Friday, April 25, 2008

Another "theological" argument I really hate - "it's because of free will"

Man, when religious people make the free will argument, I about want to scream. I think that if humans have free will, we only really have a tiny amount of it. Not only are we limited in the things we can actually do (say, we can't kill with our minds or travel backwards in time or whatever it is that flips your switch), now imagine all the things you'd like to do but are prevented doing and if you can muster it try to imagine how many more things there are to do that you can't imagine (it's easier to imagine all the things a person considerably dumber than you can't imagine, and then imagine how much more things a person that much smarter than you could imagine for you, hehe). I mean, at any given time, our options are pretty few. I think they're getting bigger because of education and technology. Cave men simply didn't have the option to play video games, for instance, or work on magnetohydrodyamnics. So, human will (if it exists at all in some larger sense) is nevertheless limited by our biology (what we are physically capable of doing), our technology (the number of additional options our big brains and opposable thumbs give us) and our imaginations (discovering new ways to use our biology and technology). I think that if people really think about it, they'll find this to be true concerning free will - we don't have a lot of it, really.

But all the time, Christians will use the free will argument. "Why is there evil?" "Because god doesn't want to interfere with human free will."

It makes me think of force. One person can force another to do it. I don't even mean hold a gun to their head and give them a choice. I mean grab them and drag them away. Or I can just kill someone. They might not want to die, their free choice is screaming for life, but the minute I chop off their head - that doesn't mean anything. So, obviously, humans don't have unlimited free will. People are physically forced to do things all the time - they're beaten, raped, killed, kidnapped, arrested, imprisoned, the list goes on and on. Most of the time, it's terrible when it happens. But it does happen. But I'm supposed to believe that god really cares about human free will - that he cares so much that he doesn't interfere with it . . . but has created the world where other people can interfere with my free will.

Ah, ha, the religious person will say, all of that can happen because god doesn't want to interfere with their free will, either! They will argue that if the god interfered with people's ability to hurt one another. We're free to do whatever we biologically and technologically can do, even to other people and even if it violates their free will.

This is such a vapid argument that I find it terribly embarrassing when people make it - but it gets made all the time. The reason it's vapid is because we are already limited in our ability to violate the free will of others. You can't kill someone with your mind. You can't go back in time and kill their grandfather. If religious people are right, their own god has innumerably limited their ability to violate another person's free will. How would a few more rules, not moral rules, but physical ones that prevent people from hurting each other with their bodies be any different than all the rules that prevent us from hurting other people with our thoughts? We're already so massively limited, what would a few more limitations - limitations that would enhance expression of free will - really hurt? And, of course, some people can't even hurt people with their bodies. Say, people born without limbs. Sometimes, their god does choose to deny some people the ability to even hurt other people - do those people not have free will? The argument is preposterous. Before you know it, you've got so many exceptions and caveats that it's obvious that free will, as religious people describe it, is a chimera.

The other thing I hate about free will is that "will", generally, can't be demonstrated to exist. I know people who will study up a storm, but won't eat right and exercise (indeed, it is true that I am one of them, hehe). I know athletes who will look after their bodies, but can't read about the sixth grade level. Heck, how many pro-athletes have the "willpower" to become top athletes, but then can't control their spending? How many people go to work, work hard, and then cheat on their spouses? So, what is this general quality called "will", anyway? Can you show me where it exists, what it really does, who has it and who doesn't? No, you can't. No one can. It, like many aspects that apertain to describe a mental state actually just describe the biases of the people or culture who invented and use the term.

I can't think of any good arguments involving human will or free will. People should feel free to try to come up with some. ;)

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