Gregg Caruso, a philosophy professor at Corning Community College, gave a talk about the “Dark Side” of Free Will. In doing so, I think he lets the cat out of the bag, showing that free will deniers come to us with a socio-political agenda.
Caruso has a slide that outlines the “Dark Side” (shown around 3 minutes into the talk). It reads:
The Dark Side
Free will beliefs are correlated with
Just World Belief
Right Wing Authoritarianism
Whoa! “Religiosity” is the “Dark Side.” It looks like the professor is peddling the “Religion is Evil” talking point of the New Atheist movement. As for “Right Wing Authoritarianism,” does this mean Left Wing Authoritarianism is correlated with a lack of belief in free will? Or maybe for the professor, there is no such thing as Left Wing Authoritarianism.
Anyway, the professor didn’t want to talk about those two little hand grenades and instead focused on punitiveness and just world belief. I didn’t watch the just world belief part of the talk, so I can’t comment on that.
When it comes to punitiveness, we see the common theme of free will denial – a certain soft spot for murderers, rapists, and other forms of violent criminals. For some reason, the free will denialists insist on being their advocates.
Caruso argues that we need to treat rapists and murderers as patients (that original idea was explored in a book from the 1960s called Clockwork Orange). He argues, “We have a duty to the well-being and rehabilitation of criminals.” In other words, since rapists and murderers are not morally responsible for murdering and raping, we need to treat them as victims. Victims who temporarily need to be quarantined for the safety of society until we tend to their well-being.
Caruso holds to an ideology that tends to thrive in intellectually inbred fantasy lands. But let’s try to apply it to the real world.
Years ago, a 19 year old girl, Jessica Chambers, was doused in a flammable liquid, even to the point of having it poured down her throat, and was then set on fire. She died several hours later with burns over 98% of her body.
According to Caruso’s ideology, the true victim here is her murderer. We need to find him as soon as possible, put him in a hospital-like setting, tend to his well-being, and rehabilitate him. Perhaps with enough rehab, he can get a good job and start his own family. How noble.
As for Jessica, we’re supposed to view her as someone who died in some type of accident, as if her murder was not really different from her getting drunk and dying in a car wreck. Her death was tragic, yes, but we need to move on as we tend to the real victim here – her murderer. How compassionate.
Prof. Caruso shows us one facet of the dark side of free will denialism – we brush the victim off to the side and turn the killer into the victim.
Note that Caruso, after dismissing all concepts of moral responsibility, postures as if we have the moral responsibility to change the way we deal with violent criminals. The only reason to imprison murderers/rapists to ensure their well-being and provide opportunities for rehabilitation. He calls it quarantine. That is, we are not putting criminals in quarantine because they are responsible for wrong-doing; we are doing it for “the safety of society.” Sounds to me like the Soviet ideal of sacrificing individual freedom for the public good.
Caruso is thinking like an insect, focused on the well-being of the Hive. Bad insects are not really bad; they just represent a threat to the Hive. So we separate the threat from the rest of the Hive, trying to “rehabilitate” them so they better fit within the Hive. The focus is all on the Hive and the individual’s action only mean something in relation to the Hive.
Of course, with this mindset, there is nothing to stop us from quarantining more than just murderers and rapists. If the majority of people embrace Caruso’s hive mentality, with no substantive concern about individual rights and freedoms, why not quarantine other threats to the Hive?
Look, we already know the many atheists think religious people represent a threat to the safety of society. Dawkins likens religion to small pox. Harris says rape is better than religion. Dawkins tells us a religious upbringing is worse the sexually molesting a child. Coyne tells us religion is one of the world’s greatest evils and has said we should make a religious upbringing illegal.
Along comes Caruso, who tells us religiosity represents the “dark side.”
If these people had the power, what is to stop them from acting on their beliefs? Shouldn’t religious people be quarantined for the safety of society? In fact, hasn’t another radical atheist, Peter Boghossian, argued that faith should be classified as a mental illness and the government should take steps to contain it?
So, if we are supposed to put murderers and rapists in quarantine for the safety of society, it would stand to reason that religion, supposedly one the greatest threats to society, should likewise be quarantined.
Extreme determinists like Caruso should address the dark side of their precious beliefs. But then again, we’re dealing with the type of people who insist they cannot be held morally responsible for any of their actions.