Hard on the heels of my “the common man has a libertarian definition of choose” claim is Paul’s retort that not all common men are libertarians. (link) Paul cites a survey which he mistakenly attributes to Eddy Nahmias, Jason Turner, Steve Morris but was actually conducted by Thomas Nadelhoffer and Adam Feltz as a follow on study to the original survey. (link) The original survey can be found here. Both surveys seem to favor determinism, but only the original study points out it's own shortcomings, openly discusses them and appeals to others to fix them.
The first study states: "we view these results as preliminary, not conclusive, and hence as motivation for further research on folk intuitions about freedom and responsibility and for further consideration of the role such intuitions should play in the free will debate" and "A potential problem more specific to our studies is that the presence of determinism might not have been salient enough in the scenarios... we agree that the more salient determinism is in the scenarios, the more significant the results would be (see Black & Tweedale, 2002)" and "if one is able to find a way to increase the salience of determinism without masking it with a different free-will threat, we welcome the attempt.
Let's look at how this problem plays out in the second study that Paul cites. In Thomas Nadelhoffer and Adam Feltz study 105 participants in three groups answered 'yes' 30 to 52% of the time to the question: do you think that our actions can be free if all of them are entirely determined by our genes, our neuro-physiology, and our upbringing?
How overt is determinism? On the one hand 'determined' is in the question. On the other hand, any contribution to determinism via external forces (i.e. our circumstances) is explicitly ruled out: 'entirely determined by our genes, neuro-physiology and upbringing'. But that's the real fear about determinism: that something outside of us determines what we do. Our genes, neuro-physiology, and upbringing are a significant part of our personality or character or self. So apparently the question assumes self-determination and excludes the treating aspects of determinism.
Now it seems to me that in determinism, given our genes, neuro-physiology, and upbringing external circumstances determine our actions. It's like throwing a ball against a wall. If the wall is at a 90 degree angle, a ball thrown straight at the wall will bounce one way, but if the wall is at some other angle the ball will bounce another way. So the "angle of the wall" (i.e. our genes...) is a contributing factor. But given the wall is 90 degrees, what really determines the outcome is if the ball comes in straight or from some angle. And that's intuitively threatening. But it's not just omitted from the question; the question precludes it.
Perhaps determinists might argue that it really is only stuff internal to us that does the determining and not things external to us. But libertarians would have their retorts as well. In that case, the whole discussion seems to be assumed in favor of determinism in the survey question.
Had the survey question disclosed that our genes, neuro-physiology, and upbringing themselves were predetermined and eternal factors play a major role in determining what we do, the results might have been different. At best, threatening factors were omitted and at worst, the question could be read in a libertarian way (i.e. we self-determine our actions and given the circumstances we could self-determine this or that).
But there's a second problem with the way the question could be read. Let's assume it's read as as determinism. Might people be tempted to answer it, given the assumption determinism is true?
Before this last election, I pushed as hard as I could for McCain, but now that it’s over and my side lost, I support Obama. I used to be a Calvinist. When I first became one, I didn’t stop witnessing or trying to do the right thing, or feel hopeless. Not only did my soteriology change, but all the underlying assumptions changed with it.
That “if” in the survey question is a big “if”. It makes me assume I am on the loosing side of the determinism/LFW debate. Between compatiblism or hard determinism, I would go with compatiblism. So I might have answered yes to the question. If I find out I was wrong about Arminianism, I wouldn’t curse God and die, nor would I eat, drink and be merry; I would become a Calvinist. There’s a huge difference between saying your notion of freedom holds you back from determinism and saying your notion of freedom is so strong you would not modify it even if you knew for a fact you were wrong.
Now I don't envy the task of coming up with a fair and balanced survey - rigging the game would be easy but coming up with reliable results would be hard. But I do think it's fair to discount the results given the wording used.
But leaving that aside, it seems implausible that between 30 and 52% of the population don't use the normal definition of 'choose'. Wouldn't we expect to see their definition in the dictionary? If that many people were OK with some determinist notions, it’s far more likely they use the normal definition of choose and are unaware of the conflict.