@Revealed_Cosmology and @Patrick:
The article by Dr. Michael Egnor in Evolution News was rather weak, but the recent article by Dr. Alfredo Metere in Cosmos magazine critiquing free will (which Egnor discussed in an earlier post) was pretty weak, too. First, it’s predicated on bad science: it assumes that space is pixellated. That reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of a Planck length: “The Planck length is sometimes misconceived as the minimum length of spacetime, but this is not accepted by conventional physics, as this would require violation or modification of Lorentz symmetry.”
Second, it naively assumes that causation can only be deterministic and not probabilistic: “If so, there is a causal relationship between the Big Bang and us. In other words, free will is not allowed, and all of our actions are just a mere consequence of that first event.”
Third, it never even attempts to address John D. Norton’s now-famous article, The Dome: An Unexpectedly Simple Failure of Determinism (Philosophy of Science, 75 (December 2008) pp. 786–798).
Finally, it implicitly assumes the truth of reductionism - in other words, bottom-up causation rules, and top-down causation (if it exists) is nothing but a consequence of some prior bottom-up arrangement. There’s no experimental evidence for this claim. If one is prepared to accept the reality of irreducible top-down causation, then even if one is a materialist, one can still believe in free will. I’ve explained why in articles I’ve previously written on the subject. See here and here.
By itself, quantum physics doesn’t imply free will, but it does leave open the possibility of free will, when it is combined with top-down causation.
As for Egnor’s article: it’s out-of-date, because subsequent studies have shown that scientists can make people not only do things, but want to do things (such as raise their right arm), by stimulating their brains. What scientists find, however, is that when asked why they suddenly raised their arm, people are at a loss and tend to confabulate - i.e. make up stuff. In other words, what scientists are still incapable of doing is making people do something willingly for a reason, while under the impression that they acted freely. Only when scientists can do that will they have refuted free will. And what’s more, they’ll need to show it not only for impulsive choices like raising your arm, but for choices that really matter in everyday life, such as a decision on where to go for a family vacation.
Re moral responsibility for one’s actions in the absence of free will: Elizabeth Anscombe argued convincingly that physical determinism and freedom were incompatible, in her Inaugural Lecture as Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge University in 1971, entitled Causality and Determination. The following passage expresses her point with brevity and lucidity:
Ever since Kant it has been a familiar claim among philosophers, that one can believe in both physical determinism and ‘ethical’ freedom. The reconciliations have always seemed to me to be either so much gobbledegook, or to make the alleged freedom of action quite unreal. My actions are mostly physical movements; if these physical movements are physically predetermined by processes which I do not control, then my freedom is perfectly illusory. The truth of physical indeterminism is then indispensable if we are to make anything of the claim to freedom. (p.26)