Quaequam blog has as thoughtful post up about how modern science is dissolving commonly-held notions about free will:
I’m becoming increasingly conscious of the fact that science and our notions about free will are increasingly coming into conflict. On one level that tension does not, and never will be particularly meaningful. Science is unlikely to ever become so adept at understanding our genes, brains, bodies and environment to such an extent that it can predict exactly what anyone is likely to do at any given moment. But on another level, it is likely to throw up all sorts of inconvenient truths such as levels of intelligence and modes of behaviour which have fundamentally chemical bases and can thus be altered in a similar way. We’ve created distinctions between “disorders” and personality traits which are looking increasingly unsustainable. Surely there needs to be some kind of distinction between a negative thing that we should seek to cure or otherwise discourage, and a neutral thing that we should tolerate in a pluralistic society? But that line seems to be becoming increasingly blurred and just as we are having to seriously consider reclassifying some things from the former to the latter, so we may have to consider others going the other way. Or is it to be anything goes?
One point is that the “we” who are going to have to decide how to deal with these issues doesn’t jusdt include the West, it includes societies like China, which might be described as paternalistically authoritarian and will probably have less reluctance to change human brain chemistry if they thing society will benefit from it.
How it will eventually turn out probably depends on what is the most efficient, so that if one society alters human brain chemistry in a way that makes them vastly more efficient than their competitors (e.g. by making people cleverer and harder-working, or less likely to commit crimes) then other societies will have to match them or they will be consigned to the dustbin of history.