Note: This post has been superseded by "Free Will Without Dualism".
Free Will is an Illusion?
When it comes to philosophical discussions, what can be said of everything can be said of nothing. It's meaningless and dogmatic to apply such pat answers to dismiss all objections. That's the problem with the claim that free will is an illusion. It's a scientifically unfalsifiable claim.
I'm sure you've encountered the materialist claim that causality predetermines all events -- even our acts and thoughts. Based on this simplistic interpretation of causality, determinists then assert that the experience of choice, and therefore free will, is an illusion. Aside from illustrating that "what can be said of everything can be said of nothing", that argument is also recursive reasoning. It's circular logic that begs the question by paraphrasing it's conclusion as its premise -- "Our acts and thoughts are (i.e. "Everything is") predetermined, therefore our acts and thoughts are (i.e. "everything is") beyond our control."
If you've ever made a plan and executed it, revised a strategy or out-maneuvered an opponent, then you've got empirical evidence of free will. Everybody lives as if they have free will. They work, play, think and plan as if they have free will. That's a LOT of empirical evidence for free will. What's the evidence for the claim that free will is an illusion?
I've become convinced that determinism is a surrogate religion for far too many atheists. It's replete with all the trappings of religion: dogma, denial, fatalism, vehemently closed minds and recursive reasoning.
My biggest question is why people would want to deny their experience, not to mention the empowerment of free will, in favor of a worldview of illusions and fatalism. Maybe it's because, like Christians, they get to keep their Prime Mover and a simple doctrine absolving them of personal responsibility.
N O T E :
My position has evolved since this discussion started. I've since found a way for self determinism to emerge from determinism. You'll find the assertion repeated in later posts to this thread but, for the sake of this topic outline, I'll repeat it here.
Imagination is a causal effect of the human brain. The ability to imagine the future results of cause and effect plays into the mix of other causal effects such as heredity, experience, education, etc., to influence the choices we make. This ability is a temporal advantage over causality that allow us to anticipate and be prepared for causality when it arrives (in the present). By factoring into the causally determined decision-making process, our imagination guides us down the causal paths to our goals. This is self determinism. Free will.