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Is Science Compatible with Free Will?

by Antoine Suarez Peter Adams

Anyone who claims the right 'to choose how to live their life' excludes any purely deterministic description of their brain in terms of genes, chemicals or environmental influences. For example, when an author of a text expresses his thoughts, he assumes that, in typing the text, he governs the firing of the neurons in his brain and the movement of his fingers through the exercise of his own free will: what he writes is not completely pre-determined at the beginning of the universe. Yet in the field of neuroscience today, determinism dominates. There is a conflict between the daily life conviction that a human being has free will, and deterministic neuroscience. When faced with this conflict two alternative positions are possible: Either human freedom is an illusion, or deterministic neuroscience is not the last word on the brain and will eventually be superseded by a neuroscience that admits processes not completely determined by the past. This book investigates whether it is possible to have a science in which there is room for human freedom. The book generally concludes that the world and the brain are governed to some extent by non-material agencies, and limited consciousness does not abolish free will and responsibility. The authors present perspectives coming from different disciplines (Neuroscience, Quantumphysics and Philosophy) and range from those focusing on the scientific background, to those highlighting rather more a philosophical analysis. However, all chapters share a common characteristic: they take current scientific observations and data as a basis from which to draw philosophical implications. It is these features that make this volume unique, an exceptional interdisciplinary approach combining scientific strength and philosophical profundity. We are convinced that it will strongly stimulate the debate and contribute to new insights in the mind-brain relationship.

Politics, Faith, And The Making Of American Judaism

by Peter Adams

In 1862, in the only instance of a Jewish expulsion in America, General Ulysses S. Grant banished Jewish citizens from the region under his military command. Although the order was quickly revoked by President Lincoln, it represented growing anti-Semitism in America. Convinced that assimilation was their best defense, Jews sought to Americanize by shedding distinctive dress, occupations, and religious rituals. American Jews recognized the benefit and urgency of bridging the divide between Reform and Orthodox Judaism to create a stronger alliance to face the challenges ahead. With Grant's 1868 presidential campaign, they also realized they could no longer remain aloof from partisan politics. As they became a growing influence in American politics, both political parties courted the new Jewish vote. Once in office, Grant took notice of the persecution of Jews in Romania and Russia, and he appointed more Jews to office than any president before him. Indeed, Simon Wolf, a Washington lawyer who became one of Grant's closest advisers, was part of a new generation of Jewish leaders to emerge in the post-Civil War era--thoroughly Americanized, politically mature, and committed to the modernized Judaism of the Reform movement. In Politics, Faith, and the Making of American Judaism, Peter Adams recounts the history of the American Jewish Community's assimilation efforts, organization, and political mobilization in the late 19th century, as political and cultural imperatives crafted a new, American brand of Judaism.

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