What does Science Say About Free Will?

What does Science Say About Free Will?

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Determinism or Free Will - A Debated Mystery

Is it destined, or a choice of your free will that you came across this title? Find out more about this.

Is our life predestined or do we have free will? This is the most argued mystery in the metaphysics and science. Philosophers at different times came up with their hypothesis, still, it remains as a perplexing aspect of the science and philosophy. Now, people solely depend on metaphysics for the explanation.

This mystery seems to exist when the incomprehensible realities become inconsistent with the human understanding of nature and natural phenomena.

If an effect is the consequence of a cause and that cause itself the effect of another cause and that chain continues and eventually leads to a primordial cause that is causeless. We can note that every speck of actions has been influenced by preceding causes and moves forward in a destined or random manner. This made the philosophers and scientist to strain their brain for centuries.

This is a vast area of study and here I am considering only a few of its aspects.

Philosophical View

As per the human understanding, three significant hypotheses was suggested based on the natural events.

Determinism: Every event in the entire phenomenal world occurs in a predictive manner from the random possibilities of the chances.

Indeterminism: The events occur in nature are at random and nothing binds its phenomenon. This is the free will to choose the destiny of the natural occurrences.

Compatibilism or libertarianism: The free will of cause and effect of the events are compatible with the deterministic nature of the cosmos.

Free Will According To the Mystics

Vivekananda: Everything within our universe is the bound consequence of the cause and effect in the existential phenomenal world of space and time. And the complete freedom lies beyond the cause and effect of the phenomenal world.

Ramana Maharishi: The free will and the destiny exist as when the mind exists. When one transcends the ego – ‘I’ consciousness, the free will and determinism subside within it.

Scientific Research

We can see that the scientific hypotheses are of metaphysical approach and when the science reaches its limitations in explaining the concept of free will, it is then led to the philosophers to explain it.

When considering such philosophical ideas, the greater misleading steps have been avoided in the history of the scientific explorations.

Neuroscience of Free Will and Human Decisions

We realize that we have free will to consciously choose the decisions. The research in neurology and genetics has shown that our actions are more than that of free will. Our actions are constraint by different causes that are being encountered in the life.

The fMRI experiments done by Stefan Bode showed that one has less chance of free will that the decisions are already made at the unconscious level before one consciously aware of it. The illusion of free will is created that one can choose his fate from the randomness. But the selection of a particular effect from the random cause is determined within itself.

The decisions were made unconsciously based on the past experiences right from childhood, genetic determinism, present surrounding circumstances, etc. The studies showed that we are on autopilot that we do not have any control over the decisions consciously.

Same strategies are used in mentalism where programming the mind is done on an unconscious level that influences the actions at the conscious level. (See 7 Most Effective Mind Control Techniques You should be Aware)

Another study was done on neuroscience to determine whether the human is consciously free to choose the decisions after the Bereitschaftspotential. This is the Readiness Potential (RP) triggered in the brain where a decision is chosen before one consciously aware of it.

The computer was programmed to pick up this readiness potential in the human brain.

The experiment was a computer game that the participants can freely decide when to push the button. The computer will predict seconds before exactly when the participant is going to push the button as it can note the readiness potential that precedes every decision.

The participants have no control over their decisions on the conscious level as all decisions were made at the unconscious level. But there is only a feeble chance to alter the decisions after the readiness potential is triggered where the cancellation of movement is possible only if the stop signals were shown before 200 ms before movement onset, still it is redefined unconsciously forming the illusion of conscious decisions done by the mind. But the conclusion of the research was not agreed by everyone.

Free Will According to Physics

Everything under the cosmos, quantum, and the cosmic level are under the probabilistic nature of the events. While digging deeper in the quantum physics, we can find that it is deterministic with the probabilistic outcome of the events.

Right from the big bang, everything is interconnected where the cause and effect are determined by this connectedness. Even the will of an electron is determined by the total matter and non-matter present in the universe. Free will and determination of events exist with the existence of space and time where the space-time itself, not an absolute quantity.

Is our life probabilistic with the deterministic view of nature?

Still, it’s a debated mystery that needs much more to be explored.

The articles on this website are based on the various aspects of Yoga and meditation practices, health and wellness, self-help and spirituality that are backed up with psychological, philosophical and scientific studies.


1. Kane, Robert; John Martin Fischer; Derk Pereboom; Manuel Vargas (2007). Four Views on Free Will (Libertarianism).

2. Boniolo, G., and Vidali, P. (1999) Filosofia della Scienza.

3. Pinel, P. J. (1990) Biopsychology. Prentice Hall Inc.


Praveen Kumar

Praveen is the founder and editor at MindOrbs, an online magazine about personal development, yoga, meditation, spirituality, health, and wellness. He is a postgraduate in Physics, author, and entrepreneur. He is a kundalini practitioner for more than 15 years.