Worldviews

8 Major Worldviews (Part 1)

By: Brian Chilton

Before the website transferred from pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com to bellatorchristi.com, I had written an article on the major worldviews across the globe. I presented six major worldviews at the time. While I still think the previous article treated the most major of worldviews, I have come to realize after reading Douglas Groothius’ book, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, that other major worldviews exist that should be discussed and incorporated into the list.[1] So, let’s revisit the major worldviews in this article. The goal of the article will be to notify the reader of each belief and will show how Christian theism triumphs. In addition, the Christian apologist will need to understand the starting points that must be taken with each worldview.

Worldviews

  1. Atheism/Naturalism: Rejection of God’s Existence, Only the Physical World Exists.

The term “atheist” is taken from the Greek term “a” meaning “no” and “theos” meaning “God.” Placed together, the term means “no God.” The atheist, therefore, is one who does not believe in the existence of God. Atheists are often termed “naturalists” as they only accept the existence of the natural/physical world, thereby rejecting the existence of things like God, spirits, the human soul, angels, and demons. Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss are good examples of atheism.

Atheism holds a problem as it pertains to the immaterial world. Naturalism cannot explain the existence of human consciousness. Even if the consciousness could be shown to derive from material means, naturalism (or materialism) faces a great problem as the human consciousness is a non-material thing. A scanner can see brainwaves, but not mental thoughts and the like. Naturalism holds two additional problems. On the one hand, naturalism cannot answer why anything exists. It has been mathematically demonstrated by the theorem of Borg, Vilenkin, and Guth (i.e., the BVG Theorem) that there cannot be an infinite regress of material worlds. Every material world must have a beginning point. On the other hand, naturalism fails to account for the mounting evidence of near death experiences.[2] Atheism and naturalism hold great problems serving as a cohesive worldview. The Christian apologist will need to demonstrate the reasonability of God’s existence and the means by which naturalism fails.

  1. Agnosticism: God’s Existence is Unknowable.

Agnosticism comes from two terms: “a” the Greek term meaning “no” and “gnosis” the Greek term meaning “knowledge.” The agnostic does not necessarily reject belief in God. The agnostic claims no knowledge on the issue. There are at least two forms of agnosticism. Atheistic agnostics incline to reject belief in God, but are open to the possibility of God’s existence. The atheistic agnostic claims that it is impossible to know whether God exists or not. Bart Ehrman and Neil deGrasse Tyson are examples of atheistic agnostics.

Theistic agnostics are individuals who are inclined to believe in God’s existence. However, they are doubtful whether individuals can know anything about God. The theistic agnostic may either reject divine revelation altogether and claim that no religion is correct, or the theistic agnostic may reject exclusive revelation and will claim that all religions are correct. When I stumbled into my time of personal doubt, I became more of the theistic agnostic (one who claimed to be spiritual but not religious). The Ba’hai religion and Morgan Freeman may be considered examples of theistic agnosticism.

The trouble with agnosticism is with divine revelation. If God can truly be shown to exist, then atheistic agnosticism begins to wane. If one can demonstrate that God has revealed himself to humanity (particularly through Jesus of Nazareth), then theistic agnosticism begins to fade. The Christian apologist will need to understand, first, that agnosticism can cover a wide variety of flavors. Second, the Christian apologist will need to describe the evidence for Jesus of Nazareth’s life, miracles, and resurrection.

  1. Pantheism: The Force is With You.

Pantheism comes from two Greek terms: “pan” meaning “all” and “theos” meaning “God.” Pantheism may look quite a bit like panentheism and even theistic agnosticism. However, generally speaking, pantheism is the belief that God is an impersonal force. Buddhism is the greatest example of pantheism. The Star Wars idea of the “force” is another example of pantheism. Buddhists claim to be agnostic concerning God’s existence. Yet, the Buddhist believes in impersonal forces (i.e., the force behind reincarnation). The goal of such a worldview is to become nothing. In fact, the Buddhist concept of Nirvana means that one has become so enlightened that he or she escapes the wheel of reincarnation and becomes nothing.

The trouble with pantheism is diverse. On the one hand, the pantheist will speak of such forces in such a way that intelligence is necessary. For example, why is there a wheel of reincarnation? Why is it that good behavior elevates one to a higher level and vice versa? On the other hand, pantheists have great trouble in explaining why anything exists at all. Much more could be said on this issue as it pertains to the trouble of pantheism. The Christian apologist will need to describe the internal inconsistencies of pantheism as a starting point as well as note the personal nature of the divine.

  1. Panentheism: Everything is God.

Panentheism comes from three Greek terms: “pan” meaning “all,” “en” meaning “in,” and “theos” meaning “God.” Therefore, panentheism is literally defined as “all in God.” Panentheists hold that God penetrates everything. While the Christian may initially be inclined to agree, one must understand that panentheists believe that everything is God. Thus, the panentheist would agree that Jesus of Nazareth is God. But, the panentheist would also agree that you are God, he is God, everyone is God, and even your kitchen sink is God. The panentheist does not distinguish between the personal God and the physical creation. Hinduism is the greatest example of panentheism.

Panentheism, however, holds issues as it pertains to the world. If the world is God, then why is there so much evil? God is certainly good. So, if everyone is God, then wouldn’t everything be perfect? To accept such a claim, one must have a flawed idea of God’s nature. With the panentheist, the Christian apologist will need to begin by teaching the distinction between the personal divine being of God and the physical, material creation that is the world.

We have investigated the first four of the eight major worldviews. In our next article, we will describe the final four: polytheism, dualism, deism, and monotheism/theism.

Notes

[1] See Douglas Groothius, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2011), 50.

[2] Here, I do not mean heavenly or hellish experiences. I am addressing the scientific verification of such events in this world. For instance, if one were to see something that could not have been otherwise seen after one’s death, then this would serve as a verification of the soul’s survival past death. Soul survival discredits naturalism.

© 2017. Bellator Christi.


Resources for Greater Impact

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Get the first chapter of "Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case" in PDF.

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79 replies
  1. Paul Raflik says:

    I once had a conversation with an Agnostic who told me that Christianity was ridiculous B.S. and that he believed that the existence of GOD cannot be known. I retorted that Agnosticism was intellectual puke that continually, repeatedly, vomits all over itself.

    I went on to explain that if we cannot know if GOD exists then we cannot know anything of GOD’s nature. However, if you know that the existence of GOD cannot be known, then that means, THAT YOU KNOW it is in HIS NATURE not to reveal HIMSELF to his creation. So an Agnostic must know and must not know, GOD’s nature all at the same time. Agnosticism is self defeating.

    To which the Agnostic responded with….. deafening silence.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      The agnostic didn’t bother answering when you used the phrase ‘intellectually puke that continually, repeatedly vomits all over itself’? What a surprise. By the way, you don’t say whether the guy was an agnostic theist or an agnostic atheist. You told us what the man thought it was possible to know, but not what he believed.

      “However, if you know that the existence of GOD cannot be known, then that means, THAT YOU KNOW it is in HIS NATURE not to reveal HIMSELF to his creation”

      Agnosticism is the view that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist. It’s not making any claims about God’s nature.

      Reply
      • Paul Raflik says:

        Yes, I was a little surprised too that he didn’t defend his agnosticism too. I would say he is not completely an agnostic theist but learns much more in that direction.

        There are three possible ways to come to know if GOD exists; inductive reasoning, deductive reasoning and revelation. You mention that “human reason is incapable…to justify…GOD”, I assume that then excludes both deductive and inductive reasoning. What of revelation then? Does the agnostic hold that man can come to know God through revelation or does the agnostic hold that man cannot come to know God through revelation?

        Reply
        • Andy Ryan says:

          You’d have to ask an agnostic that question, but perhaps try to have a genuine dialogue with them and not go on about vomit – you might actually learn something.

          Reply
          • Paul Raflik says:

            I do appreciate that you appear to want to raise the level of discourse on the Internet by advising me to lessen my rhetoric. I say this as a Christian that is often attacked by non-theists for my views and choose to almost exclusively take the high-road and lead by example. I must give you an ‘F’ on your attempt to improve decorum though. Sarcasm and snobbery are counterproductive to that end.

            In this case the ‘vomit’ rhetoric was useful for the ends I was trying to achieve and was tactical. This was not a case of Internet rage.

            I’m always open to learning new things but the point of the question was to instruct not gain knowledge and it didn’t matter how the question was answered. There are three possible answers, #1 Revelation is possible, #2 Revelation is impossible, #3 Agnostics do not know. All three answers invalidate Agnosticism.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            Hi Paul, since I wasn’t at all snobbish in my response to you, I’ll figure you probably replied to me accidentally and meant to address someone else. I’m glad your ‘vomit’ tactic worked for you – I guess learning more about the other guy’s position was not among the outcomes you were trying to achieve.

    • Kyle says:

      Your response sounds an awful lot like the argument that to deny your god’s existence is to admit there is something worth denying in the first place thereby admitting your god’s existence. That is the self defeating argument.

      Reply
      • Paul Raflik says:

        Actually I don’t think it sounds like that at all. Perhaps you would like to comment on an argument that I did make, rather than commenting on an argument I am not making. I am no fan of the straw-man.

        Reply
        • Kyle says:

          “So an Agnostic must know and must not know, GOD’s nature all at the same time.”

          Could you expound on this and why you feel it is true?

          Reply
          • Paul Raflik says:

            To clarify, I’m not saying that Agnostics claim to know nothing of GOD’s nature or that they know all of GOD’s nature. I’m saying that they claim to both know and not know an aspect of GOD’s nature.

            For example, I propose there exists a creature with the body of a horse and a single horn, known as the unicorn. When you tell me that you don’t know if the unicorn exists and that it has four legs, that is a reasonable statement. When you tell me that you don’t know if the unicorn exists and that it has a pink coat, then that is an unreasonable statement. It is not possible to know the color of the unicorn’s coat and not know that the unicorn exists.

            To tie into your previous comment, I am not insisting that the unicorn is real because you are insisting it doesn’t exist. I am insisting the unicorn is real because you are insisting that it’s pink.

            Agnostics claim that it is impossible to know that the all-powerful, creator, GOD exists. Since it is a given that GOD is able to reveal Himself to His existence if he so chooses (all-powerful), in order for the claim to be true, then GOD must be purposely hiding his existence. You therefore claim to know this aspect of GOD’s nature; HE hides. At the same time, Agnostics claim to not know GOD exists and therefore are claiming to not to know this aspect of his nature.

            Agnostics claim to both know and not know GOD’s nature.

          • Kyle says:

            I still don’t follow. Because your god is supposedly all powerful and can play hide and seek, anyone claiming to not know whether such a thing could exist is staking a self defeating claim?

          • Paul Raflik says:

            This is the agnostic self defeating claim.

            Agnostic Claim: I know for fact that GOD is playing hide and seek with us right now and I don’t know if GOD exists or not.

          • Kyle says:

            It seems more like you are trying to play semantics with their words. At best the agnostics I’ve talked to never claim that some god is definitely playing hide and seek. They claim that they currently do not know whether or not some god exists, however if one did they would surely be playing hide and seek at this point given that they have not revealed themselves. There is a huge conditional in there I feel that you have ignored when talking to agnostics. Either that or they have misworded their arguments.

          • Paul Raflik says:

            I have no issue with “Weak Agnostics”, to claim I do not know if GOD exists.

            The issue I have is with “Strong Agnostics”, it is impossible to know if GOD exists or not.

            Or as titled in the article, 2. Agnosticism: God’s Existence is Unknowable.

  2. Luke says:

    Paul Raflik wrote:” I retorted that Agnosticism was intellectual puke that continually, repeatedly, vomits all over itself.”

    Lovely.

    Reply
  3. Ed Vaessen says:

    “Atheism holds a problem as it pertains to the immaterial world. Naturalism cannot explain the existence of human consciousness. Even if the consciousness could be shown to derive from material means, naturalism (or materialism) faces a great problem as the human consciousness is a non-material thing. A scanner can see brainwaves, but not mental thoughts and the like. Naturalism holds two additional problems. On the one hand, naturalism cannot answer why anything exists. It has been mathematically demonstrated by the theorem of Borg, Vilenkin, and Guth (i.e., the BVG Theorem) that there cannot be an infinite regress of material worlds. Every material world must have a beginning point. On the other hand, naturalism fails to account for the mounting evidence of near death experiences.[2] Atheism and naturalism hold great problems serving as a cohesive worldview. The Christian apologist will need to demonstrate the reasonability of God’s existence and the means by which naturalism fails.”

    When you read this, you are stricken by the amount of ignorance that the writer must assume to be present in the reader. The level comes close to ‘steel ships cannot float because everyone knows that steel is heavier than water’.
    In one word: obscene.

    Reply
  4. toby says:

    Naturalism cannot explain the existence of human consciousness. Even if the consciousness could be shown to derive from material means, naturalism (or materialism) faces a great problem as the human consciousness is a non-material thing.
    Is there any proof of this or is it just armchair philosophizing? Boy, they love to assert things, but don’t like to back them up (except with more philosophical assertions). Apologists are in love with their ability to think. Arrogant.

    Reply
    • Brian says:

      When you ask “is there any proof of this..?”, to what are you referring? There were two propositional statements.

      What I found most interesting in your response is your mention that “they love to assert things, but don’t like to back them up”. So do you have “proof” that this proposition is true? It seems to me you are simply making an assertion.

      Reply
      • Ed Vaessen says:

        The use of alcohol has influence on people. ‘In vino veritas’ is a famous saying in this respect. It is the acknowledgment that alcohol can overcome your normal social restraints. But how can that be if these restraints are immaterial?

        Reply
        • Kalmaro says:

          The way I understand it. If the immaterial mind, works through your brain, then when you are getting yourself drunk you are prohibiting your mind to be able to control yourself as well as it normally could since it works through your brain.

          It’s not that the mind needs the brain, it’s the other way around.

          Reply
          • toby says:

            Once you admit that minds are so dependent on the material world, then you begin to start tipping the scales in favor of them being part of the material world.

            Imagine a brain grown in a brain growing machine. Let’s even assume that minds are immaterial and this brain has one. This machine doesn’t supply any kind of sensory input to the brain. No touch, taste, sound, smell, or feel. The thing wouldn’t think, because it doesn’t have even the basic tools of imagery or language or . . . anything. Brains are minds and minds are brains. To add another layer of the immaterial on top of that is conceit brought on by your religious indoctrination.

          • Paul Raflik says:

            If mind = brain then thought is really just brain chemistry.
            Chemistry follows natural laws of the universe.
            Thought then follows natural laws of the universe.
            Thought controlled by law cannot produce free-will.
            If mind = brain then free-will cannot exist.
            If free-will cannot exist, morality cannot exist.
            If we are all just chemical experiments running around on this planet then we have no purpose.

            But I know I have free-will.
            But I know there is right and wrong.
            But I know there is a purpose to my existence.
            I cannot accept mind = brain.

          • Kyle says:

            How do you know it isn’t just the chemical experiment in your brain telling you that you “know you have free will” or you “know there is right and wrong”. Like a magician giving you the illusion of picking the card they want you to pick.

          • Paul Raflik says:

            Because I know that I know. It is instinctual and put there by GOD in my opinion. I can’t explain it more than that.

            If you do not know then you accept that you exist in a universe with no morality, no purpose and no free will.

          • toby says:

            If mind = brain then thought is really just brain chemistry.
            Yes. These reactions are myriad and based on myriad inputs. The amount of these reactions are basically incalculable.

            Chemistry follows natural laws of the universe.
            Yep. Once again there are incalculable variations and possibilities.

            Thought then follows natural laws of the universe.
            Sure.

            Thought controlled by law cannot produce free-will.
            You have to prove that the theo-philosophical notion of free-will is nothing more than brain droppings first.

            If mind = brain then free-will cannot exist.
            You’d still have to prove that your notion of free-will is anything that can exist in our reality.

            If free-will cannot exist, morality cannot exist.
            I guess this could be the case if you can prove that free-will as you define it is something that can exist.

            If we are all just chemical experiments running around on this planet then we have no purpose.
            At this point I have to question your idea of purpose. Chemicals can be said to have the purpose of reacting.

            But I know I have free-will.
            Do you? Define free-will as it relates to . . . whatever you believe. Immaterial minds? How do you even begin to say that immaterial anything has any kind of properties and how do you know what they are?

            But I know there is right and wrong.
            You have opinions and prejudices that you label as such.

            But I know there is a purpose to my existence.
            Your opinion says such. Mine says that you’re a grain of sand in my oyster.

            I cannot accept mind = brain.
            Because of indoctrination and acceptance of things with no evidence.

          • Paul Raflik says:

            toby says: “You’d still have to prove that your notion of free-will is anything that can exist in our reality.”

            Is that how it worked with Gravity? Did we have first prove our notion of Gravity can exist in our reality before we accepted Gravity? Or did we just observe Gravity and go from there?

            I don’t need to prove that free-will exists because it has already been proven by scientific, repeatable experimentation, with predicable results. I test my own mind constantly and find that I can always make a free-will decision, even if that decision is not to decide. I test others regularly, proposing to them multiple options and they can regularly choose an option freely. I’ve even tested the free-will theory on a 3 year old person and found that he is very capable of excising his free-will; in many cases more so than in adults, as he seems to be unencumbered by social norms that often dampens adults free-will.

            So I’ve established that free-will exists and I think we both conclude that it cannot be a result of brain chemistry following natural law. I posit the theory that free-will is a property of an immaterial mind. What is your alternate hypothesis?

            If you are going to insist that free-will does not exist then what is your hypothesis as to what is the phenomena that I and billions of others regular experience commonly referred to as free-will? Hawking says free-will is an illusion. Do you agree with Him? If that is the case then why can I not say that Gravity is an illusion?

            If there is no free-will then there is no choice. Something can only be said to be immoral if there was a choice. Something is immoral only of you choose to do wrong. If you do wrong but did not choose to do so, then you simply did what must be. If nothing is immoral then nothing is moral. There is no good then and there is no bad, there is only “what is” and billions of opinions.

            So what can be our purpose in the universe be then? To perpetuate the species? Why is that good? To advance human knowledge? Why is that good? Agent Smith from the Matrix felt that humans should be classified as a virus, we are a disease and a plague that should be eradicated. Can you prove to me that Agent Smith is wrong? The fact is, without a standard of morality we cannot say anything is good. Soon, a comet may strike the earth and end human existence, it is not good, it is not bad, it is just what is. If it doesn’t matter that a comet ends us, then we have no purpose.

          • TGM says:

            Paul, how is what you described as free will distinguishable from the appearance of free will? Until you tell me the difference, the best I can determine is that while it feels like I make free choices, I cannot be certain that I do, given an evident series of causal events that got me to my present reality. And that’s all I’ve seen you describe – that you feel like you are choosing freely. How do you bridge the gap between “it appears that…” and “it is that…?”

            Regarding your entire exposition on morality…
            “…There is no good then and there is no bad, there is only “what is” and billions of opinions…”

            I will ask you here, same as I’ve asked here many times, without answer… SO WHAT? The plaintive wail of ‘apologeticians’ on meaning, purpose, right and wrong without objective standards reads like the cries of toddlers. Why in the world does that matter so much? Is the collective esteem of the flock so low that you must seek value outside of yourself? That you cannot decide what is best/worst or what to care about without another’s opinion?

          • Paul Raflik says:

            TGM: I too will take a pass on answering your “SO WHAT?” question and I am disinclined to answer your other questions as well.

            Be well Sir.

          • TGM says:

            No worries Paul, you’re under no obligation to answer. Be well.

            “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…” 1Peter 3:15 (NIV)

            #cafeteriachristianity

          • Ed Vaessen says:

            TGM:
            “I will ask you here, same as I’ve asked here many times, without answer… SO WHAT? The plaintive wail of ‘apologeticians’ on meaning, purpose, right and wrong without objective standards reads like the cries of toddlers. “

            Wasn’t it Schopenhauer who said that those who really think that supernatural beings take a special interest of us are behaving like big children?

          • Ed Vaessen says:

            Talking about children: whoever sees them little bastards running around the playground, bursting with energy, realizes what the meaning of life is. He who then still is looking for some bigger purpose misses the point completely. There is no bigger purpose than to live this life and contribute to a world where other people can live in happiness. That is what most people do.
            Only a complete idiot promises some bigger thing, tries to trade in our precious life with that silly fantasy that we call the hereafter.

          • TGM says:

            The irony is the most people, including Christians, look at children the same way. They see the future; they remember their own wonder as children in discovery. They work hard to enable their offspring to grow and create a better world. But somehow, the fundies manage to look at these earnest bundles of potential as guilty, depraved souls deserving of eternal torture. Then they fill these minds with self loathing and horror.

            I don’t aim for contempt and condescension, but neither will I graciously suffer the promotion of destructive ideas. Evidently you think similarly.

  5. Ed Vaessen says:

    “Naturalism cannot explain the existence of human consciousness. Even if the consciousness could be shown to derive from material means, naturalism (or materialism) faces a great problem as the human consciousness is a non-material thing.”

    It is to the writer of this to prove that consciousness is non-material.

    Reply
  6. Ed Vaessen says:

    Kalmaro says:

    “He goes on to explain it in the next sentence or so.”

    No, he doesn’t. He only says a scanner sees no thoughts.

    Reply
  7. Ed Vaessen says:

    Kalmaro says:
    “The way I understand it. If the immaterial mind, works through your brain, then when YOU are getting yourself drunk you are prohibiting YOUR MIND mind to be able to control YOURSELF as well as it normally could since it works through your brain.”

    Please give a definition of the words I put in capitals.
    If you can’t, I won’t blame you. Probaly, you are drunk.

    Reply
  8. Ed Vaessen says:

    Pail Raflik:
    “Because I know that I know. It is instinctual and put there by GOD in my opinion. I can’t explain it more than that.
    If you do not know then you accept that you exist in a universe with no morality, no purpose and no free will.”

    Free will indeed does not exist. It is interesting to realize that, but on the other hand it is not that important because we live our life as if free will does exist. That is where morality has its link. We can’t do without carrot and stick because they influence our actions to what we think is a greater benefit for society as a whole. Society always produces morality and that morality is edited from time to time, though some rules are so basic that they are not likely to change ever.
    The purpose also does not exist, but we can invent one for ourselves. A person with a low position in society and without friends may like to think that he/she still performs some necessary role in a Greater Plan. Many people don’t think very much about purpose.

    Reply
    • Paul Raflik says:

      If there is no free-will then I did what had to be done and I had no control in it. It is then neither moral nor immoral, it just is what happened and must have happened.

      You’re almost there Ed. You’ve given up the idea of free-will. You’ve given up the idea that we have a purpose. Just let go of this morality idea then you will fully accept that you live in a universe with no morality, no purpose and no free-will. You are a meat-robot and unimportant to the cosmos.

      Why should we pursue goals that benefit society? Why should we want to perpetuate human existence? Can you prove to me that the universe would not be better without humans?

      Reply
      • Ed Vaessen says:

        Paul Raflik:
        “Why should we pursue goals that benefit society? Why should we want to perpetuate human existence? Can you prove to me that the universe would not be better without humans?”

        Walk around for a day without drinking and you will feel such a desire to quench your thirst that you will drink water or something else. In doing so, you make a very natural step to perpetuate your human existence. And what’s more: it doesn’t need anyone telling you about a higher purpose to take that step.

        Reply
          • Ed Vaessen says:

            Paul Raflik says:
            “Excluding materialism, can you prove free-will does not exist?”

            Let’s give a simple example.
            Suppose a small child is left alone in a room with a cookie jar that is filled with delicious cookies. Very tempting. But mama has clearly stated that he will be in big trouble if he even touches one cookie.
            What will the child do? In it, two forces are fighting each other: the temptation of the cookies against the fear of what ma will do if she finds out he took one.
            The child has no power over these forces. It cannot suddenly start disliking cookies, nor can it suddenly be less impressed by the possible wrath of ma.
            That is what I mean with saying that free-will does not exist. The circumstances are what they are, we are what we are.
            In a fully deterministic universe, long before the child was born, a person with all-knowing power could exactly predict what it would one day do in the room with the cookie jar.

            You may comment on this.

          • Paul Raflik says:

            I could decide in one moment to have chicken for dinner and in the next moment reconsider with nothing in the universe of consequence having changed and decide on beef. Even the choice to reconsider my choice, is not necessarily connected to previous events. This is that state of our being, to decide what to do and what not to do, freely, at anytime, sometimes for a reason, sometimes for no reason at all. You have no evidence to support the claim that free-will is only an illusion.

            The need to reject the obvious evidence going on between your own ears right now, that you can freely think the things you want to think, comes about only because of the need to support the claim you are predisposed to believe, that the universe is deterministic and Godless.

            “Free will indeed does not exist. It is interesting to realize that, but on the other hand it is not that important because we live our life as if free will does exist.”

            If that statement is true, then humans live a fantasy. I might as well choose a fantasy more to my liking.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “Even the choice to reconsider my choice, is not necessarily connected to previous events”

            So what? It could be connected to present stimuli. In other words, something happens, you react to it. Or a thought might occur to you out of the blue. But you have no idea if it wasn’t coming out of your subconscious, which is not really your free will working.

          • Paul Raflik says:

            It could be connected to …., Or a though might…., You have no idea …

            And you have no idea either. It is not possible for you to know how I arrived at a decision. You simply assume such because you are predisposed to assume as such. Your mind was made up on the matter before you even thought about it because your mind was made up about a deterministic universe.

            What I am telling you is that every fiber in my being tells me I have free-will and I cannot ignore it.

            I cannot prove free-will is real and not just an illusion produced by brain chemistry but I think it is real. I also cannot prove Gravity is real and not just an illusion produced by brain chemistry and I also think Gravity is real.

            Bottom line – I cannot prove there is a God and you cannot prove free-will is an illusion.

            I do love the irony though. I think every Atheist I’ve communicated with has told me that they don’t need some God to tell them what’s right, what’s wrong or how to live. Turns out the god called “The Deterministic Universe” has been telling them what to think, when to think it and what not to think, all along.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            You’re the one claiming free will exists so it’s your claim to back up. Your alternative to thoughts being determined is that they appear out of completely nowhere.

          • Paul Raflik says:

            I don’t have to prove free-will exists. I am simply aware of it. Thoughts come from our consciousness which is immaterial.

          • Ed Vaessen says:

            Paul Raflik:
            “I could decide in one moment to have chicken for dinner and in the next moment reconsider with nothing in the universe of consequence having changed and decide on beef. Even the choice to reconsider my choice, is not necessarily connected to previous events. This is that state of our being, to decide what to do and what not to do, freely, at anytime, sometimes for a reason, sometimes for no reason at all. You have no evidence to support the claim that free-will is only an illusion.“

            You could decide to visit a good friend who is very ill and make an appointment with him. Next moment you could reconsider it of course. Because you just found out that the visit interferes with a football match you really would like to see on TV. Would you reconsider and watch the football match, calling off your visit with some smart excuse?
            The answer is likely to be ‘no’. Reason? Feeling of friendship and feeling of responsibility working stronger in you than the desire to see the match. You cannot control the strength of each of these feelings.

            “The need to reject the obvious evidence going on between your own ears right now, that you can freely think the things you want to think, comes about only because of the need to support the claim you are predisposed to believe, that the universe is deterministic and Godless.”

            My reasoning is sound on its own, wether or not I believe in a God or a deterministic universe.

            “ “Free will indeed does not exist. It is interesting to realize that, but on the other hand it is not that important because we live our life as if free will does exist.”
            If that statement is true, then humans live a fantasy.”

            Indeed there is some degree of fantasy in it. But even if all people would realize that real free will does not exist, they would not change the rules of a society drastically. Carrot and stick are still necessary if we don’t want it to explode within a few days.

            “I might as well choose a fantasy more to my liking.”

            You can, if it makes you feel good. In fact, we all have our fantasies and many of them we have without realizing it.

          • KR says:

            I believe it’s possible to show that free will doesn’t exist, since it inevitably leads to logical contradictions. I’ve posted this several times before on this site but since no proponent of free will has actually engaged with my argument, I’ll just try it again. Note that I’m talking about free will in the classical libertarian sense. This is of course the kind of free will that supposedly makes us morally responsible for our actions.

            My argument against the existence of free will is as follows: To qualify as a free will choice, this choice must satisfy both the “free” and “willed” parts of the proposition, i.e. it has to be deliberate and not determined by any external conditions. To satisfy the “willed” part, the choice must have a reason. If the agent making the choice doesn’t know why he’s making it, it clearly cannot be an expression of his will. Furthermore, to satisfy the “free” part of the proposition, the reason for the decision must be under the control of the agent, otherwise the decision is determined and not free.

            Now, if the reason for the choice must be under the control of the agent, this means that this reason must itself be a choice – otherwise the decision is determined and not free. Obviously, this choice also requires a reason which must also be a choice a.s.o., a.s.o. ad infinitum. Evidently, free will leads to an infinite regress of choices based on previous choices. The only way for the agent to get out of this regress with his free will intact is through an action that cannot be a choice (which would just continue the regress) but still has to be under the agent’s control. To put it in other words: the action has to be simultaneously involuntary and voluntary – an obvious logical contradiction.

            It’s easy to test this for yourself. Just think of a choice you’ve made and the reason for making it. Did you choose this reason? If not, the choice wasn’t free. If you did choose the reason, what was the reason for that choice and did you choose that reason? You will quickly reach a point where you either don’t know the reason for your choice or the reason for your choice was not under your control, both of which disqualify it as a free will choice. It seems to me that we either have to give up free will or logic. I’ve made my choice – and I couldn’t have made any other one. 😉

          • KR says:

            Well, I can imagine all kinds of everyday choices like what shirt to buy, what to have for dinner or where to go on vacation. The reason for these choices would be a personal preference and my point is that if we don’t choose what preferences to have (and I don’t see how choosing to have a preference even makes sense) then these choices are not free but determined. They are not controlled by our will.

            In another free will discussion on this site I asked a believer why he chose to believe in God and his answer was that he was presented with a number of philosophical arguments for God’s existence that he found persuasive. I then asked him if he chose to be convinced by these arguments and after some back-and-forth he agreed that he didn’t. Being convinced by an argument is obviously not a matter of choice but of whether the argument makes sense to you or not. Again, this is not controlled by our will.

            These are just examples to support my basic argument, which is that free will is a logically incoherent concept and therefore cannot exist. If someone can point out an error in the argument I outlined above, I will adjust my position. I wouldn’t mind having free will but to believe in it, I’d need to see an example of a choice that was neither determined nor random and so far no-one’s been able to provide one.

          • Paul Raflik says:

            I reject the notions that free-will choice requires reason and that every choice is predicated upon a previous choice and that somehow negates free-will.

            I’ll expound on that if anyone is still reading.

          • toby says:

            Please do. I’d like to see the thinking on that. Because it seems to me that you’re going to walk in to free will being completely random when not dependent on anything else.

          • KR says:

            Paul Raflik wrote: “I reject the notions that free-will choice requires reason and that every choice is predicated upon a previous choice and that somehow negates free-will.”

            I didn’t say a free will choice requires “reason” – it does, however, require “a reason”. If you disagree with this, can you please explain how a choice can be an expression of your will if you don’t know why you made it?

            I also didn’t say that all choices are predicated on previous choices. That was kind of my point: they’re not, which means they are not free but determined. All you need to do to prove me wrong on this is to provide an example of a deliberate choice you made that was not predicated on any external conditions.

          • Paul Raflik says:

            Walking down the street I come across a street hustler offering the 3-card-monty game of chance. The 3 cards already laid out on the table before I arrived. “Pick the queen, even money.”, he says and places a $20 bill on the table. I take the challenge laying a 20 on top of his. I did not see him deal the cards. They are identical from back sides of the cards that I can see. There is no reason that I should choose one card over the other two. So for no reason at all I choose the middle card. My “Will” is simply what I want to do or what I want to have done. I wanted the middle card, I did not need a reason to want it over the other two. My way of showing what I wanted or what I willed was my flipping the card over; that was the expression of my will.

            Furthermore there was no reason for me to “choose” to play 3-card-monty. Probability told me that the odds of my winning were only 1 in 3 and that’s only if the dealer was honest had actually dealt a queen. My choice to play goes against reason. Casinos are full of people who make choices that go against reason. Yes, even when they know the odds.

            Previous choices my have accumulated to bring us where we are today and a decision that is present. While my choice may be influenced by the past and the present state, that does not mean my choice has been predetermined. I choose whatever it is that I want to choose either by reason, for no reason or against reason.

            The fact that I did not choose to be born does not now preclude me from exercising free-will.

            Atheists want me to believe and accept that the Universe came into being for no reason, they want me to believe that my existence has no reason, now you want me to believe every choice needs a reason. I find that that to be inconsistent and difficult to swallow.

            In a deterministic Universe there is no such thing as reason. You cannot reasonably claim that reason negates free-will when reason does not exist. The best you can say is that reason does not exist and free-will does not exist; our brain molecules just move and interact and do stuff without our direction, without reason and without our will; that is not reason.

            In my opinion, free-will exists, reason exists, consciousness exists and is immaterial. This negates a deterministic Universe as my free-will is able to redirect the Universe at any moment.

          • KR says:

            Paul Raflik wrote: “There is no reason that I should choose one card over the other two. So for no reason at all I choose the middle card.”

            That would mean that the choice is random, which means it’s not controlled by your will.

            “I wanted the middle card, I did not need a reason to want it over the other two.”

            If you don’t know why you wanted the card, then the choice of the card is not an expression of your will and consequently fails as a free will choice.

            “My way of showing what I wanted or what I willed was my flipping the card over; that was the expression of my will.”

            Do you know why you flipped the card? If so, then your choice has a reason. If not, the choice is not deliberate and not an expression of your will. You seem to want it both ways but that’s clearly not going to work.

            “Furthermore there was no reason for me to “choose” to play 3-card-monty. Probability told me that the odds of my winning were only 1 in 3 and that’s only if the dealer was honest had actually dealt a queen. My choice to play goes against reason. Casinos are full of people who make choices that go against reason. Yes, even when they know the odds.”

            You’re still chasing your own tail. A free will choice, whether it goes against reason or not, needs to have a reason. It would seem Toby’s prediction was correct: you’re trying to turn a random occurrence into a free will choice. That’s obviously fallacious. Free will has two parts and a random occurrence fails one of them: “will”. If it’s random, it’s by definition not willed.

            “The fact that I did not choose to be born does not now preclude me from exercising free-will.”

            No, what precludes you from excercising free will is simple logic. As I’ve explained above, free will requires an action that is not by choice but still under your control. Ain’t no such thing.

            “Atheists want me to believe and accept that the Universe came into being for no reason, they want me to believe that my existence has no reason, now you want me to believe every choice needs a reason. I find that that to be inconsistent and difficult to swallow.”

            You’re not paying attention. I’m not saying that every choice needs a reason, I’m saying that free will choices need a reason. Random choices are obviously made for no reason but they are, by definition, not free will choices.

            “In a deterministic Universe there is no such thing as reason. You cannot reasonably claim that reason negates free-will when reason does not exist. The best you can say is that reason does not exist and free-will does not exist; our brain molecules just move and interact and do stuff without our direction, without reason and without our will; that is not reason.”

            I actually did a search for a definition of reason and the first one that came up was: “the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgements logically”. If we accept this definition, I don’t see why reason would require free will. Logic isn’t a matter of choice, it is what it is. It seems to me that your “determinism or reason” dichotomy is a false one.

            “In my opinion, free-will exists, reason exists, consciousness exists and is immaterial. This negates a deterministic Universe as my free-will is able to redirect the Universe at any moment.”

            And yet you’re unable to present any examples of choices that are neither determined nor random. I bet you’re also unable to present any examples of conscious minds that are not connected to a material brain.

          • Paul Raflik says:

            “I actually did a search for a definition of reason and the first one that came up was: “the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgements logically”. ”

            Yes, as your definition points out you need the ***power of the mind*** to think. A brain is just chemistry, that’s not thinking. Chemistry doesn’t think. A mind as an immaterial unencumbered agent and is free to think, to choose, to love, to believe to have feelings.

            My reasoning is not circular. My reasoning simply requires an independent agent for free-will to work. That agent is my mind, my consciousness, it is immaterial and it transcends the Universe. With my mind I can reason when and how I choose or not to reason at all and with my consciousness I am able to exercise free-will. I can at any moment decide to consider anything I want to consider and make choices on what I want to consider freely. No new knowledge or stimuli is required for the me start reasoning, I simply will it and it happens; that’s free-will.

            I cannot prove this to you. I do not need to prove this to you. I simply experience the phenomena and recognize that it exists; like most people.

            GOD is an example of a mind not connected to a material brain.

            Now please explain how this “random choice” thing works in a deterministic universe because either randomness exists or the universe is deterministic; it cannot be both.

          • KR says:

            Paul Raflik wrote: “A brain is just chemistry, that’s not thinking. Chemistry doesn’t think. A mind as an immaterial unencumbered agent and is free to think, to choose, to love, to believe to have feelings.”

            Says you. I’m still waiting for your demonstration of a mind that’s independent from brain chemistry.

            “My reasoning is not circular. My reasoning simply requires an independent agent for free-will to work. That agent is my mind, my consciousness, it is immaterial and it transcends the Universe.”

            Your reasoning defies logic, which – by the definition of reason you just accepted – would make it unreasonable. Simply re-stating that your mind is immaterial does nothing to show that it’s actually so.

            “With my mind I can reason when and how I choose or not to reason at all and with my consciousness I am able to exercise free-will. I can at any moment decide to consider anything I want to consider and make choices on what I want to consider freely. No new knowledge or stimuli is required for the me start reasoning, I simply will it and it happens; that’s free-will.”

            The fact remains that you’re unable to provide any examples of this actually happening. I’m not surprised as it, you know, defies logic.

            “I cannot prove this to you. I do not need to prove this to you. I simply experience the phenomena and recognize that it exists; like most people.”

            If your reasoning defies logic, it doesn’t really help your argument that there are more people who apply the same flawed logic. Through the work of Benjamin Libet and others, we know that our experience of making choices cannot be taken at face value. At the moment we feel that we’re making a decision, the process has already been underway for up to 1.5 seconds.

            “GOD is an example of a mind not connected to a material brain.”

            This is just a bald assertion, presented without providing any reason for me to accept it. Worse, even if I were to accept it, it does nothing to help your argument for free will. Immaterial minds (if such a thing exists) would be subject to the same laws of logic as material minds.

            “Now please explain how this “random choice” thing works in a deterministic universe because either randomness exists or the universe is deterministic; it cannot be both.”

            Two words: radioactive decay. We cannot predict when an unstable atom will decay. We have made use of this fact by constructing true random number generators based on radioactive decay. At the same time, we’ve been able to determine, with very high precision, the half life of radioisotopes so on a population level they behave in a completely deterministic way.

            You could of course make the claim that an individual radioactive decay is not truly random but merely stochastic and I would be fine with that. For the purposes of our free will discussion, random and stochastic are interchangeable, since they both lead to the same result: unpredictability. If the choice is unpredictable to the agent making it, it is obviously not the result of any deliberation and cannot be an expression of the agent’s will.

          • toby says:

            Chemistry doesn’t think. A mind as an immaterial unencumbered agent and is free to think, to choose, to love, to believe to have feelings.
            It most certainly does and can. Computers have a logic and follow it. That’s a very basic type of thinking. It’s not hard to see how nature could shape thinking via evolution.

            Side question: animals appear to deliberate and think. Do they have immaterial minds as well?

            Atheists want me to believe and accept that the Universe came into being for no reason, they want me to believe that my existence has no reason, now you want me to believe every choice needs a reason.
            You’re confusing the word reason with purpose. Choices need a reason otherwise they are random and not a free will choice.

            In a deterministic Universe there is no such thing as reason. You cannot reasonably claim that reason negates free-will when reason does not exist. The best you can say is that reason does not exist and free-will does not exist; our brain molecules just move and interact and do stuff without our direction, without reason and without our will; that is not reason.
            I don’t see why theists think this. The concept lacks imagination and is lazy. This isn’t a dig at you as this isn’t your concept or idea, you’ve just latched onto it so take no offense. Why should “mere chemicals” (as it’s often put) be incapable of what we think of as thought and reason? If they’ve arisen from the universe and it’s laws, then it seems to me that truth about the universe and its workings would have an advantage.

            In my opinion, free-will exists, reason exists, consciousness exists and is immaterial. This negates a deterministic Universe as my free-will is able to redirect the Universe at any moment.
            So if these things exist and are immaterial then your consciousness has existed forever, timelessly and predates (whatever that would mean) the universe just like your god is supposed to. So you are as eternal as he . . . it’s hard to see why you’d need a god.

        • Ed Vaessen says:

          Paul Raflik says:
          “I reject the notions that free-will choice requires reason and that every choice is predicated upon a previous choice and that somehow negates free-will.

          I’ll expound on that if anyone is still reading.”

          It is clear that you did not (want to) read my last post.

          Reply
          • Paul Raflik says:

            You could decide to visit a good friend who is very ill and make an appointment with him. Next moment you could reconsider it of course. Because you just found out that the visit interferes with a football match you really would like to see on TV.

            Or I reconsidered for no reason at all with no new stimuli and simply chose to do something else. These things happen all the time.

            “The answer is likely to be ‘no’. Reason? Feeling of friendship and feeling of responsibility working stronger in you than the desire to see the match. ”

            What is “Reason”? You can hardly call molecules smashing into one another in a brain as they must by natural law, “Reason”. It is not Reason, it is simply what has to happen in a deterministic Universe.

            In a deterministic Universe your reasoning can not be sound because your reasoning doesn’t exist.

          • Ed Vaessen says:

            Paul Raflik:
            “What is “Reason”? You can hardly call molecules smashing into one another in a brain as they must by natural law, “Reason”. It is not Reason, it is simply what has to happen in a deterministic Universe.

            In a deterministic Universe your reasoning can not be sound because your reasoning doesn’t exist.”

            Indeed. You didn’t read my text. You simply copy/pasted my text without understanding what it says.

    • TGM says:

      “Why should we want to perpetuate human existence?”
      This question would be more appropriately posed to theists, than atheists. It should be evident that the desire to perpetuate human existence is among the higher concerns of non-believers. But why should a theist have any interest in extending human existence? Theists should be in a great hurry to reach eternity.

      Incidentally, it’s a curious sort of free will, indeed Paul, to be told your purpose or what you must objectively value. “This is your purpose in life, human. Feel free to do something different, if you’d like. Oh, but if you do…”

      Reply
  9. Ed Vaessen says:

    Paul Raflik says:
    “I don’t need to prove that free-will exists because it has already been proven by scientific, repeatable experimentation, with predicable results. “
    May we receive some more details about these scientific experimentations?

    Reply
  10. Ed Vaessen says:

    Paul Rafrik:
    “I test my own mind constantly and find that I can always make a free-will decision, even if that decision is not to decide. ”

    Perhaps it is good to give a definition about what exactly free will is. I do not think that we yet agree about that definition. May I propose such a definition, so that we know precisely what we are talking about? As I wrote before: free will does not exist. It is interesting to realize that, but on the other hand it is not that important because we live our life as if free will does exist.
    So what exactly is this free will in my opinion? Shall I explain it?

    Reply
    • Paul Raflik says:

      Ed: “Shall I exlpain it?” I cannot answer your question because you said there is no free will so I cannot choose to answer, yes or no.

      Reply
      • toby says:

        Paul, could you name one thing you do that is not based on something that has previously occurred? The very idea of being in a situation of making a choice means that events have occurred to put you into the frame of mind to choose something. Now are you freely choosing that or have past events such as education and experience effected your choices? Haven’t you ever made a mistake? And the moment you find out it was a mistake you think, “Gee, if it’d known about this beforehand I’d have not chosen this.” The knowledge would force your choice.

        Reply
        • Paul Raflik says:

          Choose three numbers from zero to 1 billion. Got it? Now, what could have possibly happened in your past that you chose those three particular numbers out of a billion possibilities?

          Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            I’d say more likely your choice of number will be affected by what you’re experiencing right now and what’s happened in the few seconds leading up to you being asked to choose the numbers.

            As evidence for this, note that it’s quite possible to affect the ‘random’ numbers someone chooses using priming. Ask someone how old they are before they give you a random number between one and a thousand, and when they then choose a random number, they’ll be much more likely to choose one below a hundred. Ask them their monthly salary first instead and they’re then much more likely to choose a number in the high hundreds.

            You’re getting the ‘random’ number from SOMEWHERE, just because another person couldn’t predict it definitely beforehand doesn’t mean that your brain isn’t coming up with the number due to some combination of your brain chemistry, its make-up, past events, your present experience etc.

          • toby says:

            Learning language to express quantities, learning math, interacting with numbers daily previously, then your question probing me to produce three numbers in that range that put me into the mindset to come up with “random” numbers. Also learning what random means in the past.

            I don’t think it’s possible to name a thing you could think, say, or do that isn’t based on something previous. Even if you decide to do a random quick movement to prove me wrong, you’re still just reacting my comments here. Your options are to respond or not respond. Both are reactions with such a vast amount of prior experience and interactions that it’s not surprising that it would appear that we have a free will. There are nearly infinite possibilities coming together in a single moment that being able to predict how something will go or what someone will think or do become nearly impossible. Even seemingly simple flips of coins are hard to predict. I flipped one once that never came down. Landed on a ceiling fan blade.

          • Paul Raflik says:

            “I don’t think it’s possible to name a thing you could think, say, or do that isn’t based on something previous.” Yes that is what you think but what you cannot prove, unless you can tie every decision made to a previous string of events. You cannot. You are predisposed to think that you could because you believe in a deterministic universe.

            The ability to make a decision other than what the universe tells me that I must make, I think is the very definition of free-will. Free-will then must originate from something outside of the Universe and be immaterial.

            Where that leaves us is that you believe that the universe is deterministic and therefore free-will must be an illusion. Whereas, I believe that free-will is real and requires an immaterial mind.

            My purpose for posting was to point out that to adhere to atheistic materialism, then one must accept that: there is no free-will, there is no morality and no purpose to life. You all have done a wonderful job of helping me make that point. I thank you all.

            I leave it to the more casual observer to look into their own soul and decide which interpretation better fits the reality that they know personally.

          • Paul Raflik says:

            Also, predicting the flip of a coin is actually quite easy. All you need to know are the properties of the coin, properties of the flipping device or thumb, amount of force applied and angle of attack, barometric pressure and wind velocity. With accurate information a 100% flipping prediction is easily achievable.

            The problem comes in when humans choose how much force they are going to put into the flip.

      • TGM says:

        “I cannot answer your question because you said there is no free will so I cannot choose to answer, yes or no”

        I commend you, Paul, on that adroit application of the Roadrunner Tactic, a bizarre tool that serves to stifle a productive investigation of ideas rather than facilitate them. The apologetic equivalent to ‘I know you are but what am I’ is typically used when one seeks to evade complicated ideas. Thank you for this demonstration here and increasingly throughout this thread. #teachablemoment

        Reply

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