There is a real gem over in the comments section of Jerry Coyne’s blog. After Coyne goes after some Christian guy, someone named Eoin replies:
Yes, the guy’s not too bright. But as a determinist, you must know that he never had any choice but to do exactly as he did. You say, ‘pity he didn’t…etc’, but of course he never could have. You talk about him not ‘having the guts’, but in a deterministic universe this kind of mocking language makes no more sense than retributive punishment. It’s like mocking a stone for falling down rather than up.
I’m not trying to be a pedant here. I get what you’re doing and why you’d react that way (I would too). I just honestly don’t see how your reaction fits with the deterministic view of things you described before.
Coyne’s response is priceless:
Let’s nip this line of thought in the bud right here. Yes, I think that all human actions are predetermined and not under some kind of dualistic control. Nevertheless we all, including incompatibilists like myself, act as if we have choices, for our feeling of agency is strong. So please don’t say that I shouldn’t make “should” statements because of that. I will act as though I have free choices even though I don’t. And of course you have to admit that what I say, determined or not, can influence the future actions of others.
And yes, Templeton had no choice, but I can still call him out, and maybe that will affect other peoples’ behavior.
Or would you prefer that I give up writing this website since I can’t express any opinions, criticize or praise others, and so on since everything (including my opinions) are all determined by the laws of physics.
Your line of thinking means that all determinists, even those who are compatibilists, have no right to express opinions about anyone’s behavior.
Rather than nip anything in the bud, Coyne has exposed the simple fact that he is incapable of practicing what he preaches. What is it with these New Atheist leaders? First we have Dawkins and Harris agreeing that meat-eating is very wrong, yet neither one seems to care about behaving in such an immoral fashion as they continue to feast on their meat. Now we have Coyne insisting determinism is true, but he doesn’t seem to care about living according to the truth. He’s happy to “act” as if determinism is false each and every day. He has a “right” to do so! Y’know, maybe the fact that Coyne can’t help but act as if determinism is false is because, in the end, determinism is indeed false.
Oh, and BTW, lots of people have a very strong feeling that God exists. So even if Coyne got them to acknowledge there was no God, how would it be any different from them to continue acting as if God exists? Would there be something wrong with that? What if they said to him, “So please don’t say that I shouldn’t say that God exists. I will act as if God exists even though he does not. I have a right to do so.”