Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Another Riff on Free Will

“It is clear,” the Logician argued confidently, “that regardless of the existence of a supreme creator free will, as we understand it at least, is an illusion.”

“Positing a God figure, we must assume an infinitely powerful being controls, either by actions or inaction, everything. With the existence of such a being, the idea that we could “choose” to do or not do a thing is ridiculous on it’s face.”

“But without this being, and the eternal selfness some call “Soul” supposedly granted us by it, all we are is meat and chemicals, automata existing solely to propagate genes. We may well respond to stimuli in a way such that the illusion of sentience is created, but it is precisely that. An illusion.”

“We are nothing more than biology. And biology is chemistry, chemistry is physics, and physics an unbroken chain of causes and effects stretching all the way back to the birth of the universe itself.”

“In this way, everything we do was predestined billions of years before our birth, and quite beyond any type of control.”

“So you see, Your Honour, although my wife is dead, and my hand plunged the knife into her, I could not possibly have killed her. Either God did or, more likely to my mind, a firing of neurons triggered by a chain of events more ancient than is fathomable. Thus; it is your duty as an officer of this court to find me innocent of all charges.”

The judge, from his bench, pondered this a while, and when he was done delivered this verdict.

“Your reasoning, Professor, seems perfectly sound, and I shall find you not-guilty. And moreover shall I instruct the executioner that, when he hangs an innocent man in the morning, he should do so without remorse. He is, after all, no more in charge of his actions than you are. Is this not true?”

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