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.
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.
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.