Jerry Coyne is upset that someone damaged the fender of his car, and then drove off.
Last Saturday afternoon I parked my car in front of my building at work; I usually use it on the weekends and then leave it at work in case I need to use it during the week. On Wednesday I looked out the window of my lab (I can overlook the car, which is nice) to see a huge dent in the front fender on the driver’s side. Going down to investigate, I saw that it was indeed a large, fresh dent, which I photographed this morning.The hit-and-run driver was nowhere to be found. Luckily, a passerby saw the collision, and got the guy's license plate number and left a note. Coyne called the cops.
Coyne titled his post "The good and bad of humanity". The cognitive dissonance is amusing. After all, Coyne has argued emphatically that man has no free will, and "choices" are really determined entirely by biochemistry and history. So "good" and "bad" don't really apply to humanity. If Coyne is right about free will, then the guy who drove off has no more moral culpability than the car he was driving. The cars and the driver and Coyne himself have no free agency at all. If determinism is true, no other event was possible.
Coyne's soulless deterministic world is merely an arena in which chance and physics and chemistry play. We're all meat machines, incapable of free will. So a machine is angry that a machine driving a machine damaged his machine.
The only flicker of libertarian free will in Coyne's deterministic dystopia is when someone dents his fender.
People don't have 'free will'. But they do have 'free won't'.ReplyDelete
The idea of the absence of free will refers to the idea that decisions are made unconsciously, based on innate factors such as genetics, past experiences and learned standards, and the decision is then passed to the mind to give the illusion that the mind made the decision, instead of rationalising it after the fact.
The person still has 'free won't' and can veto the decision - in this case, vetoing the decision to drive away and not bothering to pay for the damage caused.
The person still 'owns' the decision made, whether it's made subconsciously and not vetoed, or made as a result of 'free will'.
If you're a theist, seeking an excuse for the presence of suffering in the world, it matters not whether God gives humans free will and allows humans the right to commit evil, or whether God gives humans free won't and allows humans the right to commit evil by not exercising the veto.
It's effectively the same result.
In either case, the crimes humans do belongs to the individual. And deserve to be discouraged by suitable penalties.
Free won't is supported more by the evidence than free will. Impairment of executive function as a result of frontal lobe damage or alcohol intoxication results in inappropriate behaviour because of inhibition of free won't rather than a stimulation of free will.
"In either case, the crimes humans do belongs to the individual. And deserve to be discouraged by suitable penalties."Delete
So what constitutes a "crime" that a "free won'ts" operates on?
what ever the majority decides?
I recall that blankfield is on record in this venue as a "what ever the majority decides" man.Delete
Senile old fart,Delete
How would you know that I'm a 'whatever the majority decides' man. Point it out where I actually stated that.
buttful, are you saying that you are not?Delete
Senile old fart,Delete
Yes, I am.
I've just realised I've left myself open to creationist quote mining.
'Senile old fart. Yes, I am'.
Not true. I might be a grumpy old man, but I'm not senile, not yet anyway.
Coyne is as pitiable as the person who smashed his car and left the scene. He couldn't help calling the police. Coyne is just another gigantic meat robot, ruled by a molecule, and subject to the tides and tsunamis of internal chemical and electrical flows.ReplyDelete
But all hit-and-run victims, and indeed all crime victims, would benefit from standing back (which may not be possible given a benighted-enough socio-biological background) and reflecting on the following:
For the utilitarian, the criminal law is an instrument of social education and motivation. Utilitarians punish individuals not so much because of their
own culpability, but because they hope to avoid the conduct that leads to societal harm. The goal is to deter future conduct not only by the individual herself, but by society as a whole. Individuals are part of a greater collective and must sacrifice their own individual liberty for the greater good. Thus, under utilitarian conceptions of punishment, individual culpability is not a prerequisite to punishment. Their mere presence in society provides the necessary justification.
--- M. Jones, Duke Law Journal v. 52, 1131
We know that citizens are but animals, purely material organisms, and just a part of the "greater collective", aka as The Herd. The Herd must be managed, not for the sake of individuals, but for the sake of the Herd and the Herd's managers. In other words, by the visionary folks who get to live in the Big House (official motto: All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others).
So the issue of criminal "guilt" is moot; the real issue is whether punishment of a specific individual will serve the needs of the collective and the goals of the collective's managers at a given time. This is the logical conclusion of Coyne's philosophy. If Coyne can't see it, he doesn't belong in the Big House.
Jones's paper is utilitarianism, the natural philosophical habitat of materialism, at its best. And all devout materialists know that utilitarianism must replace the folly and foolishness of individual freedom with the regularity and beneficence of top-down microregulation and arbitrary judgement if the collective goal of maximum happiness is to be achieved.
Yes. And the consequences of the denial of free will and the denial of the transcendent dignity of man by the materialist/atheist religion is a very deadly business, as much of the 20th century and so much of the 21st century (in N. Korea, in abortion abattoirs, etc) attest.
Materialist atheism is the greatest threat to humanity. It has killed hundreds of millions, and is set to kill immeasurably more, not to even count the souls it has destroyed.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War, in which million-strong armies marched off to do battle for 'God, king and country'. War started by Christian leaders of Christian countries, by free will for transcendental reasons.
All of the unfortunate events of the 20th century were the direct or indirect consequences of the Great War, including the bastardry committed by the Christian leaders of Germany in facilitating the transit of Lenin and fellow revolutionaries to Petrograd, just to make life difficult for Christian Russia and its Christian leaders.
No Great War - no Soviet Union, no Hitler, no Second World War, no nuclear bomb, no Communist China, no Cold War, no North Korea... The list goes on and on.
And only because Christian leaders of Christian countries, with free will and the Christian belief in the transcendental nature of humans, didn't use their 'free won't' and avoided war.
The Great War was evil and atrocity and folly on an unimaginable scale. And obviously Christians bear some blame for it, because some Christians did it.Delete
Unlike atheists, we don't run away from accountability.
I do observe that the Catholic Church tried desperately to stop the war-- Benedict XV called it "the suicide of civilized Europe". The Catholic Church was the one international organization that utterly opposed the war and tried heroically to stop it and to mitigate its horror.
The entire nationalist system arose from the Reformation, which was an open war on the Catholic Church, and the revolt against the Church led to the Thirty Years' War, the Napoleonic Wars and all of the horrors of the 20th century.
We tried to stop it. Don't blame the Church.
Pope Benedict XV became pope on September 3, 1914. By then, the war had been raging for a month. Germany had made large territorial gains in France. Both the French and Germans had suffered enormous losses. Britain was still to suffer its enormous losses with the virtual destruction of the few divisions it had committed, but at that time it was largely irrelevant.
France didn't want negotiations, because it had suffered enormous losses in land and soldiers.
Germany didn't want negotiations, because it had suffered enormous losses in men, but had gained a lot of territory.
It was obvious that neither side could win quickly, but a return to pre-1914 borders would have been regarded as a defeat for both sides. So, any action by Pope Benedict XV was just irrelevant. Nothing he did, no matter how well-meaning, could have the slightest effect. Unfortunately.
The time to have stopped the Great War was before it started. Before the Christian Kaiser Wilhelm II gave the Austrians the 'blank cheque' to take action against Serbia.
Christians did run away from responsibility for the Great War. Christian politicians and soldiers responsible for the war occurring wrote memoirs after the war obfuscating their roles in the disaster.
Anyway. Individual atheists, as well as Christians, have to accept responsibility for their individual actions. Atheists, as well as Christians, don't have to accept responsibility for the actions of other atheists or Christians.
I was just noting that it was the actions of Christians, not atheists, who caused, directly and indirectly, the suffering of the 20th century.
Jerry : I'm going for a brain scan.ReplyDelete
El Booto: Good, it'll be half price for you.
Jerry : Why?
El Booto : Duh!? You have half brain.
This blog has become intellectually stodgy. Day in and day out, Egnor presses this or that hot button. Abortion! Climate science fraud! Jerry Coyne! Darwin to Hitler! There is no intellectual content whatsoever.ReplyDelete
How about a break, Mike? Give yourself a chance to think through some topic. Post once a week. Forget about evilution and Jerry Coyne. Step away from the echo chamber and read something from outside your comfort zone.
Here is an interesting link that I came across at National Review: Illiberal Catholicism by John Zmirak (a conservative Catholic, like yourself). I'll whet your appetite:
Put more simply: the Church inherited from pagan thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle a top-down philosophy of government, which centered on the “rights” of lawgivers and rulers to enforce their vision of the Good in citizens’ lives instead of the rights of citizens against the powers of the State. This authoritarian philosophy was expressed religiously in the form of the Inquisition. It showed itself politically in feudalism and serfdom. It worked economically through royal monopolies, price-fixing guilds, and the mercantilism that George III tried to impose on the American colonies, controlling their trade for the benefit of the government. This paternalism would emerge once again in various forms of socialism, including but not limited to Marxism. Such paternalism still prevails in most of the EU, as Samuel Gregg shows in Becoming Europe.
You Know Hoo
Your points are well taken. It's a target-rich environment out there, and perhaps sometimes I do pick the easy ones. That said, often the truth needs to be repeated, if it is to be advanced.
I'll read the link on the Church. Thanks.
That's the root of the problem, Mike. More often than not, you uncritically repeat lies to advance (what you perceive as) the truth.Delete
Step away from the keyboard. Read. Think. Don't post every day.
Hoots the Critic suggests reding Zmirak. Excellent idea...Delete
Those of us who consider ourselves “Tea Party Catholics” take this insight further, noting that without economic and political liberty, religious liberty is moot. If the government can close your business or censor your speech, or tax away so much of your income that you can’t spend money or time building up civil society, you are hardly free in any meaningful sense. You are, as Bastiat warned, a potted plant awaiting the state and its pruning shears. You are topiary. You are toast...
Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker do an excellent job of explaining Enlightened errors in Politicizing the Bible, as does Edward Feser in his classic The Last Superstition. In Tea Party Catholic, Samuel Gregg shows in detail how freedom-loving Catholics can reintroduce the critical truths about human nature that our Founding Fathers overlooked. Such constructive criticism of the Enlightenment project, which we might call “reparative patriotism,” is essential to preserving the lives of the unborn and the integrity of marriage, among many other things.
Good heavens, just a day or two ago, Hoots was echoing Wayne LaPierre and now he's quoting Tea Party Catholics.
Good job, Egnor!
Yes, Grandpa, that's the difference between the stupid old farts like yourself and the young lad like me. You read American Stinker and call it a day. I make an effort to learn what the other side is saying.Delete
Nurse, give Admiral a bath, his diaper is full.
There's a difference between agreeing (armed officers in schools) and "mak[ing] an effort to learn" about the other side, Hoochild.Delete
But there are real differences between us, too: you read jizzebel.com and claim that tweetology and googleoscopy is research.
Nurse, give Hoochild his binky. He's run out of vocabulary for the day. Again.
jizzebel.com is a nonexistent site, Grandpa. Maybe you read it, I surely don't.Delete
One more juicy tidbit from Zmirak's piece:ReplyDelete
We ought to be deeply thankful for the heritage of the Enlightenment — because the American anti-Catholics of the 19th and 20th century were dead right about one thing: Catholicism minus the Enlightenment equals the Inquisition.
C.S. Lewis made the point in Mere Christianity that everyone becomes a believer in absolute right and wrong when they are the one's getting mugged. Relativism is a wonderful concept until it's your ox being gored. Then, people all react exactly the same, "I have been wronged, how dare you (fill in the blank) me." Coyne's hypocrisy is astounding. There is no such thing as real right and wrong but Coyne knows he's been wronged and how dare anyone wrong the great Coyne who purports to believe in nature, blood red in tooth and claw. But not our boy Jerry. His first instinct is to appeal to the law because he had been wronged -- absolutely -- without a hint of relativism. It never occurs to Coyne to ask himself why he knows instinctively that he has been wronged. Or maybe it does occur to him and he chooses to ignore the question rather than deal with its implications.ReplyDelete
"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness,since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."
And your point?
We don't live in nature. We live in human societies, with a network of mutual obligations. 'Blood red in tooth and claw' (actually you mean 'nature red in tooth and claw', or you've modified it to read 'nature, blood red in tooth and claw') doesn't apply always to nature (cooperation instead of competition often occurs), and shouldn't apply in human societies with mutual obligations.
The miscreant who dented Jerry Coyne's car had the option of engaging his power of free won't, not doing the easy thing and just driving away, and actually accepting responsibility.
I'm certain Jerry Coyne would have had a much more benign attitude if the miscreant had accepted responsibility and offered to pay for the damage. Jerry Coyne would still have been wronged - he still would have the inconvenience of getting quotes for the panel beating, taking it to the panel beater, being without the car for a while, perhaps having to hire a car or taxis in the meantime...
An immediate apology and acceptance of responsibility almost certainly would result in Jerry Coyne in 'forgiving' the miscreant the added costs, most of which are unquantifiable (how do you value lost time?)
I googled "free won't" but I still don't understand what's the deal with it. Free "will not"?ReplyDelete
Would Bachfiend or someone have simple example why use it in discussions on free will or a link to simple explanation.? I must be misunderstanding something, English is not my first language.
"Free won't" is just Newspeak.Delete
Bach is trying to slime out of the very difficult position that the free will debate puts materialists in.
We have free will. Everyone knows it. Materialists panic when the subject comes up, because free will strikes at the heart of their metaphysics.
Thanks Michael, I couldn't get the importance of the"free won't". Recently I talked to a very polite atheist philosopher who posts often on free will. He probably realizes how important this issue is. I wrote this comment on his blog but discussion didn't get too far.Delete
Say we observe single bacterium in the lab. Bacterium is pretty much chemical automated system at work. Specialized proteins-chemical sensors on the membrane are sensing for “food” molecules in the environment. When “food” molecule attaches to the “sensor” it triggers cascade of molecular changes inside the bacterium with a result of activating “propeller” motor to move bacterium in the direction of the “food” molecules. Does bacterium possess free will to choose between going after “food” molecules or not? Of course it doesn’t. It’s just a preprogrammed machine made of chemical components and as a whole just reacts to environment. It has no choice.
Take a look at the spider in your garden. It is more complex creature with more complicated behavior than the bacterium. Can he decide not to build a net and relax instead? Does he just react to environment? Yes, it just follows “program”, it has no choice.
Now look at couple of birds out of your window in the spring. They flew from the south and are now building the nest in the tree. Do they have a free will to choose not to build a nest and “take it easy” this year or maybe even stay down south instead of flying thousands of kilometers? No, they are preprogrammed to do this every year. They have no choice.
When I compare these creatures with humans I see that we are made of same chemical units (cells). Difference is that we have a choice in everything because of our ability of self-awareness. The self-awareness gives us power of knowing what we are doing unlike bacterium, spider or a bird. Going to extreme, I can even choose not to eat or seek shelter if I’m suicidal. I have a choice, the other creatures don’t. It seems to me that humans are “free chemicals” as opposed to other creatures, the “preprogrammed chemicals”.
'Free won't' is Benjamin Libet's concept. You know, the neuroscientist you completely misunderstood on page 72 of 'Mind Time' when he wrote that sensory perception is backdated half a second to the time the evoked potential first reaches the brain as meaning the brain backdates perception to the time the action potentials are first produced in the peripheral nervous system.
As 'evidence' that the peripheral nervous system is self-aware. As are the nerve cells in the heart and the gut.
The brain makes decisions subconsciously for reasons which are also subconscious. The decision and the reason are passed on to the mind which has the illusion it's made the decision, if the decision is carried out (although the motor activity necessary to carry out the action can be detected by electrophysiology before the person is aware of the decision).
'Free will' doesnt 'strike at the heart of (my) metaphysics'. A person's decision is still that person's decision, even if it is subconscious and not 'free' to the consciousness. A person is still responsible for his or her actions because the person still has the power of veto.
As I noted in my first comment, 'free won't' allows theodicy just as much as 'free will'. God allows suffering to occur because humans are given free won't and the ability to veto evil actions, or free will and the ability to commit evil.
'Free won't' does, however, strike at the heart of dualists with their belief that the mind is separate and independent of the brain. Whereas it's just a product, a part of the brain. The brain makes all the decisions. The mind just has the illusion it makes all the decisions.
An example of 'free won't' - you're in a bar - your brain wants a beer, because it craves the alcohol. Subconsciously, it makes the decision 'give me beer', and also a reason 'I'm thirsty' and passes the decision and the reason to the mind, which turns the two around in sequence to 'I'm thirsty' and 'I want a beer' to give the illusion that the mind made the decision, even though its possible to detection the brain activity necessary for the person to get another beer such as waving to the barkeeper before the person is aware of it.
'Free won't' arises when the person overrules the decision 'I want another beer, but I better not, I'm driving home'.
We don't know how other species think. We do know that other species are self-aware - including chimps, gorillas, dolphins and elephants. They all pass the 'mirror test'.
Do they have 'free will'?
Other species often show highly sophisticated thinking. If you were given a long narrow container half filled with water with a treat floating on top of the water out of reach of your hands, and you were not allowed to tip the container but had access to any number of common objects including rocks and sticks, would you be able to get the treat?
Caledonian crows are perfectly capable of solving the puzzle. They drop stones into the container raising the water level allowing the treat to float into reach of its beak. Intelligent, but how did it solve it?
Because we can't know how other species think, we can't know whether they actually have a choice or whether everything is preprogrammed.
Libet emphatically endorsed free will. "Free won't" was merely his play on words to describe the ability of a person to freely choose to carry out an act or not.
Free will is obviously real in man.
The question of free will in animals is an interesting one. Descartes thought animals were machines without souls. I think he was wrong.
Animals (and plants) certainly have souls, in the Aristotelian sense of soul as the form of a living thing.
Human beings have spiritual rational souls. I believe that human free will is the consequence of our spiritual powers (we are made in His image and share a tiny bit of His Will) and our rational powers-- we are able to freely choose based on reason (and on other factors of course).
I see free will as a power of our spiritual soul, and free will is a particularly clear reflection of His Image in our soul. Animals don't have spiritual souls, although I do think they have a sort of free will, appropriate to them.
I was wondering about the difference between us and animals. We are partially driven by instincts like animals, but we have full freedom and self awareness. That gives us huge power but with power comes responsibility.
Excuse me if I doubt your ability to understand whatever Benjamin Libet wrote after you misread his work on the brain backdating the awareness of sensory stimuli to the time the evoked potential reaches the brain. Not to the time the evoked potentials occur in the peripheral nervous system, as you've claimed and repeated several times.
Decisions made with 'free will' and 'free won't' still belong to the person making them. Except with 'free won't' bad decisions are due to a failure of inhibition, not an active decision by the individual. And in some cases, that makes a person less culpable.
A person with a frontal lobe brain tumour in a critical location wouldn't be regarded as a criminal for certain crimes of impulse. A person committing crimes under the voluntary intake of alcohol would be, because the alcohol ingestion was voluntary and its effects foreseeable. A psychopath committing a murder would almost certainly be locked away for life, although psychopathy is just as innate as anything else.
And what evidence do you have that humans have souls and a fragment of God's free will? You're just repeating evidence free bullshit.
Unfortunately we don't have full freedom and self awareness. Our memories are faulty. Our perceptions aren't always accurate. It's dangerous assuming that we are perfect, when we are not. The human brain is very good, but not perfect.
M.Egnor: "The entire nationalist system arose from the Reformation, which was an open war on the Catholic Church, and the revolt against the Church led to the Thirty Years' War, the Napoleonic Wars and all of the horrors of the 20th century."ReplyDelete
Oh, please! do stop this idolatry of The One True Bureaucracy.
The "entire nationalist system" was an eventuality of the Thirty Years' War, and Thirty Years' War was the result of the (French) Bourbon Dynasts -- Catholics, both King and Cardinal -- ginning-up war through-out Europe as part of the goal of centralizing the French State, increasing the power and scope of the Monarch, and projecting French/Bourbon Power far beyond the boundaries of France and over other dynasties.
I didn't intend to flare up the Protestant/Catholic divide, but nationalism was certainly one of the salient consequences of the Reformation.
You are right that the French-- through Cardinal Richelieu-- were double-dealing and stirred up conflict for their own purposes. But much of the motivation for the Reformation, at least the motivation of the secular rulers who supported it, was to break away from the hegemony of the Catholic Church and strengthen national power and independence. Much of this took place via simple theft of Church property by secular rulers. This was a central factor in the German and English Reformation in particular.
The undermining of Church authority fragmented Europe in unprecedented ways, and led in quite obvious ways to the rise of nationalism, liberalism, and atheism.
This clearly was not the intent of many of the protestant reformers, who generally had bona-fide concerns about Catholic theology and practice, but it is very much the result.
The Reformation began a process that gave us the modern world, for better and for worse.
Excuse me if I doubt your understanding of history. The Reformation resulted from the corrupt practices of the Catholic Church to replace income from Catholic France's conflict with the Roman pope before Luther.
The French Catholic kings wanted France to become the centre of Catholic world, including having the pope in Avignon. Much of the corruption was an attempt to pay for the pope to move back to Rome, which at the time was a ramshackle city.
Corruptions such as the issuing of indulgences for sin.
German nobles (and there were over 300 independent German states at the time of the 30 year war) realised that a lot of their wealth was going to Rome in the form of tithing and payment of indulgences. And they wanted to keep their wealth in their states.
France had an interest in keeping Germany weak by paying Protestant Sweden to fight Protestant German states.
France's desire to be the leader of the Catholic world continued well into the 17th century. The English Catholic King James II was an ally of the French Catholic King Louis XIV, whom the pope regarded with extreme distrust.
When the English nobles invited William of Orange to invade England in 1688 (the Glorious Revolution, but actually, the last successful invasion of England) to replace James II, it's said that the pope lent money to William of Orange. And had a portrait of William of Orange in the Vatican (actually, I'm not certain whether the last two assertions are definitely true, but they're too good not to be :) ...)
Actually, the history of the medieval Catholic Church is fascinating, and outdoes any modern soap opera. The loss of the hegemony of the Catholic Church wasn't due to the Reformation.Delete
It was due to the Schism, with France supporting the Avignon popes and England supporting the Roman popes.
It resulted at the end of the 14th century with the popes having little political power, and France and England becoming major powers in Europe.
Nationalism wasn't the result of the Reformation. It originated much earlier, in the 14th century, with the increasing dominance of kings over nobles.
Properly speaking, it's not that we *have* free will (in the manner that we *have* hands and feet), but that we *are* free wills. To speak od the "free will" is just to speak of the self with a different focus.ReplyDelete
... and to deny "free will" is simply another way of denying the reality of human selves -- ultimately, it (in both aaspects) is just another of the logically inescapable results of dening that God is. But, it is literally absurd to deny that one's self exists or one is a free will: ergo, it is absurd to deny that God is.Delete
[it's not that we *have* free will (in the manner that we *have* hands and feet), but that we *are* free wills.]Delete
I agree. I think it is a mistake to see free will as a "property" of our minds, rather than a characteristic of who we are, created in the Image of God, Who chooses freely.
And your evidence that the denial of 'free will' is the inescapable result of denying God?
I'm an atheist. I could well accept that 'free will' exists, and it wouldn't affect my atheism in the slightest.
'Free will' means that actions are initiated as conscious decisions. I deny free will because I accept that decisions are made subconsciously and for reasons we are largely unaware.
If free will actually exists, then we still have to decide if it's an 'uncaused' conscious decision, independent of the individual's previous history and circumstances (strong free will) or whether the conscious decision is 'caused' dependent on the person's history and circumstances (weak free will).
I'd be happy to accept weak free will, but not strong free will.
Just one more:ReplyDelete
Jerry : (staring at his boot collection)
El Booto : What are you doing Jerry?
Jerry :Waiting for the chemicals to decide which boots to wear.