Atheism, Free Will, Science

Study shows Free Will is an Illusion. Really?

[~1,100 words, reading time: ~6 minutes]

Image of computer keyboard with brain key
Copyright: maxkabakov / 123RF Stock Photo

If you were being programmed to believe something that wasn’t true, and that lie was leading you to a harmful end, would you want to know? If there was an agenda to lead you to abandon reality and ultimately give up your freedom, would you be upset?

Several weeks ago, we had cordial and thought-provoking discussion of free will here. Since that time, a new study was trumpeted across national news outlets, promoting a study that suggests free will is an illusion.
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Atheism, Free Will, Science

Do We Have Free Will, or is Free Will an Illusion?

[~2,100 words, reading time: ~10 minutes]

Image with ball and chain with open shackle
Copyright: faithie / 123RF Stock Photo

Many scientifically-minded people claim that mankind does not have free will. Instead, they say that all of our choices are determined by physical laws, and our perception of free will is an illusion. I hope to show that this claim is either false, or if it’s true then we can’t know it, because it is self-refuting.

In his bestselling book, Free Will, atheist neuroscientist Sam Harris boldly proclaims that our perception of free will is an illusion. He begins by telling the story of a heinous series of murders committed by two psychopaths. Dr. Harris then explains that if he had the same genes, upbringing, environment, and brains as these men, he would have also committed the same crimes. He says:

As sickening as I find their behavior, I have to admit that if I were to trade places with one of these men, atom for atom, I would be him: There is no extra part of me that could decide to see the world differently or to resist the impulse to victimize other people. Free Will (p. 4)

This is a compelling argument. It reminds me of Star Trek’s transporter: a person’s atoms are beamed across vast distances, and when they rematerialize, they are still the same person as before. If my atoms were converted into the atoms of another person, I’d be that person.

Beg Your Question?

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Atheism, Science

Why Evolution Is True: A Pragmatic Theist’s Response

Cover: Why Evolution Is True
In an earlier post, I claimed that the popular definition of the debate between advocates for creation and evolution is incorrect. The debate is not religion vs. science, but it is actually religion vs. religion. Both systems of origins have a faith-based worldview through which they interpret the world. Those on the naturalistic evolution side tend to use a more scientific vocabulary but nevertheless show passionate religious fervor in defense of their position.

Several readers posted thoughtful and challenging comments, including one by Brett who said I might be “unaware of huge swaths of data that might help [me] make a better informed conclusion.” He suggested I read Why Evolution Is True by Dr. Jerry Coyne. I am very grateful for Brett’s suggestion, as Dr. Coyne’s book really seems to encapsulate the case for naturalistic evolution in a comprehensive, yet approachable manner.

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Atheism, Science

The Curriculum Battle Is Not Religion vs. Science; It’s Religion vs. Religion

Brian Boyko, a candidate for Texas state representative, recently posted an article on his website entitled “Why Are Some Hell-Bent On Teaching Intelligent Design?”. A self-described “geek,” Boyko criticizes people of “faith” for interfering with “science” instruction. He makes some interesting points that I believe represent the arguments of many people who believe the universe came into being without a Creator.

I interact with Boyko’s post as a fellow “geek,” with over two decades of software engineering experience. I affirm and share his desire to look at the world through a pragmatic lens informed by experience in the world of high technology.

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Atheism

Dialog with an Articulate Atheist

Last week, an editor asked to republish my article “A Christian’s Apology To Atheists”. My tweet of that news yielded quite a response from atheists on Twitter and as comments on this blog.

A thoughtful atheist by the handle of @CosmoBrony wrote such an articulate response to my post that it deserved more than just a threaded comment. So, I’m going to interact with his comment here in hopes of continuing a positive dialog. @CosmoBrony’s words are quoted before my responses.

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Atheism

A Christian’s Apology To Atheists

Dear Unbelieving Friend,

I’m writing to apologize to you. My fellow Christians and I have misrepresented the Bible to you and shared a false message. In so doing, we have kept you from knowing the God who made you.

Our most serious failure is our traditional doctrine that after death, people who don’t follow Christ will suffer endless conscious torment in hell. Our message has been: “God loves you and sent His Son to die for your sins so you can live with him forever. However, if you don’t accept His gift, you will burn in hell for an endless eternity.” The endless hell part is not actually the Bible’s message.

Our tradition has blinded us to the true message of the Bible. In many ways we have held our orthodoxy as more important than the God of the scriptures Himself.

Rightly, you have rejected this message. Unfortunately, but understandably, you’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

Years ago, I was among those who held tightly to the church’s teaching on the subject of an endless hell. Even though it was unfathomable to me, I was a new believer so I just accepted the traditional view. I think most of my brothers & sisters in Christ are like I was.

After a few years as a Christian, I began an intense study of the scriptures for myself, and found that the Bible doesn’t actually teach that hell will last for an endless eternity. It teaches that God is loving and just, and his justice is measured, merciful and fits the crime. Those who reject Him will be punished for their sins, then will cease to exist in literal, endless death.

I also very much regret that I have kept silent for so long on the truth from the Bible. I have been cowardly, afraid to displease fellow believers who sometimes question the faith of those who question traditional doctrines like this one.

My sincere hope is that you would forgive us and reconsider your own views. If your foundation for rejecting Christ’s message is that his followers have condemned you to an eternal hell for rejecting him, then you no longer have that excuse.

The God who made you really does love you. He really did send His Son to die for your sins and mine, and raised Him from a literal death to credibly offer a real, eternal life to everyone who would follow Him. This gift is available to everyone.

Now that you have read this, please give God and the Bible another chance. Study it for yourself and see what it really says. Don’t be like I was, clinging to your unbelieving tradition so intensely that you don’t think for yourself anymore. What’s the risk in requesting our free e-book and learning to read the Bible for what it actually says?

I would love to have a dialog with anyone who is interested in finding out more, whether in comments here, privately through email, or in person. Please request our free e-book and post in the comments that you’d like to talk further about these things.