Art Woods, Marty Martin
How do living things exert agency in a world of strict physical and chemical laws? Do humans have free will?
In this episode, we talk with Kevin Mitchell, an Associate Professor of Genetics and Neuroscience at Trinity College Dublin. The question of free will has been debated for decades by thinkers in physics, philosophy, psychology, and, more recently, biology. In his new book, Free Agents: How Evolution Gave Us Free Will, Kevin argues that agency is a fundamental characteristic of living systems and is essential for survival. In the episode, we discuss how agency emerges despite constraints imposed by basic physical and chemical principles, and how agency confers on organisms the power to shape both themselves and their environments. We also discuss practical approaches to studying agency by leveraging new technologies and by seeing through underlying assumptions and traditional reductionism.
Cover photo: Keating Shahmehri
Length of Episode
1 hour, 11 minutes, 33 seconds
Digital File Format
Woods, Art and Martin, Marty, "Episode 109: Nothing in biology makes sense except through time (with Kevin Mitchell)" (2023). BigBiology Podcasts. 112.