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Why there is pushback now against no-free-will arguments

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From: How can we believe in naturalism if we have no choice?

There is no shortage of arguments against free will. So many thinkers say they could improve human nature if they could just force enough people to co-operate with their various programs.

Some go so far as to think that we are now less likely to believe that there is even a me left (that is, a mere “ghost in the machine,” as English philosopher Gilbert Ryle put it).

But whose ghost? And whose machine?

Even some New Atheists like Daniel Dennett dissent from such a breezy dismissal of what so many have given their lives for. He points out that such a view “is blind to the chilling lessons of the not so distant past.”

But Dennett hardly touches the key problem: If there is no free will, no moral arguments can be advanced against any behavior at all. If, as some contend, the whole idea of free will has been “programmed into our brains by evolution,” criminal activity is mere predation.

Do cats “reform” their attitude to mice? Does anyone expect them to?

New atheists divide from traditional atheists (the latter do not believe in God but are not necessarily naturalists who believe that nature is all there is) on this matter. Raymond Tallis for example, an atheist neuroscientist and philosopher, has no use for these no-free-will theories. Nor does agnostic science writer John Horgan, who begged (2010), “Dear scientists, please stop bashing free will. … Science has discovered nothing that contradicts free will.”

Indeed, science has not discovered any such thing. But politics certainly did.

So today, these New Atheist fashions wear thin. They are the stuff of utterly conventional puffs for recent books. The only really new event is this: The adults are now talking back. For a number of reasons: More.

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4 Replies to “Why there is pushback now against no-free-will arguments

  1. 1
    Joe says:

    People are free to deny the existence of free will. 😉

  2. 2

    The idea that there is no free will is just a slightly more sophisticated version of the delusion of a person in an asylum who thinks that his behavior is totally controlled by a mind-control device implanted into his head by aliens.

    People know that they are not a robots, regardless of what some choose to say in order to be consistent with their ideological commitment to naturalism.

  3. 3
    humbled says:

    I love the new atheists. Their insanity and pseudo science makes for great comedy. I get a fat laugh followed by a double face palm everytime I read anything they have to say.

    Bash them by all means but I would prefer to keep them around so as to show the world how NOT to do it 😉

  4. 4
    Barb says:

    I remember debating someone on this site about free will (or the lack thereof) some years ago. If you can make a conscious choice to do good or to do evil, you have free will. We’re not simply a collection of molecules.

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