
There was a video I saw recently where a person pondered the question, are we the same person from moment to moment and how does free will play into this. The example he used was something that I believe most if not all of us can relate to on some level. A person sets the alarm with the intention of waking up early to go for a run. They go to sleep. In the morning the alarm goes off and the person switches off the alarm and chooses to remain in bed. In the discussion on the video it was suggested that the person you were at the time you set the alarm is different to the person you were when you turned off the alarm and remained in bed. I didn’t lend myself too much toward the suggestion of different people per se but this line of exploration had me ponder the concept of intent versus behavior and how free will comes into play. Its a fascinating topic where I believe that the answers will never be one’s that are able to be prescriptive, because of the sheer volume of parameters that contribute toward the make up of a persons state of free will.
Do I believe in Free Will?
Yes. Yes I do.
Do I believe in Freedom of Choice?
Yes, within the confines of the parameters that are imposed. There are varying degree’s of freedom and their associated choices within those.
Do I believe that Individuality exists?
Yes, but it is largely stifled within most people. Society chokes us with imposed ‘norms’ and parameters of acceptance that from the outset encourages adoption of conformity.