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Science writer and journalist, director of the Horganism


Free will is the single most profound innovation in human intellectual history. Almost as soon as philosophers conceived of free will, they struggled to reconcile it with the materialistic, deterministic views of nature advanced by science. Epicurus insisted that there must be an element of randomness within nature that allows free will to exist. Lucretius called this randomness ‘the swerve.’ Modern free-willers find the swerve within chaos theory or quantum mechanics. None of these arguments are very convincing. But if free will is an illusion, it is an absolutely necessary one, even more vital to our sense of meaning than the illusion of God.