"Intelligent life on a planet comes of age when it first works out
the reason for its own existence. If superior creatures from space ever visit
earth, the first question they will ask, in order to assess the level of our
civilization, is: 'Have they discovered evolution yet?' Living organisms had
existed for three thousand years before the truth finally dawned on one of them.
His name was Charles
- Richard Dawkins - the opening paragraph to The Selfish Gene
Intelligent life on a planet comes of age when it first works out how to
get conscious control over its feelings. If superior creatures from space
ever visit our earth - which they wont because they'll have better things to do
with their time - the first question they will ask, in order to assess the level
of our civilisation is: 'Are they still under the control of their genes?'
Living organisms have existed on earth, without having the ability to control
the only thing that matters to them, for three thousand million years before the
truth finally dawned on them that it was time to stop trying to control the
world around them and to start controlling the world inside their own
- Conscious Robots
We've learnt a lot about ourselves over the last 150 years. We've worked out why we exist, and what our purpose is. We've learned that our bodies our composed entirely of chemical molecules and that those molecules function according to a strict set of rules, the outcome of which can be entirely predicted in advance. Our understanding of genes and natural selection has shown us how those robotic molecules have come together to create 'living creatures' - enormous chemical structures of sufficient complexity that they are conscious of their own existence.
But what we've conspicuously failed to do is to reconcile that knowledge with our personal experience of what it is to be human.
It's the human experience that we are free to make our own choices as to what we do with our lives. And yet our scientific knowledge tells us that this impossible: that our actions must be pre-determined: dependent entirely on the chemical reactions that came before us. Nevertheless, our instinct is so powerful that even the most rigorous of scientists look for gaps in our knowledge of quantum physics to explain how our freedom might have come to exist.
This website will take a different approach. It will explain how the delusion of freedom works: why it is that we can be so convinced that we're doing what we like with our lives when the reality is that we're simply doing precisely what we're told to do.
Surprisingly, perhaps, this approach has a bonus.