Do We Truly have Free Will? The Experiment by Benjamin Libet
Free will, the neuroscience question that we all ask from time to time, is very simply, Do we truly wield it, or are our actions predetermined before we consciously make it happen? Free will in the Wikipedia is, "the ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints." This question is not that simple however, in respect to religious institutions from Christian and Muslim faith, to the scientific views of pioneers such as Rene Descartes, Sigmund Freud, and Benjamin Libet. Of these pioneers, Benjamin Libet made a very interesting discovery into how our minds electrodes anticipate our movements and actions before we consider it in the logical present moment of reality. In the 1970s, Libet had been experimenting with sensations of artificial somaticism by measuring how much one region of the brain corresponded with an individual's physical movement.
This particular measurement is more formally known as Bereitschaftspotential, or the potential for an individual to pursue the readiness capabilities in a mindset. In order to fully understand the experiment that has challenged religious institutions views on free will, we must first examine the equipment with which Benjamin Libet used on his subjects. The first aspect of his experiment required a cathode ray oscilloscope, which in respect, measures the frequency and amplitude of the human brain's electrical signals that are emitted. There was a slight change in the oscilloscope, changing it's form into a timer of sorts, which would in theory would travel as a dot instead of graph. This would travel in intervals around a clock that measured multiple intervals of forty-three milliseconds.
Libet measured this change while requiring the subjects wear a electroencephalogram, or an EEG, which used multiple electrodes that were strategically placed around a subject's scalp. This in turn measured cortex activity while the subjects watched the oscilloscope. It is notable to say that the cortex is associated with the cognition of higher purpose in a human, and as the voltage in the EEG study fluctuated, along with an electromyograph or EMG that was placed on the muscle of the forearm, allowed Libet to measure subconscious VS. Conscious activity movement. The simple theory of the experiment was that as a subject watched the dot travel around the oscilloscope, they would press a button to stop it whenever they were first aware of the urge to act.
As he suspected, when the subject first obtained the urge to press and stop the dot, the EEG recordings that had been obtained; showed a five hundred millisecond difference between the time the subject thought it and acted in physical accordance. The experiment displayed a subconscious response before physical action, therefore causing strong controversy between the dilemma of whether free will is truly free or just an illusion guided by many functions at work within the brain. It is in the moment of reaction VS subconscious proponents before the action that has split the religious debate of a soul with the neuroscience of freewill and it's current standard of understandability.
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