Vilayandur S. Ramachandran came from a distinguished family in Tamil Nadu, India, and was neuroscientist, which is a field of study encompassing the various scientific disciplines dealing with the nervous system. Ramachandran’s views on the brain and how it works are discussed in his work “The New Philosophy”. In his essay he discusses the nature of consciousness, discussing the effects of certain mental states and their influence on the body and the brain. One of his main topics, however, is the Ramachandran’s view of free will. He suggest that “…neuroscience intersects with philosophy because the question of free will has been a philosophical problem for hundreds of years and more” (Jacobus 569). He discusses the significance of the brain imaging that shows a “readiness potential” and what it really means to have a free will. Through his essay, though, it is interesting to point out where religion and Christianity stands on the issue of free will and whether Christians are puppets under God’s command.
Ramachandran poses this question about free will: “Is your brain the real one in charge, making your free will only a post-hoc rationalization; a delusion..?” When a special experiment was underway, it was discovered that when a person was told to move their finger within the next ten minutes at their own free will, their brain would kick in almost a second before the actual willingness to move the finger. This posed the original question stated above and brought on other questions as well. If this person is now shown the screen displaying the signal from the EEG scanner hooked up to your brain, they can then see their free will.
They will then have three options: 1) They will experience a sudden lack of will, feeling as though the machine is controlling them, making them feel like a puppet. 2) They will refuse to have their belief of their free will to be altered but instead believe that the machine has some “paranormal precognition by which it is able to predict your movements accurately” (Ramachandran 559-60). 3) The person will reconfigure the experience in their mind, and cling to their sense of freedom, denying what their eyes have seen as evidence and maintain that “the sensation of will precedes the machine’s signal, not vice versa” (Ramachandran 560). The point when the brain would “kick in” before the movement is called the “readiness potential”.
The “readiness potential” is what happens when there is a change in the electrical activity of the brain that occurs before the subject’s conscious decision to move a muscle (medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com). Ramachandran believes that “…there is an inevitable neural delay before the signal arising in one part of the brain makes its way through the rest of the brain to deliver the message…natural selection has ensured that the subjective sensation of willing to delay deliberately to coincide not with the onset of the brain commands but with the actual execution of the command by your finger” (Ramachandran 560).
Ramachandran is a firm believer in evolution, believing that the events must have some sort of evolutionary purpose. “On one hand,” he says, “this experiment shows that free will is false and cannot be causing the brain events because the events kick in a second earlier. But on the other hand, the pause must have some purpose, otherwise why would the delay have evolved” (Ramachandran 560). Though these events have a purpose, evolutionary is not the answer.
In Joshua 24:15 it says “Choose for yourselves this day who you will serve, as for me and my household we will serve the LORD.” God gives mankind a choice to follow Him and so free will is a gift from God as something to be accepted. Humans have the gift of God to reject or take the free gift that He offers. If humans really are descendants of apes, then when did the gift of free will come into the evolutionary chain of today’s mankind? John 7:37 says “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me.” It is an offer. Not a demanding command. ‘Anyone who is thirsty may come to me’, shows us that God does not want us to be without his living water and without him, but it is our choice whether we choose to accept God’s free gift of salvation.
When studying free will in the Bible and through works of literature like Vilayandur S. Ramachandran, there will always be people on both sides of the argument. Do we have control of our own destinies or are we merely puppets in God’s giant game of the world? My personal beliefs on the subject are as I have stated in this paper: Though God has a control over the destiny of the world and each of our lives, he gives us a chance to make a decision to follow him or to ignore the free gift of his son that he has offered to us. John 3:16 it says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believed in him would have eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Jacobus, Lee A. A World Of Ideas. 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008. Print. The Free Dictionary. Medical Dictionary. Online source.
http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/readiness+potential Bible. New Living Translation.
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