Does your worldview affect your behavior?

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It seems like an easy question; “does your worldview affect your behavior?” of course it does; right?

In Western Society some people believe each of us has our own free will, on the other side of the spectrum are people like my guest this evening, Chandler Klebbs, who believe we have no free will whatsoever.

Last week we discussed the more broad philosophical aspects of free will versus determinism, tonight Chandler Klebbs and Lee Woofenden join me once again to discuss the more practical aspects of how our personal beliefs effect us in our day-to-day lives.

–) Does believing in free will have an adverse affect in our morality?

–) How do people come to believe in free will or come to believe in determinism?

–) How does believing in determinism affect our practical day-to-day life?

Join us tonight at 7:30/6:30 EST/CST as we discuss this important issue that has broad ranging implications in each of our lives.

 

 

 



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88 replies

  1. Determinism implies that the current events and current state reliably bring about the next events and the next state. This chain of causation goes on for eternity.

    This interesting fact raises the question “So what?”

    Is the fact that your next choice is inevitable helpful in any way? No. Because you cannot know for certain what you will choose until you go through your mental process of evaluating your options and making the choice yourself. And if you already knew the result you would skip right to the answer. Every deliberate choice begins with uncertainty. If there is no uncertainty then there is no choosing involved.

    Suppose it were possible to see the future, and to know what would inevitably happen? Well, being the rebellious sort we are, we’d probably choose something else just for spite. So knowing the inevitable means it is no longer inevitable.

    The physician knows what will inevitably happen if she fails to treat a fatal disease, the patient will die. So she chooses to treat the disease and the patient lives. The doctor was able to chose what would become inevitable and what would remain merely a possibility.

    Inevitability itself changes nothing. Everything remains precisely as it is. In fact, it was inevitable that everything would be exactly as it is now.

    This includes free will. You are still choosing for yourself what you will do. And what you do will determine what happens next. And, as long as someone else is not forcing you to do something against your will, you are acting of your own free will. And that means you are the final responsible cause of what results from your action.

    If you commit a crime, it is useless to claim that “determinism made me do it”, because the judge can also claim a rich history of causes and effects that resulted in society creating and enforcing laws. Penalties repair the harm, correct the offender, and protect the rest of us. If there are “extenuating circumstances”, like mental incapacity, or contributing factors that were actually outside your knowledge and control, then they may be taken into account. But causality is always an assumed constant, on both sides of the equation, so it is never a “get out of jail free card”.

    If everything is inevitable, can you just sit back and wait for it to happen? Well, you should try doing that when you’ve been tossed into a swimming pool. If you remain still, totally engrossed in observing what was inevitably to happen next, you’ll likely drown. The point is that inevitability requires your active participation. And if the choice is to sink or swim, you had best take control of your own destiny. You’ll find that life often tosses you into a swimming pool.

    There is no separation between you and causality. It is not some foreign agency forcing you to comply. Causality is also you, thinking, choosing, and acting of your own free will. What becomes inevitable is in your hands. All of your reasons, feelings, beliefs, values, experience, and so on, that cause you to choose one thing rather than another, are totally impotent to cause anything without you.

    So there you have it. Determinism is a fact of life. It is a deducible characteristic of the real world we inhabit. Free will is also a fact of life. It is an objectively observable phenomena that occurs in the real world. Therefore there can be no conflict.

    To find conflict, you have to enter an irrational world, like the one proposed by the “anti-causal libertarian free willers” or the equally irrational world of the “anti-choice determinists”. Both of those worlds are trapped in the paradox. Don’t let the silly paradox trap you.

    • Hi Marvin,

      Same question I asked Chandler in the video:

      Do you believe in predeterminism?

      Do you believe that if we pick any given time a hundred or a thousand or a million or a billion years ago, what is going to happen forever after, including everything you do in your lifetime, is already determined by the causes then operating? Is everything that happens today and tomorrow the inevitable and only possible result of what happened yesterday and the day before?

    • Lee, the word “determinism” is sufficient without the “pre”. Add the “pre” and you conjure up “predestination”, and the suggestion that a conscious mind laid out a plan that we all must follow. That’s not the case.

      But I do believe in a strict determinism which implies that all future events are at least ‘theoretically predictable’ even though very few events are actually predictable in practice.

      And they would ‘theoretically’ be reliably predictable from any given point in eternity to any other given point in eternity.

      However, the greater the distance between the two points, the more complex the prediction becomes. Causes are not serial, but branching. For example: A squirrel runs across the branch of a tree shaking loose an apple that falls on Isaac Newton’s head. That one sentence identifies only the closest causes of the event: a squirrel running on the branch, an apple stem ready to break, and Newton having lunch under that tree.

      But each of these was caused by their own eternally branching causes. In theory, we could trace the actions of the squirrel back through its birth, family tree, the groups migration to that park, all the genetic changes creating the species, the causes of each specific mutation, back through the common DNA before it branched into species, the primordial soup in which the DNA was “born”, the interstellar events following the big bang that created the atoms from which the DNA molecule arose, back to the big bang itself, and from there back to the black hole that slowly accumulated sufficient matter to trigger the big bang, and back through a series of big bangs, etc.

      And every one of those causes will have multiple causes of its own to have made it happen at precisely that point in time, which all culminated in the squirrel jumping on the tree just when it did.

      As you move a greater distance from what you want to predict, the causes branch and multiply, making prediction impossible in any practical sense, and yet ‘possible in theory’.

      So, yes, everything that happens is inevitable. So what?

      How do you think this actually changes anything?

    • Hi Marvin,

      If everything that happens is inevitable, then “choice” and “free will” are an illusion.

      If everything that happens is inevitable, then we may feel as if we are making choices, but in fact we are not. Everything we think, feel, and do is the inevitable and only possible result of causes that pre-exist us. We therefore have no real control over our own life and our own future. Any sense of such control is an illusion.

      Even if we “decide” to remain still if tossed into a swimming pool, that “decision” is not really a decision at all. It is the inevitable result of prior causes. It was determined before we were born that we would drown in that swimming pool. When it happens, we are simply experiencing the results of those prior causes.

      If, on the other hand, everything that happens in not inevitable, and choice and free will are not mere illusion, then we can actually change what our future will be by the choices we make in the present.

      From my perspective, the ability to do that is central to our humanity.

    • Incidentally, the issue of predictability seems to me to be a side issue.

      Even if we are not capable of predicting events due to the extreme complexity of the causes that brought them about and our inability to know and factor in all of those causes, if the results are inevitable, then the negation of the reality of choice and free will remains.

      Our lack of ability to predict the future due to our inability to know and correctly apply all of the causes may enable us to maintain an illusion of free will. However, if all events are in reality inevitable, then human free will is still an illusion.

    • Lee, my response to the main question is farther down. I’m having some problem selecting the correct -> Reply token.

      Your point about predictability is correct. Predictability requires the underlying reliability of cause and effect.

      Inevitability, whether predictable or not, is deduced directly from cause and effect. And the principle of cause and effect remains true at many levels.

      For example, if you are troubled by a difficult decision, you can write down your reasons and your feelings as you think it through. At the end, you’ll have a written record of the various considerations that led to your conclusion.

      If you thoughtfully review this record, and believe you made the correct decision, then you will realize that it was inevitable that you made that choice. Someone else may have chose differently.

      But you made that specific choice because it was you, and, in the end, you must realize that it was the only choice you could reasonably make.

      Now, do you expect free will to be anything more than that? Do you wish the “freedom to be someone else”? Do you wish the “freedom” from your own beliefs and values?

      What freedom do you require to be satisfied that you do in fact have free will?

    • Hi Marvin,

      The WordPress comment system leaves something to be desired. Once a comment reaches the nesting level set by the blog host, there is no reply button.

      There is also no comment preview function, and there is no way for anyone but the blog host to edit comments once posted.

      So we just have to suffer through the limitations of the software until the WordPress gods see fit to upgrade it.

    • I should also have mentioned that if a comment is in reply to one of yours, you can reply to it through the WP comments system, though not on the blog page itself. If that isn’t confusing enough . . . .

    • Hi Marvin,

      Now to the substance of your comment:

      Free will means precisely that our choice was not inevitable. It means that we could have chosen to do something else.

      This is how we experience free will.

      In some cases the “choice” we feel we made may not have truly been a freely made choice, but was in fact determined by inner and outer causes beyond our control.

      In other cases, though, I believe that the choice truly is free: that we could have gone either way, and we exercised our free will to go one way rather than the other.

      My own belief is that this non-determinism, and real free will, depends upon the existence of a non-material God who created both the spiritual and material universes. Free will, I believe, resides in spiritual reality, not in material reality.

      During the course of our life on earth, I believe, God maintains a balance between the forces of evil and the forces of good impinging upon us so that we can make the fundamental choice between good and evil in a state of true freedom.

      As I said in a previous comment, I believe that this genuine free will and freedom of choice is fundamental to our humanity.

      So yes, I do believe we have the “freedom to be someone else.”

      At the most basic level, I believe that we have the real capability to choose whether to be a good person–meaning a person motivated primarily by love for God and/or love for our fellow human beings–or an evil person–meaning a person motivated by self-love and/or love for material possessions and pleasures.

      The choice we make between those two basic possibilities will determine both who we are and what our beliefs and values will be.

      That is the free will that I “want.” And it is the free will that I believe we actually have.

    • “Is the fact that your next choice is inevitable helpful in any way? No. Because you cannot know for certain what you will choose until you go through your mental process of evaluating your options and making the choice yourself. And if you already knew the result you would skip right to the answer. Every deliberate choice begins with uncertainty. If there is no uncertainty then there is no choosing involved.”

      It is helpful because those who look at your past choices can predict your future choices with amazing accuracy. This happens because those choices were made by the same person with the same nature. If the future choices deviate from the past ones, then there is a causal explanation and we do well to find why someone changed their diet or religious beliefs.

    • “If the future choices deviate from the past ones, then there is a causal explanation and we do well to find why someone changed their diet or religious beliefs.”

      Because we get to choose, of our own free will, what becomes inevitable we can create and employ interventions. For example, a correctional facility (prison) may provide opportunities for inmates to get their high school diploma through a GED, giving them a way to find work when released.

      Also, by sociologists looking at the causes of crime, we might choose to insure communities have supervised after school programs so that kids whose parents are at work don’t have to organize gangs to entertain themselves.

      The idea of “inevitability” usually conveys the notion of “something beyond our control”. Forgetting that we are causal agents of what becomes inevitable is the mental error that both you and Lee (and a whole lot of supposedly intelligent scientists, philosophers, etc) are making. And that error is how you get trapped in the paradox.

      You cannot push for social change and progress by telling everyone that they have no free will. It is the OPPOSITE of personal empowerment.

      Again, knock it off.

    • Why can’t I push for social change? I don’t see the paradox?

    • CK: “Why can’t I push for social change? I don’t see the paradox?”

      If there is nothing between the causes you experience and the effects you cause, then how can you choose to effect social change (or anything else)?

      To remove “free will” from the causal chain also removes you. There is no longer an “I” to do anything. If free will is an illusion, then so are you.

    • I certainly will cause change. To do otherwise would violate my programming. I am not free to choose inaction.

  2. Darn right it does! If you think there’s no point in living, you’re bound to be negative and in despair

    • Very true. I used to be rather negative years ago because I thought my actions made no difference. Now I see that I do make a difference in a good way. That is what gave me a sense of meaning in my life but many others get their meaning from a different source.

  3. Seriously?! You are saying this is the final show on this topic?! I could listen to those to go at it all day!!!

    • Hi Callie,

      Now that could get tiring! 😉

    • Even if this was the final show on the culture monk about this topic, I am certainly not done discussing it. I think Lee doesn’t care about it like I do because he doesn’t understand the relevance it has in all the religious and political debates. I will continue talking to more people about it even if it isn’t with Kenneth or Lee.

    • But you need to start getting it right, Chandler. Your continual denial of free will (your blog on WordPress is called “Anti-Choice Determinist”) is not merely wrong, but morally harmful. A couple of times now I’ve given you information about Dr. Eddy Nahmias’s article on “Willusionism”. (see
      http://eddynahmias.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Neuroethics-Response-to-Baumeister.pdf )

      Nahmias reports several studies showing that “telling people that free will is an illusion leads people to cheat more, help less, and behave more aggressively”. “Put simply”, he says, “if people are told they have no free will, they might interpret this to mean they lack willpower, and believing that might lead them to exert less willpower to do the more difficult (but more appropriate) thing to do.”

      If it were true that determinism implies there is no free will, then I would be on board. But it is not true. Deterministic inevitability cannot selectively exclude the mental deliberation and choices made by evolved biological organisms. If you can exclude any link in the causal chain at will, then you might as well exclude them all.

      No.

      We are thinking, deliberating, and choosing causal agents within the physical, deterministic universe. And a lot of what becomes inevitable only does so by our deliberate choice.

      The fact that each choice is influenced by our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, experience, etc. means nothing more than that they are in fact made by us, as unique human beings, and by no one else. All of these causes are impotent without us.

    • I have read the Nahmias article before but I don’t find it convincing. There is no way you can make the case that people will start acting immorally just because they are made aware that their will is not free from their past.

      And even if it were so, those people would only commit crimes if they already had extremely strong desires to do so anyway. Your claim is nonsense.

    • CK: “There is no way you can make the case that people will start acting immorally just because they are made aware that their will is not free from their past.”

      I presume the studies Nahmias references refer to psychology experiments using college students as subjects. So I’m not surprised that when students are told that “scientists say that free will is an illusion” that one of the behaviors they found to increase was cheating. This is a borderline behavior that is influenced by perception of peer attitudes as much as by personal moral beliefs.

      I was an Honor Court chairman at Richmond Professional Institute (now VCU) back in the 60’s and spent some time reading William Bowers’ classic survey “Student Dishonesty and Its Control in College”. Bowers found that “perceived peer disapproval” had a higher correlation that personal disapproval in affecting student’s decision whether to cheat or not.

      I have no trouble believing the experimental data that cheating behavior would be affected by convincing people that they are not responsible for their actions. And that is the message that telling them “free will is an illusion” drums into their heads. And you and Mr. Ortega seem to want to drum that into their heads.

    • Hi Chandler,

      Now, now. Let’s not talk about what I do or don’t care about. After all, I’ve devoted my life to teaching and encouraging people to do good things with their lives. That is based on my belief that we truly do have free will. I understand that you see free will as a force for evil. But I see it as giving us the power to do good instead of evil.

  4. Lee,

    If everything that happens, including you and me, is based in the same physical, deterministic universe, then choice CANNOT POSSIBLY be an illusion.

    Consider this analogy. You stand and you walk. This is based in the physical reality of your neuromuscular system and the coordination of your vision and inner ear balance systems. Is standing and walking real or is it an illusion?

    The same is true for thinking and choosing. They too reside in real biological tissue with the special functions of memory, imagination, evaluating options, planning, and choosing.

    Thinking and choosing are as real as standing and walking. Therefore it is illogical to call mental processes an “illusion”.

    We are real. And when we think and choose, it is us, and only us making the choice. All of the reasons, feelings, beliefs, values, experience, and so on, that cause you to choose one thing rather than another, are totally impotent to cause anything without you.

    If you choose to shoot someone with a gun, they will die. To say that “we may feel as if we are making choices, but in fact we are not” is pretty damn silly. The guy is dead. You’re under arrest. Case closed.

    The fact is that (a) everything that happens is inevitable and (b) choice and free will are not illusions. Your choice is you determining what will become inevitable.

    The truth is that inevitability is a fact, but a generally useless fact. Those who try to make of it more than it really is do so in error.

  5. Hi Marvin,

    Thanks for your replies.

    Of course, I don’t accept the premise that “everything that happens, including you and me, is based in the same physical, deterministic universe.”

    I also don’t accept the logic that if this is (or were) the case, choice cannot be an illusion.

    Choice implies that there are at least two possible outcomes, between which we choose, and our choice decides which one will happen. However, if in fact there is only one possible outcome, as demanded by the very definition of determinism, then there is, in fact, no choice. There is simply the inevitable playing out of prior causes.

    The fact that we think we have choice does not necessarily mean that we actually have choice. And the fact that the guy is dead after we shoot him also does not necessarily mean we actually chose to shoot him. If our actions are already determined in advance, then it was inevitable that we would shoot him, and our “choice” to do so is a mere appearance. The causes were already in place before we made our “choice” that made that outcome inevitable. Our “choice” was determined in advance, meaning it was not really a choice at all.

    For thousands of years, people thought that the earth stands still and the sun moves across the sky. That turned out to be an illusion due to our position on the surface of a moving earth. Just because it appears to us as if the sun moves and the earth stands still, that doesn’t mean those things are actually true.

    Similarly, just because we feel as if we have free will and can make real choices, that doesn’t necessarily mean those things are the reality of the situation.

    Determinism by definition requires that we do not have real choice, and that therefore our sense of having a choice is an illusion, just as our sense of the sun moving is an illusion.

    I’m not sure it can be said any more clearly: determinism and free will are mutually exclusive.

    If something happens as a result of a choice made in a state of free will, it is not deterministic.

    If something happens as the inevitable result of prior causes, it is not free will, nor is it a choice.

    Claiming otherwise violates the very definitions of determinism and free will.

    • Lee, It appears you and Chandler are both stuck in the same paradox. Chandler insists that free will cannot exist because determinism is true. You insist that determinism cannot be true because free will exists.

      And I disagree with both of you. The illusion that you and Chandler share is that free will and inevitability cannot both be true at the same time.

      But they are both simultaneously true.

      (A) Simple cause and effect logically imply inevitability. Inevitability is, unfortunately for you Lee, inevitable. Even God’s choices, if God is rational, are inevitable. If God is irrational, then God is no longer reliably good. But those are special problems that those who believe in the supernatural must face.

      If we are to have free will, then we must also have determinism. A choice cannot be real if it cannot be effected by our acting upon that choice. Picking the apple from the tree must reliably give us an apple in our hand, and not sometimes an apple and sometimes a pair of shoes or sometimes a cat in our hand.

      (B) If free will is an “illusion”, then the “self’ is also an illusion. Chandler’s position is irrational, because it pretends that somehow inevitability does not involve us. But we are clearly agents of causality in the eternal causal chains. That thing that we call “us” is actually real, right there in the physical organism we call a “person”, and the mental processes exist within actual physical reality. One of those mental processes happens to be choosing between two or more options. And that choice determines what becomes inevitable.

      Causality reliably implies inevitability. Free will reliably implies causality. Therefore they are both true.

      The sense that they conflict is clearly the only illusion here. And both you and Chandler suffer from the same illusion.

    • Hi Marvin,

      I would say, rather, that both you and Chandler are stuck in the same false equation that causality = inevitability.

      I don’t think causality = inevitability either materially or spiritually.

      Materially, quantum mechanics posits that there is uncertainty built right into the fabric of reality. According to quantum theory, this is not merely an observational effect. The observer effect is a phenomenon of its own, distinct from uncertainty.

      Even on large scales, according to current theory, events and phenomena are not absolutely determined, but rather exist on a scale of probability due to the uncertainty at the quantum level. On the orders of magnitude that we commonly deal with in our ordinary lives, the probabilities generally become so overwhelming that practically speaking we can treat ordinary reality as if it were deterministic. But there still exists a minuscule yet real possibility that an event could take place contrary to what determinism would require.

      Spiritually, free will itself becomes a major force in the causality of events. That’s because God has created a universe in which humans have real, spiritual free will and choice between at least two equally possible outcomes.

      Your argument seems to be that causality and determinism are the same thing, and therefore reality must be deterministic. This is also Chandler’s argument.

      I think that is a mistaken and limited view of causality.

      Though it is difficult for our material minds to conceive of causality that is not deterministic, that is precisely what we are finding operating in the material universe on the quantum level, and that is precisely what we experience happening in the spiritual universe in which our mind and heart exist.

      On the material level, many people still confuse quantum uncertainty with the observer effect. That, I think, is because people have a hard time accepting that the fundamental nature of physical reality may involve uncertainty, and be non-deterministic.

      Spiritually, there are various theologies, such as Calvinism, that reject free will as anything more than an illusion. That, I think, is because many people cannot fathom the idea that an omniscient and omnipotent God could actually create a universe in which beings (specifically, humans) can do things that are contrary to God’s will.

      And yet, the fundamental issue of religion is whether we humans do or don’t act according to God’s will. And that requires it to be possible for us to act contrary to God’s will.

      I believe that God built that possibility right into the fabric of spiritual reality because without it there could be no real relationship between the Creator and created beings.

      Our ability to not follow God’s will means that when we choose to follow God’s will, and form a loving relationship with God and with our fellow human beings, that relationship is real and mutual rather than pre-programmed and robotic.

      The universe as I see it involves both cause-and-effect relationships and the ability for things to unfold along multiple equally possible paths.

      If we lived in a simple, Newtonian, wholly material universe, that would not be possible.

      However as I see it, we live in a universe created by an omniscient and omnipotent God. And God is able to think outside our rather limited box, and create a universe that is both lawful and allows for us to choose freely whether or not to act in accordance with or in opposition to those laws. God is not limited to creating a deterministic universe.

      Of course, if we choose to act in opposition to God’s laws, we will still reap the effects of our lawlessness. And yet, that still doesn’t negate the reality of the choice and the free will. We are the ones who decide whether to reap this set of consequences rather than that set of consequences. And whichever choice we make, the ensuing chain of events will unfold based on that choice rather than on the other equally possible choice.

      This is the level of complexity that God created into the universe, which, as I say, we can see both in analog through our understanding of reality at the quantum level and directly through our own experience of spiritual reality and our ability to make choices that affect the future course of our lives.

    • Let me also address some of the specific issues.

      1) Causality implies inevitability because each effect is presumed to have one or more relevant/responsible causes that together necessitate the effect. And each cause may in turn be viewed as an effect, with it’s own set of causes.

      We assume that this causal chain has links going back through all past events, and that future events must be caused by the current state and all of the events currently in play.

      Therefore, causality implies inevitability.

      2) Probability is a tool used when it is not practical to calculate the effects of all of the known causes (weather forecasts) or where some causes are unknown or immeasurable (quantum mechanics). Probability does not imply any lack of causality or inevitability, it only implies a lack of knowledge (uncertainty).

      3) Causes, by definition, determine effects. Determinism is based upon the reliability of the effects of given causes.

      4) About the future, the most important thing to keep in mind is that it hasn’t happened yet. But it is being determined moment by moment by what is happening somewhere right now. If that were not the case…

      5) Let me try an analogy to get across why free will and determinism do not conflict. If you’re creating a video image, you may first pick out a background and then paint the images on top of it. Determinism and inevitability is like the background. It is always there. Free will and all our other human concepts are painted upon this background. Causality is everywhere, including within every choice we make for ourselves. We are causality. Just as much as any other part of the material (or spiritual) world.

    • Hi Marvin,

      Thanks for your replies.

      I doubt we’re going to make much more progress here. It appears that you and I differ fundamentally on the nature of causality.

      You believe that causality and determinism are the same thing–that “causality implies inevitability.”

      I believe that causality can operate without inevitability: that human life involves real choices between at least two equally possible outcomes.

      Neither position is really provable.

      You seem to take it as an axiom that causality implies inevitability.

      I take it as an axiom that causality does not imply inevitability, but that causality can operate in such a way that there can be two or more possible results from the same set of causes.

      I think that reality as we experience it, both scientifically and psychologically, supports my axiom better.

      Clearly, you think reality supports your axiom better.

      That is an intellectual impasse between the two of us. And it’s one that we will probably not be able to surmount such that we could come to agreement.

      I don’t have a problem with that.

      As I see it, human life and character is defined primarily by what we do, and only secondarily by what we think.

      If I come to an intellectual impasse with someone, but I see that they are good-hearted and well-intentioned, and seek to live a good and decent life with their fellow human beings, I consider them a friend, brother or sister even if the two of us may disagree on intellectual issues.

    • What I’ve tried to do is explain how free will is alive and well within determinism. And that inevitability is nothing to fear when we actually get to choose what becomes inevitable. Without us, things turn out differently. When we choose for ourselves what we will do, we become the final responsible cause of what results from our actions.

      If our convictions about one of the options are especially strong, then our choice will follow those convictions. If both options are equally desirable, we may flip a coin, or perhaps choose to try one option for a while, and then try the other, before making a more permanent choice.

      Our process of deliberation weighs the alternatives according to our beliefs and values. We may also reason out a list of costs and benefits. We may also imagine the outcomes of each choice to see how we feel about them.

      We use this process to determine our deliberate choice. And, as long as we are not being coerced by someone else to do what is against our will, we call this “choosing of our own free will”.

      Assuming we are not in a coin flipping situation (where both options are equal), our moral considerations will favor one option above the others. And at the end of our deliberation we will recognize that our choice was inevitable, given who we are at that moment and the options available in the specific circumstances of the choice we had to make.

  6. Speaking both spiritually and materially, our reasons, our feelings and our very nature are causes of our choices. Therefore our choices are inevitable, and often even predictable. The reasoning here works equally well for spiritual as well as material beings. Even for God.

    The stories of God in the Old Testament present Him as a rational, goal directed personality with His own set of emotions. In the beginning of Creation, God looks upon what He has done and feels a sense of satisfaction, and says over and over, “it is good”. Much later, witnessing mankind’s sinful behavior, He is so filled with such regret that He destroys nearly all of Creation with the Flood.

    In the Biblical world, God’s nature and the condition of mankind caused His choice to wash it away and start over again.

    Cause and effect are not suspended by God, even though He were to revoke all the laws of physics. Because cause and effect are not physical laws. They are laws of rational behavior, whether physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual.

    And, since God’s behavior is caused by specific reasons (mankind’s behavior and God’s emotional turmoil in the case of the Flood) it may also be said to be inevitable and deterministic.

    Determinism does not require physical laws. But it does require rational, predictable behavior, whether in the physical world or the mental world or the spiritual world.

    Again, an indeterministic world (physical, mental, or spiritual) would be chaotic madness.

    Luckily, no degree of indeterminism is required to provide us with free will. The mental process, whether it takes place in a physical brain or in an insubstantial soul, follows the same model. We begin first with uncertainty about what we should do. We imagine several options. We estimate what the results will be from choosing one versus choosing another. We evaluate those results in terms of our beliefs and values. And then we choose and act upon that choice.

    The choice is our will at that moment. And acting upon that choice determines what inevitably comes next.

    Our choice was the inevitable result of who we are and what we think and feel. It was us and no one else who made that choice. No other choice could have been made by us at that point in time.

    We certainly considered other options. They were possibilities, but they were not inevitable. Only one choice was inevitable. And we made that choice of our own free will.

    As to quantum mechanics, “uncertainty” is essentially the same as “unpredictability”. We don’t know what causes the strange, unpredictable behavior of the subatomic particles involved. But I have faith that each effect does have causes, even if we don’t know yet what they are, and even if we must deal with our uncertainty by employing probability to make gross predictions.

    • Hi Marvin,

      A couple of quick responses:

      First, from my perspective, the Bible describes God as God appears to human beings. This is often quite different from the way God actually is. Many of the emotions and actions attributed to God in the Bible are appearances from a human perspective, and not the real character or actions of God. If the Bible were to try to describe God as God actually is, not a single person on earth could understand it. So the Bible must use human experiences, emotions, actions, and imagery to give us some sense of who and what God is.

      To use a material analogy, the sun appears to move across the sky, but in fact it stays still relative to the earth, and the earth’s rotation causes it to appear to move across the sky. It’s fine to talk about the sun rising, moving across the sky, and setting, as long as we don’t insist that the sun actually is moving, and the earth is standing still. The phenomenon we observe from our position here on earth is the result of a real, reliable occurrence, but that reality is different from what it appears to us to be.

      Second, about quantum mechanics, my understanding is that the theory holds that the uncertainty is not just a matter of our being unable to observe or discern all the operative causes, but that the uncertainty is a fundamental property of the quantum fields themselves.

      You say you “have faith” that each effect has a cause. I’d say that’s an accurate statement. The idea that every effect is the inevitable result of prior causes is a matter of faith, or belief, not a matter of observable, demonstrable reality.

    • Hi Lee,

      Yes, it could be like Flatland where the people exist in a two-dimensional world. A sphere intersects their plane and tries to explain the world of three-dimensions. The inhabitants, however, can only see a circle. (“Flatland” by Edwin Abbott – Note: Not a book for children due to unflattering views of women in 1884). But your point also supports the view of the Bible as creating God in the image of man.

      As to effects having reliable causes, I think that is more readily observable in the real world than an uncaused event or things “just happening” (as in a magic show).

    • Hi Marvin,

      Apparently it was Voltaire who said:

      If God has made us in his image, we have returned him the favor.

    • I guess that would make me Dr. Pangloss.

      But, back to God. From your description, God cannot see the future. He can have no knowledge of what a person with free will will choose. Therefore He is just as much in the dark about what will happen next as the rest of us. Is that correct?

    • Hi Marvin,

      So you’re highly optimistic about the universe?

      And no, that’s not how I understand God’s relationship with time.

      We can and do speak loosely about God’s “foreknowledge” or “foresight.” However, those are actually inaccurate terms when applied to God. They are limited by our time-bound thinking.

      Time and space are properties of matter and the material universe. They don’t apply to non-material things.

      God is non-material. Therefore temporal and spatial concepts don’t apply to God. God exists at the divine level of reality, which is the highest or deepest level of reality.

      At that level of reality there is no such thing as a sequence of events, nor is there such a thing as objects spread out from one another in space.

      Instead, from the divine level of reality God is present in all time without being temporal (i.e., God is not bounded by time), and present in all space without being spatial (i.e., God is not bounded by space).

      Probably the closest we humans can get to understanding this is that God sees everything that we experience as temporal–past, present, and future–all laid out at once in an eternal present.

      And God grasps everything we see as spread out in space in a single space-less view.

      So strictly speaking, God does not “know the future” because the future is present to God. God knows everything we experience as past, present, and future as a present reality from a state of being outside of time.

      If we want to say loosely that God has complete knowledge of the future, then from our human, time-bound perspective that is a true statement.

      However, from the perspective of God it is a nonsensical statement because for God there is no future, nor is there a past. All things are present.

    • Hi Lee,

      My point is that, if the future can be known with certainty, then it is inevitable. God may be free of time and space if you like, but we are not.

      If “for God there is no future, nor is there a past. All things are present”, then the future may not diverge without implying God’s uncertainty.

      Omniscience seems to imply a deterministic reality. Because if God knows our future with absolute certainty, then, by your logic (but not by mine) you no longer have free will.

    • Hi Marvin,

      This is precisely where people get stuck, resulting in mistaken conclusions about God, free will, and determinism. This conundrum is the result of a lot of faulty church doctrine, such as predestination on the one hand and the non-omniscience of God on the other.

      Back in my seminary days I had major debates with a fellow student who thought that God knows only the all possibilities and probabilities, not what actually happens, because otherwise, he thought, we would have no free will.

      But once again, reality as I understand it is more complex than that.

      First a simple point:

      Knowledge does not = causation.

      If I hold a book up in the air, I know that if I let go of it, it will drop and hit the floor. But my knowledge that that will happen does not cause it to happen. Gravity does.

      Similarly, God’s knowledge of what to us is the future does not cause that future to happen. Our choices, along with many other causative factors outside of God, does that.

      (continued)

    • We agree that knowledge is not causation.

      But if an event in the future can be foreseen with absolute certainty, then that event is inevitable.

      The correct response to inevitability is “so what?”

      God may know it with absolute certainty, but He cannot tell us without destroying free will. If we knew what we were going to decide in advance, we’d skip over the decision making process. Every decision begins with uncertainty. Being told that whatever we decide will have been inevitable is an obvious truism, but useless, because we cannot be certain of our decision until we’ve made it for ourselves.

      And, if we were told what we would inevitably decide, that new piece of information could cause us to rebelliously pick the opposite decision for spite. In which case the opposite would be inevitable. And knowing that … we end up in a logical loop.

      Or, we may end up frozen, and refuse to make the decision at all, in which case that would have been what was actually inevitable.

      So, the best we can do is agree that, well, yes, it will be inevitable, but this fact is useless to us. The only thing of use to us is not a prediction of what we will decide, but a prediction of the results of each decision, so that we can choose the result we want to make inevitable.

    • Hi Marvin,

      I agree with everything you say here except that I don’t accept the premises behind the statement, “if an event in the future can be foreseen with absolute certainty, then that event is inevitable.”

      This is beastly difficult to wrap one’s mind around, because we humans are so steeped in thinking that is bound by time and space. It’s hard even to talk about this without getting one’s words all tied up in knots in the effort to express non-temporal realities in time-based, material language. And yet, understanding these things requires thinking temporally and non-temporally at the same time.

      The reality is that the future cannot be foreseen with absolute certainty, because there is no being with such foresight.

      No human being or angel (spiritual being) can foresee the future with absolute certainty because to do so would require infinite knowledge, and only God has infinite knowledge.

      God also does not foresee the future, because for God there is no future. God simply sees as present all events in all times and places.

      We agree that knowledge is not causation. Therefore God’s seeing of all reality does not cause that reality to happen. It is simply an observation of what does happen. And that observation does not require what happens to be inevitable.

      In our experience in the material universe, everything plays out through time, and we experience all events sequentially. In time things in the future haven’t happened yet. And since they happen in the framework of time, that means they are not necessarily determined yet. They could go one way or they could go another way.

      When we speak of things unfolding in time, the only thing that matters is the unfolding of things in time. It doesn’t matter that an outside observer is observing the whole thing from a point outside of time.

      I agree with you that the choices we make have a determinative effect on our future. I don’t agree that those choices were or are inevitable, even if their outcomes are known to God as a present reality.

    • (continued)

      It may still seem as though God’s knowledge of all events in all times implies inevitability. But that, too, is a fallacy brought about by an over-simplistic view of causality.

      Causality is not a simple, linear thing. It is a complex phenomenon involving many streams all interweaving with one another to bring about the reality that we experience.

      Some of those streams of causality operate within one level of reality, such as hitting a pool ball with the cue stick, causing a chain reaction in which (the player hopes) at least one ball goes into a pocket.

      But there are other streams of causality operating as well. During that whole time, the quantum fields within each pool ball are going through a vast number of complex interactions all of which together result in what we perceive as the solid subsistence of the pool balls and the cue stick. That is another distinct but interrelated stream of causality.

      When we bring God and spirit into the equation, we introduce many more streams of causality, both within those levels of reality (divine and spiritual) and from the higher to the lower levels of reality (God to spirit, spirit to matter, God to matter).

      Teasing out even the generalities of all of these streams of causality would require at least a volume, if not a whole encyclopedia on the topic.

      However, the overarching conclusion is that though all objects in lower levels of reality are held in existence by the successively higher levels of reality, causality operates semi-independently on each level of reality.

      For example, quantum fields hold the pool balls in existence, but the pool balls’ interaction with one another takes place according to Newtonian equations. Each form of causality operates on its own level as if independently from the levels of causality that bring about its existence.

      Inevitability implies that the causes that bring about a particular effect are already in place long before that effect ever takes place. But that’s not how it works in reality.

      I’ve already said that God’s knowledge of all events, including events that to us are in the future, does not mean that God causes those events to happen.

      It is also true that God’s creation of all things in the universe does not cause everything in the universe to happen.

      That’s because, as I’ve said multiple times before, God created the universe such that free will is a reality on the spiritual level, and a certain amount of uncertainty, randomness, and probability is a reality on the material level.

      This means that neither God’s omniscience nor God’s omnipotence requires or causes the universe to unfold by an inevitable chain of causes and effects toward an inevitable conclusion.

      Rather:

      The causes that operate within the material universe, and thus within time and space, cause most material events to happen that are outside of human control, and heavily affect many that are within human control.

      And the causes that happen within the spiritual universe bring about the events that are within human control, including ones that affect the material universe, such as the building of cities and the damming of rivers.

      Because spiritual reality, in particular, is constructed such that humans can make choices between equally possible outcomes, spiritual causality is many orders of magnitude more complex than material causality–which is fantastically complex in its own right.

      The short version is that even the omnipotence of God doesn’t cause our future inevitably to happen. That’s because God has constructed a universe in which God does not make all the decisions. God has delegated decision-making authority to us over our individual and community future both socially and spiritually. So the choices we freely make are what cause our future, not God’s omnipotence nor God’s omniscience.

      (continued)

    • I agree with you that causality is complex. Since each event may require multiple relevant causes (a cause that, if removed, the event would not occur) and each of those causes is itself either a prior state or prior event, it can be seen that causes quickly branch into many directions. It is usually not a single causal chain, but a network that expands as you move farther from the event.

      And, as you move farther from the event, each cause become less and less direct, less and less relevant, and more and more tangential.

      However, even an “uncaused event” (in your world) that can be foreseen with absolute certainty would also be an inevitable event.

      So, again, the question is “Inevitability — So what?”

      So long as that inevitability requires our our existence, our active participation, our deliberation, and our choosing, free will remains intact.

      And it remains intact whether we are physical or spiritual beings.

    • Hi Marvin,

      I would simply say once again that in my world there are no “uncaused events.” Every event has a cause. But I do not equate causality with inevitability. I see causality as more complex than determinism requires it to be.

      I would also point out that in classical philosophy there is more than cause and effect. There is end (or purpose), cause, and effect.

      Introducing purpose into the universe as a reality brings about huge changes in what does and doesn’t exist and what can and cannot happen in the universe.

      Science, and materialistic philosophy in general, does not deal in ends, or purposes. Only in causes and effects. This places a severe limitation on science and on materialistic philosophy.

      Science is very useful. But its sphere of usefulness is limited. In practice its usefulness is mostly limited to the realm of effects. It can observe causes also. But it has nothing to say about the purpose of our life–which is precisely the subject of religion and spiritual philosophy.

    • Hi Lee,

      About purpose. We are born into a world of good, which we did not create. Not just material things, but ideals, like justice, liberty, and equality. And spiritual values, like courage, joy, and compassion.

      We benefit from what others, in good faith, have left for us. In return, we sacrifice selfish interest when necessary to preserve this good for others. For the sake of our children, and our children’s children, we seek to understand, to serve, to protect, and perhaps, humbly, to enhance this greater good.

      It is an act of faith to live by moral principle when the greedy prosper by dishonest means. It is an act of faith to stand up for right when the crowd is headed the wrong way. It is an act of faith to return good for evil.

      We have seen Hell. We have seen gang cultures whose rite of passage is an act of mayhem or murder. We have seen racial slavery, persecution, and genocide. We have seen revenge spread violence through whole communities.

      We envision Heaven, where people live in peace and every person is valued. It can only be reached when each person seeks good for himself only through means that are consistent with achieving good for all.

      If God exists, then that is His command. If God does not exist, then that is what we must command of ourselves and of each other. Either way, whether we achieve Heaven or Hell is up to us.

      The point of God is to make good sacred. We trust that, each time we put the best good for all above our own selfish interest, the world becomes a better place, for all of us, and our children, and their children.

    • Hi Marvin,

      Well said.

    • (concluded)

      I know all of this strains the brain. Once again, it’s difficult for our time-bound minds to think outside of time and space. But that’s precisely what we must do in order to gain some understanding of how God can know all things that to us are past, present, and future, and yet our future is not inevitable, but is brought about by our freely made choices.

      Perhaps this difficulty is exemplified by our human desire to say “God knows our future.” Though that appears to be a true statement from our perspective in time, it is not really a true statement in itself.

      What God knows is the present, which includes all present moments, including those that to us are still in the future.

      Strictly speaking, God doesn’t “know the past” either. Once again, God knows the present moment, including all present moments that to us are in the past.

      This means that from God’s perspective, it would make just as much sense to say that inevitability (and strict causality) flows backwards as it would to say that inevitability flows forward. And yet, we humans think of causality as flowing forward in time.

      That’s not how it works from God’s perspective. God operates into all points in time based on a knowledge of all other points in time. So God operates into what we perceive as the past from what we perceive as the present and the future just as much as God operates into what we perceive as the present and the future from what we perceive as the past.

      In all of God’s actions, the causality is not flowing in or through time and space. It is flowing into all time and space simultaneously from a state outside of time and space.

      And yet, God has given the spiritual and material levels of reality a certain amount of independence such that they determine their own future (as perceived on that level) through the steams of causality that operate within and among those two levels of reality.

      I’m not sure I’ll be able to make this any clearer than what I’ve laid out here, though I’d be willing to give it a try if you have further responses, questions, or objections.

      These are not easy concepts for our rather limited minds to grasp. I don’t claim to totally understand it myself. But there are certain principles that, once we know them, help to gradually sort it out in our minds.

    • Yeah, it does strain the brain at first. I ran into the problem when I was a teenager at the Richmond Public Library, reading some Spinoza I think. But there is nothing one can do about inevitability except acknowledge it and then ignore it. It changes nothing.

      What becomes inevitable is still brought about by choices we make for ourselves by our own free will. The fact that each choice is influenced by our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, experience, etc. means nothing more than that they are in fact made by us, as unique human beings, and by no one else.

      If anyone (e.g., God or your wife) knows us well enough to predict our choice in advance, well, good for them. That changes nothing about us being the agents of choice and agents of causation.

    • Hi Marvin,

      Another youth wasted! Reading Spinoza in the public library??? Really??? 😛 During that time I was . . . uhh . . . reading Swedenborg in my room. 😉

      As I said before, I doubt you and I will come to agreement about inevitability.

    • Maybe you should read some compatibilists. I haven’t read it yet, but people say Daniel C. Dennett is a compatiblist in his book “Elbow Room – The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting”).

    • P.S. In my first comment above in this series, posted March 13, 2015 • 10:46 am, I should have said, “This conundrum is the cause of a lot of faulty church doctrine,” not a result of a lot of faulty church doctrine.

    • P.S. There is a solution to the riddle, “Can God create a stone so heavy that he cannot lift it?”. The stone’s name is “free will”.

    • Haha! Good one!

      Of course, it raises the whole issue of the nature of God’s omnipotence. But that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.

  7. I would sort of like to see Lee and Marvin talk to each other live about this free will topic as well. Their comments on this page are interesting.

    • Hi Chandler,

      I was wondering if you’d show up here again. Look what we started! 😀

    • This topic is huge. In time I believe you will see the relevance that it has to all areas of life.

    • And in time, I believe you’ll see that as well. 😛

    • I disagree, Chandler. The topic is not huge. It is really very simple. The fact of universal inevitability is best simply noted and then ignored. There is no way that it can be put to any good purpose. And it appears to have caused more confusion by its misuse.

      It is correct to seek out the causes of harmful conditions in our lives and in society so that they can be consciously, deliberately, and willfully addressed.

      It is correct to seek an understanding of the causes of people’s choices to do bad rather than good things. This is necessary to take steps for better childhood education and better parenting methods.

      It is wrong to just place blame and apply retributive punishment without seeking an opportunity to correct and rehabilitate. After all, Jesus made this clear in the parable of the Prodigal Son, The Good Shepherd, etc.

      And blame and retributive punishment were what you (and George Ortega) misguidedly hoped to eliminate by removing free will.

      There is nothing that can be done about universal inevitability itself. The idea of universal inevitability is true, but it is a particularly useless truth, because:

      1) Knowing the choice will turn out to have been inevitable provides no help in making the decision. You cannot know for certain what you will choose until you deliberately choose it.

      2) You cannot take it into account without introducing an eternal loop (if this choice is inevitable then I will choose that instead, but now that is inevitable, so I will choose this …, etc).

      3) It cannot serve as a “get out of jail free card”, because it always operates equally on both sides of all equations. If you say, “But judge, it was inevitable that I did the crime”, the judge will say, “And it is inevitable that you are penalized”.

    • I never suggested that it be used as a get out of jail free card. It is more about removing the self-blame for our mistakes so that we can move on and correct those mistakes rather than feeling guilty and committing suicide because we feel like evil people deserving of punishment.

      Perhaps this message of forgiveness is similar to what christianity offers some people, but determinism is more of a scientific understanding that I could never have deserved anything and there is no need for a bloody sacrifice to save me from a hell of eternal torture. That is worse than jail.

    • CK: “I never suggested that it be used as a get out of jail free card.”

      That’s right. But in “Exploring the Illusion of Free Will 16”, where you’ve been been posting George Ortega’s lectures, he does say this: “Consider our global criminal justice system. There are many, many people in jails and prisons all over the world, and the sad truth is that they are as innocent as the most innocent of us. They were completely compelled to do what they did. They had absolutely no free choice in the matter.”

    • Yes, they are innocent in the sense of not having a choice. We still put them in jail but only because it is practical for our safety.

    • CK: “Yes, they are innocent in the sense of not having a choice.”

      If both the innocent and the guilty are called “innocent”, then “innocent” no longer means anything.

      CK: “We still put them in jail but only because it is practical for our safety.”

      Two things:

      First, we don’t put innocent people in jail.

      Second, what do you plan to do about correction and rehabilitation so that they might be able to come back into society? Christianity is very big on something called “redemption”. Do you believe that a teenage first offender should be locked up for life?

      If you believe in correction/redemption, then how do you get someone who has no choice to choose better next time?

    • The only Christianity I know of isn’t about redemption. It is about hell, torture, suffering, and blood sacrifice.

    • CK: “The only Christianity I know of isn’t about redemption. It is about hell, torture, suffering, and blood sacrifice.”

      That’s not the Christianity I grew up with. By the way, I like to classify myself as a “God-fearing Christian Atheist”. I’m atheist, because I’m pretty confident that there is no supernatural personality out there. I’m God-fearing, ’cause, heck, I might be wrong. And I’m Christian because those are the values I grew up with.

      But I would leave it to Lee and others here to tell you about the Christianity they experience. All I can vouch for is that in my church (Salvation Army) we practiced a conversion of the heart, growth in the spirit toward sanctification, and the teachings of Jesus. Unfortunately, we also taught eternal hell fire. And that led me, after my father’s murder-suicide, to reject the notion of a God capable of torture.

    • But I do believe people can sometimes be corrected and reprogrammed over time. The point is that they have no choice but to do so if they desire to live peacefully in society. That is the key. The act we call choice is just a conditioned response. I am fine with you calling it choice though if that language works for you.

    • Chandler, we don’t “reprogram” people. That would be an illegal invasion of privacy (see movie “Clockwork Orange”).

      But rehabilitation can provide opportunities to get a high school equivalency, take courses, demonstrate good behavior, and lessen prison time. But you cannot be forced to participate in rehabilitation. It has to be a choice of your own free will.

      Prison time itself may be sufficient penalty to give the offender time to rethink his life plan and choose differently next time he is deliberating over whether to commit a crime. Again, this is free will in action.

      For the incorrigible, life-time imprisonment may be required to protect society.

      CK: “The point is that they have no choice but to do so if they desire to live peacefully in society.”

      Or to put that another way, they have two options and it is up to them to make choose for themselves what becomes inevitable for them.

      CK: “That is the key. The act we call choice is just a conditioned response. I am fine with you calling it choice though if that language works for you.”

      Well, you’re young. I recognize that you haven’t been on this planet as long as some of us. But we already have a rich set of concepts for dealing with issues of behavior. And these concepts are pretty global and universal. They include things like “rights”, “justice”, “innocence”, “guilt”, “penalty”, “responsibility”, “willful”, “coercion”, and of course “free will”. And I’d be happy to give you an operational definition of any of these if you’re unfamiliar with them.

      When I was studying systems analysis, back when people were first converting from manual to computerized record keeping (and yes, I programmed in COBOL on a card punch machine), one of the things we learned is to first thoroughly study the current system so that your new system design will accomplish all of the critical functions of the old one, only better.

      So, if you want to replace all of these well-established concepts, you’ll need to come up with a system of ideas that accomplish the same objectives of the current concepts, and which make sense.

      You can’t simply go around destroying meaning. Because the system is a system of ideas, and ideas are all about meaning.

    • Some ideas have no meaning and I think can safely be dropped since they perform no critical function. I could be wrong about which ideas are essential but I can always be rehabilitated/reprogrammed.

    • No thanks. It’s hard enough to avoid bumbling over myself in writing. I feel more comfortable when I can see what I’m saying, and fix it when I say it wrong.

    • Hi Chandler,

      You say:

      The only Christianity I know of isn’t about redemption. It is about hell, torture, suffering, and blood sacrifice.

      I am sorry that this is the sort of Christianity that you grew up in. But to be blunt, that is false Christianity. It’s like saying that the only Islam that exists is the fundamentalist, militant, bloodthirsty kind. Hundreds of millions of moderate Muslims attest that this is not true. And a billion or so moderate to liberal Christians attest that there is more to Christianity than hell, torture, suffering, and blood sacrifice.

      It is neither accurate nor rational to judge any movement or system by its worst representatives.

      I would suggest that instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, you learn something about other forms of Christianity besides fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity. After all, these movements have only been around for a century or two of the two thousand year history of Christianity.

      Most of the rest of Christianity has some serious problems, too. But once again, to judge an entire system by its worst parts is inaccurate and irrational. It would be like judging the entire population of the United States only by its prison population.

      There are much better forms of Christianity than the one you grew up in. It would be more reasonable and fair to judge Christianity at least by its middle-of-the-road varieties.

      And when it comes to deciding whether a system is worthy of personal belief, the best practice would be to seek out its best version (not its worst), and consider whether that best version makes sense and is worthy of belief.

    • There is some truth in what you say. However the terms fundamentalist, moderate, and liberal really confuse me. Particularly I don’t see myself as being any sort of moderate. I am extreme in the things I care about.

    • Hi Chandler,

      Understood. The main point is that there are many varieties of Christianity. Not all of them are like the variety you grew up in.

    • Hi Chandler,

      I said in my previous comment that the Christianity you grew up in is false Christianity. It is false Christianity because its most basic teachings are not taught in the Bible, which is Christianity’s primary source and authority. See my article:
      Christian Beliefs that the Bible Does Teach

      The God that the fundamentalists teach is also not the God taught in the Bible. For a better, more Biblical, and more Christian view of God, see my article:
      Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?

      There are many other articles on my blog offering a far better version of Christianity than the one you grew up in. If you’re going to judge Christianity on rational grounds, at least do it based on its best versions, not on its worst.

    • I don’t believe that any version of Christianity can be “true”, but some of them are more “moral” than others. That is the only way I can compare them.

    • CK: “I don’t believe that any version of Christianity can be “true”, but some of them are more “moral” than others. That is the only way I can compare them.”

      Right. And I have the same problem with your denial of free will, which is as false as any other religiously held belief. If I were reduced to choosing between the two lies, I would choose Lee’s over yours any day.

      Your falsehood leads to moral confusion and the destruction of moral concepts like “responsibility”.

      If you ever do get around to learning about Christianity, Chandler, I would recommend that you do what I did when I became atheist. Ask “Why?” a lot. Ask yourself “What does a belief in Heaven and Hell actually mean in the world of reality?” Ask yourself, “What is the practical value of a belief in God to Christians as people?” Ask yourself, “What is the moral value of the teachings of Jesus?”

      After all, Christianity has been around for 2000 years now. If it had no value in the real world, it would have been discarded years ago.

    • How bizarre. I don’t see it at all the same as you do . Rather I think that Free Will can be discarded just like belief in God can. Some people just aren’t aware how useless they are.

    • CK: “Rather I think that Free Will can be discarded just like belief in God can.”

      A) Okay, so Libet is asking for college students to volunteer to participate in his neuroscience experiment. The subjects will be asked to randomly decide to clench their fist 40 times. As they do this, (a) electrodes on their scalp pick up signals from the pre-conscious brain area, (b) the subject will report when they are aware they are about to squeeze, and (c) an EMG will pick up the moment the muscles respond.

      Because they are asked to volunteer, some will choose to participate and some will choose not to participate.

      B) Same scenario, except Libet is requiring all his students to participate and it will be part of their final grade in his course. Some feel strongly that they do not want to be hooked up to the machines, but participate against their will to protect their grade in the course.

      I would call the difference between those two scenarios free will. What do you call it?

    • Okay, you call it “will”. But how do you distinguish between the scenario where Libet asks for volunteers who may choose to participate in the study versus the scenario where his students are required to participate against their will?

      The rest of us distinguish the two situations this way: In one case they are asked to participate of their own free will. In the other case they must participate even if it is against their will.

      In one case they are free to choose. In the other case they are not free to choose.

      In the secular world, a court will hold you responsible for choosing to drink and drive of your own free will, but will not hold you responsible if someone forces you at gun point to get in your car and drive. In one case you acted of your own free will. In the other you were forced to do the will of another.

      Are you unable to use the term “free will” in these contexts?

    • There is a difference between doing something of my will(what I want to) and doing something against my will(that I don’t want to), but both situations are equally forced by the prior causes of nature and nurture.

    • CK: “There is a difference between doing something of my will(what I want to) and doing something against my will(that I don’t want to), but both situations are equally forced by the prior causes of nature and nurture.”

      How is doing your own will “forced” upon you by nature and nurture? Isn’t it true that your own nature and your own upbringing are now “you”?

      Even when you take issue with your own desires, isn’t that desire to be a “better self” also “you”?

      My point is that once you adopt some belief, value, feeling, or thought as your own, it is no longer a force external to your self. It is instead you, being yourself. And your choices, based on your own beliefs, values, feeling, and thinking are also your own will, and not the will of someone else (or any external force).

      And if you are free to choose for yourself and act upon your choices yourself, then these are called “acting of one’s own free will”. But if someone else forces you to act against your will, then you are not acting of your own free will.

      This remains the correct and meaningful truth regardless whether you believe your “self” is a soul or your “self” is a biological organism of the human species.

    • I understand the distinction you are making. Once we learn something, it becomes an internal force that sticks even if the original external forces are gone. An example is that what our parents teach us stays with us after our parents are dead.

    • Yes, but it goes farther than that. Parental influence stays with you only if choose to keep it (of your own free will). What I mean is that you will be subject to many other influences, especially from your peers (at any age, even at mine). You will find some influences that run contrary to your parents. You will find some experiences that will be new, causing you to re-evaluate earlier experiences.

      The mind, both conscious (thinking and imagining) and unconscious (dreaming or asleep, and also when given tasks by the conscious mind as when you can’t answer a test question so you come back to it later and the answer pops into your head), mediates both internal and external influences, on behalf of the self.

      It chooses whether to modify its own behavior (step from stone to stone to cross the stream) or modify the environment (build a bridge across the stream) to survive in its environment.

      Now, there remains the fact of inevitability. But it is us, negotiating our influences in the context of the current environmental issues, that will determine what becomes inevitable. The key here is that the “fact” of inevitability is useless to us in making any of these decisions.

      The idea, that inevitability works on its own without us, is crazy. If we sit and wait on the inevitable, then our choice to sit and wait will change what becomes inevitable!

      We don’t need deterministic inevitability to recognize the cultural influences that can lead to gangs with guns in a neighborhood. We just need a course in Sociology 101, which if you’re lucky you will take in college like I did.

    • It is correct that our inevitable actions don’t happen without us acting. A fatalist would believe that humans have no part in what happens. I understand that our actions DO effect the world around us and I find this as MORE reason that we are not “free” to do that which we predict will have bad consequences. It is because of this that people like me don’t have sex. There is a huge moral philosophy based on this that guides everything I do.

    • However, there are people who are still growing up in the very worst versions of Christianity. Imagine what it must be like to grow up as a child of Westboro! This is how I know that there is no loving god out there or he would put an end to this.

    • Hi Chandler,

      Whether or not there is a God, children are still growing up in poverty, and in hateful environments such as that Westboro church. Denying God might make you feel good, but it doesn’t help the situation.

      Denying free will also doesn’t help the situation. All those children are still growing up in terrible environments. Further, denying free will makes it all inevitable.

      I do not believe it was inevitable that millions of children should suffer and die. I think that was and is the result of human selfishness and greed. And I think that as we humans freely choose not to be selfish and greedy anymore, those great evils will gradually fade into the past.

    • Oops, on that first link above I meant to link to this article:
      “Christian Beliefs” that the Bible Doesn’t Teach
      Sorry for the confusion.

    • Fascinating stuff, Lee. Nice website.

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