Re: The stuff of misery

Christopher Morbey (
Tue, 07 Apr 1998 23:46:18 -0700

Massimo Pigliucci wrote after I had written:

> > Hmmm. After thousands of years of various forms of totalitarianism,
> > here we go again.
> What are you talking about? The discussion about free will is about
> understanding where human behavior comes from, and what are its limits.
> Since lack of free will does NOT equate to predictable (and far less
> *uniform*) behavior, it is a non-sequitur to say that admitting no free
> will leads to totalitarianism.
> > If there is no free-will, and thoughts and emotions, wishful thinking,
> or opinions, for >example, merely come about by some sort of programmed
> (or otherwise) determined >chemical and/or electrical (or whatever) causes
> then why try to convince me of it?

> Well, I'm tempted to concede a point there... It sure feels like it is
> hard to get what you referred to as intelligent and educated people to
> admit false beliefs and truly self-evident (or at least very likely)
> conclusions about the universe... ;-)
> But, again, you're missing the point. No free will doesn't mean inability
> to change your opinions, if you are programmed (by natural selection) to
> be able to change your outputs in response to particular inputs. That's
> all there is to discussions. It is only a matter of finding out who among
> us has that program, as opposed to a completely inflexible one. One, I
> would add, that natural selection would *not* favor in a continuously
> changing environment...
> So, there is no blatant inconsistency, and the "chemistry" you refer to is
> infinitely more complex than the simple deterministic equation you are
> using to refute my argument. Ever heard to emergent properties, complexity
> theory and cellular automata? No time to get to that here, but those are
> entire field of research that might clarify to you why there is no
> inconsistency about thinking that there is no free will and having honest
> discussions about it. Your view of free will is too simplistic.
> Finally, it seems to me - but clearly most members of this list disagree -
> that if you claim something exists, the burden of proof is on *you*. So,
> as it goes for god, so is for free will. What evidence do you have? Where
> is it? Where is it coming from?

Some brief answers:

Who said totalitarianism is predictable or uniform? All evidence is to the

You say that there is no such thing as free-will. If we stick to some
traditional sense of free-will: "The power of directing our own actions
without constraint by necessity or fate" (OED), then traditionally and
sensibly anything else is some sort of determinism. If everything else is
merely some sort of determinism (however much reduced to unfathomable
complexity) then I am not accountable for my actions. In today's maimed
psychology fantasy world, I become the victim of my oppressive
circumstance. So I now possess sufficient twisted liberty activation that I
can try to dispel the notion of free-will through some conjured
pre-programmed non-intelligent selection effect. The compulsion "to want" or
"to need", then is traced back to the ratiocination and imagination
ultimately derived from this same selection whim of random events and
juxtaposed possibilities. The will becomes traceable to that which is beyond
me, outside of me, and I become unaccountable to it or because of it. I
learn to believe it and live by it. In order to feel safe, I try to convince
others to support me. My putative programed ontological necessity (what
makes me, me, and not you) being exterior allows me to justify anything
whatsoever and totalitarianism is the only result of my imagined but
destructive inertia.

The inconsistency in the "non-existence of free-will" argument becomes quite
clear. And totalitarianism is not about human behaviour? Admitting that no
free-will leads to totalitarianism is a _non sequitur_?

You say that the direction of our own actions is by necessity, claiming (I
think) that necessity appears to be like a very complex free-will. For
example, you say that my concept of free-will is too simple and that there
are much more sophisticated complexities involved. That, in the limit, the
choices come about by a natural selection programming effort. I suppose you
mean something like a very-many-layered-neural-network sort of model. That
being the case, why in the world would you want to convince me that I could
be wrong? Why would you be worried about supposed simplistic naivety? Are
you saying that we are just two complex programs having a "go" at one
another? If that is what you are saying then happiness, for example, is
something ultimately "exterior" rather than "interior". "Being" itself
becomes something outside of itself and there is no meaning left. Something
becomes no different than nothing. Something consistent becomes
indistinguishable from something inconsistent. Black becomes white. And
nothing is worth talking about because no words are left.

When Christians talk about abundance and life and freedom and love and
gratitude and responsibility and joy and tragedy and pain and sorrow they
identify with a being made in the image of their God. This "being" is
capable of a two-way conversation with God, the origin of and content being
the cooperation of interior intentions.

If your reply is to suggest that what I say is merely more sophisticated
programing at a deeper level then you are increasingly agreeing with me,
however obliquely. All you are doing is looking through some very dark
glasses and calling my God by a name other than his Holy Name. Why not give
credit where credit is due and, at least, use the correct name?

It would be impossible for me to show you evidences of free-will. Your
programing doesn't have the instructions to permit you to see what your eyes
were meant for. Nor for your ears to hear what they were meant for. However,
my program offers your program a chance to have your instructions altered.
If you reply that my program can't do that I'll just answer that my program
is even more sophisticated than yours is. Talk about a senseless circular

For those that can see beyond delusions, there are 100s of millions of
Christians in the world. Many of them are ready to give up their life so
that others can live. What theory of Darwin can account for that fact? That
one fact totally demolishes the theory of a constant and ruthless
competition to survive. Yes, it does.

Christopher Morbey.