Belief in chicken gravy necessary to life?

In the process of tsk-tsking the practitioners of “quantum mysticism” Dennis Overbye regurgitates an even more pervasive cliché:

“Take free will. Everything I know about physics and neuroscience tells me it’s a myth. But I need that illusion to get out of bed in the morning. Of all the durable and necessary creations of atoms, the evolution of the illusion of the self and of free will are perhaps the most miraculous. That belief is necessary to my survival.”

I think the question is worth asking: does anyone actually think this way? I’m not just asking rhetorically, because after all I don’t know. The only person I can speak for is myself. But I would venture to say that not a single day of my life have I ever woken up and thought: “Shit, if I don’t have free will I have no reason to get up!” Free will does not really yield to that kind of mental debate, since the only way it makes the slightest bit of difference is if you actually do have it. So in other words even to ask the question as a practical matter is to already presuppose the answer. Personally I don’t have any belief in free will the way most people do, but I don’t think the alternative is determinism either. I don’t think either one really makes sense. It seems to me more likely that our bodies are a series of interconnected physical systems of which the whole mental world of thoughts and perceptions are a side-product. When I am sick I tend to feel depressed, when healthy I generally have a contented outlook on the world. Maybe it makes people feel like ideas are more significant when they attribute these big unsubstantiated material consequences to them. In any case, I have heard far too many people take for granted that various widely but by no means universally held beliefs like God, free will, etc. are somehow intrinsic and necessary to life. Well, there are plenty of ontological agnostics out there, and they seem to manage to carry on.

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