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Forum: Free Will - Daniel B. Miller

Dan Miller will discuss the conundrum of free will versus determinism, with a focus on opposing viewpoints put forward by two of our country’s most distinguished freethinkers, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris.

In Elbow Room and Freedom Evolves, Dennett (author of Breaking The Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon) outlines his vision of “the kind of free will worth having,” and puts forward a compelling case that we do indeed possess this specific kind of freedom.

In “Free Will”, Sam Harris presents a contrasting view, arguing that free will is fundamentally an illusion. He makes his case in a spirit similar to his argument against religion in his most famous work, The End Of Faith.

So — is free will just another ghostly goblin of magical thinking?  Or is it something we can define and observe critically, and put on a sound, logical, scientific basis?  This question may be of more than rhetorical value to academics and armchair philosophers. The notion of free will, and the contrary opinion that it is but a phantom illusion, have both been used (and continue to be used today) to make fundamental arguments about ethics, personal responsibility, social justice and many important issues. How we define and explain (or explain away) free will can have a profound effect on our world view, politics, and the way we perceive and value the world around us.

Dan Miller of Palo Alto has been part of our Humanist Community for several years. He has been a musician, computer programmer, and entrepreneur.  More on his background, including published papers and related work, can be found at

After the Forum, please join us for a buffet lunch at 12:15pm.  The lunch is complimentary for first-time visitors and students.


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  • Andrea D.

    It was a fascinating subject discussed by a brilliant man who had done some deep inquiry. The information presented brought up some personal experiences that caused some queries for me regarding free will. I would like to hear this speaker pursue more on free will, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

    December 8, 2013

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