Sadly, Gale does not seem to have the most current scientific journals, which have only recently begun publishing research that would further my thesis. However, I did find one (see reference below) that illustrates the promising technology going into lie detectors — a type of mind reading device. My thesis, as you may recall, is that while most people firmly believe that every decision is their own, free will is little more than a biological afterthought.

The advent of fMRI technology and similar medical devices for imaging the brain provide more data as “sophisticated analysis techniques move toward the decoding of mental states from functional imaging data in humans.” The concept that a human’s “mental state” can be decoded like a computer signal implies a belief that not only is the brain everything to each person, from their personality to their memories to their elusive consciousness, but that it is understandable, not some special God-given organ that places humans above all else.

The Catholic Church (and several other religions of the world, for that matter) disagree. To Catholics, free will is described as:

Freedom characterizes properly human acts. It makes the human being responsible for acts of which he is the voluntary agent. His deliberate acts properly belong to him.

and

Human acts, that is, acts that are freely chosen in consequence of a judgment of conscience, can be morally evaluated. They are either good or evil.

This concept directly conflicts with the scientific approach. First, if the scientific approach is correct and the brain is nothing more than a biological computer of sorts, there will be no such thing as a “properly human act”. A sufficiently advanced computer made to emulate the brain may end up being what it mimics, that is, a machine may be “human”, but none of its actions would be voluntary because they are the direct and predicable result of the scientist’s methodology.

Second, the process of “conscience” may be no freer than a car responding to the impetus of something pushing down the gas pedal. It doesn’t matter to the car if that object is a brick or a foot, it shoots forward all the same. In that same thought, an action that can be predicted cannot be “free”, it is bound by the limits of the prediction so long as the prediction is correct. As psychology experiments are coming to show, when within a relatively simple “game” (push a button with either your left or right hand), a human’s action can be predicted up to seven seconds before the person herself is aware of it. The predictability of actions, although only starting in a relatively simple area, implies that they are set responses for each person according to a particular set of impulses. In other words, people may be fleshy computers with no more “judgement of conscience” than silicon ones; just with a more complex set of instructions than any we’ve managed to create thus far.

 

Bibliography:

“What’s on your mind?” Nature Neuroscience, vol. 9, no. 8, 2006, p. 981. Science In Contexthttps://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A185536936/GPS?u=pioneer&sid=GPS&xid=31616b4f. Accessed 8 Feb. 2018.

“Man’s Freedom” Catechism of the Catholic Curch, Section 1, Chapter1, Articles 3 and 4. https://via.hypothes.is/http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a3.htm. Accessed 13 Feb. 2018.

CC BY-SA 4.0 Gale Research by Eric is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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