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Freed from the fear of free will

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From an obituary for William Provine (1942-2015), a naturalist atheist who hung out with ID types, by Anya Plutynski:

Life may have no ultimate meaning, but I sure think it can have lots of proximate meaning. Free will is not hard to give up, because it’s a horribly destructive idea to our society. Free will is what we use as an excuse to treat people like pieces of crap when they do something wrong in our society. We say to the person, “you did something wrong out of your free will, and therefore we have the justification for revenge all over your behind.” We put people in prison, turning them into lousier individuals than they ever were. This horrible system is based upon this idea of free will. More.

This is a sad contribution indeed to Provine’s legacy. Practically every good thing in the world has come from a belief in free will. But then, Provine might have endorsed this stuff.

Anyway, opening all the prisons is most assuredly not the road to freedom.

See also: Provine found that 78% of evolutionary biologists are pure naturalist atheists. Diversity at work, right?

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8 Replies to “Freed from the fear of free will

  1. 1

    If there is no free will, what the heck was Provine talking about when he says “we use free will as an excuse to treat people like crap”? If there is no free will, people do things and get treated exatly how physics and chemistry dictates. If the person who does something wrong cannot be held accountable for their actions because they have no free will, then the person delivering the justice or the revenge certainly cannot be held accountable for their actions either.

    It’s an absurd thing to write – so absurd, it makes you wonder how any relatively sane person could not see the absurdity, let alone write it and have it published, let alone have people think you are brilliant for writing such nonsense. If Provine is right, then if we have the idea of free will it’s because of chemistry and physics. If it’s destructive, well, so what? So is a lot of chemistry and physics. Go complain to a volcano the next time you want to vent your anger at the destructive processes of nature.

    Some days it’s like the whole world has gone mad.

  2. 2
    ScuzzaMan says:

    If the criminal is not responsible for their crime, if the volitional content of their act is purely illusory, then on what grounds would Plutynski criticize society when “we” punish them?

    We have no choice in the matter, no will free or otherwise. Our volition is an illusion, the power of genetics compels us.

    What kind of person convinces themselves by means of an impossibly contradictory argument?

    And then parades it publicly, expecting others to be persuaded by the sheer effrontery of it perhaps?

  3. 3
    ScuzzaMan says:

    Snap!

  4. 4
    mike1962 says:

    Provine can do no more mischief, his bag of chemicals being safely dead.

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    Academics can mis-rule the world from the grave, through the impact of their uncorrected erroneous teachings.

  6. 6
    News says:

    In any event, why on earth drag the problem of bad prisons into it? Bad prisons would be wrong whether the people in them have free will or not.

    I don’t think dogs or cats have much in the way of free will, but as a member and donor of the Humane Society, I insist on humane conditions.

    I rather liked Provine because he was an honest man in a world of poseurs. I am sorry if this appallingly
    sloppy thinker represents his legacy.

  7. 7

    Well, to be fair she quoted Provine, and it was Provine that was doing the appallingly sloppy thinking about free will. It just goes to show that even though you can be saying things against free will, if there is actually no free will there isn’t any reason to say so, or to complain about anything anyone does.

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:

    White Rose pamphlet 1, on free will:

    >>If the German people are already so corrupted and spiritually crushed that they do not raise a hand, frivolously trusting in a questionable faith in lawful order of history; if they surrender man’s highest principle, that which raises him above all other God’s creatures, his free will; if they abandon the will to take decisive action and turn the wheel of history and thus subject it to their own rational decision; if they are so devoid of all individuality, have already gone so far along the road toward turning into a spiritless and cowardly mass – then, yes, they deserve their downfall. Goethe speaks of the Germans as a tragic people, like the Jews and the Greeks, but today it would appear rather that they are a spineless, will-less herd of hangers-on, who now – the marrow sucked out of their bones, robbed of their center of stability – are waiting to be hounded to their destruction.

    So it seems – but it is not so. Rather, by means of gradual, treacherous, systematic abuse, the system has put every man into a spiritual prison. Only now, finding himself lying in fetters, has he become aware of his fate. Only a few recognized the threat of ruin, and the reward for their heroic warning was death. We will have more to say about the fate of these persons. If everyone waits until the other man makes a start, the messengers of avenging Nemesis will come steadily closer; then even the last victim will have been cast senselessly into the maw of the insatiable demon. Therefore every individual, conscious of his responsibility as a member of Christian and Western civilization, must defend himself as best he can at this late hour, he must work against the scourges of mankind, against fascism and any similar system of totalitarianism.

    Offer passive resistance – resistance – wherever you may be, forestall the spread of this atheistic war machine before it is too late, before the last cities, like Cologne, have been reduced to rubble, and before the nation’s last young man has given his blood on some battlefield for the hubris of a sub-human. Do not forget that every people deserves the regime it is willing to endure! . . . >>

    KF

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