No posting of mine has had as many negative comments as Free Will Proven a Myth During the years since, I have attempted to understand this reaction. Here are some tentative explanations.
Could it be that the upholders of the free will superstition think an attack upon free will is an attack upon freedom in general? If so, they are making the same mistake the Church made when rejecting the Copernican system in favor of the Ptolemaic. The teachings of Jesus, never rose or fell on whether the earth went around the sun or vice versa. What the Copernican reality negated was the institutional ideology of the Church which dogmatically declared for the Ptolemaic system.
What institutional ideology does the dismissal of the free will fable harm?
In the real world, most people's freedoms and choices are highly restricted. The less wealth we have, the less educated we are, the less self-aware we are, the less choices we have and the more our lives are determined for us. “Aimless” people who seemingly “do whatever they want”, in reality, have their lives largely chosen for them by their emotional problems. Yet, these emotionally and mentally messed up people are the very ones the free will types finger wag, “You chose to live this way!” as though their situation was a simple matter like which brand of cereal to buy or not. Funny though, the very people whose wealth, power and easy access to therapists, would allow them to act with a level of free will (and yet who chose to treat the rest of us as prey) don't come in for this hectoring.
I suspect that most of the rabid free will advocates fear the exposing of their superstition because they can no longer have the pleasure of feeling superior to the “outcasts”. They can no longer play the blame game. Social problems minus free will become just that, social problems. They are rooted in the system under which we live and not the fault of individuals who just didn't try hard enough.
Free will thus plays the role of prop or mask to disguise the true nature of any system of domination. Making everything the fault of the individual deflects criticism away from the reality that most people have little control over their lives because those lives are controlled by a powerful and exploitative minority.
Free will plays a role in abetting another vicious superstition, that of original sin. Humans are deemed innately wicked and the only way for us to behave decently is to repress those evil urges. Those who do not repress their base aspects do so out of weakness, indeed, given free will, have chosen to be sinners. The way to get people to freely chose to do good instead of evil is to threaten them with punishment and reek vengeance upon them when they fail to abide by our strictures.
Thus free will plays a role in propping up a judicial system which is based on punishment and revenge. Without the free will dogma, we must not seek punishment of the perps, but compensation for victims of crime. We must seek the root causes of violent crimes and institutionalize the dangerous, not as punishment, but merely to protect the populous.
One final word on free will. Like Gandhi once said about Christianity - “It would be a good idea.” But in order to have free will, we must be completely self-aware and have the ability to act upon that self-awareness. Few people have achieved that level of enlightenment, for that is what it really is. The vast majority of people are ultimately only reflections of their neuroses and psychoses. As an ideal, free will is sublime. But please don't take an ideal for reality. And most of all don't use it as a club to beat people you are prejudiced against. One day when oppression and exploitation are but vague memories – should we survive that long as a species – we will no longer be encumbered by these burdens, and actually possess a free will.
Labels: free will debate