Hello TAC, it is good to be posting again after a prolonged illness that left me unable to do anything but make half-conscious Facebook updates. I have been following the news, and for the sake of our collective sanity, I am going to refrain from extended commentary on foreign affairs. Instead I wanted to share with you an interesting discussion I had recently with some rather confident, cocky atheists on the question of free will.
It had begun as a debate on the so-called “problem of evil.” They think we have a problem with evil; maybe some Christians do, but I don’t. But I do think atheists – by which I mean Western, science-worshiping, philosophical materialists – have a problem with evil. Namely, how do materialists who reject free will (either explicitly or implicitly, depending on how well they’ve thought it out) even speak of such a thing as “evil”? Assuming we are speaking of human acts, and not things like bad weather, to describe an act as “evil” or malicious or malevolent or something similar assumes and implies that it was freely chosen. No one speaks of a lion’s decision to tear apart a zebra for sustenance as an “evil” act. What mindless animals do has no moral significance whatsoever. What people do has significance solely on the assumption that we can choose otherwise. In other words, free will. Without the assumption of free will, morality utterly collapses into a meaningless rubbish heap.
But free will is inexplicable to the Western atheist by and large. It does not neatly fit into a materialist/deterministic model of the universe. So when the discussion turns to the necessity of free will to give moral words and phrases meaning, rather than admit that words such as “evil” are pure rubbish from their point of view, they will spend their time arguing against free will as such. This where I decided to have some fun. You can try it too if you want. Some people might not approve, but see if I care. I’ll let your imagination do the work in the scenario below:
Atheist: there’s no such thing as free will. Everything you do is already predetermined.
Me: Well, ok then, (expletive).
Atheist: what is your problem? Resorting to insults now?
Me: I had no control over that, (expletive)
Atheist: stop it!
Me: I can’t “stop” anything. I don’t make choices, (expletive).
Atheist: ok, you’re banned form the group.
Me: Ok, as long as you remember that you are only upset with me because you, in contradiction to everything you’ve stated about free will and determinism, believe I could have chosen not to call you those names. (Expletive!)
Now some might say it was wrong for me to behave the way I did, since I believe I have free will. But I’ve just about had it with people whose assumptions about life, reality, and humanity are completely at odds with the way they behave. Sometimes people need to be briskly shaken back into coherence. I don’t know if my barrage of insults ended up having an impact or not, but it is really insanely stupid to live, breathe, and emote as if free will defines almost every human act, and then cling obstinately to a worldview that denies the very reality one experiences. This is not brilliance or sophistication. It is a pitiful madness.