Monday, December 20, 2010

Does a fruit fly have free will?



That was the question presented in a paper published recently in The Proceedings of the Royal Society B.  Rather existential and not merely limited to fruit flies, but to all animals.  As it turns out, the findings of the experiment suggest that animals exercise a form of free will that is similar to humans.

Indeed, "free will" may no longer be an ethereal concept left to the realm of philosophy, but a precise and explicit set of patterns in neurology. 
"There is no way the conscious mind, the refuge of the soul, could influence the brain without leaving tell-tale signs," so sayeth Christof Koch of the California Institute of Technology and frequent commentator on matters of free will v. biology.  "Physics does not permit such ghostly interactions.”
The study does not state that fruit flies ponder their options exactly, but their actions are "neither deterministic nor random."
I think this is a good step.  The more science delves into this sort of thing, then I believe the fewer and fewer distinctions we will find between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom.  This opens the way for an acceptance of the intelligence of chimps, dolphins, whales, et. al. in a broader context, classifying them as "non-human intelligence."  Only human arrogance would call people the only intelligent life in this world and the only ones entitled to any form of rights.

So bravo, Royal Society.  Now if you could get to work on finding out what these black triangles are in our skies, that'd be great.  Thanks.
 
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