Outspoken Atheist Dr. Jerry Coyne Sees No Connection Between Consciousness Research and Evolutionary Biology

Industry: Science

Interview with University of Chicago professor, and author of, Why Evolution is True, Dr. Jerry Coyne.

California (PRUnderground) February 15th, 2012

Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Dr. Jerry Coyne, author of, Why Evolution is True. During the interview Dr. Coyne discusses the connection between free will and the theory of evolution:

Dr. Jerry Coyne: My interest in free will did not really grow out of evolution. It’s just something I’ve been interested in lately trying to ponder human behavior.

Alex Tsakiris: Okay, but I think it is pretty important when we talk about what are the agencies of evolution. One of the articles that I sent you was on the research of Jeffrey Schwartz at UCLA. He studied Obsessive-compulsive disorder and found that self-directing thought could actually rewire their brain, something called neuroplasticity.

This research fits into this broad category of research that shows that intention, mental thought, can actually change the physical. Doesn’t that have an impact on the overall picture of evolution?

Dr. Jerry Coyne: I’d have to be convinced by reading this article that brains can change themselves without any external inputs from either the other parts of the body or the environment.

Alex Tsakiris: But it sounds like you are open to the idea that that would be directly relevant to evolutionary theory?

Dr. Jerry Coyne: No, I’m not. Again, I don’t understand why you keep trying to connect evolution with free will. Free will is, I believe, an illusion that we have that we can somehow affect the workings of our brain and free them from the laws of physics. My answer to that is no, we can’t arrange the subject of the laws of physics because they’re material entities.

The feeling that we have free will, which of course we all have, we all have that feeling of agency. Whether or not that’s proactive evolution or whether it’s an epiphenomena or anything like that is something that I don’t know. None of us know the answer to that question.

The Skeptiko interview with Dr. Jerry Coyne (audio and transcript) is available at: http://www.skeptiko.com/

About Skeptiko:

Skeptiko.com is the first scientifically oriented Podcast exploring new research in controversial areas of science such as telepathy, psi, parapsychology, near-death-experience, psychic detectives, medium communication, reincarnation, and after-life encounters. Each episode features open, honest debate on new scientific discoveries. The show includes interviews with top research scientists and their critics.

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