It’s nearly impossible to discuss the concept of free will unless we can agree on what it is. If you don’t believe in free will, then free will is merely an ideal; something that should, hypothetically, be a certain way. If you do believe in free will, how do you define it in any coherent way? Whether or not you believe in free will, it seems no two people agree on how, precisely, free will is supposed to work.
But do we really know how ANY mental process really works? Take reason, for example. We can take the proposition that 1 + 1 = 2, and convincingly reason that this must always be true. Was our conclusion inevitable because of deterministic electro-chemical processes in our brains? Or did we really reason our way to a conclusion? If we were really moved by reason to reach a conclusion, what neurological processes were involved and how are those processes NOT deterministic?
Do you see the problem here? It’s the same material reductionist trap we fall into when discussing free will. We are taking the wrong approach. It is common, in physics, to model a theory using multiple different, yet valid, approaches. We can discuss polymers in narrow terms of atoms and molecules or we can use broader properties like elasticity and strength. Both approaches are valid but one might well serve better than the other to answer a specific question.
Yes, reason can be reduced to deterministic, electro-chemical, processes but that doesn’t tell us anything useful except that the neurological process of reasoning is deterministic at microscopic scales. This does not mean it is also deterministic at macroscopic scales. That’s a false dichotomy which ignores the potential for emergent phenomena: something life has in abundance. Hell, life itself is an emergent phenomenon of inanimate matter.
I wonder: do those materialists who deny free will also deny reason? If not, why not? You can’t have it both ways. Free will and reason are both deterministic neurological processes at the microscopic level. You can’t deny free will, then turn around and embrace reason. And if you deny both free will and reason, then how do you know anything at all? That’s just nuts.
You can be a materialist without reducing absolutely everything to its most basic components. You can apply your materialism where it’s suited and use other models where they’re suited. After all, that’s how physics is done, is it not? Free will can be an emergent property of the brain without violating the microscopic determinism of electro-chemical, neurological, processes.
And about free will . . . because it’s so hard to nail down a definition of it, let’s use another technique physicists and astronomers are fond of – looking for indirect evidence. If free will did exist, it should produce results that we can predict and look for.
Choice characterizes free will. No matter how you define free will, choice has to enter the picture at some point. What kind of results would choice produce? That would depend on the reasons involved, wouldn’t it? I mean, can a choice be made without a reason? Wouldn’t that just be randomness? So, if choice requires reason, we should look for evidence of reason.
If you’re looking for evidence of human reason, what would you look for? Design. Purpose. Intelligence. Non-random, goal-oriented, types of things: the more complex, the better. Technology fits all these requirements.
Is technology evidence of reason? Of course it is. How can it not be? Technology confirms human reason, choice, design, purpose and intelligence: all the things you would expect to find if we had free will.
What more can we ask for? What more do we need?