Everyone’s heard this cultural mantra: our feelings define our identity. According to pop-culture wisdom, truth itself is created and validated by our feelings. We must listen to and act upon our emotions, as they are the most authentic part of who we are. Just think back to the most popular psalm of the cultural doctrine-defining movie, Frozen.
Elsa couldn’t hold back her feelings because they were the truest part of her identity. The story shows her parents reacting to her powers with the untenable command: “conceal, don’t feel.” When Elsa finally “can’t hold it back anymore,” she releases the “real her,” full of power and glamor and no limits. What an attractive message!
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?
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.