"Well, even if free will did not exist, (which I'll get to in a moment) it would not excuse harmful actions. A potential punishment is yet another factor of deterrent in the mind of a potential criminal, and possibly the strongest one in many peoples' minds."
You contradict yourself by saying that by punishing criminals, it gives then a deterence, but yet a deterence is what tells criminals that if they do something wrong, they will be punished, but what you are forgetting is that that itself is a choice the crimnal must face. The criminal can either not risk getting punished, or risk getting punished. A deterent will not automatically "trigger a switch in the brain because obviously it hasn't worked. Another example of free-will, I can go and kill one og your family memebers right now, and if I do, will you think it's ok because after all, I was only doing what my brain was forcing me to do. I had no choice right? WRONG!! I can, or cannot go and kill one of your family memembers, but I always have a choice to do it or not.
"Yes, free will is believed in around the world, and quite naturally, since it feels like it exists. And it does. But let me explain my suspicion a little better.
If you give the brain any input, say, as a simple example, the sensation of pain, you can trace the impulse from the source, to the cerebrum, you can trace the exact number of muscles the brain will stimulate, you can predict the volume of your shout, etc. Look at it this way. Every neuron in the brain has a certain threshold stimulus that it must attain to fire. If the stimulus is below that threshold, nothing happens. If it's above that threshold, the neuron fires. Our entire nervous system is structured like this. Stimulus-response. Stimulus-response. The firing of whatever neuron in whatever situation is predictable given enough information. Where is the room for free will? To me it seems more like" circuitry."
You seem to be describing Instict's, which are different than actual thoughts, or reasoning. If you put your hand on a hot pan, your Instict reaction is to move your hand away from it, but you still have a choice to put it back and touch it again, or think about what happened and maybe not risk the burn and therefore not touch it again(the ability to reason).
Here's another example, Have you seen the show jackass on MTV? Those jackasses are great examples of free-will. They know they can get hurt, they don't "Have" to do it. But yet they do it. Or are you saying there brain is circuited so they'll put their body at harm? By they way, if you say that people who knowinly put their body of risk to danger is already set in their brain and have no choice about putting their life at risk, you are also contradicting the Theory of evolution, since according to the Theory of evolution, the body is constanly fighting for survival (survival of the fittest), so it cannot be putting it self in danger, and at the same time trying to survive.
Even very good educated athiests believe in free-will.
Do you think your brain and alexander's are not able to learn and is already set to follow one path throughout life, and that everyone's life is predictable? If the brain only follows what the trigger caused the individual to do, why then isn't the government stoping criminals from commiting crimes?
You see, a little more education in philosophy, and you'll understand that there is not such thing as one direction. There are always choices and the individual has the ability to reason on which choice to choose. Any philosophy teacher will show you.
I suggest you vivist your community college a visit and enroll in a philosophy class.
You'll thank me.