Google was really no help in finding the exact quote, but everyone in the animal behavior field has heard some version of the Harvard Rule of Animal Behaviour:
“You can have the most beautifully designed experiment with the most carefully controlled variables, and the animal will do what it damn well pleases.”
Anyone here knows who actually said that and what were the exact words?
Anyway, one way to re-word the “whatever they damned please” is to call it “free will”. BjĂ¶rn Brembs says so but apparently not everyone agrees. The discussion in the media and on blogs is just about to start because Bjorn’s paper about spontaneous behavior in Drosophila just came out today (after quite a long wait). You can read the summary by Bjorn, but I also suggest you try to read the actual paper. If seemingly spontaneous behavior can be described by mathematical formulas, even if it is chaotic dynamics, is it then, really, quite deterministic? If so (or if not) can it be called “free will”? If not, is there a better term for it?
Keep an eye on the discussion on Bjorn’s blog as well as the discussion attached to the PLoS-ONE paper itself and, if you have read and understood the paper, please contribute to the discussion. This is bound to get very interesting over the next several days.