Thursday, February 9, 2012

Free Will Pander

If the laws of nature apply everywhere and always, free will cannot exist. This is just logic, not science. We have will, but it is a product of evolved biological systems that obey the laws of physics. Our actions are determined entirely by our genetic potential, physical and cultural environment, individual experience and chance. The latter arises from the probabilistic (yet not random) nature of quantum physics.

Perhaps the most damning argument against free will, if being a violation of physical laws isn't enough, is that it is completely superfluous. Experts in the biological origins of behavior say it simply isn't necessary to introduce free will in order to explain human mental processes or actions. No contrived deus ex machina intervention is necessary.

Those who believe in an omniscient god who knows the future have an additional logical hurdle to overcome. If the future is knowable, even by God, then it must be immutable. In that case we have no power to change it. Indeed, even God would not be free to change His mind.

Lack of free will does not mean we shouldn't hold individuals accountable for their actions. Laws and social mores are an essential part of the environment that constrains human behavior. Without them we would have uncivilized chaos. But, we must recognize that these rules are pragmatic convention, not divine revelation, and so they should be devised and applied with restraint and some measure of empathy. As they say, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

Free Will

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