In a succinct piece last week for the First Things blog, assistant editor John Rose summed up and gently criticized a pair of New York Times articles on the topic. I noticed that the scientists quoted seemed unable to make anything of a process that would be neither deterministic nor random: intelligible, even rational, but not necessitated. Accordingly, mental processes whose outcomes we can't predict with current methods must be one of two things: determined, with some of the necessitating causes opaque to us at present, or simply random. Neither would be free will as classically understood and experienced. The notion that we might choose to act for reasons, functioning as non-necessitating causes that do not stand in a strict identity-relation with neural firings we can observe and map, seems beyond their ken. Indeed such a notion lies outside the scope of what is now understood to be natural science. But what that shows at most is that, if there is such a thing as free will, it isn't scientifically knowable. To get to the conclusion that there is no free will, you need to add the premise that what isn't scientifically knowable does not exist to be known. That premise is known as "scientism."
Of course God can't be known scientifically either. In the final analysis, scientism is a form of atheism, whose real motivations are often something else. As Rose says: "Expect many similar articles in the coming years as new neurological research is published—much of it aimed, as the Times piece is, at exciting atheists into a belief that they’re closing in on a damning piece of evidence against religion." I hope they get bored. They're on a treadmill, really: running a race going nowhere on a machine of their own devising.