science writer

Okay, I'll bite. Has anyone nominated free will yet? The concept is more than 2,000 years old, but surely it deserves consideration as one of our most important inventions ever. 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. Science has made it increasingly clear — to me, anyway — that free will is an illusion. But more even than God, it is a glorious, absolutely necessary illusion.