The fallacy of free will denial won’t die. From The Independent, with my commentary:

Free will could all be an illusion, scientists suggest after study shows choice may just be brain tricking itselfFree will might be an illusion created by our brains, scientists might have proved. Humans are convinced that they make conscious choices as they live their lives. But instead it may be that the brain just convinces itself that it made a free choice from the available options after the decision is made.

Brains don’t “trick themselves” or “convince themselves” of anything, because brains aren’t selves and are incapable of convincing or of being convinced. A brain is an organ, and it metabolizes, generates action potentials, secretes neurotransmitters, etc. A brain does things proper to brains, and it doesn’t do things proper to people. Only people are selves, and only people do convincing and only people can be convinced. This distinction may seem academic or even pedantic, but the fallacy invoked by the author (the mereological fallacy — the nonsensical attribution of agency to parts which properly belongs only to the whole) infests neuroscience. It is raw nonsense, and the invocation of the mereological fallacy suggests that the invoker hasn’t a clue about the physiology going on.

The idea was tested out by tricking subjects into believing that they had made a choice before the consequences of that choice could actually be seen. In the test, people were made to believe that they had taken a decision using free will — even though that was impossible.The… study… says that the brain rewrites history when it makes its choices, changing our memories so that we believe we wanted to do something before it happened.

“The brain rewrites history when it makes choices…” I’m pounding my forehead on my keyboard…

In one of the studies undertaken by Adam Bear and Paul Bloom, of Princeton University, the test subjects were shown five white circles on a computer monitor. They were told to choose one of the circles before one of them lit up red.The participants were then asked to describe whether they’d picked the correct circle, another one, or if they hadn’t had time to actually pick one.

Statistically, people should have picked the right circle about one out of every five times. But they reported getting it right much more than 20 per cent of the time, going over 30 per cent if the circle turned red very quickly.

The scientists suggest that the findings show that the test subjects’ minds were swapping around the order of events, so that it appeared that they had chosen the right circle — even if they hadn’t actually had time to do so.

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