Everything in the universe has some degree of free will. Even quantum particles. An elemental particle “decides” which way to spin. A cosmic ray decides when to decay. Not consciously, but choose they do. A new paper co-authored by mathematician John Conway, inventor of a cellular automata demonstration known as the Game of Life, argues that you can’t explain the spin or decay of particles by randomness, nor are they determined, so free will is the only option left.
The Strong Free Will Theorem (PDF) is a technical paper, but they insert a few passages in English:
It asserts, roughly, that if indeed we humans have free will, then elementary particles already have their own small share of this valuable commodity. More precisely, if the experimenter can freely choose the directions in which to orient his apparatus in a certain measurement, then the particle’s response (to be pedantic—the universe’s response near the particle) is not determined by the entire previous history of the universe.
Some readers may object to our use of the term “free will” to describe the indeterminism of particle responses. Our provocative ascription of free will to elementary particles is deliberate, since our theorem asserts that if experimenters have a certain freedom, then particles have exactly the same kind of freedom. Indeed, it is natural to suppose that this latter freedom is the ultimate explanation of our own.