Many people forwarded me a link to this story titled “Study Hints that Fruit Flies Have Free Will.” It gave me a good laugh.
My favorite part is where the scientist speculates that if free will exists, it is in the middle ground between randomness and determinism.
That sounds a lot like halfway between orange and three. You can’t pick any two things and speculate that there’s something sensible in the middle. This is your first clue that there’s some fuzzy thinking going on here.
So the researchers glued a fruit fly to a hook in a totally white environment to see if he reacted randomly, since there were no environmental cues to guide him. The fly acted non-randomly. This non-random action is labeled “spontaneous” by the researchers who then conclude they’ve made some sort of headway toward understanding free will in humans.
Um. . . What happened to determinism?
The most likely explanation for the test results is that fruit fly behavior is predetermined, just like the rest of the universe, but too complicated to predict, even when you constrain a few variables. The test ruled out randomness, but it never addressed determinism. And determinism is where the smart money is, say Spinoza and Einstein, for example.
According to many of the readers of this blog, free will is somehow connected to randomness. So for you folks, the fruit fly test actually struck a blow to the possibility of free will by showing that fruit flies don’t appear to have random behavior.
I guess the headline about the existence of free will seemed better than their first choice: “Study Shows Fruit Flies Look Around Even When There’s Not Much to Look At.”