Someone contacted me through Quora recently because they were having an existential crisis — it was stimulated by the ostensibly scientific notion that humans do not have free well.
Any theory that insists that we do not actually make choices is going to causes distress among many people who valorize academic thinking. Many hard-nosed metaphysicians simply don’t care about the mental well-being of the general public. I find this attitude simultaneously patronizing and irresponsible.
The frequently heard suggestion that humans beings could be better off not believing in free will seems to miss a crucial aspect of the topic. If free will doesn’t exist in some form, then conscious experience is a kind of elaborate prank: a scripted show designed to fool you into thinking audience participation is involved. Everything we do is then a brute consequence of events outside ourselves, which in turn are traced back to the big bang and/or random fluctuations. Despite all evidence to the contrary, in a universe without free will humans seem to cause nothing.
You can of course argue that the unpleasantness of an idea is not evidence against it. This is true, but it still strikes me that there is something inaccurate about a metaphysical view that does not distinguish between the lack of freedom of a slave and the lack of freedom of a slavemaster.
Let the missionaries of scientism predict the motion of an amoeba from first principles before pontificating about human agency.
In any case, rational thought is not a monolith — plenty of physicists, neuroscientists, philosophers and other thinkers see room for free will in their theories and experiments. Given that no one can decide among the various competing theories of agency yet, I see nothing unscientific about drawing attention to the pro free will camp. As far as I am concerned, nothing short of an app that successfully predicts what I am going to do — even when I see the prediction and have time to react — would count as proof that free will doesn’t exist. This would be a constructive proof (despite being destructive of sanity, perhaps).
As a bonus, investigating the possibility of a coherent theory of free will can enrich your intellectual life, regardless of what you believe right now. You will encounter some of the most baffling questions from the frontiers of science and philosophy, such as the nature of causality (not as obvious as you might think), the emergence of life and selfhood (not obvious to anyone), and the question of what exactly the word ‘exist’ really means (barely even asked, even by scientists).
So I freely admit that I may be wrong, but my choice is to believe in free will.