Let’s roll back the age-old debate on whether we have free will and start again, this time knowing we evolved.
First, we have to believe we’ve conscious free will. When we’re asked to make a considered choice or decision we become aware we’re free to choose between options that appear in consciousness. If we reject all such options as if we had no free will we can’t give a considered answer. And if we want a considered response from someone else most of us want that person to arrive at it through conscious mental operations. If they say, “That isn’t my conscious response, just a knee-jerk reaction,” we may say, “No, I want your considered opinion”—we assume they can manage the conscious mental operations of coming up with options, weighing those options, arriving at a conclusion, and expressing that conclusion in words. All philosophizing aside, the simple truth is we can’t function together without assuming we all have free will. Believing we don’t isn’t a practical option.
It’s also obvious that evolution is capable of “dealing in” the kind of intelligence, consciousness, creativity and free will we as a species possess. Non-living matter doesn’t display those capabilities. And merely being alive can’t account for them; other living creatures don’t seem to have them to the degree we do. The platform required for the exercise of those capabilities took hundreds of millions of years to develop. They evolved. Evolution can “deal in” conscious mental operations.
The best grounds for discussing free will therefore lie not in logic, nor in material science, but in figuring out what it means that evolution can "deal in" mental operations.
Why are our conscious mental capabilities so little dealt with in thinking about evolution? Does Positivism still proscribe reference to volition of any kind? If so, our evolutionary theories will remain divorced from common sense.