Even though free agency is an attribute of consciousness, there is experimental evidence indicating that every conscious decision and act is preceded by an unconscious process. Benjamin Libet, of the University of California at San Francisco, has demonstrated that there is a specific pattern of electrical activity (readiness potential) in the brain that precedes not only simple voluntary actions such as moving a finger, but also the awareness of the intention to move. He contends that the unconscious mind initiates all voluntary acts by feeding various alternatives to the conscious mind which then selects a course of action. This still leaves room for the expression of free agency, since the conscious mind makes the final decision as to whether an act is performed or not. He indicates that there is approximately a quarter of a second between conscious awareness of an impending action and its actual occurrence, which is time enough to either permit or cancel the intention.64
Sir John Eccles, a Nobel prize-winning psychobiologist, believes however that the readiness potential in the brain is rather the consequence of a voluntary command or act of will. The gradual build-up of the readiness potential is widespread and not localized to any one part of the brain.65
The Nobel prize-winning neurophysiologist Roger Sperry has also concluded that mind or consciousness controls all brain processes. Brain cells obey a higher command involving feelings, wants, choices, reasoning, and moral values.66
All of one's choices, both conscious and unconscious, are influenced by the sum total interaction of all forces in operation, both physical and mental. These forces would include physical or biological drives, such as the need for food, shelter, sex, etc., as well as the higher needs of love, acceptance, the seeking of pleasure and the satisfying of all emotional needs, and the avoidance of pain. Other forces which influence our behavior would include the four or more physical forces. Any individual composite behavior is continuously being influenced by any and all forces operating in nature.
As stated before, most all animal behavior and much of human behavior is the result of unconscious brain processes requiring no thought or act of will. Behavior reflects the constant interaction of emotions, drives, instincts, needs and other processes.
Most behavioral traits are instinctual and require no conscious effort on the part of the organism. These behavioral traits are genetically programmed and passed from one generation to the next. Less complex organisms will display more instinctive behavior and more complex organisms will display proportionately more behavior that is the result of consciously active thought processes. Even though humans are less robot-like than more simple life forms, we still have many wired-in behaviors. The difference is primarily in ratio only.67
Some behavioral traits can be chemically transmitted from one animal to another. For example, James McConnell found that he could train a planarian flatworm to respond to a flashing light, causing it to contract its body. If he then ground trained planarians into pablum which could be fed to other untrained planarians, the organisms would display the same type of body contracting behavior as the previously conditioned planarians, outperforming the control group. Although the results of this experiment were initially met with considerable skepticism, there have since been many similar studies performed on rats. Well over one hundred experiments have been reported in the literature claiming positive success in the biochemical transfer of behavior from one organism to another.68
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