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Saturday, March 05, 2005

Genetic Tendencies

Continuing the tradition of inter-blog discussion between Crash Landing and the Austro-Athenian Empire, I'd like to comment on a post by Roderick Long on genetic tendencies. Roderick considers whether or not probabalistic tendencies arising from human biology are compatible with free will. He writes:

"Suppose I have an innate tendency to choose X over Y. Now that might mean that although I won't always choose X over Y, I will do so in, say, 75% of future instances. But that too seems incompatible with the free will axiom; if it's already settled that I will choose X over Y 75% of the time, then I’m not really free to plan my future conduct."

However, can't the existence of such tendencies be made compatible with free will if they are viewed as applying to populations rather than individuals? I believe so, if the tendency is not taken as exerting some “drag” or "force" on any individual’s decision. In such a view, decisions are freely made, but, given human nature as it is, 75% of people typically choose X over Y.

For example, people obviously (if we accept free will) are free to choose earthworms or fine steak for dinner, but most of them are so constituted that they will choose the steak. Thus, we might theorize that there is a 99% tendency to choose the steak, without any implying that any specific actor is compelled to choose steak 99% of the time.

1 comment:

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