The Arbitrary Attack on Free Will

Ever notice that when it comes to the topic of free will, atheists only seem interested in denying its existence when it comes to moral decisions? But must we really stop there? The Deuce posted a very thought-provoking comment a few days ago. Let me report it here for all to ponder:

Consider: Jerry Coyne says that we’re not morally responsible for our actions on the grounds that choice is an illusion. We don’t make decisions, because there is no “we” to make the decisions in the first place. We think we reason from premises to conclusion in choosing moral courses of action, but Coyne tells us that we do not, and that there never was a decision. Rather, “we” just react to physical stimuli in various deterministic ways that we don’t choose and are not responsible for.

But if that were true, it would be true for ALL our decisions, not just our moral decisions. As you said in the other entry, “In science, we change opinions with experimental results. We change opinion with scientific evidence.” But if Coyne is to be believed, we are all completely incapable of doing so, and it’s merely an illusion that we ever do! We are incapable of looking at evidence, and reasoning our way to true conclusions. At best, we merely react to stimuli in a deterministic manner that we don’t choose. As with moral reasoning, “our” brain just creates the illusion that there were ever any abstract premises or logical reasoning involved, or that there was even an “us” to engage in that logical reasoning.

But that means that truth cannot be arrived at by reasoning from evidence. In fact, it means that there really is no such thing as “evidence,” but only physical stimuli that we react to in physically deterministic ways.

And if there is no truth that we can arrive at by reason, then there are really only various “narratives” competing to be called the “truth.” And the way you get your own “narrative” to be called the “truth” is by getting everyone to subscribe to it any means necessary – invective, ridicule, propaganda, even violence or threats of violence where feasible – in short, the methods of the New Atheists and history’s other atheistic materialist movements.

It goes without saying that this is a collectivist endeavor – establishing your “narrative” as the “truth” is a matter of your Hive expanding to assimilate, dominate, or eliminate competing hives, and hence we arrive at the same collectivist result that you’ve discussed in this post.

It’s shouldn’t be a surprise that materialists who deny free will exhibit the perverse moral reasoning you highlight in this post, or the approach to evidence and science that you highlighted in the previous one. It would be a bigger surprise if they didn’t act according to the implications of their beliefs, since they are dead wrong and we do in fact engage in moral reasoning from premises in making our decisions.

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One Response to The Arbitrary Attack on Free Will

  1. ingx24 says:

    I recently made some somewhat amusing comments on this subject, just the other day in fact: http://ingx32.blogspot.com/2013/07/sean-carroll-on-how-not-to-follow-your.html

    If you don’t take thoughts, perceptions, and the like to be basic, fundamental features of reality, you will *always* be implicitly contradicting yourself in everything that you say. No exceptions.

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