Thursday, July 22, 2010

Free Will?

So I have listened to a couple of podcasts recently that got me thinking about free will. Do we really have free will? Or is it something we imagine that we have? The first was a debate between an atheist and a Christian on Reasonable Doubts. The interview/debate appeared on the Don Johnson Radio show, but a fuller, unedited version is available here. The second was an excellent interview on Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot with Tom Clark. I used to strongly defend a notion of free will, but lately I have begun to have doubts about the whole concept.

I especially appreciate the Tom Clark interview. In the interview they mentioned that when we really say that we have free will, we have some "unmoved-mover" power. This is typically an attribute in theism that is reserved for God. Now maybe a theist could say that this is one of those "we were made in God's image" things. God has given some of his attributes to humanity. Additionally I think Tom separates out the concepts of determinism and being fully caused (no free will.) This makes sense to me. Randomness is one of the fundamental attributes of the universe (pick up a book on quantum mechanics if you don’t believe me.) This randomness does not mean that we have free will, but I think it might help to muddy the waters in the debate.

There has been quite a bit of evidence in neurological studies that support the notion that we don’t have free will. For example we know that brain trauma (either due to injury or stroke) can dramatically change a person and how they make their decisions. Probably the most interesting evidence is related to neurological studies of how humans do moral reasoning. Check out this write up on Neurologica for more information.

Now the question I have is how does free will and dualism relate. Much of the evidence against free will is also evidence against some sort of immortal soul. So I could see how free will and dualism can be a coherent belief, but what about holism and freewill? Typically Adventists have held onto both concepts, but I am not sure if it is a coherent set of assumptions. I may or may not try to more fully flesh out why, but I was curious what others thought.

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