Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Evolutionist complains Christians fund free will

Leftist-atheist-evolution Jerry Coyne is ranting again against free will, and against the evils of religion, which he blames for all of these supposedly wrong ideas.

In his terminology, "libertarian free will" refers to the religious idea that we are able to act on our choices, and "incompatibilism" refers to his belief that scientific atheism requires believing that everything we do has been determined since the big bang. In the middle is "compatibilism", which says that determinism is compatible with our ordinary belief in free will, and hence you can believe in free will whether the laws of nature are determinist or not.

I stick to the hard science, and it has not resolved either determinism or free will, and probably never will. They are metaphysical beliefs. So I am a compatibilist, as I do not believe that they are inherently contradictory as philosophers use these terms.

In Coyne's analysis, if someone fails to reject free will, then some religious conspiracy must have bribed him into presenting that view:
The question is actually “are we free?” and, in the main, the interlocutors answer “yes.” After all, Templeton wants science to show that we still have free will, something that Dan Dennett mentioned the other day when reviewing Alfred Mele’s new book that defends free will (Dennett likes the book but suggested that Mele’s objectivity might have been compromised because his views are congenial to the source of his funding). Mele is in charge of two multimillion-dollar Templeton grants (here and here; see his response to Dennett here). One of them is the free will project touted in the ad.
My guess is that Coyne is getting his funding from leftist atheist evolutionists, so I guess that explains his views. Or maybe they were pre-ordained since the big bang.

What especially bugs him is the idea that people will live more Christian lives if they know that they have the free will to make their own decisions. He has to spoil it by telling everyone that they are mindless soulless automatons descended from apes.
When Darwin famously told the Bishop of Worcester's wife about his theory of evolution, she remarked: Descended from the apes! My dear, let us hope that it is not true, but if it is, let us pray that it will not become generally known.
The research does seem to show that people take more moral responsibility for their decisions if they believe that they had the free will to make those decisions.
Besides, what makes this whole argument from consequences bizarre is that research shows that most people’s conception of free will is not compatibilist, but libertarian. Yes, there’s one study showing a compatibilist belief in general, but most studies show the opposite. In my own discussions with scientists, many of them, while not explicit dualists, still believe in a libertarian free will in which there is an “I” who makes decisions at any given time, and could have decided otherwise. (I was surprised to learn that physicist Steve Weinberg, an atheist, believes this.)
Back to physics here. It should not be surprising that a big shot atheist physicist believes in free will. I do not think that anyone's Nobel Prize acceptance speech said that he did nothing to deserve it except to carry out the commands that he was programmed to do.

Seriously, the law of physics are not known to be deterministic. Einstein famously complained about this in the 1930s, and the consensus was that Einstein was wrong.

The loudest argument for determinism from today's physicists comes from the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. They say that what appears to be chance is really the universe splitting into parallel universes. When all universes are taken into account, they are all determined from the big bang. Our free will is just an illusion arising from the fact that we do not care about the other universes that have no interaction with our own.

Coyne adds:
I disagree that determinism is a useless concept, and it can be tested scientifically, as in the tests of Bell’s inequality (it doesn’t hold on the quantum level). ... And there is no scientific evidence that quantum mechanics plays a role in human behavior on a macro level.
He is badly confused. Tests of Bell's inequality do not show anything about determinism. They only show that certain deterministic non-quantum models are wrong. But the experiments favor quantum mechanics, so all the non-quantum models are wrong, as far as we know.

Quantum mechanics plays a role in all chemical reactions. Humans use chemical reactions in everything they do. If I decide to eat oatmeal for breakfast, we do not have a quantum mechanical description for how that decision works, but we don't have any other description either.

A difference between right-wingers and left-wingers is that left-wingers are frequently preoccupied with the motives of others. In this case, Coyne is upset that someone might defend free will out of Christian motives, or funding from a Christian organizations. You see this also in the recent American election, where many Democrats campaigned on motives while Republicans campaigned on results. I guess you see the world a lot differently if you do not believe in free will.

Update: Coyne complains again about the same Dennett article.


  1. The main reason a leftist wishes to do away with free will is primarily a political convenience based on the very tenuous argument that since people have no free will, they can not be expected to solve their own problems or even possess the good judgment to do so, or be held accountable for their own actions and be treated accordingly. Thusly, it is somehow the sole responsibility of the 'state' (which somehow magically does possess the free will and superior judgment which individuals are incapable of ) to run peoples lives using resources taken from people with or without their consent to regulate and control other people's lives. The elitists who run such a system also view their own judgment as above question except by other elitists who share their views, and exclude themselves from the same controlling and financially draining measures they would impose on others 'for their own good'. In such a system, the definition of evil is anyone who has the audacity to try and claim their labor as their own and do what they want with their own earnings. (The Little Red Hen is worse than the anti-Christ to the leftist mentality)

    The main problem with this argument is that it is a very double-plus un-good excuse to rob and control others based on the absurd assumption that a vast powerful bureaucracy filled primarily with micro-managing elitists and technocrats knows what's good for anyone other than themselves, and will actually be capable of serving anything other than their own interests.

    If you strip a human of their right to free will and self determination, they are no longer a person or individual, they are merely another 'thing' to be treated like any other state owned and controlled piece of property.

  2. Yes, I think that's right. Coyne does not say it that way on this web site, but his leftism, atheism, and opposition to free will seem to be closely related.

  3. Funny how fate drops the apple in your lap. I don't even need to think of an example of leftist hubris unchained, I just need to pick up the news paper.

    Jonathan Gruber is an economist who teachers at MIT. He thinks he's smart, he thinks he's clever, He also thinks he knows so much better than you, and he also thinks deceiving the CBO and tricking people is a perfectly valid way to implement law because (in his opinion) people are too stupid to look after themselves and take care of their own interests... especially when they are informed...by his reckoning.

    Your Honor, I give you 'Elitist Leftist Technocrat' exhibit (A.)

    "this bill [the Affordable Care Act] was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO [the Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay, so it’s written to do that. In terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law which said that healthy people are going to pay in — you made explicit healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed. . . . Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass. . . . Look, I wish . . . that we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not."
    End Quote.

    Yours Truly,

    Jonathan Gruber, Chief architect of the (not so) ACA.

    In his defense, he's really really sorry he got caught on film saying this, as this will make others of his enlightened ilk look bad and detract from all the goodness his intentionally condescending and dishonest creation will bring about to all the little people too stupid to know what's right for them.

    With smug little leftist technocrats like this screwing with people's medical insurance, who needs enemas?

  4. I just heard Rush Limbaugh talking about this story. Is it really in your newspaper? A simple search indicates that Fox News is covering it, and not many others. Here is the Wash. Post story, if you want the leftist spin.

  5. What difference would it actually make if we could prove for certain whether free will really existed?

    If it was shown that free will did not exist we could not choose how we reacted to that information. Knowing that we were automatons acting out a programme set in motion at the Big Bang would not provide us with any means of deviating from that programme. It would not even make the future more predictable. If the human brain was just a machine operating according to strictly deterministic physical laws it would still be an immensely complicated one. We could never determine the current state of all the particles in even a single brain with enough accuracy to predict its future states, let alone do it for really big stuff like a global climate model or the fate of the universe.

    Proof that free will did exist would be met with general indifference because most people already do assume that the choices they make are their own. It would be seen as science finally catching up with common-sense. Mystics who believe that everything happens as a direct result of God's will or some other supernatural force would dismiss any scientific arguments to the contrary. So would people who doubt their own agency as a result of mental illness. But when people say that they have no choice in life they are usually talking about limitations imposed by their economic, social or political circumstances rather than the underlying nature of physical reality. So there'd be a few sensational headlines and then the whole thing would be forgotten.

  6. AndrewZ,

    Consider what you said very carefully. 'What difference would it make if we could prove for certain whether free will really existed?'

    The moment you can say a human is an automaton, why would it be bad or wrong to shut said automaton off? Or reprogram it like a Roomba? Or grind it up for fertilizer for that matter? What difference would it make and to whom exactly if people are all just pre-programmed things? If you have no choice, the entire concept of right or wrong goes entirely out the window into irrelevance, you merely have programming, which is in the end is nothing but a laundry list of instructions playing out to make a machine do something. Why would it be wrong for a government or someone powerful to destroy millions of people if they were just automatons with delusions of being self aware? Could not the powerful individual merely say they were justified because they really had no choice either, they were just following their own programming? I hope you can begin to see the concept of free will is not a trifling matter to be treated in a lackadaisical fashion.

    Please try to take a step back and consider what people who think there are no ethical or moral consequences for their actions do to other people.

  7. You could ask what difference it makes if we are all living in a simulation, like the movie The Matrix? Maybe it would not matter to you, as you could act the same, either way. In the case of free will, Jerry Coyne sure seems to think that it makes a difference.

  8. Roger,
    I do like your Matrix comparison. The Oracle tells Neo not to feel bad about the vase, looking about in confusion to the comment, he breaks it. The Oracle smiles and says "What's really going to bake your noodle is wondering if you would have broken it if I hadn't said anything."

    The movies actually went into great agonizing detail about predetermination. The scene with the utterly deterministic 'Architect' coldly telling Neo exactly what he would do and why, and then having Neo raging against the rat maze he was being pitted against was a fantastic conceptualization of what the free will argument is about. I also like the fact that the intuitive 'Oracle' saw things quite differently, even though she herself was in the prediction business. What it in essence boiled down to was control. The architect wanted to use his calculated predictions to control humanity into oblivion. To the Architect, it was either Machines OR Humans, a binary solution forced upon everyone to achieve only one outcome. The Oracle used prediction for something else, to find a possibility where both the machines and humans could control themselves long enough to break the pre- programmed cycle they were trapped inside of by the architect. The Oracle didn't know what exactly the result of the alternative would be, only that it wouldn't be the same cycle played out mindlessly again, the possibility of something new could be better or worse, but there would be room for other possibilities to be considered and tried.

    The leftest mind set is so upsetting to me because much like the Architect in the Matrix, it has only one solution to every perceived problem, centralized absolute Control. Because this solution set can not accommodate what humanity actually is (diverse and un centralized), it always results in an attempt to smother or abort the human spirit of free will, both now and the future.

    The leftist mind simply can not understand why it shouldn't attempt to dissect and prune the free will out of people in the pursuit of 'progress' and 'perfecting society', and all of human species has paid and continues to pay dearly for it. .