An interesting discussion about free will and whether the physical universe is deterministic, which makes me reiterate my own view on these matters. When it comes to the vexing problems of dualism and also evolution, I think belief in an intelligent Designer (I have to make it a capital “D” since I’m talking about the universe itself with the former issue, not just life on earth) solves the problems–or at least, pushes them back a step. In contrast, if you don’t believe in an intelligent Designer, then I think you run into some serious philosophical problems.
==> There is an obvious sense in which humans have free will. In our subjective experience, we certainly seem to be able to “control matter with our minds.” I can look at my fingers, and make them move with my will. We just take this for granted, but if I could do the same thing with a mannequin’s fingers across the room, then people would think I was a wizard.
==> At the same time, the whole enterprise of modern physics, chemistry, and biology seeks to explain the mindless laws governing the operation of the objects in the material universe. They need to proceed in this way; in order to be intelligible to us, these “laws” have to be laws.
==> So already we see the problem. If my fingers are moving at time T2 because of the state of the physical universe at time T1, then it doesn’t seem as if there’s any room for my discretion. At best, my “free will” is correlated with my finger movements due to a third factor. In other words, the state of the universe at T1 causes my fingers to move, and causes my mind to think “I want to move my fingers,” at T2.
==> Some people (like Gene and Ken B. at the link above) handle this by saying they are just different levels of explanation; others try to handle it by saying the physical universe is NOT deterministic, and that quantum mechanics can reconcile the apparent paradox. I personally don’t see exactly how this is supposed to work, though I confess I would need to really get into it before saying for sure. Yet here’s my quick reaction: If the future state of the physical universe is indeterminate (in a particular sense, specified by quantum theory), that doesn’t leave a window through which one’s mind can influence the future. For example, if the electron has a 50/50 chance of going through the top or the bottom slit, then we have no more control over what happens, than if there were the Newtonian 100/0 situation.
==> However, I realize that one of the best ways to explain the experimental results of the two-slit experiment is to say, “The electrons/photons don’t choose a slit, until we know they went a particular way,” and that certainly seems to link the human subjective mind with the objective, physical universe in a fundamental way. So my guess is that these “quantum mind” theorists are on to something, I’m just saying I don’t think it is as simple as saying, “Phew! The physical universe is NOT deterministic, so free will isn’t an illusion after all.”
==> To (finally) recapitulate my own solution to these vexing problems: Imagine that a filmmaker could perfectly anticipate where everyone in the movie theater would look, for 2 hours straight. He makes a film accordingly. The people then go sit in the theater, and they soon realize as they’re watching the screen, that each person apparently has a little colored dot assigned just to him/her. That is, each person is looking at the screen, and sees a dot (or the person’s name spelled out, if you prefer) and–no matter how the person moves his/her eyes–that dot (or letters spelling the name) moves around perfectly in response. After just a few moments of this, the people in the theater would be certain that there was some kind of advanced technology, whereby sensors in the theater tracked their eye movements, and then in response moved the images on the screen. But nope, there is no such interaction at all; the dots (or letters) on the screen are just light that is being shot out of the projector in the back of the theater, using the same processes as the Disney move in the next theater. The crucial difference is (to repeat), the filmmaker on this particular film somehow knew exactly what everybody would choose to do, beforehand.
==> If you get my analogy, then you can see why I think an intelligent Creator can solve the mind/body problem. You have a soul with free will. You perceive the unfolding universe through the perspective of your physical body, and you appear to have (limited) control over what happens in the physical universe. However, if we focus on any portion of the physical universe, it doesn’t seem to be controlled by your intangible soul at all; that doesn’t even make sense. We can “explain” everything perfectly well without invoking a soul at all, except we’re left with this gaping hole of why the heck are we conscious and does it sure SEEM like we’re controlling things with our minds?! (My answer is that God created our souls and the physical universe such that there was a symmetry between them, where our truly free choices dovetailed perfectly with the mindless operation of the laws of physics in the material universe.) Yet we just ignore that question as “unscientific,” and don’t really worry about it because it’s so commonplace–just like new, human minds coming into existence and being based inside of organic creatures that shoot out of mother’s wombs every day.