Friday, 5 February 2016
The UK psychologist Dr Steven Taylor has written about Reclaiming Human Freedom
According to Steven Taylor:
1. Some psychologists, philosophers and neuroscientists have told us that we don't have free will.
2. Some want to show us that we are powerless and controlled by forces beyond our control.
3. A conspiracy theorist might argue that this is an attempt by the elite to persuade us that we are powerless so that we won't challenge their authority.
4. Scientists and philosophers often tend towards absolutism; they tend to believe in rule by a small elite.
5. Recent research has shown that our brain structure is very flexible, and continually changing.
Practicing certain habits or behaviours brings real physical changes to the part of the brain associated with that activity.
For example, if you decide to learn to play the piano, you will develop more neural connections (and perhaps even more brain cells) in the parts of the brain associated with motor activity and musical ability.
If you meditate regularly for years, you will develop more ‘gray matter’ in the areas associated with attention, concentration and compassion.
So in that sense, rather than being completely controlled by our brains, we have control over them.
6. Research shows that the genetic structures we inherit from our parents don't remain fixed throughout our lives.
Our genetic structures are altered by the life experiences we undergo, so that the genes we pass on to our children will be different to those we inherited.
Studies of twins show that, when twins are exposed to very different environments and life experiences, in their later life they show striking differences in their DNA.
It could be said that we have the capacity to control our genes, rather than them just controlling us.
7. People can develop more self-control and more freedom.
We can begin to control our impulses and desires.
We learn to make more decisions for ourselves, becoming less bound by biological and environmental influences – a process of gaining more free will.
8. In Eastern traditions, spiritual development can be seen as a process of gaining increased freedom too.
Many Eastern spiritual traditions such as Buddhism and Yoga place a great emphasis on self-discipline and self-control – control of one's own behaviour, so that we no longer cause harm to others; control of our desires, so that we no longer lust after physical pleasures; control of our thoughts, so that we can quieten the mind through meditation, and so on.
9. So we all possess a degree of freedom, and freedom is not a static quality.
We all have the capacity to extend the degree of freedom we're bequeathed with, to become less dominated by our genes, our brain chemistry, and the environment or society which we're born into.
How Free Are You? As Free as You Decide to Be .
"Studies have shown that learning or even encountering something new sets off a series of molecular changes in neurons, to produce long-term transformations in the brain."