His error is that he doesn't realise what he'd do with free will if he genuinely had it...
... an error arising because he hasn't spotted the mechanism by which his choices are controlled.
Our knowledge of science tells us that the behaviour of any atom or molecule is entirely automatic, dependent only on its physical properties and the laws of physics. So how can it be that when you put a billion entirely automatic atoms together to make a human, you create something that can do what it wants with its life?
It’s a question that has always baffled philosophers and scientists. How do 'we' get control of these automatic atoms of ours, if 'we' are nothing but atoms ourselves? For us to have free will, wouldn’t there have to be a part of us that isn't made of atoms; a part of us that’s free to tell all the atoms how to behave? But if so, then where is it - this non-atomic corner of our brains? And what kind of ‘stuff’ is it made of… if not atoms?
Equally, our knowledge of evolution tells us that, as Darwin put it, free will must be 'delusion'.
"We are survival machines - robot vehicles blindly programmedto
preserve the selfish molecules known as genes."- Richard Dawkins, The Selfish
The idea that evolution could create an animal that has the free will to do what it wants is like suggesting that water could run uphill. Even if a ‘free will gene’ could have been created by the chance mutations that created our eyes and ears, this ‘free will gene’ would simply never have been ‘naturally selected’ for. Natural selection, by definition, can only select genes that improve their own survival chances. ‘Doing what you want with your life’ is the evolutionary equivalent of a blind lion triumphing over a sighted one: it’s like being born with an insatiable desire to drink poison and jump in front of freight trains. Which means that, somehow, evolution must be controlling our conscious choices so that we make decisions that maximise the survival chances of our genes. Otherwise we wouldn't have conquered the world.
Of course, the only evidence that we have free will at all comes from our personal experience. So rather than trying to rewrite the laws of phsyics (or indeed evolution), why don't we just take a closer look at those personal experiences of ours and try to work out how the delusion works?
To understand why we're so convinced that we're free (when in reality we're just following instructions) - and also to give us a chance at achieving freedom worth having - we can simply observe how we make a decision.
We soon see that every decision we make is an attempt to make ourselves feel good. To maximise our pleasurable feelings and minimise our unpleasant feelings.
Which is of course the mechanism by which natural selection controls our conscious choices. When the survival chances of our genes increase... we get to experience nice feelings. When the survival chances of our genes decrease... it hurts.
And suddenly everything is clear.
And we realise what we would do if we were genuinely free. We wouldn't be moral, or nice, or greedy or vicious... we'd just feel good. All day. Regardless of what happened in the world.
Currently, as Dawkins point out, we have the ability to defeat the tyranny of our selfish replicators whenever we use contraception. Although he doesn't put it quite like this, our conscious mind gets to feel good without the onerous pregnancy thing.
The next step to defeating the tyranny of the selfish replicators isn't, as Dawkins suggests, to start being nice to each other. It's to start being nice to ourselves. To feel good all the time. By getting direct control over our neural pathways so that our conscious minds can achieve their programmed purpose: to maximise the pleasure and minimise the pain.
Only by understanding that we are conscious robots will we be able to escape the tyranny of our selfish replicators and improve our lives to an extent that we can currently only dream of.
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