Lawrence Krauss a Canadian-American theoretical physicist who is a professor of physics, Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration, and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. He is the author of several bestselling books, including The Physics of Star Trek and A Universe from Nothing. He is an advocate of scientific skepticism, science education, and the science of morality.
Here’s what he had to say about free will in a recent article in The Guardian:
“Moreover, that many moral convictions vary from society to society means that they are learned and, therefore, the province of psychology. Others are more universal and are, therefore, hard-wired – a matter of neurobiology. A retreat to moral judgment too often assumes some sort of illusionary belief in free will which I think is naive.”
It’s been my experience that when someone genuinely stops believing in free will, there are a plethora of emotional and psychological benefits that follow. The most fascinating thing, to me, about the belief in free will is that when you actually look at it, it’s so completely and obviously bullshit. Anyone who has meditated will know that even when you are trying not to think, thoughts still appear in your head willy-nilly. You can’t turn them off at whim. All of us, I’m sure, have had the experience of trying to get to sleep at night and not being able to “switch off”. If we had control of the thought process, surely this would be simple – yet we find it’s impossible.
So it should be obvious to us that we aren’t in control of our thoughts, and yet the majority of people continue to believe that they are – and that creates problems, myriad problems. So many emotional problems are connected to the idea of having free will. Guilt, anger and regret cannot exist without the idea of free will. Why wouldn’t we all want to live without guilt, anger and regret?
We can and it’s so simple, it’s ridiculous. All we need to do is pay attention to the fact that free will doesn’t exist and hey presto – those emotions disappear. They have to – they have no foundation left to build upon.