Determinism

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Determinism is the philosophical doctrine that events are solely determined by natural causes. In addition, determinism is the philosophical doctrine that every event in the universe is the inevitable consequence of a preceding cause or causes.[1]

Incompatibilism views it as being in conflict with the doctrine of free will, while Compatibilism sees no conflict between the two.

The Buddhist and Taoist doctrine of Impermanence holds that nothing in existence is eternal and that all that is, has ever been, and ever will be is subject to the invincible and inevitable process of the wheel of successive change without beginning or end, as the essential nature of being itself.

Atheism, determinism and freewill

See also: Atheism and free will and Atheism and morality

In the Western World, most atheists hold to the philosophy of philosophical naturalism (see: Atheist worldview).

The Christian apologist Kyle Butt wrote:

Sam Harris, recognized in skeptical circles as one of the four leading voices of modern atheism, penned a book titled Free Will. In that short volume, he wrote: “Free will is an illusion. Our wills are simply not of our own making…. We do not have the freedom we think we have.” He further stated, “I cannot determine my wants…. My mental life is given to me by the cosmos.” Again, “People feel (or presume) an authorship of their thoughts and actions that is illusory.” And, “What I will do next, and why, remains, at bottom, a mystery—one that is fully determined by the prior state of the universe and the laws of nature (including the contributions of chance).” As he begins to summarize his views toward the end of the book, he says, “You will do whatever it is you do, and it is meaningless to assert that you could have done otherwise.”

Why does Harris demand that free will is non-existent? His commitment to materialism paints him into this corner, which is obvious from his statement: “In improving ourselves and society, we are working directly with the forces of nature, for there is nothing but nature itself to work with.” On the second-to-last page he writes, “Am I free to change my mind? Of course not. It can only change me.”

There are striking ironies in the position that Harris and others take as they deny their own free will and their readers’ as well. First, why in the world would these men write books and articles in an attempt to persuade anyone to believe their “no free will” position if the reader cannot decide for himself to change his mind? What is the point of trying to convince a person who believes in free will, if that “belief” is nothing more than the consequence of the cause-and-effect, natural processes that are banging around in his brain? If the reader does not have the ability to choose his or her belief, what is the point of trying to “show” the superiority of the “no-free-will” position? According to Harris and crew, you believe what you believe because of the physics of the Cosmos working in your brain, and how in the world words on a page could change those physics would indeed be a mystery worth uncovering. The fact that modern atheists are writing books to convince people that there is no free will belies the undeniable fact that humans have free will.

Second, Harris’ concluding statement brings to light another glaring difficulty in the no-free-will position. He says, “Am I free to change my mind? Of course not. It can only change me.” Wait just a minute. Who is the “I” or the “me” in the sentence? If there is no free will, and humans are simply the combined total of the physical processes at work in their brains, then there should be nothing more than the “mind” in Harris’ sentence. The fact that he can differentiate between “himself” and his “mind” shows that there is something more at work than determinism. A purely physical entity such as a rock or atom does not have the ability to think in terms of “I” or “me.” In truth, that Harris is conscious of an “I” or of a “self” contradicts his claim that free will does not exist....

It is often the case that many atheists attempt to distance themselves from the views of Dawkins, Harris, and other free-will-deniers. They contend that, even though they are atheists, they still believe that humans have free will and choose their own behavior. They do this because they know, deep down in their heart of hearts, that they have chosen their behaviors in the past. The problem with their mode of operation, however, is that atheism necessarily implies that free will cannot exist. If humans actually make their own, personal decisions, then something must be at work that is more than nature—which is over and above the natural, physical movement of atoms.[2]

Commenting on a speech of the evolutionist and atheist Jerry Coyne Butt wrote:

Near the end of Coyne’s speech, he attempted to explain the benefits he sees in adopting the idea that free will does not exist (not to be tedious, but keep in mind that he does not really think you can adopt it; instead, you are forced to accept whatever your chemistry determines). He said that a benefit of denying free will is that you would have a “lack of regret for bad things that happen. It takes away a certain amount of guilt feelings from you. You don’t have to beat yourself up over, ‘I should have done this instead of that.’” There you have it. Humans, from the beginning of Creation, have looked for ways to plead “not guilty” in the face of their own sins. We have attempted to blame everyone else except ourselves for our moral failures. Humans have tried to blame God, their parents, their genes, their society, their spouses, their circumstances, and everything under the Sun for the selfish, sinful choices they have made. The next step with this approach is to say that, since we cannot choose our behavior, then “punishment is not justified for retribution (people get—or should get—what they deserve).”[3]

If naturalism is true, then we ought not to trust our capacity for reason for the human brain would be a byproduct of blind/unintelligent natural forces. [4] Therefore, believing in naturalism is self-defeating. For more information, please see: Atheism and free will

See also

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References