3943411823_1358af45d7_oFor my first post I am thrilled to highlight commentary on Free Will from none other than the polarizing, shoot-from-the-hip political and social commentator Rush Limbaugh. On December 19, Rush received a call (transcript here) from a woman named Heather who was discussing the role of mental illness in explaining individual behavior. This was in relation to the recent horrific shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, and she was advocating for a greater attention to mental health issues, in particular to the need for both treatment and medication to be available to those in need.

Rush’s primary response was to disdainfully cite the increasing prevalence of neurological explanations for human behavior. He pointed to the proliferation of discoveries in medical science that suggest that “we really don’t have minds of our own, that we are prisoners of our own brain chemistry.” Under this view, he continues, we “really have no self-control. We have no force of will.” Rush laments that “this notion that there is no free will is a rising way for people to explain away their faults. Science is providing it, and the Democrat[ic] Party is right there advocating it.

Rush’s ultimate point, it seems, it that life is difficult for a variety of people, himself included, and some react more constructively than others. The way we respond to our environment is up to “us,” and our brain chemistry is not “an excuse” for bad behavior.

As someone who’s just delving into how the “free will” discourse is used politically and socially, I’m first and foremost excited that Rush is citing the scientific studies that are illustrating the neurological determinants of behavior. Although Rush doesn’t attempt to refute these studies or tell us what we are other than our brain chemicals, I think it’s safe to say that some belief in a human ‘soul’ or ‘I’ – independent of neurotransmitters – is at root. Also, it seems that Rush seems unwilling to entertain the idea that we can exert self-control and force of will, even if that ultimately is only within the confines of the prison which is our own brain.

Photo credit: lobstar28