Free-will [was: The stuff of misery]

Christopher Morbey (
Thu, 09 Apr 1998 11:54:53 -0700

Talking about free-will and my conjecture that advocating its
non-existence leads to oppression of the very worst kinds, let me add a
few more thoughts. Maybe my former reasoning did not convey some of what
it should have. In any case I like to think that I am a champion of
free-will to the extent that it coexists with determinism.

Let's begin again by starting with a good definition for the adjective
"totalitarian". According to the OED: "Of or pertaining to a system of
government which tolerates only one political party, to which all other
institutions are subordinated, and which usually demands the complete
subservience of the individual to the State".

If there is no free-will then everything must proceed or develop or
exist by means of something other than free-will. Traditionally the
"something other" has been taken to be determinism. Determinism is "the
philosophical doctrine that human action is not free but necessarily
determined by motives, which are regarded as external forces acting upon
the will". Again, from the OED. We have more in-depth knowledge about
determinism these days.

Suppose then that there is, in fact, no free-will. An alternative idea
(we will omit the doctrine of predestination, here) would be that
everything comes about by some sort of sophisticated pre-programming
that can't be known in ultimate detail but we are reassured that cause
determines effect. This being the case we have no means to think
anything other than that which we have been programmed to think. We
have, firmly in place, a total selection effect...even with
unpredictability built in. Anything we measure or think or do ultimately
derives from those processes that permitted us to measure or think or
do. It follows necessarily that effect determines cause. What we have is
a logical contradiction and in normal circumstances we reject the null
hypothesis that there is, in fact, no free-will. Simple enough, it would

But people are stubborn and refuse to put any credence in their
intellect and observation or even faith. Like some sheep they have
pulled the wool over their own eyes.

If I do believe in free-will I may think about it or I may not. I can
play with possible scenarios and make all manner of thought experiments.
The free road ahead has possibilities without number and the air is
fresh and clear for new each day. There are melodies to be heard in that
fresh air and there are songs for the set-free soul to sing. Natural
repetition becomes encore rather than monotony.

If I do not believe in free-will I must not think about it at all; at
the most, I must try to dispel it, to rid the world of any trace of it.
The road ahead hits a dead-end and I am constrained to sit or wait in a
tedious and boring existence refusing even to turn around and go back to
the wrong turn. I remain subservient to the cause that has driven me up
to the dead-end. Everything now must be devoted to the "cause". Not just
me, everything else, including institutions and powers and ideas.
Subordination is the name of the only game permitted. Totalitarianism is
the only prize.

Some would even go as far as to suggest that free-will is the cause of
violence. Would you believe that that notion is made even though the
existence of free-will is denied? The necessary conclusion is that
violence is caused by something that doesn't exist. That means that
there really is no such thing as violence. And, again, without God
anything is permitted. The consciousness of freedom becomes based on the
oblivion of the antecedents to our choice, the nebulous and hardly
defined instructions gurgling out of the ooze of quarks, gluons, and

We now know that determinism does not necessarily lead to complete
predictability. Because of this some people get it into their heads that
it is determinism itself that generates what we imagine free-will to be.
The mysterious primordial instruction set, because its output cannot be
predicted with complete confidence, is the generator of free-will. But
surely the lack of predictability is not free-will. Free-will has the
consciousness of consilience built into it. Free-will takes into account
the question of existence versus non-existence, of the eschatological,
of the ontological, and of the very nature of itself. Free-will actually
steps into the future while utilising the past in order to compose

Am I missing the point? Am I simplifying free-will by allowing it to
generate endless possibilities? Am I ruling out doubt? Am I hiding
accountability in woolly jargon or transporting it to the complicated
assembler code of a random-number evolver? Am I stifling the hope of the
oppressed? Am I ruthlessly or surreptitiously providing for my continued
survival? Have I allowed mercy to become anarchy?

I don't think so.

There is another story which, for those who live and die in it, is far
more compelling and rewarding than a "natural selection" that causes
"natural selection" with the effect of "natural selection". It is a
story where righteousness and peace are allowed to embrace. It is a
story where freedom and necessity are permitted to coexist; it is a very
old story and one that is new and refreshing every day. Everyone has the
chance to be part of that story. For those on the outside it is merely
wishful thinking. For those on the inside it is the substance of things
unseen, the knowledge of what is hoped for. Some programming that is!

In the story that permits free-will there is the concept of vicarious
action, sacrifice, and honour. This is not wishful thinking, it is plain
evidence. Unless, of course, the facts are twisted to suit a postulated
helically shaped instruction set.

I wonder, How does the Darwinian theory account for the vicarious rather
than the selfish? An easy way would be to make the claim that vicarious
offerings are only figments, mirages, and don't exist. That's it, when
some observations don't fit the model you chuck them out, claim they
really don't exist. Nice way to get a model where everything is a
perfect fit. Sorda like getting excited when the last two data points
fit the linear trend so well.

Of course, all what I have written has been written before in many and
various ways. And it really is a bit of fun to experience the humour
found in somebody else's nonsensical reasoning, whether it be serious
tautological conclusions or begging-the-question sweet-talk. Christians
make silly mistakes too, and funny ones. But all of this should not
deter the importance of seeking the truth.

Now it's time for several days off. A particularly good time of the year
to consider that sacrifice can make the difference between death and
life. Evidence that is totally inconsistent with Darwinian fantasies.

BTW. There are some excellent tidbits of Darwinian nonsense in recent
"First Things".

Christopher Morbey