The Price of Denying Free Will

By Timothy Fox

Every time I turn around I find someone else denying that humans have free will. From scientists to philosophers to theologians, it’s the cool new trend. We aren’t actually making free choices. We have been programmed either by God or our DNA to act in a certain way and have no choice but to follow it.

To be perfectly clear, we deny all types of determinism, whether it’s physical or divine. Free will is what puts the free in Freethinking Ministries and our cornerstone is the Freethinking Argument. Yet many people still don’t understand the consequences of denying free will.

Free Will Rejection

But first, what is determinism? Basically, it means there is no free will. All of our beliefs, thoughts, actions, etc. are “decided” for us, either by internal or external forces: our DNA, the laws of physics, or a deity. You’re a train on a fixed track with no control whatsoever. Even if you think that you really deliberated about what color socks you were going to wear this morning, you wore what you wore and you were completely unable to do otherwise.

So before you join all the cool kids, you need to know the price of admission. This is what it will cost you to deny free will:

No free will = no moral responsibility

If every one of our actions have been predetermined for us, how can we be held accountable for them? Or how can a divine puppet master condemn you for performing evil actions if he’s the one pulling your strings? The murderer has no choice but to murder. The rapist has no choice but to rape. Whether you are loving and kind or an intolerant, sexist, racist, bigot, you have no control over it. You were born that way, just like everyone else. Nothing you do is your fault.

But do we honestly believe that? Of course not. We hold criminals accountable for their crimes. We praise altruism and self-sacrifice. Only free will makes those things possible.

No free will = no meaning, purpose, or love

The most basic aspects of humanity hinge on the existence of free will: meaning, purpose, and love. True love cannot be coerced; it requires people freely and genuinely committing to each other’s well-being. One’s meaning in life is based on deep thought, reflection, and ultimately a desire to pursue it. But apart from free will, meaning, purpose, and love are void and empty words.

No free will = no rationality

As Tim Stratton argues in his Freethinking Argument, in a deterministic world, there is no true thought or rationality. These things are based on the ability to analyze data, weigh evidence, and select the best conclusion.

After all, if you think free will is a lie, how did you come to that conclusion? Did you survey the evidence and freely choose to accept determinism? I hope you see how absurd that is. If there is no free will, you did not rationally come to believe that. You were determined to accept it, just like everything else you think and believe. You never came to freely believe in anything; you were merely determined to do so.

This ties into the next…

No free will = absolute uncertainty about everything

If all of your thoughts and beliefs have been predetermined for you, how do you know if any of them are actually true? You can’t freely test them or reflect on them. You’re stuck in complete uncertainty. If any of your beliefs actually match reality – which is the definition of truth – it’s a grand cosmic accident, and you would never know the difference. So if you reject free will, you must also reject justified true belief, meaning knowledge.

Yes, if you deny free will, you also reject all knowledge.

Other Nonsense

Think about how ridiculous it is to write a book, article, blog, or whatever against free will. Did the author freely write it? Did he actually think, reflect, and carefully choose his words to make the best argument possible? And does he expect you to freely read it and be persuaded to believe that free will does not exist?

You may also hear a free will denier say something like “There is no free will but we have to live as if there were.” That’s ridiculous. It assumes you have the ability to choose to live a certain way. The moment the determinist attempts to convince you to deny free will, he contradicts himself.

Conclusion

This is the price of denying free will. If you reject it, you must also discard moral responsibility, purpose, meaning, love, rationality, and knowledge. Are you really willing to give those things up by espousing determinism? Or look at it the other way. If you believe that you are a true freethinker, that humans have real moral obligations, and that we are free to find meaning in life, you must also affirm free will.

And then you need a worldview that accommodates free will. Naturalism won’t cut it. Neither will a religion where God exhaustively determines all things in the universe, including the actions of human beings. We think the best choice is a worldview with a God who is fully sovereign, yet has granted humans free will, including the ability to freely accept his offer of forgiveness or to reject him.

The choice is yours.

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2scsTPZ


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23 replies
  1. Andy Ryan says:

    A murderer can’t get off by claiming he was predetermined to murder. The judge can reply this:
    “If you believe I can be swayed by your argument then you could have been swayed by arguments not to murder. And if you had no choice but to murder then I have no choice but to send you to prison for the crime”

    You can’t have it both ways – you can’t give a free pass to the murderer but still think the courts are subject to your reasoning about the consequences of free will.

    In short: free will vs determinism makes no difference to how we punish criminals. You can’t point to our criminal justice system as evidence of free will.

    Reply
    • Terry Lewis says:

      In a way, Andy, I agree with you on this. The author says, “But do we honestly believe that? Of course not. We hold criminals accountable for their crimes.” Well, no we don’t… not if there is no free will. We only do what we have to do. I don’t even have a choice in the words I used in this post! It’s all been pre-determined since the first moments of the universe. Our consciousness is simply an observer, trapped on a roller coaster, incapable of determining where the ride will take him.

      But I disagree also with the way you phrase your response. You write, “The judge can reply this.” But actually, the judge can only do what he/she is pre-determined to do.

      “In short: free will vs determinism makes no difference to how we punish criminals.”

      Yes, it does. On determinism, “we” don’t do anything. We have no choice in the matter!

      Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        The punishment is the same either way. I don’t really get your point of disagreement, beyond nitpicking over terminology.

        Reply
        • Terry Lewis says:

          Simply that your phrasing, (“The judge can reply to this.”) implies an actual decision that determinism disallows. This is why it’s so difficult to even comprehend determinism. If it’s true, then it cannot, by DEFINITION, have any impact on how we live our lives; our actions have been predetermined. So in my mind, the best we can say is, “The judge may reply to this… if he/she has been predetermined to do so.”

          Similarly, on determinism, we *have no choice* in how we punish criminals. Implying that we can choose how to respond to another person’s determined actions is illogical and inconsistent. While it would be appropriate to say that the punishment given to a criminal might be the same on both free-will and determinism, it is NOT appropriate to say that we punish them the same way. The first speaks only to the effect; the second addresses the cause, which is NOT the same on the two philosophies.

          Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            “Simply that your phrasing, (“The judge can reply to this.”) implies an actual decision that determinism disallows”

            This IS just nitpicking about language. We say ‘The sun rises’ even though we know it’s the earth that’s moving. And people don’t have a problem talking about a programmed computer (for example a computer chess game) making ‘choices’, despite computers having no free will.

            “So in my mind, the best we can say is, “The judge may reply to this… if he/she has been predetermined to do so.”

            Given that this would apply to everything that anyone does, it would be a redundant qualification/clarification to make. The word ‘choose’ still does just fine.

            “Similarly, on determinism, we *have no choice* in how we punish criminals”
            Either way it still makes no sense to say that if determinism is true we shouldn’t punish criminals.

            If you sit down and spend ten minutes trying to work out which of two paths to take, based on various different factors, after you come up with your choice someone could say that you were always determined to make that choice, but that doesn’t mean the choice you make wasn’t based on your brain assessing those different factors, any more than a theist claiming that God knew which path you would would take ten million years before you were born.

            If you’re saying none of us are making choices, but as far as I’m concerned what we’re doing fulfils the definition of ‘choice’. I don’t know how the existence of a God would change what we’re doing to make it more of a choice than if there is no God. How does the God make it free-er? What actual difference does He make? A ‘decision’ is either based on something that’s happened before or it’s random. What third option, for which God is necessary, is there that makes it a proper free ‘choice’ in your eyes?

  2. KR says:

    “No free will = no moral responsibility”

    I would agree with this. If we have no free will, then moral responsibility becomes a meaningless concept. You seem to think this is a problem. I suspect that’s because you’re confusing “no free will” with “no consequences to our actions”. One clearly doesn’t follow from the other. Think of a man who’s caught a deadly and very contagious virus. Do we hold him responsible for being infected? No. Does this mean that we’re going to let him run around and spread the disease? Of course not, we’re going to keep him isolated whether he likes it or not in order to protect others from getting infected.

    All we need is an agreement on what behaviour we’re willing to accept and what to do with people who break the agreement. “Moral responsibility” is not only irrelevant to the process, it’s a distraction from what we should be focusing on, which is human behaviour. Why do some people develop unacceptable anti-social and destructive behaviour? Can we prevent such behaviour from developing? Can we reverse the process after the fact? What kind of sentencing is most beneficial for society and the individual? Those are the kind of questions we should be contemplating if we want to think rationally about how to create a safe and flourishing society.

    “No free will = no meaning, purpose, or love”

    This is a weird one. Meaning, purpose and love are experiences. We don’t get to choose what makes us happy or sad, or what inspires or interests us. Love? Anyone who’s suffered a broken heart can tell you from very painful experience that falling in (or out of) love is not a matter of choice – it’s something that happens to you.

    “No free will = no rationality”

    I’ve read Tim Stratton’s Freethinking Argument and I don’t think it holds up. One of the premises of the argument is: “If libertarian free will does not exist, rationality and knowledge do not exist”. This implies that we can somehow choose what’s rational, which makes no sense. You write about analyzing data, weighing evidence and selecting the best conclusion but if there is an objectively best conclusion then this is a verifiable fact and not something we’re free to choose. Being rational is to align your beliefs with reality. The proposition that we are somehow free to choose what is real is just nonsensical. We’re not free to choose whether the earth revolves around the sun or the other way round – heliocentrism is a verifiable fact that was discovered, not chosen.

    “No free will = absolute uncertainty about everything”

    You state that if determinism is true, we can’t freely test our beliefs but if the test consists of matching our beliefs with observed reality, what’s “free” about it? Our beliefs either match reality or they don’t and in order to find this out, all we need to do is make observations of reality – no choice involved.

    “Think about how ridiculous it is to write a book, article, blog, or whatever against free will. Did the author freely write it? Did he actually think, reflect, and carefully choose his words to make the best argument possible? And does he expect you to freely read it and be persuaded to believe that free will does not exist?”

    Our beliefs are a product of our genetic and environmental programming. The author in your example has apparently, through his education and experience, been persuaded that free will is an illusion – this was part of his environmental programming. He might also have been persuaded that it’s important to inform other people about this, thereby becoming part of their environmental programming. I see nothing ridiculous about this.

    “You may also hear a free will denier say something like “There is no free will but we have to live as if there were.” That’s ridiculous.”

    I would agree with this. If it’s true that free will doesn’t exist, then we should accept it. I feel there’s an element of condescension here in that some free will deniers will say things like “free will is an illusion but we shouldn’t advertize this because some people may not be able to handle it”.

    Reply
  3. Joe says:

    I want to believe your argument; I really do. I just finished Edwards “Freedom of the Will,” and it was (as I expected): determinism, determinism, causation, determinism.
    He did however make one point that i found intriguing because I have always agreed with your “No free will = No moral responsibility” argument. –
    If God, by nature, is morally good, He cannot perform evil. By your rational, God is then a puppet who cannot choose evil and therefore He cannot be praised for being morally good. If God cannot make a choice, He cannot be worshipped for being righteous, because He had no choice.
    What do you do with that? I truly would love a response. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Tracey says:

      God is all righteousness, God used himself as the Word of Truth, this stops satan, gaining the upper hand, satan was Lucifer who fell, down, and now he is trying to build a kingdom to remove God.
      So when God gives His word, His covenants that will be for-ever.
      Therefore, it is good to worship God who keeps His promises, His word is absolute.
      If your experiencing evil spirit tormenting, then God created oan earth as in heaven, so there is a court to go to in heaven where Yeshua is the Interessor-your advocate, there are more for you than against you.
      So yes God is right he only he can forgive and render you to have the the execution the rebuke and revoke the curse/s.

      Reply
  4. Kerry says:

    Excellent article. This notion of determinism is repulsive. Of course, if it’s true, the even it’s repulsiveness to me is determined, so don’t get upset with me. Of course, me saying “don’t get upset is nonsensical, because you will react how you are determined to act, as will I, and therefore any wonderful dialogue is just an illusion, and we really are merely actors on a stage, and life really is sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    Never mind that there are then no heroes, no villains, no loving mothers. We are mere actors mouthing lines.

    I choose (see what I did there?) to believe that God is far more creative than that, and created amazing creatures with free will.

    Reply
    • TGM says:

      Your lamentations don’t make sense to me Kerry. You feel that you are making choices. You think there are heroes, villains and loving mothers. Now how does it make any difference if these experiences are determined? They still would happen, you would still be experiencing them, and you would still think they were happening freely. The true extent of “willfulness” seems to be entirely irrelevant. I suppose you might be angry if you could step outside of reality to watch the deterministic machinery at play, but from good old planet earth here it looks like a strange thing to be repulsed by.

      Reply
      • Tracey says:

        They may happen if there is no, interference to Gods Timing as is written in every persons scroll, if the timing has been interrupted, then the goodness/gifts, will not come in if at all, but not in the time apportioned to God.
        There is a time-line determined life for every person, but, as God is not an bully, He gave each person the freedom to choose, what ever it’s entirely up to you.
        But the difference is, on/in Gods time-line He wrote about for each person, there will be a better good life.
        It’s Satan who, is the jailer/bully who will not allow you to be the good one is/are, so when the person make a decision to do…..going against God written word-in the scroll, the person will not be able to control the consequences, anything could happen, and anytime, as not all harm happens straight away,it could be years later.

        Reply
  5. Kerry says:

    Oh, I should qualify this. While I believe have actual, effective choices, I don’t believe our wills and minds are free of influences. Our choices are affected by our DNA and our life experiences.

    Reply
  6. Dan says:

    If the author’s concept of free will is true than he believes in a creul sadistic god whoset up a system of harsh consequences for billions of people who never heard of the plan of salvation…people were given this free will but were never given the correct choice of salvation…whatba cruel game was played by this despot…

    Reply
  7. edwardtbabinski says:

    DEAR TIMOTHY, ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH “FREE WILL SKEPTICISM” IN PHILOSOPHY?
    Free Will Skepticism and the Question of Creativity: Creativity, Desert, and Self-Creation
    Gregg D. Caruso gcaruso@corning-cc.edu
    “Free will skepticism maintains that what we do, and the way we are, is ultimately the result of factors beyond our control and that because of this we are never morally responsible for our actions in the basic desert sense—the sense that would make us truly deserving of praise and blame. In recent years, a number of contemporary philosophers have advanced and defended versions of free will skepticism, including Derk Pereboom (2001; 2014), Galen Strawson (2010), Neil Levy (2011), Bruce Waller (2011; 2015), and myself (Caruso 2012; 2013; in press). Critics, however, often complain that adopting such views would have dire consequences for ourselves, society, morality, meaning, and the law. They fear, for instance, that relinquishing belief in free will and basic desert moral responsibility would leave us unable to adequately deal with criminal behavior, increase anti-social conduct, and undermine meaning in life.

    In response, free will skeptics argue that life without free will and basic desert moral responsibility would not be as destructive as many people believe (see, e.g., Pereboom 2001; 2014; Waller 2011; 2015; Caruso 2016; in press). According to optimistic skeptics, prospects of finding meaning in life or of sustaining good interpersonal relationships, for instance, would not be threatened. And although retributivism and severe punishment, such as the death penalty, would be ruled out, incapacitation and rehabilitation programs would still be justified (see Pereboom 2001; 2013; 2014; Levy 2012; Caruso 2016; Pereboom & Caruso in press). In this paper, I attempt to extend this general optimism about the practical implications of free will skepticism to the question of creativity.

    In Section 1, I spell out the question of creativity and explain why it’s relevant to the problem of free will. In Section 2, I identify three different conceptions of creativity and explain the practical concerns critics have with free will skepticism. In Section 3, I distinguish between three different conceptions of moral responsibility and argue that at least two of them are consistent with free will skepticism. I further contend that forward-looking accounts of moral responsibility, which are perfectly consistent with free will skepticism, can justify calling agents to account for immoral behavior as well as providing encouragement for creative activities since these are important for moral and creative formation and development. I conclude in Section 4 by arguing that relinquishing belief in free will and basic desert would not mean the death of creativity or our sense of achievement since important and realistic conceptions of both remain in place. CONTINUE READING HERE http://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/ergo/12405314.0003.023/–free-will-skepticism-and-the-question-of-creativity?rgn=main;view=fulltext

    Reply
  8. edwardtbabinski says:

    A BETTER QUESTION IS, “WHERE DO YOU WIND UP IF YOU ENDORSE ‘LIBERTARIAN FREE WILL [LFW]?'”

    If LFW is true, it ensures nothing about how well informed one’s decisions are. Allow me to unpack that idea below.

    The standard definition for LFW involves being able to make a different decision when placed repeatedly in exactly the same situation, circumstances and flow of consciousness starting point, i.e., when the clock is turned back perfectly to that same initial point. But if we could do that it would mean we have unguessable wills, kind of like spinning a wheel of fortune. You never know what you’ll get. But that’s not as great a gift as “free will” endorsers might imagine. A greater gift would be to make more well informed decisions, not ones “free” of predictability. Better to be part of a huge natural feedback loop system which at least makes logic and logical connections possible. The greater one’s knowledge–via studying history of all cultures, and via instruments like telescopes and microscopes, and many other means of study and gaining experience, including learning more about one’s inner self–then the better informed choices one can make, i.e., rather than arguing in favor of LFW. Because if LFW is true, it ensures nothing about how well informed one’s decisions are.

    Nobel Prize-winning Neurobiologist/Neuripsychologist, Roger Sperry, arrived at the same conclusion outlined above, that determinism is the lesser of two evils:

    “Recall that a molecule in many respects is the master of its inner atoms and electrons. The latter are hauled and forced about in chemical interactions by the over-all configurational properties of the whole molecule. At the same time, if our given molecule is itself part of a single-celled organism such as a paramecium, it in turn is obliged, with all its parts and its partners, to follow along a trail of events in time and space determined largely by the extrinsic over-all dynamics of that paramecium. When it comes to brains, remember that the simpler electric,atomic, molecular, and cellular forces and laws, though still present and operating, have been superseded by the configurational forces of higher-level mechanisms. At the top, in the human brain, these include the powers of perception, cognition, reason, judgment, and the like, the operational, causal effects and forces of which are equally or more potent in brain dynamics than are the outclassed inner chemical forces…”

    “We deal instead with a sequence of conscious or subconscious processes that have their own higher laws and dynamics…that move their neuronal details in much the way different program images on a TV receiver determine the pattern of electron flow on the screen…”

    “And the molecules of higher living things are… flown… galloped… swung… propelled… mostly by specific holistic, and also mental properties—aims, wants, needs—possessed by the organisms in question. Once evolved, the higher laws and forces exert a downward control over the lower.”

    “Evolution keeps complicating the universe by adding new phenomena that have new properties and new forces that are regulated by new scientific principles and new scientific laws—all for future scientists in their respective disciplines to discover and formulate. Note also that the old simple laws and primeval forces of the hydrogen age never get lost or canceled in the process of compounding the compounds. They do, however, get superseded, overwhelmed, and outclassed by the higher-level forces as these successively appear at the atomic, the molecular and the cellular and higher levels.”

    “This does not mean these (higher forces) are supernatural. Those who conceived of vital forces in supernatural terms were just as wrong as those who denied the existence of such forces. In any living of nonliving thing, the spacing and timing of the material elements of which it is composed make all the difference in determining what a thing is.”

    “As an example, take a population of copper molecules. You can shape them into a sphere, a pyramid, a long wire, a statue, whatever. All these very different things still reduce to the same material elements, the same identical population of copper molecules. Science has specific laws for the molecules by no such laws for all the differential spacing and timing factors, the nonmaterial pattern or form factors that are crucial in determining what things are and what laws they obey. These nonmaterial space-time components tend to be thrown out and lost in the reduction process as science aims toward ever more elementary levels of explanation.”

    One might add that taking simple elements found in rocks and arranging them into just the right configurations can lead to the production of not just another rock, but a computer (perhaps even a ‘quantum computer’ one day).

    “In determinism, humans are not free from the higher forces in his own decision-making machinery. In particular, our model does not free a person from the combined effects of his own thought, his own impulses, his own reasoning, feeling, beliefs, ideals, and hopes, nor does it free him from his inherited makeup or his lifetime memories. All these and more, including unconscious desires, exert their due causal influence upon any mental decision, and the combined resultant determines an inevitable but nevertheless self-determined, highly special, and highly personal outcome. Thus the question: Do we really want free will, in the indeterministic sense, if it means gaining freedom from our own minds? There may be worse fates, perhaps, than causal determinism. Maybe after all it is better to be an integral part of the causal flow of cosmic forces than to be out of contact with these—free-floating, as it were, with behavioral possibilities that have no antecedent cause, and hence no reason nor any reliability relative to future plans, predictions, or promises. If one were assigned the task of trying to design and build the perfect free-will model, consider the possibility that the aim might be not so much to free the machinery from causal contact as the opposite, that is, to try to incorporate into the model the potential value of universal causal contact. In other words, contact with all related information in proper proportion—past, present, and future.”

    “At any rate it is clear that the human brain has come a long way in evolution in exactly this direction [from determinism to free will], when you consider the amount and the kind of causal factors that this multidimensional, intracranial vortex draws into itself, scans, and brings to bear in turning out one of its preordained decisions; potentially included, through memory, are the events and wisdom of most of a human lifetime. Potentially included, also, with a visit to the library, is the accumulated knowledge of all recorded history. And we can add, thanks to reason and logic, much of the forecast and predictive value extractable from all these data as well as creative insights newly conceived. Maybe the total falls a bit short of universal causal contact; maybe it is not even up to the kind of thing evolution has going for it over on galaxy nine; and maybe, in spite of all, any decision that comes out is still predetermined. Nevertheless it certainly represents a very long jump in the direction of freedom from the primeval slime mold, the Pleistocene sand dollar, or even the latest model orangutan.”

    Reply
  9. edwardtbabinski says:

    LASTLY, DO “FREE WILL” THEODICIES SOLVE ANYTHING, OR JUST RAISE QUESTIONS OF THEIR OWN?

    Free Will Theodicies = God wants creatures to love him freely, so he gives us the power to do both good and evil.

    Rebuttal: Christian theologians continue to dispute how “free” the human will is. Some believe God knows the end from the beginning. But if God has such knowledge then everything must happen the way God knows it will. Therefore the doctrine of Godʼs foreknowledge and the idea of libertarian free will have been at odds with one another for millennia, and theologians continue to debate how “free” human “will” is.

    Another dispute among theologians is how to reconcile the Christian doctrine of human depravity with libertarian free will. Both Luther and Calvin concluded that “after the fall ‘free-will’ is just a word, and not something we still possess.

    Opposed to the view of Luther and Calvin are Universalist Christians who view “free will” as going hand in hand with eternal salvation rather than eternal damnation. Universalists point out that God knows us better than we know ourselves, and God knows what moves us and has nearly limitless resources at his disposal to convince everyone of the truth of God, the Bible, Christianity (Satan and even a hoarde of demons has a nowhere near the resources God has), moreover, God is everywhere and in everything, at the core of everyoneʼs being, “In Him we live and move and have our being,” per Paul), therefore if God wants everyone to fall in love with the same things or believe the same things, and those things are the only true things, then there is no way a finite creature can resist Godʼs will and powers of persuasion eternally. Therefore, Universalists think the only logical view that someone who believes in a personal loving God (a God of such immense love and immense resources) can hold is universalism. Is any heart so dark (and without the slightest flaw or crack) such that the light of Christ could never discover a way to penetrate it? Does not emptiness abhor a vacuum (nor does any such vacuum truly exist since God is in all things)? The early Christian father Origin appears to have argued in a similar fashion, and I think he also believed in “free will,” as did the universalist Christian, George MacDonald (C. S. Lewis’s “spiritual mentor”).

    One also wonders how free is a choice that is coerced at least partly via threats of eternal suffering, i.e., if you donʼt love and believe specific things?

    Also, a damnationist perspective is used by rival denominations and religions that compete with each other for souls, a threat that kind of cancels itself out. A handy all-purpose device when it comes to ensuring that nobody in one denomination or sect considers joining another rival denomination or sect or church, because then they would be “on the slippery slope” toward damnation, maybe not there yet… and the “yet” is decisive in such threats. Damnationism exacerbates divisions in both the inter-denominational and religious world.

    If “free will” is of such grand importance to God, will there be free will in heaven such that people could still experience temptation there and even sin there? If not, then what types of circumstances has God set up to ensure that heavenʼs inhabitants will always be more tempted to choose good rather than evil? And why didnʼt God set up those circumstances right from the start?

    If “free will” is of such grand importance to God, will there be free will in hell such that people could still experience repentance there? It not, why not?

    Aside from the theological controversies over whether or not, and how much “free will” humans have, there is one final question, Has it been demonstrated that free will exists? There does not appear to be a way to demonstrate the existence of libertarian free will experimentally since we cannot place ourselves in the same exact time, place, and mental state in which we first made each of our “free” decisions to see if we might choose otherwise. Even if we could run such an experiment, going back in time and space, repeating a scenario multiple times, to show that people CAN make a different choice under the exact same circumstances, it would not demonstrate that the different decision was “better informed,” only that it was a “different decision” from the one previously “willed.” Of what use then would it be to have “free will?” Itʼs more to the point to be able to make “better-informed decisions” than “free” ones. To make the former you have to be connected with the cosmos, not free of it — you have to collect and analyze input from as wide a spectrum of the cosmos as possible, like a computer. Therefore, building a machine that collects ever-widening amounts of data and continues to subject them to comparative analysis would be of greater value than creating a machine or human that is disconnected from this cosmos and arriving at decisions “freely.”

    Reply
    • Kalmaro says:

      I’ve never understood how God knowing that someone will do something makes them do it. If he is outside of time then he essentially is just observing what will happen.

      From his view it would be like reading a book or watching a film. He can see all parts of the story but that does not mean he is actively tampering with the story by knowing what happens.

      Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        That makes us just like scripted characters playing out their pre-written parts, in your analogy. And it has the same affect on our free will as saying we were ‘determined’ to do something – it doesn’t take away our agency in any meaningful sense.

        Reply
  10. Luke says:

    I’m not sure if Mr. Fox responds to posts here, but I would turn this around a bit.

    Mr. Fox wrote: “No free will = no moral responsibility”

    I would say that the price of independent free will is that we’re left with nihilism. (Bold, I know, let’s defend it!)

    Either our decisions and actions are impacted by things going on around us, or they’re not. (If they’re impacted at all, they’re impacted.)

    If we say that external factors don’t matter — that people just make every decision as a free agent free of influence, then there is no consequence whatsoever to how we treat other people.

    It literally does not matter how we act.

    There’s no point in modeling kindness for my children. There’s no point to teaching them kindness and empathy.

    Because they are free agents making decisions free of influence!

    Nothing I do can make a difference. While not classical nihilism, that sure sounds pretty nihilistic to me.

    Of course, we all know that’s ridiculous. We know that the what I’ve taught my children (and more influentially: the behavior I’ve modeled for them) matters: A LOT!

    Let me give another example. Let’s say I do something very kind for you and that makes you happy. Let’s imagine you’re (at least in part) determined to feel happiness when you are treated kindly. This is great: I now have a way to make you happy. This is wonderful because I like to make people happy. Now, let’s say that my actions have no effect on your feelings (because you’re a free agent, free on influence), then it doesn’t matter what I do, because by definition I can not impact the way you feel. Again, this type of free will view makes life pointless. Nothing I do matters. Nihilism.

    What is the point of loving someone if your love could never matter to them? (Your actions don’t impact their feelings remember, their feelings are their choice, not just some reaction to external factors.) How sad.

    Even if the behavioral model presented in the article were correct, it seems to me that losing any meaningful connection to the people around us is quite a lot to give up for the satisfaction of expressing moral condemnation.

    Yet, once one allows for the idea that behaviors and decisions are dependent upon external factors, we let in determinism. And once we let in determinism, this logic of the article falls apart.

    My honest criticism of this article is that it seems to eschew an actual engagement with the actual deep and interesting issues here, in order to present a simplistic view that’s pretty obviously false. Of course what we do matters.

    The fact that you can’t help but be happy when treated with genuine kindness is not a bug, it’s a very powerful feature.

    Thanks,

    Luke

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  11. Luke says:

    I see HTML tagging has changed since I last commented here. Sorry. That was supposed to look much better.

    “Oops” – Rick Perry

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  12. Susan Tan says:

    Free will is unbiblical. The concept came from philosophy and Paul said that philosophy is vain. It’s too bad more people don’t check the source of ideas more closely. Free will is an illusion because human will can be influenced. If human will can be influenced then it is not free. It is a doctrine that most likely persists because people like to rationalize and play intellectual games more than they want to check what the scriptures actually say. Does it look like Saul of Tarsus has free will on the Road to Damascus?
    You can’t say God predestines or elects people and that God is in control but insist that people have free will. That is nonsense. Many are called but few are chosen. Why is that?
    Free will comes from philosophy and the mind of man and people use it in an attempt to give people more control over their beliefs than they have.
    All the gifts of the Spirit come from God. You can’t will yourself. Every holy impulse comes from God so you can’t claim to do anything holy apart from God.
    How are you in the body of Jesus but retaining your own free will? If you are walking in the Spirit you are not walking in free will.
    What is absolute surrender but the relinquishing of free will to serve God’s higher purpose?
    Free will is weakling religion trying to substitute it’s weak ideas for a genuinely strong relationship with God.
    God describes some people as weak willed in the Bible so is God going to prop up the weak wills of men?
    No He gives His people a whole new life if they are willing to be obedient and surrender absolutely to Him and allow Him to direct their steps as it says in Proverbs 3.
    God doesn’t do a single thing to vindicate a person’s broken, weak will. So why do people want to honor sinful people’s weak will? God doesn’t honor it. The Bible which is God’s Word says to die to self daily. Does that indicate that our wills are good or free or worthy of being preserved. No, it doesn’t. Being born again means a whole new life….a new creation. Out with the old including broken down free will. People should be reasoning from the scriptures but they would rather blame events on men and their free will instead of giving the glory and recognizing men are not the primary movers in the work of salvation. Paul persuaded so he tried to influence people. Does that sound like our wills are free? No, if they can be influenced or controlled by lust, etc. then they are not free. Can an addict be free? Or is he the subject of forces stronger than himself? How can you have free will and be the slave of sin?
    Read the scriotures and surrender to God and stop propping up a poor doctrine that is unbiblical and comes from the mind of man not God. The Sovereignty of God is a much more accurate doctrine than free will is. If we had free wills then the Bible would say so but man’s sinful ways and nature expose that man’s will isn’t completely free. If it were what need of a Savior and surrender to him? Get free of sin then you could argue you have a free God given will but barring that a sinner is not free. Righteousness is imputed through Jesus sacrifice. But people have to learn God’s ways through the scriptures and work to get sanctified and holy in this lifetime. We have a dual nature. An old man and a new man and it can be a long walk between the two to get totally free of sin. If you can backslide then how is your will completely free of sin to serve God? We have to appeal to God to make us holy. The scriptures say “Be holy for I am holy” then you realize you need God’s help and tutoring to do that. Some people’s sinful nature are even underscored by genetic problems where people are predisposed to addiction. Is that a weakness of the flesh or not influencing them and sometimes controlling their behavior? People had better go back to the drawing board…scrap free will and trust God more….and read the scriptures….what need for a dialog between God and man and seeking spiritual gifts if we are completely free? We’re all walking in spiritual blindess, we’re the clay and clay can be shaped….does that sound like freedom is reigning….No God is moving His people in a direction that He wills for them and their life.
    Free will is philosophizing and free will is vain like Paul said. Get out of the hands of the philosophers and consult God in the scriptures. A daily study is where God reveals Himself and teaches His people to discern truth from worldly error and that includes philosophical error and the false pretensions of men.

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