A new movie on free will « Why Evolution Is True

The new movie Free Will Documentary—presumably an interim title—won’t be released until next year, but I’m looking forward to it eagerly. And that’s not just because I was interviewed for it, but because it touches on a topic dear to my heart, because the four filmmakers (Mike Walsh, Jeremy Levy, Mitch Joseph, and Edward Tasick) are professionals who had educated themselves deeply about the controversy before they touches a camera, and because I want to hear what the interviewees have to say about it.  I believe I was filmed dilating on the topic for over two hours, and they used one quote from me in the blurb, and give “teaser” videos from other people (see below).

You can read about the film and its mission here. It seems to be an open-minded presentation of all points of view, which is good: it acquaints viewers with the controversy and helps them achieve a point of view. The mission statement:

Amazingly, there’s never been a major documentary dedicated entirely to the free will debate, despite the importance that the concept has to our sense of identity, and the numerous books written on the topic in recent years. “Free will” seems to be a trending subject that everyone now has an opinion on.

That’s where we come in. 

Having studied the subject matter for years we will offer what is perhaps a unique perspective. So we’re gathering the best minds available on every side of the issue—libertarians, determinists, compatibilists, theists and non-theists alike—to offer the best arguments from each side. The mission will be to educate the viewer on all aspects of free will, the arguments, and the evidence, so that they will be able to approach the subject matter with a level of reasoning far beyond a lay person’s understanding. In a sense, we want to change the cultural zeitgeist on its understanding of free will.

Participants include Gregg Caruso, Dan Dennett, Dan Barker, Derek Pereboom, Robert Kane, Massimo Pigliucci, Coleman Hughes, Nitin Ron, and me, as well as voices from the past (Carl Sagan, Albert Einstein) and—something that should be fun—interviews with people in Times Square about whether they believed in free will.

There are some short videos on their site, and I’ll show three: my intellectual opponent Dan “I’m Not Through With You Yet” Dennett, some interviews in Times Square, and a quote from Einstein with a blurb by producer and writer Mitch Joseph.

Here Dan explains why compatibilism is the most popular view of philosophers: some notion of free will is necessary for people “to live civilized lives in close quarters.”

Surprisingly, several of the people interviewed on the street don’t accept free will:

Einstein was right, of course. . .


And the film has an Instagram Page.

I’ll keep you updated as the film’s release approaches. Apparently it’s “feature length”, which means more than an hour. Now I don’t know how much this topic will interest a public weaned on Batman and Mad Max films, as it’s really an intellectual voyage, and how many movies are there like that?  But if any film like that has a chance, this one does. (There seems to have been an Italian movie about the topic two years ago, but I haven’t seen it.) I can’t tell you how impressed I was with the filmmakers’ questions when they interviewed me. They had done months and years of groundwork.

Some self aggrandizement:


h/t: Paul

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