I’ve been coming across the argument quite frequently that the reason people go to hell/jahannam and bad things happen in the world is because god/allah gave us freewill. The Abrahamic god is seemingly floating around in heaven saying ‘not my problem, I gave you the freewill and you fucked it up, I’m not fixing it’ in much the same way a used car salesman refuses to acknowledge his part is selling a shonky car that the wheels fall off of as soon as you have driven it off the forecourt.
I have a feeling many of the faithful know roughly what freewill is but not in too much detail. Having come across freewill vs determinism whilst studying psychology many years ago, I’ve had plenty of time to think about this. If you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll walk you through my findings. No questions until the end please.
First lets define freewill:
the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion.
In simpler terms, it means your decide your own actions.
All things in this world can be attributed to stimulus and response. As an example, if you were to flick a bouncy ball on a flat and level table, it would roll off, hit the stone floor 50cm below and bounce. That will always be the case and it can be predicted. With mathematical equations and knowing the precise location of atoms in the ball bouncing area, force of gravity, wind speed and many other variables, I could predict how it would bounce and when and where it would stop. I imagine the numbers involved here are vast but I could make a concise prediction if I had all the variables calculated.
What has a small rubber ball and a carpet-less floor got to do with freewill? Apply that logic to humans and you have your answer. In psychology, the behaviour of a person is believed to be a product of nature and nurture. Nature, the genes you inherit from your parents and your biological make up. Nurture, the way you are raised and external influences that shape your personality.
If you’re familiar with medical science, you’ll know that doctors can predict who is more likely to get cancer based on their nature/genetic make up. They can scan the various parts of the brain and see which emotion you’re experiencing. They can also see which areas are more developed to ascertain if you’re good with numbers or a creative individual. Basic stuff at moment as lets face it, a 1,000 years ago the earth was flat so we’re not as advanced as we will be in another 1,000 years…subject to no major wars, the rise of the terminators or annihilation by planetary strip mining aliens!
How about nurture, surely all decisions you make are your own? Well yes and no. Any decision you make is based on your experiences in life and your aforementioned genetic make up. If you’re a child and in the unfortunate position of daddy beating the shit out of you for the smallest infraction of his rules, chances are based on your nurture you’ll do the same to your children as it’s what you’ve learnt. It’s a stimulus (the beating) and the response (beating others).
Of course, not all people who suffer domestic violence as children continue the cycle. If say for one example the social services stepped in and re-housed the child with a loving family, the stimulus would of changed and so hopefully would the response. A friend I grew up with had a horrendous upbringing and now languishes in prison as he is unable to control his violent impulses. I have a feeling the red mist he saw before violent actions was his way of asserting control that he didn’t have as his mother’s partner beat him with a phone book.
I appreciate many like to think that humans are complex and special souls but quite frankly we’re not. We are animals and our behaviour can be predicted. Just like many other animals we eat, drink, wee, poo, sleep, shag and socialise. It is all observable and predictable behaviour. If you were to be told how good looking you are today (and you are looking good, I can see you through your webcam hot stuff) endorphins in your brain would be released giving you a pleasant and happy feeling and you would be more prone to not only like me, but listen to what I have to say and take more interest in me. If you saw me in the street you may unconsciously fiddle with your hair if you thought I was good looking. Again, a simple stimulus and response that can be predicted.
Even more simple, if I walk up to you in the street and punch you in the face, your body will enter fight or flight where all non essential bodily functions will shut down to help the body focus on speeding up your reactions and getting your muscles ready to either fight or run just like in many other mammals. After the situation is over, you’ll go through stages of trauma in your mind unless you’re a seasoned fighter in which case you’ll process it differently and probably have me pinned to the floor screaming for my mummy. Stimulus and response. I have to say I would never punch you, how could anyone want to damage a pretty face such as yours?
Now I’ve gone from bouncing balls to telling you how attractive I think you are to punching you in the face, what has this got to do with freewill. As with the massive sums involved for predicting the bouncing path of a ball, you can predict human behaviour with even more complex sums. You’d take into account your biology, your past experiences and all external factors such as the same for all other living creatures on earth, wind speed, oxygen content of the atmosphere, the earth’s movement around the sun, force of gravity, the sun, the galaxy, the universe etc. Immense sums and beyond our calculating power but if you had a super duper ooper computer that could gather all this information you would be able to predict the future actions of any human being. If you can predict the future then it is already decided/determined. We may have the illusion of freewill but it is already decided what we will do. Even writing this article is the product of me coming across some unsavoury ideas in religion and seeing the discrimination, murder and hate committed by some who follow it, my brain processing it and thinking if I want to successfully pass on my genes to children that will survive, the religious mad men should be challenged in case one day they have the ability to start a nuclear armageddon.
If you’ve taken in what I’ve explained, and I know you have because you’re not only good looking but also smart as a button, this may raise some questions such as why bother if it’s all decided? How can you hold anyone accountable for their actions if it’s not their conscious choosing? I can murder someone and it won’t be my fault? Are peadophiles truly evil? or even just that the blog is wrong because of x y z, again feel free to ask but if your question is because a book from a 1,000 plus years ago tells you so, my response to that stimulus may be nonchalantly patronising. I may also tell you of a special product I have for sale.
The freewill magic beans I have on offer are guaranteed to free you from all forms of external control from both your environment and genetics. Want to fly but couldn’t before? No problems, the freewill beans can take you to the moon. Want to make decisions that are not based on your past experiences? No worries, the freewill magic beans can make your own new and improved experiences. Only you can decide if you want this unique opportunity and it is already determined that you will buy one. You must act quick as they are flying off the shelves so order today but only if you want to 🙂