Indeterminism in Neurobiology: Some Good and Some Bad News

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Weber, Marcel
conference paper description
I examine some philosophical arguments as well as current empirical research in molecular neurobiology in order to throw some new light on the question of whether neurological processes are deterministic or indeterministic. I begin by showing that the idea of an autonomous biological indeterminism violates the principle of the supervenience of biological properties on physical properties. If supervenience is accepted, quantum mechanics is the only hope for the neuro-indeterminist. But this would require that indeterministic quantum-mechanical effects play a role in the functioning of the nervous system. I examine several candidates of molecular processes where this could, in theory, be the case. It turns out that there is good news from recent work on ion channels. Unfortunately (for the indeterminist), this good news is neutralised at once by bad news.