AUSTIN, Texas. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, free will is the concept that humans, and other rational beings, have the ability to actively choose a course of action from a range of options. Yet, as scientists have learned more about how the brain works, the idea of free will has come under fire. If I behave the way I behave because a series of neurons and chemicals in my brain led to my actions, do I really have free will?
According to the Atlantic, many scientists have started to popularly promote the idea that human behavior and the workings of the mind can be explained in terms of “cause and effect.” Many neuroscientists believe that all our hopes, dreams, and loves can be reduced to the random firing of neurons in our brain. In fact, some scientists believe that decision-making is an illusion, an idea our brains produce after the neurons have already produced a result. Some neuroscientists believe that we can’t change our brains any more than we could stop our hearts from having a heart attack.
What does this have to do with driving and car accidents? According to the Atlantic, a study was performed in which subjects were asked to read a passage in which they were told free will was an illusion and another group of subjects were asked to read a passage on moral responsibility. The group that was asked to read the passage in which they were told that free will was an illusion were more likely to behave unethically—say, more likely to cheat on a test.
People who don’t believe they have free will might be more likely to think that they are not at fault for their actions. They might be more likely to engage in dangerous or reckless behaviors—like drinking and driving say, or texting and driving.
At the end of the day, the belief that we have free will to choose not to drink and drive, to put down the cell phone, to behave ethically, can make us better people. Yet, the knowledge that the human brain is influenced by factors outside our control can also be helpful. For example, we now know that people have a very difficult time ignoring text messages or alerts on their phones while driving. People know intellectually that they shouldn’t check their phones, but they do so anyway. As a result, some policymakers have suggested that phones be equipped with mandatory software that disables them while we drive. While phones have this software that can be activated electively, some believe that when we have a choice, we don’t always choose what’s best for us.
Another idea to preserve free will, according to the Atlantic, is to remember that people can plan ahead and think of various options.
The hope is that when it comes to driving, more people will consider the full range of options available to them before they make decisions that hurt others. The Robson Law Firm hopes to see more people activating features on their phones that block incoming calls while they are driving. Until then, we are likely to see more accidents happen and more people get hurt. If you or a loved one has been hurt due to another person’s actions, the law provides options to help you and your family seek a recovery under the law. Visit us at https://robsonlawfirm.com/ to learn more.
Robson Law Firm
1114 Lost Creek Boulevard
Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 345-8200
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