Free Will Exists...in Fruit Flies!
That's right, the philosophical debate of Free Will is no longer a question for old men in white robes, but rather one for white-coat adorned scientists (now, whether it is divine in nature is still up for contention).
Although I have not been entirely sold on the idea that human's posses free will as defined by the former party mentioned above, recent work by German scientists have addressed and proven both non-random and non-deterministic behaviours exist in fruit flies.
"Using a combination of automated behavior recording and sophisticated mathematical analyses, the international team of researchers showed for the first time that such variability cannot be due to simple random events but is generated spontaneously and non-randomly by the brain...
..The researchers tethered fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) in completely uniform white surroundings and recorded their turning behavior. In this setup, the flies do not receive any visual cues from the environment and since they are fixed in space, their turning attempts have no effect. Thus lacking any input, their behavior should resemble random noise, similar to a radio tuned between stations
Their results were anything but random noise. Rather, they discovered what is referred to as an "unstable nonlinearity"
“This signature indicates that there is a function in the fly brain which evolved to generate spontaneous variations in the behavior” Sugihara [a co-author] said. “This function appears to be common to many other animals and could form the biological foundation for what we experience as free will”...
...Unstable nonlinear systems are known from many other natural systems and display a high sensitivity to small perturbations. These sensitive systems provide an evolutionary advantage to animals that possess them not only because they help animals forage, but also for a number of other reasons. For instance, they can lead to unpredictable escape maneuvers when avoiding a predator or to unpredictable moves which confer advantages in almost any competitive social setting (think politics or chess)...
.."This nonlinear signature eliminates the two alternative explanations of spontaneous turning behavior in flies that would run counter to free will, namely complete randomness and pure determinism. These represent opposite and extreme endpoints in discussions of brain functioning which mirror the free will debate.", says Sugihar
Using the published genome of the fruit fly, the researchers hope to isolate the genes regulating the neural circuitry of the fly's unstable non-linear behaviour. Once identified, these genes could be sought after in other published genomes, including humans.
So, next time you're walking down the street and randomly decide to take a left instead of a right, remember how much you and your fruit fly cousins might have in common.