Jerry CoyneJerry Coyne is an evolutionary biologist and professor emeritus at University of Chicago. He is a fierce defender of Darwinian evolution as more than just a "theory," rather it is science that is supported by evidence as solid as most theories in the harder sciences like physics. His book Why Evolution Is True and a website of the same name contain strong examples of that evidence as well as a vigorous polemic against religious creationism and the pseudoscience of intelligent design. Coyne is a hard determinist, a naturalist, and a materialist. He is a proud atheist holding a position close to scientists Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, and philosopher Daniel Dennett. He became a believer in determinism after reading a paper by plant biologist Anthony Cashmore, who argues that human beings can be reduced to a "bag of chemicals." . Coyne takes a strong stand against free will and has attacked the information philosophy model of a two-staged free will. William James was the first thinker to propose a two-stage model. James' first stage involves chance that generates alternative possibilities for action.
His second stage is an adequately determined choice by the will. First "free," then "will." James saw free will as the mental analog of the two stages of biological evolution, the "combination of randomness and lawfulness" that Coyne espouses.
Evolution by selection, then, is a combination of randomness and lawfujness. There is first a “random” (or "indifferent”) process—the occurrence of mutations that generate an array of genetic variants, both good and bad (in the mouse example, a variety of new coat colors); and then a “lawful” process— natural selection—that orders this variation, keeping the good and winnowing the bad (on the dunes, light-color genes increase at the expense of dark-color ones). This brings up what is surely the most widespread misunderstanding about Darwinism: the idea that, in evolution, “everything happens by chance” (also stated as “everything happens by accident”). This common claim is flatly wrong. No evolutionist—and certainly not Darwin—ever argued that natural selection is based on chance. Quite the opposite. Could a completely random process alone make the hammering woodpecker, the tricky bee orchid, or the camouflaged katydids and beach mice? Of course not. If suddenly evolution was forced to depend on random mutations alone, species would quickly degenerate and go extinct. Chance alone cannot explain the marvelous fit between individuals and their environment. And it doesn’t. True, the raw materials for evolution—the variations between individuals—are indeed produced by chance mutations. These mutations occur willy-nilly, regardless of whether they are good or bad for the individual. But it is the filtering of that variation by natural selection that produces adaptations, and natural selection is manifestly not random. It is a powerful molding force, accumulating genes that have a greater chance of being passed on than others, and in so doing making individuals ever better able to cope with their environment. It is, then, the unique combination of mutation and selection—chance and lawfulness—that tells us how organisms become adapted. Richard Dawkins provided the most concise definition of natural selection: it is “the non-random survival of random variants.”As a hard determinist, Coyne should deny the existence of ontological chance. And he speaks softly of chance as the source of genetic mutations, the variations that drive the process of adaptation. The "free" part of free will can be as random as quantum chance. The "will" part is non-random, because the brain structures involved are large and average over large numbers of quantum events. Choices are adequately determined, but not pre-determined as some materialists believe. Pre-determination is an idea more congenial to intelligent design. Coyne attacked the information philosopher's two-stage model in this post on "WEIT." Normal | Teacher | Scholar