Science And Reductionism

Science And Reductionism: Black Spectacles

Science cannot even start its investigation without presuming the existence of free will, in the same way in which the principles of mechanics cannot ignore all the meanings present in the term ‘force’ related to the human force exerted in our daily experiences.

Thus what science does in the case of free will is only to describe its unfolding and not to deny its existence. Therefore, we are not at all in the same situation as with Spinoza’s stone, that thinks that it flies due to its own will. 

In other words, when science claims that it knows beforehand what I will choose in front of the supermarket’s shelf and therefore denies my free will, we must answer that in this procedure, it necessarily must presume my capacity to choose. Science can predict how I choose only while assuming that I choose (and thus assuming the existence of my free will).

Without this presumption, it simply cannot start its observation. If I put a chair in front of the same shelf, letting science predict its choices, science will turn away, annoyed, knowing that the chair will never choose anything because it does not have the capacity to choose. Thus science will never start any observation of the chair’s elective behavior. 

As a consequence, again, we must say that science is unable to approach something that belongs to the inner nature of a thing – in this case, the consciousness and reality of my free will – being forced to presume it, to start from postulating its existence. Then it observes and predicts as accurately as it can the form of the behavior of that ‘inner nature.’ Is then science’s claim not self-contradictory?

Yes, the constant form of a behavior can be very misleading. But is it really an argument for the absence of a free will? Does not the smoker who always chooses the same brand of cigarettes know that he is very repetitive in his behavior? Of course, he knows. Is this a reason to claim he is devoid of free will? If it were so, no advertising against smoking could affect him.

There are many reasons why he can always give up smoking: among others, by understanding the risks involved in smoking. Only if you assume that he can understand will you be able to predict that he will quit smoking due to that advertising campaign. 

Such repetitive behaviors cannot be explained as one explains the repetitive motions of planets in the celestial vault. If you do not assume ab initio the preference of the person involved for that behavior, the pleasant state that that behavior induces in them, you will be unable to make any predictions.

For example, you can predict that the smoker will not quit smoking only when you assume that he likes (that is to say, he prefers) smoking very much or because he has very weak willpower (and thus he prefers not to distress himself too much in abstaining from smoking). You cannot say about a planet that it prefers to follow its orbit or about a chair that it prefers to stay where you put it.

Any human-related prediction must start from the idea of preference and, therefore, must start from the assumption of the existence of free will. Here the internal nature can no longer be overlooked, and the scientist is forced to completely identify himself with the object of his study (another human being) in order to be able to start the observation (an identification which he partially accomplished and then forgot about – in the case of the principles of mechanics while using the term ‘force’). 

Yes, the human being is, from many points of view, a reactive being, like any other living being. But being reactive is not synonymous with having a mechanical character. The reaction of a living being follows as a result of experiencing a preference or a repulsion.

Of course, both of them can be analyzed to see what organs and chemical processes are associated with that experience. But saying that preferences are only products of chemical, neuronal, or physiological processes is the same as saying that water is nothing apart than hydrogen and oxygen. In fact, water is different from hydrogen and oxygen; it is another type of existence or being.

If we equated everything to the components resulting from our analyses, then the whole universe would be nothing else than a monolith of light. And no one could ever derive any diversity from that monolith. Let’s not confound the analytic method of science with ‘truth.’

In order to know something, science analyzes it and decomposes it into what it considers to be its components. And then science states that the decomposed thing is nothing other than its components and is only a delusion, an ‘epiphenomenon:’ something that occurred by accident. But this ‘accident’ is another way of acknowledging that science must start from what already exists and cannot ever be fully explained concerning its existence. Science and reductionism go together.

This is also the ‘accident,’ the ‘epiphenomenon,’ and the ‘delusion’ of free will. Free will must be already there for science to be investigated by it – in the same way in which the universe or the world must already be there for science to study it – and science will never know how free will occurred or how the universe itself occurred. 

As the ancient philosophers used to say (and as we so quickly forgot), qualities are ways of being and are ultimates. Red is a quality, sweet is a quality, space is a quality, and air is a quality. In all these examples, replace quality with ways of being.

You can say that the color or sensations are the results of my brain’s or sense organs’ activity. But they are still irreducible qualities from which you must start and about which you will never know how they came into being as the quality they are.

In the case of color, you will never be able to know how red as red came into the world (or expressed more scientifically why the external light waves, in combination with my sense organs, produces the phenomenon of color). You must already have the red to see in what conditions it occurs.

This is what science, in its reductionist causal view, always forgets. And what philosophy must always recall. 

The previous part of this article can be read here.

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