It occurred to me tonight that it is entirely in the interests of atheists to discount, or at least attempt to disprove the reality of free will. In the absence of free will, it’s easy to argue that our actions and decisions are nothing more than elaborate sequences of instinctive behaviour hard wired into our brains. The more we experience, the greater our ability to present individuality because of the increased variables that influence our behaviour.
However, such a theory falls far short of explaining the reason why we are able to actively and consciously choose between multiple outcomes of equal benefit. It also fails to address the reason behind us being able to consciously act against our instinctive responses. In fact, in the absence of free will, can we even claim to be conscious beings? Being conscious, being aware, being lucid all imply that there is an intelligence that allows us to acquire, grasp, and process information, and then do something meaningful, or at the least, something deliberate with that information. Even choosing not to act when action is prompted is further proof of this free will that we have.
In considering all this, I find it somewhat amusing that many, especially atheists who pride themselves in being scientifically grounded, find it necessary to first prove that we have free will through scientific means despite the evidence that we live out on a daily basis that confirms our ability to choose independent of instinct.
It reminds me of the ridiculous approach that we take towards life and health these days. For centuries we’ve known that chicken soup is healthy and aids in our recovery from cold or flu symptoms. Yet it was denounced by the ‘scientifically adept’ community of health professionals because no scientist took the time to understand and therefore prove the benefit that it provides. Don’t believe me? Read this. Yet if I were to take every atheist and scientist seriously, I’d have to discard the wisdom of the ages that was not grounded in scientific research, and wait patiently for them to come up with remedies that actually deal with the root causes of illnesses rather than their creative ways of dealing with the symptoms instead.
Atheists, in all my discussions with them to date, have proven to be extremely myopic in their view of the world. They insist that their independence of religious dogma (which can also be argued to be a false notion of theirs) raises them above the ‘sheep’ that subscribe to theistic scriptures and principles. If I were to take the example of the chicken soup a step further, such a simple matter that took scientists possibly millennia to figure out benefited millions of people in the meantime. How? Through simple observation and common sense. So to apply this to the concept of creation, and therefore a creator, why should I abandon my belief system in there being a god until such time as some scientist in a distant time and place is able to confirm what I knew all along through simple observation and common sense?
It simply doesn’t make sense, does it? The atheistic mind set that is. Abandon all knowledge unless scientifically proven and acquired, and collaborate with your peers to determine what is best for society because morality has no divine basis. The argument is so flawed that it’s almost entirely ludicrous.
Oh, in my ramblings I forgot to make the point I started out trying to make. Why is it convenient for atheists to discount free will? Simple. If we have free will, it implies intelligent design. Intelligent design implies intelligent creation. And, you guessed it, intelligent creation implies an intelligent creator. It all flies in the face of the parts of the theories of evolution that suggests that we simply evolved into intelligent beings after originating from a single celled amoeba, or some crock like that. Even that single celled amoeba has a specific function and purpose, and I challenge any atheist to explain what cause an amoeba to be an amoeba. And when they explain that, I’d like to hear them explain what causes the cause of the amoeba to be an amoeba to be the cause of the cause of the amoeba. See how ridiculous infinite regression and the insane theories of causality can be?
Yet atheists fancy themselves as being the only intelligent free thinking beings around. I beg to differ.
15 responses to “That Thing Called Free Will”
The soul still doesn’t help: unless you’re in charge of what it makes you think, or what its nature is, it still doesn’t let you be in charge of your choices. Of course outside influences affect us, where are you getting the impression that I’ve denied that?
We do have conscious thought, how are you getting the idea that I’ve denied that, when the existence of conscious thought is the basic principle of my argument? We can deliberate because we still have thoughts: that doesn’t mean we’re in control of those thoughts and where they come from.
I wouldn’t hold you accountable for your actions, as the easy answer: hence the problem with retribution. I would, though, point out that you’ve been a proven danger to society, and so it is clearly better to keep you away from the society you’ve harmed. As for other details why, look up rehabilitation, and the mental treatment that already occurs in some prisons etc.
There seems to be some misunderstanding of what I’m saying: I’m not insisting that conscious thought doesn’t exist, or that we’re not affected by outside influences. That’s untrue, but in any case utterly irrelevant: again, it comes down to the same one question. Where does conscious thought come from? Does it come from something that’c controlled or uncontrolled? That’s a true dichotomy (if it’s a mixture of the two, then it would still count as uncontrolled). I’m saying everything has to be ultimately uncontrolled: which is a simple logical deduction, and defeats any notion of free will. You’re saying it’s controlled: and I’m asking for an example of what we can control without consciously controlling. Even such things as a soul don’t answer this, as how would we control what thoughts they give rise to?
By opting not to respond to this comment for over 5 years, I’ve demonstrated controlled will. Conscious thought, according to yours and many others’ arguments, is supposed to be nothing more than a chemical reaction which is influenced by causal interference of our surroundings. If that be true, no one can be held accountable, or restrained for their actions because everyone is therefore culpable. Again, we confuse the vessel of expression with the seat of intelligence. The soul controls the vessel (i.e. the body), but since we have yet to harness and effectively measure the activities and nature of the soul, we choose to discount its existence and assume that the body is what controls itself. That’s like saying that the puppeteer pulls its own strings. It simply does not add up. Think about it within the context of wireless transmissions. Anyone that lived prior to its discovery will threaten to burn you at the stake for witchcraft if you were to show them the amazing achievements of wireless technologies without them having been part of the growth curve of that technology. There is mounting evidence that there is an energy that exists beyond the demise of the physical being of a person, but of course, we can’t refer to it as a soul because science hasn’t given us permission to do so yet. 🙂
I’d be frustrated with Steph for leaving so many long-winded comments, but I know he was completely helpless in the matter, as he believes free will does not exist. /sarcasm
Conscious thought is a crucial question: I’ve demonstrated why we aren’t in control of anything. Any thought that we’re consciously aware of would constitute: but there is no way we’re in control of those. Our actions are ruled by events outside of our control: that much is a necessary conclusion.
Even things where there seem to be multiple options do not prove free will: that presupposes that it exists. It’s entirely ruled over by things other than conscious thought, as I’ve shown: we are not in control of the thoughts that make the decision. Past experiences, nature… Throw in randomness if you want. It doesn’t change the only fact I need to defend, and which you’re not responding to: we’re not in control of our actions, ever. It’s more than just a few situations: can you give a single example of a time where we would consciously be behind an action, rather than have seeming control ruled over by things outside of our control?
How do those unanswered questions affect the non-existence of free will? they’re only unanswered because we’ve lived in a society that presupposes free will. Still, there are still answers. Morality still exists: but retribution becomes wrong, though imprisonment (for the safety of others) is still needed. Purpose becomes all the more clear. I have no idea why you’re saying collaboration wouldn’t exist without free will though.
There are many inconsistencies in your argument, yet you’re accusing me of not demonstrating my point? Firstly, you have not demonstrated why we are not in control of anything but simply presented your opinion to that effect. I provided several examples of situations that defy your assumption that free will does not exist, yet you’re now accusing me of ‘presupposing that it exists’. Are you not also presupposing that it doesn’t exist?
Randomness doesn’t exist. So that’s another contradiction. For something to be truly random, it would imply that the laws of cause and effect are inconsistent. Therefore, a sequence of events may only appear random because of our inability to determine the pattern in it, most probably due to the number of variables that have to be computed to arrive at a recognition of the sequence.
You claim that we’re never in control of our actions, yet you condone the imprisonment of others, while also stating that retribution is wrong and morality exists? Purpose? How can you have purpose if all you’re doing is playing out an infinite string of instinctive responses that you have no control over? Why would purpose or morality even matter? Why would anything matter if we’re not in control of our actions, and by extension, we cannot be held accountable for our actions either. Because according to your logic, we’re victims of situations that present themselves to us, we cannot control our thoughts and therefore cannot control our responses, and therefore it would be unjustifiable to incarcerate someone for the good of society, let alone the fact that such incarceration will require deliberation, and wilful action on the part of those that are upholding this code of morality that apparently is irrelevant because we can’t control who we are and what we do, let alone what we think or how we act.
I’m sorry, but your position has far too many gaping holes to hold any water.
Those weren’t examples of where free will is somehow in place: they’re examples of a decision being made, but that does not mean that the decision-making process was under our control. That’s all I’ve ever said: conscious thought is not under our control, and I have justified that claim. If you’re going to make the statement that the conscious mind is the origin of conscious thought, then do so: otherwise our actions are ruled by events out of our control, unquestionably. It’s as simple as that. Giving an example of a decision does not mean that we’re in control of our thoughts when we make that decision, as I’ve said.
I never involved randomness save as an example. It’s far from a contradiction: you’re not responding to the only point I need to hold.
Plain retribution is wrong: actions that benefit others (a person who is capable of harming others should be kept away from the others) are not. Our purpose would be to live our lives as we must. And where are you getting that we’re incapable of deliberative action? Clearly, we are, and that still makes sense even without free will: our thoughts are based on events around us, and those events will cause wilful action to occur. And why would morality be irrelevant? That’s a whole other topic: it exists separate of our actions, and is one of our influences, and we should still try to follow it. We have grounds for compassion with those that don’t: but also need to care about everyone else they could harm.
Ultimately, this is all irrelevant. you’re presenting grounds for why my view might not be one you’d like to hold: that is so very far from pointing out a hole in it. Just respond to the following statement:
The conscious mind cannot be the origin of conscious thought (as, if it were, we must ask as to the origin of the thought that inspired that thought). This means our actions are not under our control.
If you’re going to give an example, don’t make it one where ‘conscious thought occurs’ is somehow the refutation, when it’s, if anything, a point that reinforces my statement.
This is fast becoming a circular debate. As a theist, I believe we have a soul. So to answer your question more directly, that would be the origin of conscious thought. The reason I keep stating that your position is flawed is because it goes against the logic that outside influences can impose our actions on us. How do we live our lives as we must, if according to your definition of free will being non-existent, our lives are just a result of what’s happening around us?
How can we be deliberate without having conscious thought or free will? My ability to choose to act, or to simply remain inactive when faced with the exact same circumstance is proof enough for me that we have free will. Ground Hog Day, the movie, appears to demonstrate this point quite clearly. While the concept of the movie is fiction, it clearly demonstrates how many different outcomes are possible from the exact same circumstance simply by choosing different courses of action. But it seems you’re suggesting that those choices are merely outside influences shaping our will? But again, you’re not explaining why I am able to choose between two mutually beneficial outcomes? You’re not explaining why I am able to choose something that is counter-intuitive? You’re not explaining why morality is relevant if we’re not in control of our actions?
If I accept your position and assume that I am not in control of my actions, then how can you hold me accountable for what I do? I could then argue that the universe made me do it. Why then would I have to be incarcerated for an act that someone else deems unfit for society, when it was the universe that made me do it? Who gave others that right to incarcerate me when all I was doing was exercising my humanness and following my instinctive nature, that according to you, I have no control over. That’s why I keep saying that your position is flawed because none of these scenarios reflect real life as we know and live it. And there simply can be no purpose to life if my life is not mine to control or decide or influence, all three of which requires free will (albeit limited to my responses) in order to be fulfilled.
Your free will is limited to what you can control: and you can’t control your thoughts. That’s all I’ve shown. Each individual thought, each transition between them… It’s out of your control, because the conscious mind cannot be the origin of conscious thought.
To understand the mechanism, it’s identical to the one you propose: only we lose control of where the thoughts come from. That’s all. We don’t choose between things: that’s an illusion. That’s the definition of having no free will.
You’re assuming that free will implies control of thoughts and not of action? As I explained to someone else recently, as Muslims, we believe we have limited free will. The problem with the atheist’s view about this subject is that they insist on viewing it as an absolute without any option for there being a middle ground. By taking such an extremist view, it fails to address the numerous examples I’ve posed in this and other posts regarding our ability to choose. If everything we did was simply a matter of course based on individual learnings and experiences, that would again imply that we would not be able to make a conscious or intelligent choice between two equally beneficial options. It also would not explain why someone would commit suicide, since as you know, self-preservation is hard-wired into our nature. If it wasn’t, I’d be able to suffocate myself to death by holding my breath. I can’t. So getting back to the issue at hand. Free will is not absolute, nor is it an illusion. I, and so many billions of others including you, make conscious, deliberate, measured, considered, informed decisions that often appear counter-intuitive, and often even goes against the choices that many others with similar life experiences and prior learning opportunities would have taken. Again, the atheist’s view of free will cannot explain this. Our view of limited free will does. We cannot change how situations are presented to us, unless we’re party to the situation being created, and even then, we would only be able to influence it, but not always decisively determine the outcome. But we can very definitely choose how we’re going to respond to said situation within the confines of the limited options at our disposal. That is free will.
You claim to be in control of something without being consciously in control of it? That’s what free will over actions rather than thought implies. That relies presumably on a person’s nature: but that’s thrust upon you, so defeats the basic view of free will as being able to control your own actions.
You’re not giving counter-examples, that’s the problem: you’re giving cases where an illusion of free will could just as easily be present as free will itself, and asserting that it’s not an illusion, against all the evidence that it is.
I don’t think it’s intentional, but you’re using a straw man argument: making the claim that, to use your example of suicide, I’m saying our decisions are ruled over only by inbuilt factors: such as self-preservation. I’m not.
If we’re to be behind an action, then we must be consciously responsible for it. We’re still the sum of our experiences, of our lives: and our genes. Our soul also, if you believe in one: but it is absurd to think conscious thought is behind conscious thought. That’s all I’m saying: please respond to that statement. The examples you give are irrelevant to it, as they only show conscious thought exists: they don’t show that we’re in control of it.
Debates relating to free will and conscious thought are not necessarily one and the same. Conscious thought informs free will, but conscious thought, as I understand your perspective of it, is simply our way of defining those thoughts that we guide or pursue deliberately, whereas other thoughts that are fleeting, are not considered to be conscious thought. So a daydream will not be conscious thought, nor will it inform or directly influence free will. I did provide an explanation of what I see free will to be, and confirmed that I don’t see it as an absolute because there are obvious areas where we can control things, and other areas where we can’t. Free will within this context, as I’ve stated, is limited to us choosing our responses. You also did not respond to my example of being able to choose between multiple mutually beneficial outcomes? If my actions are merely the sum of the experiences of my life, and my genes, then what informs my choices where more than one outcome is possible from the given variables? Or are you suggesting that the weightings from past experiences et al is what results in that choice? What complicates this view of yours even further is that in the absence of free will, how can we hold anyone morally accountable? In which case I would then question why morality should exist within the atheistic philosophy at all? Which would then also question purpose of life/existence? Which would then question any collaborative action. In fact, based on your definition of free will that apparently doesn’t exist, how then would you explain collaboration? There are just too many unanswered questions if we’re to assume that free will does not exist.
We don’t have free will because the conscious mind cannot be the origin of conscious thought.
Plenty of atheists reject free will. I think this is the main reason (and it’s also valid as an argument against theism).
I’m sorry, but I don’t get your point. “We don’t have free will because the conscious mind cannot be the origin of conscious thought”??? Please explain. Based on what evidence is this deduced? What then caused you to respond to this article? It certainly wasn’t an instinctive reaction, and it definitely required conscious though and deliberation followed by a choice for execution. And if I understand your comment correctly, then you’re claiming that free will has nothing to do with any of that?
It comes down to how you define free will. As free will is being able to make a choice without outside control, then even if conscious thought and choice is behind an action, that doesn’t mean those conscious thoughts are under our control: meaning free will is implausible.
It’s quite an obvious conclusion too. If you choose to do something, where does that thought come from? Unless you’re eternal and uncreated, there has to be a point where a conscious thought arose in a situation outside of your control. Examples of this are obvious (blank moments, sleep…), but even past all that, unless you’re going to claim that conscious thought is behind all conscious thought, then you can’t accept free will.
Still don’t entirely agree with you. A common issue I’ve experienced with atheists on this subject (and many others) is that they insist on viewing it in absolute states. So while I entirely have free will to choose my response to a situation, my free will is limited to what I can control. That which I can’t control is part of the situation that is presented to be. So I cannot choose how something is presented, but I certainly can choose how to respond. Obviously situations under duress are entirely different, even though given our limited options within those situations (and generally all situations) our free will is exercised against that which we can grasp as possible outcomes/responses.
If we dismiss the notion of free will, then I’m curious to know what exactly is it that causes us to function independent of instinct and impulse? What causes us to choose between multiple outcomes of similar benefit or detriment? What causes us to choose? Period.