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Free Will
 The Absurdity of Original Sin

The Myth of Free Will

by Brother Mark

Free will is the belief that humans have the power to choose their own behavior in a completely  autonomous manner that transcends behavior that is conditioned by antecedent factors, as opposed to animals who's actions are strictly due to antecedent conditioning or by instinct.  The concept of "free will" most likely developed out of the feeling that decisions explained by only cause and effect are not true decisions at all, but are mere reactions; and that such an explanation demeans the human mind and removes the human qualities of being self-motivating, independent, and being responsible for one's own actions. 

The assumption here is that cause and effect cannot result in true decision making.  The fact is, is that without conditioning by antecedent factors, decision making would be impossible.  We would be torn in all directions not knowing what to do -- "Should we vacation in Hawaii or Antarctica?"  It is only our prior knowledge that tells us that its freezing in Antarctica.  It is our prior conditioning that allows one thing to motivate us more than another and allows for a decision to be made.  Humans sometimes develop attitudes that can allow for behavior that may seem inexplicable, such as Mother Teresa caring tirelessly for the poor in Calcutta India, Nelson Mandela not harboring hatred after being unfairly imprisoned for twenty-seven years; or on the dark side, Adolph Hitler being able to engage in mass murder.   However, if we believe there is free-will, we must believe that Adolph Hitler could just as likely have been the one helping poor in India and Mother Teresa could have been the one murdering Jews.  Obviously, these two people had completely different backgrounds as well as inherited differences.  Such behavior, though difficult to understand, is still no less the product of antecedent factors than that of lower animals.  It is just that with humans there is a much larger mix of genetic traits and experiential factors that produce a much larger variety of human behavior, with some being exceptional.  There is just no reason to believe that there is some unique human decision making quality that goes beyond what natural causes can explain -- it's actually impossible to imagine any decision that is not determined by previous factors in a person life.  Such a concept is vague and not parsimonious.  All decisions, no exceptions, are the result of:  1- the level of intellect we inherit, 2 - individual personality traits we inherit, and 3 - what we experience.   

The Definition of free will (The following is a combination of several dictionary definitions of free will in an attempt to get the best definition possible):

“The freedom of choice to choose a course of action unconstrained by external circumstances such as: fate, coercion, or divine will; but instead in accordance with the perceived needs, ideals, values, or moral outlook of the individual.”

Fine, but of course “values,” “ideals,” and “morals” are still reasons, and learned from external factors in ways affected by inborn traits of the individual.  There is nothing about having morals or ideals that precludes cause and effect and requires some sort of mystical, obscure quality unique to humans, which in turn makes us de facto responsible for our behavior.  In reality, we take responsibility as we mature.  Taking responsibility is just one of those values we learn, which in turn helps determine our actions in future circumstances.

Instinct is related in that it is thought to be the opposite of free will: animals have no choice in the matter, they just do it.  Unlike free will however, instinct is real, and is a rather mystical, obscure quality.  Just how animals can "know" how to do something is not well understood.  In any event, animals don’t just rely upon instinct; they use both instinct and lower level decision making abilities.  Many animals learn many things, such as baby birds learning how to fly by watching their parents, and wild animals learning how to hunt by likewise watching their parents.  Animals do in fact make many decisions that do not rely upon instinct, but their decision making ability is more limited than ours, due to more limited intellect.  If one believes that compassion is limited to humans, one needs only to remember the gorilla Benti Jua who carried a three year old boy to safety after the child fell eighteen feet into the gorilla exhibit at the Brookfield Zoo. 

“in·stinct   (n. An inborn pattern of behavior that is characteristic of a species and is often a response to specific environmental stimuli: the spawning instinct in salmon; altruistic instincts in social animals.”

It's usually accepted that humans have few instincts, such as possible mild reactions to pheromones and the sucking behavior of babies to ingest milk.

The paradox of using punishment, though people are a product of their environment:

Many people believe that if human behavior is "determined" by cause and effect, then there can be no justification for punishment.  First of all, perceived consequences of a concept is completely irrelevant to proving the validly of the concept.  You can't change the idea because you don't like the consequences.  In answering the apparent paradox, we must realize that punishment is an environmental influence TOO The punishment aspect of incarceration is justified as being a new "cause" in the person's life to try to bring about a new "effect" or change in a person’s future behavior, and as a deterrent to similar behavior in society in general.  Punishment is not about blame, it's about producing a different product within an imperfect society that sometimes produces criminals.  It would be much better to develop a more fair and equitable society where living completely within the law is easier, but that is easier said than done.      

Original Sin:

There is no “free-will” that is so free that it is free from everything (All decisions are based on something).

If God made “everything,” then God is responsible for the behavior of his creation.

In relationship to God and the story of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve's "free will" is always given as the reason as to why God was justified in punishing them -- their actions were their responsibility  -- even though God had just made them.  However, if the story is to be taken literally, we must first realize that God could not have given them free-will because there just is no such thing.  The things that God could have given them in the way of intelligence, personality traits, and experience would have been up to God as to what and how much.  Obviously, whatever God chose to give them was not good enough for them to oppose the temptations of the devil.  Consequently, the blame for original sin must fall upon God -- one blames the designer, not the design.  Some say, "But, God warned them, so they should have known better ... ."; nevertheless, the decision they made to partake of the forbidden fruit is the only decision they could have made given the intellect and experiences they were given by God, regardless if God warned them sternly not to do it (maybe he needed to warn them even more sternly, or warn them several times) -- like all human behavior, their actions "could not have been otherwise" given that particular set of circumstances.  

One may argue "Yes, but we do hold people responsible for their actions.  We don't just blame God or say that people aren't at fault because they are a product of their environment."  This is certainly true, and leads us to the forever present social dilemma of just how to handle where to place blame in dealing with undesirable behavior.  Though people clearly are a product of either God or evolution, we unfortunately can neither ask God for a "recall" to have humans redesigned, nor can we change all environmental factors necessary to produce perfect human beings.  We can only do what we have the power to do, and we have little choice but to place blame upon the individual.  Blame and punishment is more about reducing undesirable behavior, than it is about determining who or what is in fact "really" responsible.  In attempting to be fair, we do sometimes take heredity or other environmental factors into consideration -- courts have long recognized extenuating circumstances as something that can be considered.  In placing the onus of responsibility on one another, we have come to use certain principles.  We hold individuals responsible if we feel they have had enough experience to understand what they are doing.  We also hold individuals responsible if they are in a position of influence.  However, when we use punishment, we usually punish individuals as a way of training them to do better in the future, thus punishment becomes just another environmental factor.  We do sometimes punish when it won't bring about a positive change just because we feel it is just.  The concept of justice is about having a sense of harmony, in that he who commits a crime must be made to suffer in accordance with the suffering he has caused, regardless of cause and effect factors.  Casting blame is always imperfect, we just try to be as "fair as possible" being limited by issues of practicality.

In the story of original sin, shifting the onus of responsibility from God to Adam and Eve would only be possible if they had already proven themselves to be up to the job of dealing with temptation, or if they were being given the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and do better in the future.  Temporarily losing paradise could then be viewed as a type of punishment-training that God's new creation needed to go through to do better in the future, though it would have been more responsible on God's part to have just made them better in the first place.  However, in the story this was certainly not the case.  God condemned them to eventually die and to have to do hard work until that day came.  No future good behavior on their part could have made any difference.  Their inability to redeem themselves after “having learned their lesson” makes punishing them serve no purpose what-so-ever and makes the story grossly unfair and unrealistic.  We are supposed to believe that Man is just flawed and undeserving of God's gift of paradise, and that the flaw exists in some way that is not the result of God's design.  The concept is impossible. 

Like all fables the story has a moral.  It is meant to teach us that Adam and Eve and all humans are responsible for their actions, and not being responsible by doing what we want instead of what God wants, spells our doom.  While being obedient to God's teachings in the Bible may be a good idea, the story of Adam and Eve is clearly mythological and like all mythology, illogical.  Holding Adam and Eve responsible due to their having this vague quality of "free will" is just rationalizing the story in an attempt to make it make sense and have it be real.  In fact, the very concept of "free-will" may have its roots in this very story (see below) because without this imaginary human trait we would have to blame God for the failure of Adam and Eve, but God failing us is not what the story is about.  We make myth seem logical if we want to believe in it, and invent things like "free-will" to make it work.  Adam and Eve HAD to sin in the story and it HAD to be their fault, so as to give us an explanation for the misery of humankind.  If Adam and Eve had not sinned, then another story would have had to have been used.


 by Newton Joseph, Ph.D.

"The concept of free will has only one purpose, to defend and protect God from blame and

responsibility and put the burden of responsibility on its hapless victims who buys into this concept. Free will means there is nothing in our upbringing, nothing in our environment when we were children. There were no genetic predispositions that shaped and influenced us in any way or our temperament when we were born. Free will denies psychological factors such as influence and persuasion when we are young and easily influenced by authority figures. (All who are religious were conditioned in the manner of Pavlov's dogs) Do you naively think that a child exposed to the catholic catechism will be a free thinker with free will or will he be a brainwashed child seduced into the catholic faith, who can no longer think free or have free will?

Free will is the Christian concept of humankind's depravity and their way to manipulate and control those who are under its spell and seduced by the concept of free will.
Christians are too eager to put the blame on themselves to protect their father in the sky. Even this is not free will but a conditioned response after years of brainwashing."

Myth of Free Will

by Walter Chantry

"The will of man is his power to choose between alternatives. Your will decides your actions from a number of options. You have the faculty to direct your own thoughts, words, and deeds. Your decisions are not formed by an outside force, but from within yourself. No man is compelled to act contrary to his will, nor forced to say what he does not wish. Your will guides your actions.

Yet, this does not mean that the power to decide is free from all influence. You make choices based on your understanding, your feelings, your likes and dislikes, and your appetites. In other words, your will is not free from yourself! Your choices are determined by your own basic character. The will is not independent of your nature but the slave of it. Your choices do not shape your character, but your character guides your choices. The will is quite partial to what you know, feel, love, and desire. You always choose on the basis of your disposition, according to the condition of your heart.

The fact is, that man and man-kind has no free will, because all that he does is under the dominion of another. Here is an extreme example to make the point. If one had ‘Free will’, he could sprout wings and fly, or become a god, or create something out of nothing. The fact is, man does not have a ‘free will’ because man is indeed subject to ‘many’ outside restraints, and, he is subject to the dominion of another. For example, he is subject to all of the natural laws (outside restraints) , i.e. gravity, weather, seasons, time, are all ‘outside restrains’ having to do with life itself. Even the physical life span of a man is pre-determined."

A Case for Free Will and Determinism

by Ben Best

"The will is simply the sum of a person's desires, motives and tendencies. Although the will is created by external factors, once it has come into existence it becomes a control centre (rather than a marionette on strings). 

Determinism does not imply complete predictability or a denial of creativity. Flipping a coin is a deterministic mechanical process, but predicting the outcome is inordinately difficult. The human brain contains 100 billion neurons, many of which have the potential to connect with thousands of other neurons. The complexity of the system allows for creativity and precludes absolute prediction.

In sum, claims against determinism rarely contain much explanation of the workings of the alternative. Causelessness cannot be the source of a will, free or unfree. Arguments that the will does not act in accordance with desire usually imply motives which are not acknowledged to be desires. A free and morally responsible will can be created-by and exist-in an entirely causal world."