Absurd stuff seems normal and sane when enough of society supports it for a sufficient time.  Free will is a prime example of that.  It is unscientific for though I feel now I could have given the dog a kick this morning or taken him for a walk I cannot go back in time to test this.  It is a red flag in the sense that it shows I prioritise a feeling over truth and checking and honesty.  Whatever free will and/or the notion that I have it is, it is not a gift from a God.  The feeling is not a gift either.

It has been said, “If you believe in God and also one who does miracles then you don’t need to explain free will and can just say it is a miracle.” In this view, an atheist who affirms free will does not realise she is contradicting herself. And a miracle is not an explanation. You can say that about anything.  It can be an excuse for why your homework is not done. 

And God doing miracles does not mean that we have free will. Maybe angels have it and they are programming us. God lets us sort of program other creatures so why not?

It is not saying "Free will is a miracle" that is the problem.  It is saying, "I guess that there is such a miracle".  Why guess?  And you have nothing to say to somebody who says, "Okay that is your guess, so I can guess too.  I guess I have no free will.  I guess that something makes me wish I had, and that it is wishful thinking.  I guess that I have free will but not when I do something horrendous like burgle old people."  If you guess you have to permit others to guess a different way.  Or you can guess that God may give you free will but at times gives you a miraculous simulation of free will, a fake copy.  You can guess that if everybody has free will some people like you do not and this is a miracle.  Free will guesses fail to absolve the believer in it from a degree of responsibility if somebody guesses the way they do not want and acts on it.

Determinism says you are not really in control of what you do and other causes are. It visualises an artificial consciousness that is programmed and feels free. It say that though we are not artificial in that way it is the same process. 

Determinists say that if you have the faculty for free will or real control in anything it does not follow that it is important or any good. Your genetics and neurochemistry could be overriding it. Others just say there is no such faculty and our feeling of freedom is just a brain construct to deal with how we are under the control of things that are not part of us.

Determinists do not necessarily have to hold that the feeling of freedom is an illusion. We already know that feelings don’t make anything true. And the feeling is only telling us that nothing obvious is forcing us. Determinism is based on how what is programming us is not obvious. So there is no problem there. A lot of the rancor against determinism centres around the feeling of freedom being an illusion but that is really a straw-man approach.

Sam Harris argued that free will means informed free will.  He based this on the fact that we cannot really choose what we desire.  Desires come whether we ask them to or not.  He insisted that because when I chose x over y, I don’t know why I prefer x but I just do, that this does not give informed free will. So there is no such thing as free will. It is based on pretending I know more than I do.

Critics say that this is too extreme for it is asking us to be like all-knowing Gods before we can make a free choice. They agree however that we know very little about why we do what we do. They answer that you are only expected to go with what information you have and take a shot at trying to do the best thing. They separate free will from certainty that what you are doing is the choice for you. They point out information or not, you have to do something and doing nothing is doing something.  They point out that a choice needs to be sufficiently informed not completely informed to reach the standard of what a choice would be.

No nobody is asking for you to be a God when you are faced with choice x or choice y.  You just need all the knowledge about why you want to do something and need information from the outside world to help you decide.  To be clear, we all overlook important considerations and facts about something on life's menus.  We never know if we have all the main pieces of information.  A choice without the main concerns being identified correctly is a reaction not a choice.

Are some biases forcing you to a significant degree?  You want to know that and nothing helps you.

Those of a religious bent say free will is about doing your best in a world of uncertainty to do the right thing for others and if there is an ultimate divine purpose then that is it.  

Harris is right.  Instead of a free choice you have a makeshift choice.  Choosing for you have to choose something is a sign of lack of freedom.

Nobody says Harris is very wrong.  Believers admit there is a problem with the data we get when we have to make a decision.  They guess it does not matter enough. But if they are honest they have to admit that you cannot look at any random individual and measure.  For that reason even if many are free despite everything you cannot assume it of all.  So if you have to judge Hitler you have to assume that his consent to what he did was defective.

Take the Harris hard line and you have to treat all as suffering from poor data and bias.  Take the softer line and you still have to do this.

Philosophers have said that free will or freedom is about being the master or the slave in any particular situation. The master in x is a slave in y.  The slave thing is always there for we lack information.  The person encouraging you to choose is being your master.

Some tell the denier of free will, “The absence of evidence for free will is not evidence of absence. You are saying that there is no evidence of free will so it is not real.”  But against that I can say, “The absence of evidence for determinism is not evidence of absence. You are saying that there is no evidence of determinism so it is not real.”  So that gets us nowhere.  Nobody tells you to toss a coin!

Determinism however is the strongest for it does not need lies and mistakes to look credible.  Free will does.  There is nothing silly about us being programmed by hugely complex forces and still feeling unforced.  We only feel forced when we see the forcer but here we do not.  So it is no wonder we have the feeling.

Christian List the philosopher says that free will is caused by how our brains are so well-developed. So he says free will is three things that need each other.

One is the power to work out what choices may be made in any given situation.

Two is the power to go for one of them.

Three is having the power to act on the choice.

This clearly says that if you think somebody is not living up to their computer brain, perhaps they are tired or depressed, that you can over ride their choice.  So if they ask for a cancer operation you can cancel it. 

List has shown us the arrogance and lack of true respect that lurks behind the teaching of free will.  It is no wonder that simply thinking somebody has abused their free will against you so easily incites hate.

Free will tries to hard to pin evil and harmfulness on every person.  It makes them out to have a malign potential that is even more dangerous than anything they have done.  The horrors this leads to when the believers get power are everywhere.


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