My latest MercatorNet column
A choice argument
Did you choose to cheat on your taxes? Or snub a friend? Free will makes an unexpected comeback.
Possibly no issue between traditionalists and new atheists rankles more than this one: Are we simply the products of our genes and neurons, or can we make authentic choices?
Traditional religions encourage repentance for sin, which just means, “I knew what I was doing and it was wrong.” No one repents of slipping on the ice, and ending up in traction. But a new doctrine has been highly seductive. You never choose.
In a blog entry, “No soul? I can live with that. No free will? AHHHH!!!,” on the Psychology Today website, Tamler Sommers, professor of philosophy at the University of Houston, explains why he thinks no free will is no big deal. He acknowledges that most materialists have not wanted to confront the issue directly.
To bring his idea home: Why should a man suffer any penalty if he kills your spouse, rapes your daughter, and maims your son? By definition, he is not responsible for his behaviour. That’s not because he passes normal tests of insanity, but because no one is ever responsible for their behaviour. Ever. At all.
Sommers cites one study where we learn that … more