Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Are you able freely to decide on the most basic of choices, say, what to have for dessert? Many evolutionists say no. If we are simply randomly produced beings (I almost slipped and wrote 'creatures') then choice itself must also be an illusion as 'choices' are simply the result of chemical reactions in our brains. True choice must be a product of what the article calls 'magic', or a human soul. If we are randomly produced beings in the universe we can have no such thing. Of course, the scientific debate over choice itself has its own moral result as does the larger issue of evolution:
Einstein, among others, found that a comforting idea. “This knowledge of the non-freedom of the will protects me from losing my good humor and taking much too seriously myself and my fellow humans as acting and judging individuals,” he said.

No, we wouldn't want to take ourselves seriously as acting and judging individuals. That would wouldn't it?

1 comment:

susanna in alabama said...

It's clear from the article that the people quoted - and the writer - started their inquiries from (dare I say it?) predetermined positions. That is, they assume evolution, so whatever results they find must harmonize with their concept of evolution. Thus their finding that "free will" is actually an intricate evolutionary predeterminism is unsurprising - even... predictable.

The writer also sets up a nice little straw man - he defines free will as unbounded, then shows logically why that's unsupportable. Well, of course it is, and I don't know anyone personally who would argue otherwise. Our decisions are usually the product of nested probabilities, informed by our history, our personality and our circumstances. Statistically speaking, we're going to make similar decisions in similar circumstances most times. But you can't solidly predict individual decisions, you can only predict the probability of a certain decision. I don't see how that can be definitively identified as "evolution" vs "free will".

This article also does not address outliers, behavior that is radically anomolous with a person's history. For example, an alcoholic who one day quits forever. A fat person who loses a lot of weight and keeps it off. A physician who quits to become a beach bum. And it does not adequately address the Cretan point either - that the person saying free will is not true cannot say anything else, evolutionarily speaking. A nice tautology.

As for the moral implications, that's ridiculously presented as well. A lack of free will completely empties our criminal justice system of its validity. Having sufficient free will to say "do not do this" re-energizes it. But that is sufficient free will to say that we have free will. The only way to give evolution any credence in that latter scenario is to set up the "free willers" at the opening of the argument as believing only in an absolute free will. That's precisely what the writer does. It's an unwarranted, unsupported assumption, making the rest of the argument is just evolutionary song and dance against a backdrop of straw.