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Why you can’t be a Darwinist and a “human exceptionalist”


The vast majority of people who live in Louisiana hold beliefs about the human mind and about free will which are broadly compatible with those of Darwin’s contemporary, Alfred Russel Wallace (pictured right), but diametrically opposed to those of Charles Darwin (pictured left). However, the National Center for Science Education wants Darwin’s materialistic version of evolution, which denies free will, to be taught in American high schools.
Left: A photo of Charles Darwin taken circa 1854. Center: St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans. Right: A photo of Alfred Russel Wallace in 1862. Images courtesy of Messrs. Maull and Fox, Nowhereman86, James Marchant and Wikipedia.

(Part three of a series of posts in response to Zack Kopplin. See here for Part one and here for Part two.)

This series of posts is dedicated to the people of Louisiana, most of whom support the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), which allows teachers to encourage the open and objective discussion of scientific theories, including evolution and origin-of-life theories, in high school science classrooms. The Louisiana Senate Bill 374, which was filed by Senator Karen Peterson, would take away this freedom, and require high school students to be taught the Darwinian theory of evolution which is presented in officially approved science textbooks – and no other theory.

Many people who would describe themselves as “theistic evolutionists” see Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution as compatible with their theological beliefs. Science, they would say, describes how things happen, while religion explains why they happen. Science is about the physical world, while religion is about the underlying spiritual dimension of reality, which science does not attempt to explain. Consequently, they reason, Darwin’s theory of evolution has nothing to say about the religious belief that each of us has an immortal, spiritual soul created by God, or that each of us has free will. If people want to believe these things, they can, while still remaining good Darwinists. Many Catholics, in particular, rationalize their support of Darwinian evolution in this way. About 25% of Louisiana’s population are Catholics, so I hope some of them are reading this.

The aim of this post will be to demonstrate that belief in Darwinian evolution is totally incompatible with belief in an immaterial human soul and belief in free will, in the ordinary sense of the term. I shall attempt to demonstrate that Darwinian evolution is essentially a materialistic, deterministic theory. The reason why I maintain that the Darwinian theory of evolution is essentially materialistic and deterministic has to do with what counts as a proper scientific explanation, for Darwinists.

Before I do that, however, I’d like to compare the beliefs of the people of Louisiana with those of Charles Darwin, regarding the human soul and free will. The reason why I’m doing this is a very simple one: for those readers who live in the United States, it’s your money which is funding the high schools in your state. Why should taxes paid by decent, hard-working Louisianans, or people in any other American state for that matter, be spent on the indoctrination of their children in a worldview which is diametrically opposed to the beliefs of ordinary Americans on matters of morality, not to mention religion? Common sense would suggest that’s just not right. I shall attempt to demonstrate in this post that materialism and the denial of free will – notions that most Americans would vehemently reject – are part-and-parcel of the Darwinian theory of evolution. The implications of this debate on Darwinism should be obvious enough. Anyone who thinks that students’ moral behavior will remain unaffected after they are convinced that they don’t have free will clearly has rocks in his head.

What do the people of Louisiana believe about the human soul and about free will?

Baton Rouge skyline. Courtesy of UrbanPlanetBR and Wikipedia.

Citing the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Wikipedia lists the current religious affiliations of the people of Louisiana as follows:

Christian: 90%

Protestant: 60%

Evangelical Protestant 31%
Historically black Protestant: 20%
Mainline Protestant 9%

Roman Catholic: 28%
Other Christian: 2%
Jehovah’s Witnesses: 1%

Other Religions: 2%

Islam: 1%
Buddhism: 1%
Judaism: less than 0.5%

Non-religious (unaffiliated): 8%

Looking at these figures, we can see that the vast majority of Louisianans hold beliefs about the human soul and about free will which are totally at variance with the teachings of Darwinian evolution. A solid majority of people in the state of Louisiana would accept the following three propositions:

1. Each human being has an immaterial and immortal soul, created by God.

2. Our higher mental acts – in particular, our thoughts and our free decisions – cannot be identified with movements of neurons in the brain. Rather, they are immaterial, spiritual actions.

3. Each human being has libertarian free will: that is,
(i) our choices are not determined by circumstances beyond our control, such as our heredity or environment; and
(ii) whenever we make a choice, we could have chosen otherwise.

The vast majority of Christians, as well as many Jews and Muslims, would subscribe to propositions 1 and 2. Jews, Buddhists and nearly all Christians would subscribe to proposition 3, as well as many people who would not describe themselves as religious. Darwinian evolution denies all three propositions.

But before I go on, I’d like to briefly focus on the beliefs of the Catholic Church, which is Louisiana’s largest religious community.

The teaching of the Catholic Church concerning the human soul

Curiously, there are some highly educated people who call themselves Catholics, and who are under the mistaken impression that belief in an immortal, immaterial soul is an “optional extra” which Catholics are no longer required to accept, and which the Church will quietly drop in another 50 years or so. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is an article of faith among Catholics that each and every human soul is immaterial, that it is created immediately by God, and that it survives bodily death. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it in paragraph 366:

366 The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not “produced” by the parents – and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.(235)

The footnote (#235) gives the following citation:

235 Cf. Pius XII, Humani Generis: DS 3896; Paul VI, CPG 8; Lateran Council V (1513): DS 1440.

The first reference is to Pope Pius XII’s 1950 encyclical Humani Generis, which states in paragraph 36 that “the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God.”

The second reference is to Pope Paul VI’s Credo of the People of God (issued on June 30, 1968), which contains the following statement:

We believe in one only God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, creator of things visible such as this world in which our transient life passes, of things invisible such as the pure spirits which are also called angels, and creator in each man of his spiritual and immortal soul.

The third reference is to a proclamation made by Pope Leo X on 19 December 1513, at the eighth session of the ecumenical Fifth Lateran council, and ratified by that council, declaring that each human being has a unique, immaterial soul:

… [W]e condemn and reject all those who insist that the intellectual soul is mortal, or that it is only one among all human beings, and those who suggest doubts on this topic.

Well, I hope that puts to rest the canard that belief in a spiritual soul, created by God, is no longer Catholic doctrine.

Catholics make up one-quarter of Louisiana’s population. One would therefore expect them to be appalled at the very suggestion that their children should be taught a scientific theory which is avowedly materialistic and deterministic, while they are attending high school. (In case readers are wondering, the percentage of Catholic children attending parochial schools in the United States is minuscule: according to Wikipedia, only 15 percent of Catholic children in America attended Catholic elementary schools, in 2009, and among Latinos, the fastest-growing group in the Catholic Church — soon to comprise a majority of Catholics in the United States — the proportion is just 3 percent.)

I therefore find it odd that there has been a deafening silence from the Catholic Church on the question of whether high school students should be exposed to alternatives to Darwinian evolution in science classes, such as Alfred Russel Wallace’s theory, which acknowledges the reality of a spiritual realm while accepting the common descent of living organisms. I therefore hope that this post will serve as a little wake-up call to the Church hierarchy. And for those clergymen who are worried about another Galileo case, I would reply that: (a) unlike Darwin, Galileo was firmly convinced of the reality of the human soul (as I’ll show in my sixth post), and (b) a biological theory which is essentially materialistic and deterministic, and which is taught to high school science students as an established fact, will destroy the faith of the next generation of Catholics far more effectively than any public tussle between science and religion.

Why a Darwinian evolutionist cannot consistently believe in the human soul or in free will

There are two reasons why a Darwinian evolutionist is committed to a materialistic account of the human mind.

First, if you want to call yourself a believer in neo-Darwinian evolution, then you have to believe that it is an all-encompassing theory of living things, just as the atomic theory is an all-encompassing theory of chemistry. You have to believe that the theory of evolution is capable of explaining all of the characteristics of each species of organism. The theory of evolution stands or falls on its claim to be a complete biological theory. As Theodosius Dobzhansky memorably put it in a 1973 essay in The American Biology Teacher (volume 35, pages 125-129): “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” Consequently, if you believe that there are organisms on this planet, such as human beings, that possess characteristics which evolution is unable to account for, then you cannot call yourself an evolutionist, and you certainly cannot call yourself a bona fide Darwinist.

Human beings are animals. One feature which human beings possess is consciousness. If you believe that consciousness cannot be explained in materialistic terms, then you cannot call yourself a consistent Darwinian evolutionist.

The second reason has to do with the nature of a scientific explanation. As we’ll see, Darwin and his followers held that the only proper kind of scientific explanation is one that brings a class of phenomena under the scope of a universal law, which is fixed and deterministic. Any other kind of explanation is inadequate, because it fails to generate useful predictions. Darwin and his fellow evolutionists looked forward to the day when everything in Nature would be explained in the same way that scientists explain the orbits of the planets: in terms of fixed, deterministic laws.

In this post, I’m going to examine in detail what Charles Darwin wrote, in his scientific works and his private notebooks, about the evolution of the human mind. What I shall endeavor to show is the following:

(a) For Darwin, a good scientific explanation is one which appeals to physical laws, which are conceived of as fixed and deterministic;

(b) Darwin maintained that our thoughts could be explained in terms of law-governed physical processes;

(c) Darwin explicitly rejected the view that there was anything special about human intellectual capacities;

(d) Darwin viewed the difference between humans and other animals as being one of degree rather than kind;

(e) Darwin held that natural selection was fully capable of explaining the origin of human mental faculties, and actively opposed Wallace’s view that only the guidance of a Higher Intelligence could account for the origin of man; and

(f) Darwin was a determinist who maintained that human choices were also the outcome of blind natural forces, and that none of us was responsible for our actions.

N. B. In the quotations below, all bold emphases are mine, while those in italics are the author’s.

(a) For Darwin, a good scientific explanation is one which appeals to deterministic physical laws

The bodies in our solar system move according to fixed, deterministic laws. Darwin and his champion, Thomas Henry Huxley both maintained that any genuine scientific explanation should explain phenomena according to such laws. Without fixed and deterministic laws, a scientific theory is useless for making predictions. Image courtesy of NASA and Wikipedia.

In order to better grasp why Darwinism could never tolerate making a special exception for human beings, we need to understand what Darwin believed a genuine scientific explanation should be able to accomplish.

Darwin set out the conditions that he believed a good scientific explanation must satisfy in a short essay which he jotted down while he was reading selected passages from Dr. John MacCullough’s book, Proofs and Illustrations of the Attributes of God (London, James Duncan, Paternoster Row, 1837). For those who are interested, here’s the reference: Darwin, C. R. ‘Macculloch. Attrib of Deity’ [Essay on Theology and Natural Selection] (1838). CUL-DAR71.53-59. Viewers can read it here at Darwin Online.)

Darwin’s essay contains a telling passage in section 5, which succinctly summarizes why Darwin believed that the only good explanation is one which appeals to physical laws, and why he believed appeals to “the will of God” explained nothing:

N.B. The explanation of types of structure in classes — as resulting from the will of the deity, to create animals on certain plans, — is no explanation — it has not the character of a physical law /& is therefore utterly useless.— it foretells nothing/ because we know nothing of the will of the Deity, how it acts & whether constant or inconstant like that of man.— the cause given we know not the effect.

We can see from this passage that Darwin was looking for a theory of origins which explained everything in terms of physical laws, which enable scientists to predict effects from causes, in a deterministic fashion. Supernatural explanations were rejected by Darwin, precisely because they cannot yield such predictions – “the cause given we know not the effect.” Other scientists in Darwin’s time were coming around to the same view, as historian of science Ronald Numbers narrates in his essay, “Science without God: Natural Laws and Christian Beliefs” (in When Science and Christianity Meet, ed. by David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers, Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2003):

Within a couple of decades many other students of natural history (or naturalists, as they were commonly called) had reached the same conclusion. The British zoologist Thomas H. Huxley, one of the most outspoken critics of the supernatural origin of species, came to see references to special creation as representing little more than a “specious mask for our ignorance.” (Numbers, 2003, p. 279.)

Thomas Henry Huxley was the ablest and most forthright exponent of Darwin’s views, earning him the nickname, “Darwin’s bulldog.” Huxley’s remark on special creation, which is cited by Ronald Numbers in his essay, is taken from from an article entitled, Darwin on the Origin of Species, which published in The Westminster Review in April 1860. It is worth quoting the above-cited remark by Huxley in its proper context, because it perfectly illustrates Darwinian thinking on the nature of scientific explanations:

A phenomenon is explained when it is shown to be a case of some general law of Nature; but the supernatural interposition of the Creator can, by the nature of the case, exemplify no law, and if species have really arisen in this way, it is absurd to attempt to discuss their origin.

Or lastly, let us ask ourselves whether any amount of evidence which the nature of our faculties permits us to attain, can justify us in asserting that any phenomenon is out of the reach of natural causation. To this end it is obviously necessary that we should know all the consequences to which all possible combinations, continued through unlimited time, can give rise. If we knew these, and found none competent to originate species, we should have good grounds for denying their origin by natural selection. Till we know them, any hypothesis is better than one which involves us in such miserable presumption.

But the hypothesis of special creation is not only a specious mask for our ignorance; its existence in Biology marks the youth and imperfection of the science. For what is the history of every science, but the history of the elimination of the notion of creative, or other interferences, with the natural order of the phenomena which are the subject matter of that science? When Astronomy was young “the morning stars sang together for joy,” and the planets were guided in their courses by celestial hands. Now, the harmony of the stars has resolved itself into gravitation according to the inverse squares of the distances, and the orbits of the planets are deducible from the laws of the forces which allow a schoolboy’s stone to break a window.
(Huxley, T.H. 1860. Darwin on the origin of Species. Westminster Review 17 (n.s.): 541-70. The above excerpt, which is available at Darwin Online is taken from page 559. This essay is also available online in Lay Sermons, Addresses and Reviews by Thomas Henry Huxley. Elibron Classics, 2005, Adamant Media Corporation. Facsimile of the edition published by Macmillan & Co., London, 1906. Chapter XII, pp. 245-246.)
(Bold emphases mine – VJT. Note: In the passage above, I’ve modernized the spelling of “phaenomenon” to “phenomenon.”)

Finally, it is important for the modern reader to understand that for Darwin and his contemporaries, any explanation of a phenomenon in terms of physical laws had to be a deterministic explanation. As Darwin wrote in his autobiography:

Everything in nature is the result of fixed laws.
(Barlow, Nora ed. 1958. The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882. With the original omissions restored. Edited and with appendix and notes by his grand-daughter Nora Barlow. London: Collins. Page 87. Available online here at Darwin Online.)

Or as Darwin’s bulldog, Thomas Henry Huxley, memorably put it:

If there is anything in the world which I do firmly believe in, it is the universal validity of the law of causation.
(‘Science and Morals’ (1886). In Collected Essays (1994), Vol. 9, 121.)

Let us recapitulate here. For Darwin and Huxley, the only proper way of explaining a phenomenon scientifically is to bring it under the scope of some general natural law, which permits scientists to predict the phenomenon in a deterministic fashion. Supernatural explanations explain nothing, according to Darwin, because they do not enable scientists to predict anything.

(b) Darwin believed our thoughts could be explained in terms of law-governed physical processes

Charles Darwin shared the belief of the French physiologist Pierre Cabanis (1757-1808) that the human brain secretes thought just as the liver secretes bile. Left: Drawing of the human brain, showing several of the most important brain structures. Right: A sheep’s liver. Images courtesy of National Institute for Aging and Wikipedia.

Darwin’s Notebooks, which trace the development of his thought over time, were not published during his lifetime. Fortunately, they are now available online, after having been originally transcribed by Paul Barrett in 1974. What they reveal is that as far back as 1838, over twenty years before he published his Origin of Species in 1859, Darwin was an avowed materialist, who insisted that natural selection had to be able to account for human consciousness.

In his Notebook C: Transmutation of species (2-7.1838), Darwin espoused a mechanistic account of the human mind:

Why is thought, being a secretion of brain, more wonderful than gravity a property of matter? – It is our arrogance, it our admiration of ourselves. (Paragraph 166)

Darwin’s assertion that thought is “a secretion of brain” echoes a famous remark by the French physiologist Pierre Jean Georges Cabanis (1757-1808), who wrote in his Rapports du physique et du moral de l’homme (1802) that “to have an accurate idea of the operations from which thought results, it is necessary to consider the brain as a special organ designed especially to produce it, as the stomach and the intestines are designed to operate the digestion, (and) the liver to filter bile…” (English translation, On the Relation Between the Physical and Moral Aspects of Man by Pierre-Jean-George Cabanis, edited by George Mora, translated by Margaret Duggan Saidi from the second edition, reviewed, corrected and enlarged by the author, 1805. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 1981, p. 116). This remark is usually cited as the pithy maxim: “The brain secretes thought as the liver secretes bile.

In the same paragraph in Notebook C: Transmutation of species (2-7.1838), Darwin playfully scolds himself for being a materialist. He must have appreciated the humor of the situation, given that he had previously studied to be an Anglican clergyman! The mis-spellings and grammar and punctuation errors are Darwin’s:

Thought (or desires more properly) being heredetary.- it is difficult to imagine it anything but structure of brain heredetary,. – analogy points out to this.- love of the deity effect of organization. oh you Materialist! – Read Barclay on organization!! (Paragraph 166)

In his Notebook M [Metaphysics on morals and speculations on expression (1838) CUL-DAR125], which was marked “Private”, Darwin was more forthright about his materialism:

It is an argument for materialism, that cold water brings on suddenly in head, a frame of mind, analogous to those feelings, which may be considered as truly spritual. (Paragraph 20)

Not wishing to scandalize his friends, however, Darwin decided to keep quiet about his materialist views when discoursing in public. He therefore resolved:

To avoid stating how far, I believe, in Materialism, say only that emotions, instincts degrees of talent, which are heredetary are so because brain of child resembles parent stock. (Paragraph 57)

Keeping quiet about his materialism was undoubtedly a very wise decision on Darwin’s part. In 1748, the French physician, Julien Offray de La Mettrie had asserted that man was merely a machine (La Mettrie J. Leyden: Luzac; 1748. L’Homme Machine) – a claim that got him into so much trouble that he was compelled to flee abroad for his safety. In 1816, the English physician Sir William Lawrence had candidly declared his conviction that “physiologically speaking… the mind is the grand prerogative of the brain” (Lawrence W. London: Callow; 1816, An introduction to comparative anatomy and physiology), but his writings provoked an uproar, and he was pressured to recant his materialist views. After he did so, he later became President of the Royal College of Surgeons of London and Serjeant Surgeon to the Queen.

(c) Darwin explicitly rejected the view that there was anything special about human intellectual capacities

In defiance of the common view that human beings were unique, Darwin argued that there was nothing particularly special about man’s intellectual capacities. In his Notebook B: Transmutation of species (1837-1838), he downplayed human uniqueness in this regard:

People often talk of the wonderful event of intellectual Man appearing – the appearance of insects with other senses is more wonderful… (Paragraph 207)

It is absurd to talk of one animal as being higher than another.We consider those, where the cerebral structure {intellectual faculties} most developed, as highest. – A bee doubtless would when the instincts were. (Paragraph 74)

Darwin wrote those words in 1838. Even at that time, he did not regard human intellectual capacities as lying outside the province of the laws of Nature.

(d) Darwin viewed the difference between humans and other animals as one of degree rather than kind

An ant carrying an aphid. According to Darwin, the difference in mental abilities between an ant and an aphid is much greater than the intellectual difference between a man and an ape. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Darwin’s work, The Origin of Species, was published in 1859, but Darwin’s only allusion to human evolution in this volume was his cryptic statement in the last chapter that in the distant future, “light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.” It was not until 1871 that Darwin explicitly addressed the subject of human origins in his long-awaited work, The Descent of Man. In this book, Darwin argued that the difference between man and other animals was one of degree rather than kind, and that the transition from ape-like creatures to man had occurred gradually and not suddenly:

In the following passage, Darwin supports his claim that the mental faculties of humans and other animals differ only in degree by arguing that the difference in mental faculties between the higher and lower insects exceeds the mental difference between man and other mammals:

Some naturalists, from being deeply impressed with the mental and spiritual powers of man, have divided the whole organic world into three kingdoms, the Human, the Animal, and the Vegetable, thus giving to man a separate kingdom. (1. Isidore Geoffroy St.-Hilaire gives a detailed account of the position assigned to man by various naturalists in their classifications: ‘Hist. Nat. Gen.’ tom. ii. 1859, pp. 170-189.) Spiritual powers cannot be compared or classed by the naturalist: but he may endeavour to shew, as I have done, that the mental faculties of man and the lower animals do not differ in kind, although immensely in degree. A difference in degree, however great, does not justify us in placing man in a distinct kingdom, as will perhaps be best illustrated by comparing the mental powers of two insects, namely, a coccus or scale-insect and an ant, which undoubtedly belong to the same class. The difference is here greater than, though of a somewhat different kind from, that between man and the highest mammal. The female coccus, whilst young, attaches itself by its proboscis to a plant; sucks the sap, but never moves again; is fertilised and lays eggs; and this is its whole history. On the other hand, to describe the habits and mental powers of worker-ants, would require, as Pierre Huber has shewn, a large volume; I may, however, briefly specify a few points. Ants certainly communicate information to each other, and several unite for the same work, or for games of play. They recognise their fellow-ants after months of absence, and feel sympathy for each other. They build great edifices, keep them clean, close the doors in the evening, and post sentries. They make roads as well as tunnels under rivers, and temporary bridges over them, by clinging together. They collect food for the community, and when an object, too large for entrance, is brought to the nest, they enlarge the door, and afterwards build it up again. They store up seeds, of which they prevent the germination, and which, if damp, are brought up to the surface to dry. They keep aphides and other insects as milch-cows. They go out to battle in regular bands, and freely sacrifice their lives for the common weal. They emigrate according to a preconcerted plan. They capture slaves. They move the eggs of their aphides, as well as their own eggs and cocoons, into warm parts of the nest, in order that they may be quickly hatched; and endless similar facts could be given. (Chapter VI. On the Affinities and Genealogy of Man.)

Darwin was also quite explicit that the intellectual transition from ape-like creatures to man was an imperceptible one, and that the human mind had evolved gradually:

Whether primeval man, when he possessed but few arts, and those of the rudest kind, and when his power of language was extremely imperfect, would have deserved to be called man, must depend on the definition which we employ. In a series of forms graduating insensibly from some ape-like creature to man as he now exists, it would be impossible to fix on any definite point where the term “man” ought to be used. (Chapter VII, On the Races of Man.)

(e) Darwin held that natural selection was fully capable of explaining the origin of human mental faculties, and actively opposed Wallace’s view that only the guidance of a Higher Intelligence could account for the origin of man

Human and chimpanzee skull and brain. Illustrations by Dr. Paul Gervais, 1854, in Histoire naturelle des mammiferes, avec l’indication de leurs moeurs, et de leurs rapports avec les arts, le commerce et l’agriculture. Image courtesy of Vlastni fotografie and Wikipedia.

In his 1871 work The Descent of Man, Darwin argued that because human intelligence conferred a survival advantage on its possessors, the gradual improvement of intelligence in our ape-like ancestors could easily be explained by his theory of evolution by natural selection:

The case, however, is widely different, as Mr. Wallace has with justice insisted, in relation to the intellectual and moral faculties of man. These faculties are variable; and we have every reason to believe that the variations tend to be inherited. Therefore, if they were formerly of high importance to primeval man and to his ape-like progenitors, they would have been perfected or advanced through natural selection. Of the high importance of the intellectual faculties there can be no doubt, for man mainly owes to them his predominant position in the world. We can see, that in the rudest state of society, the individuals who were the most sagacious, who invented and used the best weapons or traps, and who were best able to defend themselves, would rear the greatest number of offspring. The tribes, which included the largest number of men thus endowed, would increase in number and supplant other tribes. (Chapter V. On the Development of the Intellectual and Moral Faculties during Primeval and Civilised Times.)

For those readers who may be wondering, the “Mr. Wallace” referred to in the passage above was none other than the great naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace. Part of the reason why Darwin wrote The Descent of Man in 1871 was to rebut the view, put forward by Wallace in an essay in in the Quarterly Review of April 1869, that the special intervention of a Higher Intelligence was necessary in order to account for the evolution of human beings from ape-like ancestors. According to Wallace, this Higher Intelligence had carefully directed our evolution from ape-like creatures in a manner similar to the way in which human beings breed organisms for their own special purposes, such as seedless bananas, and milch cows that produce extra milk. For Darwin, Wallace’s championing of this view felt like a personal betrayal. Darwin and Wallace had closely collaborated in developing the theory of evolution by natural selection, and at that time, Wallace had given no indications that he harbored any reservations about the theory’s ability to account for human evolution. Indeed, Wallace had even highlighted the role played by natural selection in the evolution of man in an 1864 essay entitled, The Origin of Human Races and the Antiquity of Man Deduced From the Theory of “Natural Selection”, published in the Journal of the Anthropological Society of London (Vol. 2, 1864, pp. clviii-clxxxvii), which was highly praised by Darwin.

Darwin was therefore deeply pained in 1869, when he heard that Wallace intended to publish an essay in the Quarterly Review (April 1869, pp. 359-394), arguing that the appearance of human mental faculties could not be explained in terms of blind, mechanical processes, but required the intervention of a Higher Intelligence. While he was awaiting the publication of the essay in the Quarterly Review, Darwin wrote to Wallace:

As you expected, I differ grievously from you, and I am very sorry for it. I can see no necessity for calling in an additional and proximate cause in regard to man. (Letter of Charles Darwin to A. R. Wallace, Down, April 14, 1869.)

When he finally read Wallace’s essay, which argued that natural selection, left to itself, would only have given human beings a brain “a little superior to that of an ape,” Darwin was so appalled that he scribbled “NO!!!!” in the margin and even underlined the word “NO” three times. Darwin later expressed his disappointment over Wallace’s views on the origin of man in a personal letter, and chided him for back-sliding from his earlier enthusiastic support of natural selection as the explanation of human mental capacities: “But I groan over Man – you write like a metamorphosed (in retrograde direction) naturalist. And you, the author of the best paper that ever appeared in the Anthropological Review! Eheu! Eheu! Eheu! — Your miserable friend, C. Darwin.” (Letter of Charles Darwin to A. R. Wallace, Down, January 26, 1870. In The correspondence of Charles Darwin, volume 18: 1870. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt, James A. Secord, Sheila Ann Dean, Samantha Evans, Shelley Innes, Alison M. Pearn, Paul White. Cambridge University Press 2010. See page 17.)

The striking differences between Wallace’s and Darwin’s views on the origin of human mental faculties led to an intellectual rift between them that was never healed. Although the two scientists remained on friendly terms, Wallace was no longer part of Darwin’s “inner circle.”

(f) Darwin was a determinist who maintained that human choices were also the outcome of blind natural forces

An American judge talking to a lawyer. According to Charles Darwin, none of us is responsible for our actions. Criminals should be punished solely in order to deter others from committing crimes, but they are not to blame for what they do. Image courtesy of maveric2003 and Wikipedia.

As we have seen, Darwin made no secret of the fact that he believed natural selection could account for our distinctively human traits. We have also seen that for Darwin and his evolutionist contemporaries, any good scientific explanation of a phenomenon (such as human consciousness) had to be a deterministic one, which brought the phenomenon under the scope of some universal scientific law.

From the foregoing premises, the reader might deduce that Darwin did not believe in libertarian free will, or the view that our choices are free from determination, and that whenever we make a choice, we could have chosen otherwise. During his lifetime, however, Darwin was extremely guarded on the subject of human free will, not wishing to alarm the masses with his views on the subject. For this reason, he said little about free will in his published writings. However, his private notebooks reveal that as far back as 1837, Darwin was a thorough-going determinist.

On the 15th of July, 1838, Charles Darwin began a private notebook which he labeled as “M”, in which he intended to write down his correspondence, discoveries, musings, and speculations on “Metaphysics on Morals and Speculations on Expression”. To this day, the contents of the notebook are little known, among the general public.
On page 27 of that notebook, he expressed his skepticism regarding free will, and suggested that all of our actions (and, by extension, our thoughts and intentions) are the result of our “hereditary constitution” and “the example…or teaching of others”:

The common remark that fat men are goodnatured, & vice versa Walter Scotts remark how odious an illtempered fat man looks, shows same connection between organization & mind.—thinking over these things, one doubts existence of free will every action determined by hereditary constitution, example of others or teaching of others.— (NB man much more affected by other fellow-animals, than any other animal & probably the only one affected by various knowledge which is not heredetary & instinctive) & the others are learnt, what they teach by the same means & therefore properly no free will.
(See Darwin’s Notebook M, pp. 26-27. [Metaphysics on morals and speculations on expression (1838)]. CUL-DAR125.- Transcribed by Kees Rookmaaker. (Darwin Online, http://darwin-online.org.uk/))

Darwin was a consistent determinist. In his other metaphysical writings from that period (c. 1837), Darwin made it clear that he did not really regard human beings as morally responsible for their good or bad choices. He also held that criminals should be punished solely in order to deter others who might break the law:

(a) one well feels how many actions are not determined by what is called free will, but by strong invariable passions — when these passions weak, opposed & complicated one calls them free will — the chance of mechanical phenomena.— (mem: M. Le Comte one of philosophy, & savage calling laws of nature chance)…

The general delusion about free will obvious.— because man has power of action, & he can seldom analyse his motives (originally mostly INSTINCTIVE, & therefore now great effort of reason to discover them: this is important explanation) he thinks they have none.

Effects.— One must view a wrecked man like a sickly one — We cannot help loathing a diseased offensive object, so we view wickedness.— it would however be more proper to pity them [than] to hate & be disgusted with them. Yet it is right to punish criminals; but solely to deter others.— It is not more strange that there should be necessary wickedness than disease.

This view should teach one profound humility, one deserves no credit for anything. (yet one takes it for beauty & good temper), nor ought one to blame others.

(See Darwin’s Old and USELESS Notes about the moral sense & some metaphysical points written about the year 1837 & earlier, pp. 25-27. For original transcription, see Paul Barrett, et. al., Charles Darwin’s Notebooks, 1836-1844, New York: Cornell University Press, 1987, p. 608.)

Summary of Darwin’s views

We have seen that Darwin believed that his natural selection could explain the emergence of man from ape-like ancestors by a gradual process, and that natural selection could account for the entire gamut of man’s mental faculties. However, natural selection is a physical process, which operates in a deterministic manner. Thus there is no room in Darwin’s view of evolution for an immaterial soul, or for a mysterious human capacity to make undetermined choices.

To sum up: if you accept Darwinian evolution, you have to be a materialist and a determinist. In my fourth post, I’m going to produce my list of twenty-one Nobel Laureate scientists who rejected these beliefs.

TM I'm probably too otherwise engaged to extend this thread into a complete discussion not only of the doctrines of grace, but of original sin. Bearing in mind that those under our consideration were the "Calvinists", let me quote you what the original Arminians said about original sin in the Remonstrances. Catholic and Orthodox statements would be superfluous, but the condemnation of Pelagius' views on this by several Church Councils was accepted by all those branches.
Remonstrances: III. That man has not saving grace in himself, nor of the working of his own free-will, inasmuch as in his state of apostasy and sin he can for himself and by himself think nothing that is good - nothing, that is, truly good, such as saving faith is, above all else. But that it is necessary that by God, in Christ and through his Holy Spirit he be born again and renewed in understanding, affections and will and in all his faculties, that he may be able to understand, think, will and perform what is truly good, according to the Word of God [John xv.5]. IV. That this grace of God is the beginning, the progress and the end of all good; so that even the regenerate man can neither think, will nor effect any good, nor withstand any temptation to evil, without grace prededent (or prevenient), awakening, following and co-operating. So that all good deeds and all movements towards good that can be conceived in thought must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ.
I hope the conversation was helpful to us and others. Jon Jon Garvey
As I also tried to distinguish carefully, the human nature created by God was not sinful, but became so through our own choice. So God is not responsible for evil.
Well all of this I agree with, but it seems at odds with the structure of a man which we discussed earlier, specifically that man cannot choose his nature. He must choose options presented to him by his nature. And if you say that God created human nature without sin, then at least Adam was able to, by his free will, create an option for his actions that was not already in his nature. Again, I believe this, not just for Adam but for all men. But it was not what we discussed before. You are saying now that at least Adam chose to have values which God did not initially give him? And because of that, he passed those sinful values on to us (original sin) and thus God is not responsible for my sinful nature? This means Adam is responsible for my sinful nature, and it still seems unfair to me to judge me or anyone else for something we cannot control. And why is it so necessary that only Adam have libertarian free will? I don't think it's necessary to read Romans this way.
But God foresees that, once created, Judas will sin, and be judged. It might be wrong to make him an obedient robot – but he could have simply made Judas’ parents sterile, or at least had him sent to work in India where he couldn’t betray Jesus.
Of course, but this is not nearly as severe a problem as the other.
The “can’t be guilty if necessitated” problem surely can’t be a real issue as we necessitate ourselves – moral necessity, remember.
Not sure what this statement means. In what way do we "necessitate ourselves"? I thought our will was limited to the options presented to us by our nature, and that we cannot choose our nature. I thought you were saying that before "salvation" all men are sinful by nature and cannot be otherwise. I believe we can choose our nature (I can choose to like pizza or not), but I thought you believed we can't choose our nature (because you said we cannot choose whether or not to like pizza). tragic mishap
TM Thanks for the comments - not least because I lost the thread in the deluge of new posts. We've reached our end-point, but there are still many things not resolved - I'll try some brief points (but a Baxter or Calvin volume would cover the questions better). #134: in our "mindset" above(assuming a sinful nature) A-M does not exclude the desire to do morally OK acts, but to do "righteous" acts, according to God's law of loving him with all we've got and our neighbour as ourselves. So we give our pizza or money for a mix of reasons, including self-righteousness, love of social cohesion (and all those "altruistic" motives beloved of evolutionists), desire for approval, assuaging guilt - all kinds of stuff, rather than the one necessary motive, which is unconditional love. So that's the sense in which even "good" people are bound by sin. So we need to be saved, not improved. #135: I said higher up that God is not so much existent as self-existent. He does't find-himself-to-be like us, but is what he is, by his own will. In one sense he is necesiitated to do good, though - because he chooses to be good by nature. As I also tried to distinguish carefully, the human nature created by God was not sinful, but became so through our own choice. So God is not responsible for evil. Paul answers a few such cavills in Romans, basically by saying "Who are we to question God when it's he who questions us?" But I would say that the same kind of question occurs even with libertarian free will, discounting the fall, especially if God's judgement is accepted. Here's why. God creates Judas, and Judas freely sins. Therefore God creates Judas' sins. Well hopefully we'd agree no. But God foresees that, once created, Judas will sin, and be judged. It might be wrong to make him an obedient robot - but he could have simply made Judas' parents sterile, or at least had him sent to work in India where he couldn't betray Jesus. So, as Paul clearly teaches (and indeed several other OT and NT examples), God uses the free but evil acts of men to bring about his good purposes - whether in Judas' case the passion (remember Judas' role was prophesied), or in the demonstration of justice (see Romans) and so on. The "can't be guilty if necessitated" problem surely can't be a real issue as we necessitate ourselves - moral necessity, remember. Jon Garvey
Well I think it's not necessary to answer those questions. I'm pretty sure I have what you believe correct. At this point I'm willing to concede that you do believe in some form of free will and I was wrong. Thanks for the nice conversation. It was enlightening. However, I'm still curious about one thing. I'm always and ever interested in origins, not just biology, so I'm wondering where these values come from. Since we can't choose them, I'm assuming you would say our values come from God. I'm also assuming that God follows the same pattern, and that He doesn't choose His values either. They are simply part of His eternal nature and axiomatic. All He does is choose between the paths available from His existing values, just as we do. So my question is: If sinful people are created with only sinful values, and all values must come from God, and God can only choose those actions which are part of His nature, doesn't that mean that sinful values are part of His nature? Doesn't that mean that He chose, by His will, to give everyone but Adam only sinful values? Doesn't that then mean that sin is something He chose to give us? Doesn't that mean that sin is part of God's will? Doesn't that mean that sin by our earlier definition, a choice made against God's will, CANNOT EXIST? Even if you can explain this conundrum, I still find the Calvinist viewpoint highly unsatisfactory since you are saying God blames sinners for their sin even though they have no other choices. This limited free will doesn't give them the opportunity to not sin, therefore they are required by necessity to sin. Calvin's earlier explanation for this makes this clear. But I still don't understand how this set-up is exactly fair if we cannot choose anything else. It's like a judge giving someone a gun and telling them they must shoot either the man on his left or the man on his right, then when he does so, being forced to, the judge then convicts him of murder. It makes no sense. This sort of thing makes Calvinism deeply unsatisfying. I have never been convinced by the Scriptural arguments either, and believe me I've been inundated with those. tragic mishap
Hmm. I meant that A-M do not constitute a necessity between the two available options (in other words, A-M don't force me to choose one option over the other), so if you still allow the will freedom within those options than your answer to my question would be "No." So my next thought is if A-M do not force me to eat pizza or burgers, then what do they force me to do? What if these influences (I would prefer to call them "values") were sinful influences? Gluttony and laziness influenced me to eat the pizza. Love of Mammon and impatience influence me to eat the burgers. In this case these influences or values did not resolve into a specific or necessary course of action given the available options. I suppose we should add some righteous values to the mix. Let's suppose that if I bought the pizza I could share it with a friend. Let's also supposed that if I bought the burgers I would have money left over that I could give to the charity. This introduces two righteous values that are now influencing my decision. I assume you would say that I am still free to choose between the two choices, but you would now say that I must be a Christian because non-Christians cannot have righteous values. Am I right? tragic mishap
"If yes, then doesn’t that mean that all the parts of my nature which I mentioned do not constitute necessity?" They constitute a boundary to your choice. Therefore if appetites, reasons etc A-M are in your nature, but appetites, reasons etc N-Z are not in your nature, then A-M constitute a necessity, but give freedom within that. However, N-Z are not available choices. Addiction parallel: if I'm a compulsive murderer, then the choice of victim, method, and time are all freely available to me. Even pizza or burgers. The choice of not murdering, however, is not (if you prefer we can relativise that - it's very very much harder not to murder). Jon Garvey
At the heart is the question whether freedom is freedom to do what we want, or freedom without limit.
No, this is not what I'm getting at. I accept certain constraints on the options available to the will. Obviously if there are no constraints upon the available choices then we would all be omnipotent gods. tragic mishap
Do I have % in the above instance or not
You say "yes." Thank you for answering the first one. I did not forget the definition I made for "%", and no, I am not going to switch definitions on you. I am committed to the example as stated. I do not want an "example where one is free to choose absolutely anything unconstrained by the desire to be happy" etc., etc. What I would like is for you to answer my follow-up which you haven't answered:
If yes, then doesn’t that mean that all the parts of my nature which I mentioned do not constitute necessity?
tragic mishap
If % = "could have chosen something else" (which is all I'd see in the definition) then "Yes." If % = "could have chosen *anything* else" (which I suspect is lurking in your thinking) then "No," for the reasons I gave in my last reply, and throughout the thread. If you want an example where one is free to choose absolutely anything, unconstrained by the desire to be happy, the results of deliberation, and the various limits on our nature, then I can't think of one. At the heart is the question whether freedom is freedom to do what we want, or freedom without limit. If the latter, experience and reason denies it. If the former, then one must look for the reasons for our desires as the limit. Jon Garvey
Perhaps I'm just a simple man, but I didn't hear an answer to the question in that response. Please make it easy on me. I'm not trying to pigeonhole you. I'm really just trying to understand your viewpoint. Do I have % in the above instance or not? If yes, then doesn't that mean that all the parts of my nature which I mentioned do not constitute necessity? If no, then what example can you give me of a choice in which I do have %? If I don't even have % in a simple choice like this, then where do I have it? tragic mishap
TM Early morning over here - time for mucking out stables. This time yesterday I got overcome by hunger and started raiding every source of food in the house, other than the hay store and the dog bowl. Burgers not available. Or pizza. Perhaps I'll survive this conversation on cerial and coffee. First, a reminder: my (Calvinist) belief is that mankind was created with %, but vitiated its freedom by sin. Your example is good at showing the nature of the remains of %: choices are still there, and genuine. I would point out that "deliberation" is key to your discussion, which the old writers took very seriously - hence their indications that the will was subject to reason. So you toss around the various factors, and make a choice based on them (even if in the end you say, "To hell with that - let's toss for it.") Another key factor in the classical theological/ philosophical discussions was the inevitability of the will's choosing happiness. Somewhat counterintuitive, but makes sense in your example - will I be happier saving money or eating pizza or saving the planet, or getting the coin out and saving my brain? So what makes you happy is a boundary factor. You're not going to choose pizza *because* you don't like it unless you are a masochist or value self-denial etc. So the whole area of your deliberation in this trivial example is bounded by your moral nature. Theoretically you could solve the dilemma by finding a plump baby to eat instead, but (I hope) that choice is in another ballpark from the one you set. It comes as near to a voluntary necessity of not eating people's babies as dammit. % is as limited as my ability to like pizza if it revolts my physical nature. In fact, to add "babies" to a casual dinner choice would require some serious work on changing your nature, building some kind of perverse justification to overcome very basic prohibitions in your makeup. You wouldn't "simply choose" it. But your example has, in fact, a more subtle moral content. All your deliberations were to do with which of your own predilictions would be served best by your choice - flavour, cost, convenience etc. Yet we're supposed to put the Lord, and his Kingdom, first in all we do (and all this pizza shall be added unto you). So the truly righteous man would, presumably, have included more options like "What will give me most time for the Lord's work?" "What will free up financial resources for my poor neighbour?" and so on in hyperspiritual manner. But it wouldn't seem hyperspiritual if (a) we didn't prefer self-will to God's will and (b) nearly every time we hear such reasoning, it's some hypocrite saying it, who shows by theior actions that self rules, OK! Adam, we may suppose, thought that way quite naturally. That, broadly, is what the Reformers or Augustine meant by "the inability to do good." What makes us happy, and therefore biases our choices, is not what makes God happy. Naturally we may be able to choose to help an old lady across the road, but not because submitting to God's will makes us happy. I can't like the pizza that nearly kills me - the sinner can't like pleasing God. Call that necessity, or a limitation on %, and the practicality is the same: I won't eat pizza and I won't submit to God. Jon Garvey
Oh my goodness. I was just going to make mac and cheese at home tonight, but all this writing about unhealthy American fast food has made me hungry. I think I shall go get some burgers. :D tragic mishap
the brain is not part of “me” but a computer that “I” program (or that my will programs).
Is my heart a part of me? Is my leg a part of me? My heart pumps blood. My leg helps me walk. My brain learns, stores and runs programs. Take typing for instance. When I first learned to type I had to think about where all the buttons were. Now that I have practiced enough, my brain has developed a program for typing so that all I have to do is think up the words I want and my fingers automatically type them, without thinking. My brain's program has memorized the positions of the letters and even sequences of finger movements. It's a good thing I don't have to order my heart to beat every time or I'd be dead as soon as I fell asleep. My brain's heartbeat program keeps me ticking even when I'm not paying attention. Again, I explain my view in my book. For some reason you've decided that the brain is where "I" am and the rest of the body is not where "I" am. The brain is a material organ. If you are saying "I" exist in my brain than you're the materialist. My view is not materialistic in the slightest. Quite the opposite. I'm saying that "I" don't even exist in the material world.
If I programme this brain to take heroin, or to sin, enough, it gets difficult to change the program… but the will is totally free, so the fact that I keep scoring or sinning is because the will has increasingly poor control of at least part of its own mind, let alone the world beyond. Free, but rather ineffectual, it would seem.
I wouldn't say "increasingly poor control." What I would say is that the behavior becomes increasingly automated but the automation must still be initiated by the will. Over time habits form that make those steps easier to execute. The program gets more self-automated, but my will must still find the executable file and initiate the program. And I am still fully responsible for that, because I know exactly what that executable file does every time I start it up. The decision to let the program take over is still just as sinful as it was when the program was less automated. An alcoholic's automation kicks in when he even smells alcohol, giving him a strong desire to drink it, whereas before he was an alcoholic it may have even tasted bad to him. He has programmed himself to like the taste of alcohol through practice, but it is still his decision every time he drinks.
You add next no less than two transformations: one is the transforming of the mind in Rom 12.2. I read that as a passive – “be transformed”, parallel to the renewing by God’s new creation in Eph 4.23-24 . Are you saying it should read “Transform yourselves”?
Yes I am saying there are two transformations, though one is not really a transformation but a rebirth of the spirit. The one is the rebirth of the spirit in God's presence. This is what Jesus is talking about in John 3. The second type of transformation is the striving to submit our own will to the will of God by living obediently. Part of that is reorienting our minds towards the spirit's new location in God's presence. Most of it though is using the resources of the Holy Spirit to choose the right and against the wrong. The first transformation takes place as a result of Jesus Christ's sacrifice. The second, the renewing of the mind, is the Holy Spirit's work. We are partners in both of course. But the main thing is making continual choices to submit our will to God's will. He does the rest. So no it should not say "transform yourselves."
And then you speak of “our transformed will.” This was the will you say is as free as Adam’s was, and not subject to outside determination. How then is it “transformed”,and to what purpose?
In that context, "transformed will" means my will/spirit that has been in hell was destroyed and reborn in heaven in God's presence. So I should not have used the word "transformed" there, as that is not what I meant. I meant "reborn" as in John 3.
Now, at last, to your question. “Do you believe that human beings can choose what foods they like? I like pizza. Was that part of my nature or something that I chose using %? Could I have chosen not to like pizza?” An interesting one – I can certainly choose to *eat* Pizza or not as I will. Does experience say I can choose to *like* it? That reminds me of my father’s mock-disciplinarian line when I was a kid: “You’ll eat it and you’ll LIKE it.” So, suppose that to my “nature” pizza looks like a road accident, smells like dog-poo, tastes worse, makes me throw up and, worse still, gives me a near-fatal allergic reaction. But because my will is free, I can still choose to like it, you say? Wouldn’t you say that’s a bit academic, not to say the sign of a disturbed human being?
I appreciate the distinction you made here, and it is a good one. You say you can through your % choose to eat or not to eat pizza in any specific instance. But you say you cannot use your % to choose that you like pizza. Is that what you mean? If this is what you mean than I would say you believe %, though very limited. But I want to pose a further question to you. Here's a scenario of a specific instance, one in which you say I have %: I am currently sitting at home. I got off work an hour ago, and I am hungry. Let's say for simplicity's sake that I only have two options of what to eat. 1) I can call my favorite pizza place and order two larges for $20. I also get a free 2 liter pop (Pepsi, Sierra Mist or Mountain Dew), however I don't like pop and I already have two 2 liters (Pepsi and Mountain Dew) in my fridge collecting dust. I can eat about one large pizza for dinner and have the other left for another meal. This option is about $10 per meal. In order to get this meal, I have to call the pizza place, wait 20 minutes, and then go and pick up my pizza. 2) I can get in my car right now and drive to a burger place which has small burgers for $1 each. Four of them makes a dinner (let's say it's equivalent to one pizza). I do not get any pop, but I get a meal for only $4, and it will only take me ten minutes total to get my meal, whereas the pizza will take twenty minutes. What do I choose and why? You say I have % in this instance, but it seems to me that my nature might have a great deal to say about this choice. For instance, if my nature is that I like pizza more than burgers, than that is a point in the pizza's favor that necessarily increases the allure of going with option 1. But then I also have a love of Mammon, and option 1 is more expensive. But then I am also lazy, so option 1 will get me two meals for only one trip, while option 2 will only get me one meal for one trip. But then I don't like pop. But then I do like getting things for free, and after all I only have two of the three kinds in my fridge. But then I am impatient and hungry and don't want to wait the extra ten minutes. Etc., etc., etc. I could go on and on like this. If you say that I have % in this situation, then I believe you, but it must also mean that all of these influences from my own nature do not constitute necessity. Isn't that so? tragic mishap
Gregory, please assume that I am not talking to you unless I refer to you by name. I am talking primarily to Jon. Gregory, I am a non-denominational Christian. I grew up reading the Bible and not much else. I have read most of C.S. Lewis, and beyond that my training was in natural science, though I only have a B.S. in biochemistry. I have been into ID since my junior year of high school, before which I already believed strongly in free will, reacting against most of my schooling and preferring my father's and my church's viewpoints on most of these issues. Dembski's writings sometimes bear on theology, but beyond Lewis and Dembski I really haven't read much theology. I read the Bible, I ask God for wisdom (James 1, 1 Cor. 1-2) and I draw my own conclusions. Gregory, our brains are deterministic because they are physical and subject to all physical laws. This should not be controversial unless you are claiming that the brain is substantially different from other organs or parts of the body. I'm sure you wouldn't accuse me of being a determinist if I said that I tell my knee to bend while walking. The muscle movements are determined by my will, which is free. I am *accusing* Jon of being a determinist because I think he believes that even the will is not really free. Jon, I consider myself a substance dualist. I have never read Descartes. I came to that position independently of most philosophy and theology, and realized that's the position I was holding after the fact. I'll try to comment on the rest of your post later. tragic mishap
TM So let me get this right. Assuming (it seems) the specific early modern philosophical position of Cartesian dualism, the brain is not part of "me" but a computer that "I" program (or that my will programs). But it is also part of my mind - so part of my mind isn't me either. If I programme this brain to take heroin, or to sin, enough, it gets difficult to change the program... but the will is totally free, so the fact that I keep scoring or sinning is because the will has increasingly poor control of at least part of its own mind, let alone the world beyond. Free, but rather ineffectual, it would seem. This wouldn't explain why junkies and sinners *want* to keep taking dope and sinning, though, would it? And it presumably means that if a habitual, unredeemed, sinner makes some minimal effort to avoid a sin, and fails, he's not guilty because his heart (or in this case, will) is in the right place? Whereas a good man who sins against habit is especially guilty, because his computer wasn't programmed to sin? You go on to say that the disease metaphor is just a metaphor - presumably in Jesus's use as well as your own. Can you help me out by saying for what aspect of sin, in particular, it is a metaphor? Why, for example, does Jesus say it need a physician? If it's a metaphor for free will Jesus's skills as a teacher have been greatly exaggerated. You add next no less than two transformations: one is the transforming of the mind in Rom 12.2. I read that as a passive - "be transformed", parallel to the renewing by God's new creation in Eph 4.23-24 . Are you saying it should read "Transform yourselves"? And then you speak of "our transformed will." This was the will you say is as free as Adam's was, and not subject to outside determination. How then is it "transformed",and to what purpose? Now, at last, to your question. "Do you believe that human beings can choose what foods they like? I like pizza. Was that part of my nature or something that I chose using %? Could I have chosen not to like pizza?" An interesting one - I can certainly choose to *eat* Pizza or not as I will. Does experience say I can choose to *like* it? That reminds me of my father's mock-disciplinarian line when I was a kid: "You'll eat it and you'll LIKE it." So, suppose that to my "nature" pizza looks like a road accident, smells like dog-poo, tastes worse, makes me throw up and, worse still, gives me a near-fatal allergic reaction. But because my will is free, I can still choose to like it, you say? Wouldn't you say that's a bit academic, not to say the sign of a disturbed human being? Jon Garvey
"my goal here is to convince you that you do not believe in something that you say you do believe in." - T.M. #120 awaits you. Still it seems you have some kind of fetish re: Calvinism. Who do *you* represent instead? Names/branches? Sure, those Calvinists/Reformists must be deterministic, but who do you prefer who more highly values 'freedom' (which seems to be your highest claim)? "The disease metaphor is just a metaphor. The reality is choice...We program our brains, like a computer" sounds just as deterministic as what you are accusing of Jon's position. Gregory
I have my own explanation for addiction. Addictions are "instantiated choices." After making a specific choice we program our brains, like a computer, to run that program given certain stimuli. However our will is always capable of rewriting the programming. It is just more difficult the more times we make the choice. But the choice is always there. The disease metaphor is just a metaphor. The reality is choice, and the only way to cure a bad habit is constantly choosing to negate it, which slowly rewrites the program. This is all part of "being transformed by the renewing of our minds." Part of our mind is the brain, which being physical is entirely mechanical and must be fixed by our transformed will. This is all in my book, which by the way is now available for $2 as an EPUB: http://www.lulu.com/shop/tragic-mishap/a-mishmash-paddywhack/ebook/product-20080102.html Or I could send a PDF, Word or EPUB versio for free if you send me an email address. My contact email is: tragicwhack@gmail.com. Anyway, I have to ask this question. You realize that my goal here is to convince you that you do not believe in something that you say you do believe in. I have a tough job, and will likely not succeed, but I want to see how far you are willing to take this. R.L. Dabney, American Calvinist theologian, 1820-1898. http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/dabney/5points.htm I want to start here and continue asking you about what you think of this article. You can find the location by searching for "sausage."
We have capital illustrations of what native disposition is in the corporeal propensities of animals. It is the nature of a colt to like grass and hay. It is the nature of a bouncing schoolboy to like hot sausage. You may tole the colt with a bunch of nice hay, but not the boy; it is the hot sausage will fetch him when he is hungry; offer the hot sausage to the colt and he will reject it and shudder at it. Now both the colt and the boy are free in choosing what they like; free be cause their choices follow their own natural likings, i. e., their own animal dispositions.
Since you have a problem with the term "free will" in any form apparently, I would like to substitute the percent symbol (%) for "the ability to have chosen something other than what one in fact chose." That's just so I don't have to write it every time I refer to it. Do you believe that human beings can choose what foods they like? I like pizza. Was that part of my nature or something that I chose using %? Could I have chosen not to like pizza? tragic mishap
TM @119 If the issue is the supposed mutual exclusiveness of sin as a choice and as a disease, then your problem isn't with Calvinsists but with Jesus himself - and indeed with the Holy Spirit in Scripture right back to the Old Testament prophets, because disease and healing are one of the key metaphors for sin and forgiveness. Not only that, but such a polarisation reveals a lack of appreciation of why the New Covenant in Christ is so radically different from Old in Moses; and of the need for, the scope, and the generosity of God's grace. A similar polarisation was shown on the BBC radio news this morning, when at a parliamentary committee on drug addiction Russell Brand called (somewhat self-excusing) for compassion for addicts and their prediction, and was followed by right wing commentator Peter Hitchens (brother of Christopher the Gnu, and somewhat self-righteous) calling for accountability and punishment. Those of us who have worked with addicts know that neither pole covers the bases. And those of us who have worked pastorally know that the same is true for sin. The same went for Jesus, who was criticised for fraternising with sinners (because, said the Pharisees, they are guilty of evil choices), and replied that it is the sick, not the well, who need a physician. At the same time he called on sinners to repent and turn from their sin. Sin as a disease and a choice, simultaneously. I much prefer Jesus to Calvin, but he follows the tension seen in Jesus's teaching here. "Disease, not choice" is a dichotomy falsely applied to his writing when he says, "If [man] does anything evil, it should be imputed to him and his own voluntary choosing. He doesn't even use the disease metaphor much, because his emphasis in dispute is usually the self-infliction of the state of bondage to sin. Jon Garvey
T.M. Do you believe then that it was the 'choice to sin' by the 'real, historical Adam & Eve' (rather than a disease contracted) that represents 'human exceptionalism'? Or do you prefer to speak about things like autobiographical memory, recursive language, self as subject, theory of mind, advanced tool-making, planning for tomorrow, art, story-telling, ethics, etc. as what defines us a 'exceptional'? Or do you choose another approach on this topic of 'exceptionalism,' particularly involving 'intelligent design' theory? I'm not sure it is fair to call Jon a 'Calvinist determinist' unless you are conflating that in your mind with 'Reformed/Reformational/Reforming.' It doesn't seem that Jon conflates them in the way that you do (he even raised the topic of Lutheranism). At least we can all be sure, please correct if I'm wrong, that Jon is not a 'materialist.' Thanks, Gregory Gregory
Jon, Of course Calvinist determinism and materialist determinism are not identical. All I've ever argued is that they both treat sin like a disease and not a choice. This leads to certain political conclusions that are virtually identical between the two viewpoints. I argued that in my book, written months before this conversation. I can quote you in this thread saying sin is a disease, and I can also quote Margaret Sanger saying the same thing. The two views are not identical but are mutually reinforcing in some arenas. tragic mishap
Folks like Piere Teilhard de Chardin and Theodosius Dobzhansky make Torley's position debatable. Torley ends his OP saying, "if you accept Darwinian evolution, you have to be a materialist and a determinist," but neither Teilhard (Catholic) nor Dobzhansky (Orthodox) was either of those things. They accepted 'immateriality' and 'non-determinism.' Perhaps it thus depends on 'which Darwinism' and 'whose Darwinism' is involved. Likewise, 'which human exceptionalism' and 'whose human exceptionalism' are under consideration? Atheists can accept exceptionalities, specialness, uniqueness in human beings too, can't they, even if not referring to spirit? I was under the impression that this site promotes IDT, therefore 'intelligent design human exceptionalism' was the topic Torley was raising. To simply suggest 'Darwin didn't,' i.e. 'exceptionalise' human beings, seems suspect. Likewise, to suggest Darwin in Torley's f) above felt "none of us was responsible for our actions" appears radical and overly dismissive of Darwin's views. 1837, after all, was before Darwin read Malthus and found his central idea of (what was latter called) 'survival of the fittest.' Indeed, in 1842, Darwin wrote that he did not want to be labelled an atheist, which presumably includes materialism, if not determinism. Darwin-haters can of course make of this as insincerity or falsehood, if they so choose. "Yet some naturalists appear happy to accept, intellectually as well as practically, the exceptional nature of human mind." - Jon Wouldn't this indicate that even (those d-mned) Darwinists, i.e. 'naturalists' could hypothetically accept 'the exceptional nature of mind'? Could not '(neo-)Darwinists' (e.g. Theodosius Dobzhansky) readily accept 'human exceptionalism' on naturalistic +/or spiritual grounds? Jon says, "I believe that human exceptionalism is based on the fact of a spiritual nature beyond the reach of science, or philosophy." Indeed, is this not the sole basis for believing in 'intelligent design' (i.e. a Mind which mirrored us), without which IDT could never have been formulated? Thus, suggesting ID is 'just about natural science', e.g. biology, unnecessarily blocks off theology (and philosophy) from the conversation. Is Jon not reminding us that human exceptionalist-ID doesn't make sense without theology (of whatever variety), though Torley may wish to resort soley to 'naturalistic' explanations, as his 7 evidences above in #4? Gregory
TM Feel free to call me Jon. or "Oi, you." Garvey sounds like school. Mr Garvey sounds like I'm buying insurance. Dr Garvey sounds like I was still working. You can call our topic what you like, though "libertarian free will" entails a return to the shortcomings of the original term, with the further shortcomings of a philosophical, rather than theological, definition. Bearing in mind Calvin's criticism of the discussion of will by philosophers of his own time that doesn't bode well. Why? Because philosophers don't take into account two of the three provisions I insisted on, ie the determining will of God and the bondage of the will to sin. These are spiritual, not psychological, things and therefore only accessible via revelation, rather than solely by reason (though they're not irrational). So philosophers tend to divide into libertarians, determinists and the perhaps mediating position of compatibilism. Yet although they will sometimes apply those categories in relation to God, there is actually a world of difference between the natural and spiritual treatment of will. For example, determinism in naturalistic philosophy has to do with temporal cause and effect: the molecules will act according to physical laws so free will is an illusion. Apply that to God in that vein, and his determining will looks like just another physical law taking away the reality of the will. But God's acting in eternity, so that he doesn't so much decide what will happen in time as deciding what IS, through the whole span of time, alters things dramatically (I believe material infantacy and I touched on that further up). And it alters it in a way that we, not being either eternal or omnipotent, cannot comprehend. So Scripture's "He does whatever pleases him," and its clear confirmation of human choice and responsibility (notwithstanding bondage to sin)cannot be fully reconciled philosophically, but in the end must be taken on faith as his truth. Philosophers (and rather too many Christians) don't like doing that. But I believe (to re-address Gregory) that human exceptionalism is based on the fact of a spiritual nature beyond the reach of science, or philosophy. Jon Garvey
I think we’ve already raised in the thread all the qualifying factors of interest to Calvinists: 1 – The limits of natural liberty from physical, intellectual constraints, and so on. 2 – The determining will of God. 3 – (most importantly theologically) the bondage of the fallen human will to sin.
And I'm prepared to argue that within Calvinist theology those limits are so strict that "the ability to have chosen other than what one in fact chose" no longer exists. Just as in materialism, "the ability to have chosen other than what one in fact chose" is an illusion believed by most but denied as a logical conclusion of the Calvinist system. I'll come back to that this evening when I have more time. Would you mind if I called this "libertarian free will"? This is what it's called in philosophy of mind and is the term Mr. Torley uses. Once again, his definition was in post #13 of the thread. It's not as if it wasn't stated explicitly right from the beginning. tragic mishap
Gregory @96 This cartoon from the book by Os Guinness (Reformed!) "The Gravedigger File" may be relevant, I think: Here Jon Garvey
Gregory @107 "There is no ‘natural scientific’ (cf. naturalistic) reason whatsoever for believing in or accepting ‘human exceptionalism.’ Yours is entirely, 100% a theological (or worldview) position for defending HE, is it not?" I'd say the process is more complex than that, both for me and for most people in the world. Human exceptionalism is normative in all societies, modern and primitive, theist or militantly atheist. Apart from anything else, our inbuilt theory of mind teaches us that we are "People", that other people are "People" and that everything else isn't - though there are of course crossovers, from attributing spirits to trees (and rocks?) to talking to teddy-bears. Even in those cases, people know they make offerings to spirits rather than vice versa, and that the bear doesn't talk back. Christian faith merely follows on that commonsense assumption, whilst obviously providing theological justification and refinement to it. Naturalism is a newcomer that cuts across human experience, which is why I've argued elsewhere that it's only maintained by constant self-reminders that unique human attributes like volition are illusory and, albeit with considerable ingenuity, reducible to molecular or evolutionary traits. Even then, naturalists act as if that weren't the case. Yet some naturalists appear happy to accept, intellectually as well as prcitically, the exceptional nature of human mind (obviously without accepting spiritual exceptionality). There's some account of such in "Nature of Nature" as I recall. In general terms, for example, there is no reason why believers in the self-organisisation of chaotic systems would not accept HE on the basis of complexity run wild. Then again Nancy Murphey, though a Christian, is a physicalist regarding mind/soul and so on. I see no reason why some unbelievers would not accept her reasoning on the reality, though naturalness, of mind, and one overarching reason why many would - all humans know "by nature" (thinking biological, not theological, here) that they are exceptional. Jon Garvey
TM @108 'I am perfectly willing to abandon the term “free will” and instead use “the ability to have chosen something other than what one in fact chose.”' We have contact! Thesis: Free will = the ability to have chosen something other than what one in fact chose. I think we've already raised in the thread all the qualifying factors of interest to Calvinists: 1 - The limits of natural liberty from physical, intellectual constraints, and so on. 2 - The determining will of God. 3 - (most importantly theologically) the bondage of the fallen human will to sin. With those taken into account I reckon every mainstream Calvinist I've met would affirm that all humans have "the ability to have chosen something other than what one in fact chose." By that definition, they would believe in free will, but immediately beg leave to ditch the term itself for the reasons I've already outlined. I concede there are probably those self-labelling as Calvinists who are absolute determinists, but one should not define a position by its extremes, or we'd end up defining "Christianity" by those de-mythologisers who don't believe in God, or a historical Jesus. Interestingly, in the literary debate with a Catholic guy named Albert Pighi, which prompted the Calvin book "Bondage and Liberation of the Will", it was Martin Luther who, in typically robust manner, made the statement, "All things happen by absolute necessity". Calvin, out of Protestant solidarity, defended what may have been a mainly polemic statement, but significantly distanced himself from it both in later editions of his Institutes and in an entire new book. So maybe this exchange needs to be repeated with a Lutheran?? That's why I feel the need at least to draw attention to some of the deeper issues rather than accept the stereotypic bracketing of Calvin with Jerry Coyne (as on a current BioLogos thread)as a dehumanising determinist. Pighi's book, by the way, was later put on the index by the Catholic Church because of his effective dismissal of original sin, which was a belief shared by both Catholics and all the Protestants. Jon Garvey
Wait, you're saying that reductionist thinking is less intelligent? Well I don't mind granting that. I'm only claiming that what I said is true. tragic mishap
"we reduce information to free will [or intelligence]" - tragic mishap That's quotable, thanks. ID as a reductionist theory. No need for 'elevating' free will. You are content to stop thinking intelligently at the mere presence of information? Information will take care of itself then... ID has much to learn about reality. And of course, 'the' theory has *nothing* to do with 'human exceptionalism,' or maybe V.J. Torley, Timaeus or Wesley J. Smith would say otherwise? Gregory
We don't reduce free will to naturalistic information. We say intelligence (or free will) is the only thing which can create the type of information we are talking about. In other words we reduce information to free will, not the other way around. It seems you have much to learn about ID. I will leave you be. tragic mishap
T.M. wrote: "Gregory, I recall somewhere Dr. Dembski saying he believed that intelligent design essentially reduced to free will." Yes, this is exactly what disqualifies ID as a mere natural science. 'Free will' is necessary for reflexive persons such as you, I, M.I., V.J. Torley and Jon. We can and do speak of human 'free will,' even as Jon has done (though TM disallows him the privilege). We don't reduce this to 'naturalistic' information. Please excuse, now I need to finish making the lesson for my social science class tomorrow. We are chosers, makers and dreamers, seeking live personal feedback, not mere bacteria personified, after all. Gregory
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