February 28, 2024

Free will an illusion, says noted US biologist

Reform of criminal law will be needed

New members of the National Academy of Sciences in the
US are asked to pen an inaugural article for its journal, the PNAS. Biologist Anthony R. Cashmore, of the University of
Pennsylvania, has used the opportunity to set down a sweeping program for the
reorganisation of all of society. Professor Cashmore is a plant biologist.
Based on his studies of the plant species
Arabidopsis thaliana, he has researched photoreceptors and how they drive plant
growth and development, including changes in pigmentation and gene expression,
seed germination, stem elongation, circadian rhythms and flowering.

Moving boldly out of his area of specialisation he demands that biologists recognise that
free will is nonsense, that we are not responsible for our actions and that the
criminal law must be fundamentally restructured.

“if we no longer entertain the luxury of a belief in the ‘magic of the
soul’, then there is
little else to offer in support of the concept of free will. Whereas much is
written claiming to provide an explanation for free will, such writings are
invariably lacking any hint of molecular details concerning mechanisms. Also,
it is often suggested that individuals are free to choose and modify their
environment and that, in this respect, they control their destiny. This
argument misses the simple but crucial point that any action, as ‘free’ as it may
appear, simply reflects the genetics of the organism and the
environmental history, right up to some fraction of a microsecond before any

On the whole scientists are sceptical about the claims of religion, but
they fail to be equally sceptical about the existence of free will. If they
really believed that free will does not exist and that all behaviour is
determined by genetics and environment, then society will have to accept
radical changes.

“Progress in understanding the chemical basis of behavior will make it
increasingly untenable to retain a belief in the concept of free will. To
retain any degree of reality, the criminal justice system will need to adjust
accordingly.” ~ PNAS,
Feb 8

Michael Cook
free will
human nature