Showing posts with label free will. Show all posts
Showing posts with label free will. Show all posts

The Free Will Excuse


When Christians are asked why their all-powerful, loving god does not intervene when people are carrying out acts of horrendous cruelty and violence, they have an answer.  Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that they have an emergency exit.  This mental escape hatch allows them to stop wrestling with the implications of a god who stands idly by and allows psychopaths to carry out their cruelties, unopposed.
Long ago, Epicurus pointed out that a god’s inaction in the face evil calls into question its power and goodness:

Christianity-- A Disingenuous Religion Based on Lies and Deception

According to the video below, C. Michael Patton, Th.M. and Tim Kimberley, Th.M of Credo House, describe how, when believers are presented before Yahweh, their own resumes could never measure up, so instead, they must submit the resume that belongs to Jesus in order to be "saved" and this post will explain how this analogy illustrates how disingenuous the Bible and Christianity is at its core. The video is based on the verses in Ephesians 2:8-9, which many Christians believe relieves them of any responsibility for their "sins"--for they believe that as long as they have this "gift" of "grace," they will be "saved."

If God Has A Plan, Free Will Is An Illusion

This is a short mathematical proof that if God has a plan, then free will necessarily is an illusion. 2 + n = 4, if n = 2 then free will is an illusion.
Got your attention didn't it? It's really just a little joke used to make a point.
In response to my assertion that Jesus was a human sacrifice, some of our commenters kept saying that "God has a plan" and that Jesus sacrifice doesn't meet the criteria for a Human sacrifice even though Jesus was a Human whose sacrifice of his life saved us from Gods Wrath by his blood (Rom. 5:9). Regardless of how that equivocation plays itself out, the fact that God has a plan and things seem to be going according to plan, nullifies the concept of Free Will.

Think about 2 + n = 4. We don't know what the 'n' variable is but the relationships inherent in that problem were already worked out ahead of time whether (as some ancients believed) it is mystical or it is just naturally ocurring like the shape of water that fills a hole. Even though we don't know what the 'n' variable is, it can only be one thing.

So when Christians say that God has a Plan, that means that things can only work out one way, and the variables only have the appearance of being unknown. As long as God has a plan, free will only has the appearance of being unknown to us. To an omniscient God, it must be obvious. This is why, free will is an illusion as long as God has a plan.

One Mechanism for Biological Bases for Behavior

This is a datum to support my assertion that Biological Bases for Behaviors are incorrectly interpreted as "Sin" and that we don't have as much free will as we think we do. The new field of Epigenetics is documenting that regulating gene expression in the brain affects how susceptible we are to maladies such as depression, anxiety and drug addiction.

One viewpoint that I keep pushing around here is that we don't have as much free will as we think we do. I argue that the brain is an electrochemical device where millions of tiny biological switches accept combinations of thousands of analog signals that interact together to turn processes on and off to produce what we call "our self". Now I know there is lot a packed into that statement (presumptions and all) but I want to focus on one molecular mechanism that is a part of all of that.

First, a layman's description of Genes and Gene expression.

What is a Gene?
Genes are a smaller component of DNA. It is made up of combinations of chemicals units called A (Adenine), T (Thymine), G (Guanine) and C (Cytosine). Chromatin proteins called histones compact and organize DNA to form chromosomes. Chromosomes are made up of DNA and reside in the nucleus of a Cell. Chromosomes guide the interactions between DNA and other proteins.

Genes carry chemical information that is used by the cells to collectively determine their characteristics. Each cell contains from 20,000 to 25,000 genes attached to a strand of DNA coiled up into a chromosome, sitting in the nucleus of a cell.

One estimate I found states that there are between 75 to 100 trillion cells that make up the human body. Only in the brain there are estimated to be 100 billion cells interconnected by trillions of synapses (

Gene Expression
Our genes form the blue prints for proteins. Our bodies are built on proteins, just like a nicely marbled rib eye steak. Accordingly our brains are built on proteins. Every cell has every gene, but each cell only uses a subset of those genes. For a gene to be "expressed" it must be accessed by a chemical catalyst to cause the formation of an RNA molecule. The RNA is then used to make a protein, and the cell uses the protein to carry out its purpose in life, whatever that may be. In the brain, the purpose is to run your body in the background without any conscious effort or knowledge of it on your part and to produce the various stages of consciousness you experience between sleep to stressing out in traffic. Don't forget that while you are stressing out in traffic and worrying about that slow person in your way, you are still listening to the radio, working the pedals, breathing, remembering to call someone when you get in, etc. There's a lot going on that you are not conscious of so it is not accurate to say that YOU are in control, but it is accurate to say that your sense of self is one of those processes going on in the brain that you are not of aware of or even know how to manipulate. But those process are manipulated automatically biologically by a wide range of bodily process which include hormones produced by your organs (the endocrine system). Your brain gets feedback from your organs and it is regulated by them whether you like it or want it or not. Your brain reacts to stimulus and is regulated by the various chemicals that are set into motion as a result. Your experience in traffic changes your mind, your mood, your attitude, your thoughts, your wishes, your desires whether you like it or not. Those molecules that are the catalyst for creating RNA molecules are released, and they go about feeding the cells that your brain is using to handle your traffic experience. Your performance, your emotion, your mood, you thoughts, your access to your memories and your sense of self depends on how well those molecular processes work.

For an RNA molecule to be produced, a chromosome "unravels" (remember that a chromosome is coiled up DNA) to permit the catalyst molecules access to the sequence of ATGC that it is made up of. To "silence" a gene, is to prevent the interaction of the catalyst by preventing it from getting to the uncoiled part of the chromosome or from preventing the chromosome from uncoiling. The body does this on its own, your 'self' doesn't have any choice in the matter, whether it works properly or not. In fact, you or your personality can be modified and you won't even realize it. Just like gene expression causes your pancreas to work properly to do what it is supposed to do, gene expression causes your brain to work properly to do what is supposed to do which is run the processes in your body (such as your sense of self), and create your physical and emotional characteristics that everyone else knows as "YOU".

Now the Hard questions. Were does the soul fit into this? What is "the Soul"? Is the Soul "the personality"? Is the Soul the "I" in "I am alive"? If the personality/soul likes chocolate or to harm animals, can it stop liking those things? Why do people like anything? Am I responsible for things that I like? How do we turn "liking" on or off?

I'll buy a beer for anyone that can tell me why chocolate is so appealing to people. I know why, I'm just looking for audience participation.

One way to turn "liking" off is by manipulating the brain. Its bound to be more reliable than praying and there's no worrying about whether you've got the right god or not.

Nature versus Nurture.
We have been living with this concept since as long as I can remember. What makes one tomato more tasty than another or one person more amicable than another? Finally we know, it is a feedback loop between nature and nurture and we have identified one mechanism by which it happens. Now that this mechanism is revealed, scientists hope to develop treatments for maladies such as drug addiction, schizophrenia, depression and anxiety. Maybe one day they can discover where a specific desire originates from. Maybe one day it can be used to rehabilitate criminals. Maybe one day they can fix the Limbic Systems in psychopaths or make sociopaths more compassionate. Maybe one day they can give me something that will allow me to like mushrooms.

If I were to take a liking to harming animals, and I acted on that, then I am responsible and should be stopped, not necessarily for punishment because punishment may not mean anything to me, but I should be stopped simply to prevent more harm. However, if I have the desire, but do not act on it, since it is "in my heart" the bible says that I am still responsible for it. The desire is born in the brain, electrochemically, and subject to the "nature vs nurture" feedback loop. Since this feedback loop is verifiable, and predictable to a degree, and at least one mechanism for how it works has been identified, to say that human kind is accountable to the creator for "its sin" is as ridiculous as to say that I am responsible for how ugly I am or I am responsible for my dislike of mushrooms or that I even have a choice in the matter.

For further reading
Scientific American Mind, June 2008
* The New Genetics of Mental Illness (subscription or print only)
* Unmasking Memory Genes (subscription or print only)
* Addicted to Starvation: The Neurological Roots of Anorexia

From me on DC
* Reasonable Doubt About Sin: Biological Bases for Behavior
* Sin, Genes, Sugars and Alcohol
* Brains "Trust Machinery" Identified
* "When Our Vices Get the Better of Us"
* Negativity Is Contagious, Study Finds
* Schizophrenia Candidate Genes Affect Even Healthy Individuals
* Brain atrophy in elderly leads to unintended Racism, Depression and Gambling

Decision-making May Be Surprisingly Unconscious Activity

A team of scientists has unraveled how the brain actually unconsciously prepares our decisions. Even several seconds before we consciously make a decision its outcome can be predicted from unconscious activity in the brain. (Thanks to Scott.)

So what does this mean for passages such as Matthew 5:21?
"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.'
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.

In light of this research, that seems extreme. How is one accountable for "Flash" Anger? How does one prevent "Flash" Anger? If a large percentage of your action or decision is prepared in the "background" how much of that are we in control of? I'll stipulate that we have the final choice, but how we feel about it is quite another thing. The brain is like a modular unit. Its made up of modular circuitry that have processes that run in background of which we are not aware. Any poor performance in any one of those circuits could cause us to do something or feel someway we wouldn't normally. For example lack of sleep and the resultant crabbiness that accompanies it. It seems extreme to put our fates in the hands of a three pound meatball that is so easily influenced to operate outside of "specifications"

Excerpts from the article.

This unprecedented prediction of a free decision was made possible by sophisticated computer programs that were trained to recognize typical brain activity patterns preceding each of the two choices. Micropatterns of activity in the frontopolar cortex were predictive of the choices even before participants knew which option they were going to choose. The decision could not be predicted perfectly, but prediction was clearly above chance. This suggests that the decision is unconsciously prepared ahead of time but the final decision might still be reversible.

More than 20 years ago the American brain scientist Benjamin Libet found a brain signal, the so-called "readiness-potential" that occurred a fraction of a second before a conscious decision. Libet’s experiments were highly controversial and sparked a huge debate. Many scientists argued that if our decisions are prepared unconsciously by the brain, then our feeling of "free will" must be an illusion. In this view, it is the brain that makes the decision, not a person’s conscious mind. Libet’s experiments were particularly controversial because he found only a brief time delay between brain activity and the conscious decision.

In contrast, Haynes and colleagues now show that brain activity predicts -- even up to 7 seconds ahead of time -- how a person is going to decide. But they also warn that the study does not finally rule out free will: "Our study shows that decisions are unconsciously prepared much longer ahead than previously thought. But we do not know yet where the final decision is made. We need to investigate whether a decision prepared by these brain areas can still be reversed."

God's Gift of Freewill

Okay…this is hard for me to say, but here goes; the time has come for me to accept God and quit fighting Him. I have resisted Him long enough in this fist-shaking charade called atheism. It’s time for me to go back to my Lord and Savior. I have decided to re-convert because the powerful arguments of the Christians who visit Debunking Christianity have persuaded me that freewill does indeed exist, and this alleviates God from his responsibilities of running a universe in what the average critical mind would consider a piss-poor and most miserable fashion.

I am hereby re-converted to Christ! I now know that it is wrong to deny freewill. God would have violated his own will to not allow freewill, and that is why the world is such a bad, terrible, filthy, stinky, rotten, putrid, vile, revolting, wretched, and horrifying place—but none of that is God’s fault because God thought it was worth it to allow perverts in trench coats to rob children of their innocence in public restrooms with the lure of pornography.

You atheists may be smart, but you’re not smarter than God. Yes, you are very intelligent. This is seen by the systematic rigidity of your breaking down and handling of the freewill debate, but in your debating, you aren’t considering the “God’s gift” aspect of freewill. Freewill is a gift from God, and God does nothing in vain, which means moral or immoral, when human beings use the wonderful gift of freewill, it should be seen as a good thing—no matter the ghastly outcome. Freewill is a great gift and we must be thankful that God has given mankind the ability to exercise it.

I am thankful to God for murderers, for those who take life callously and unjustly. I admit; it’s hard to appreciate murderers, men like Jimmie Reed Jr. (31) of Pontiac, Michigan, who shot his wife as she slept, and then doused their baby with gasoline, burning the child alive as he rested on his mother’s corpse. It’s so easy to get sidetracked feeling for the victims, thinking about how sad the families of the deceased will be to go through each Thanksgiving and Christmas without their loved ones. Yes, it brings a tear to one’s eye to think of the sadness and the loss of the families as they are forced to relive the nightmare of the deceased’s murder through long, drawn-out courtroom trials and sentencing phases of the offenders in hopes to finally see some justice done. I know, it doesn’t sound fair or justifiable at all, but that is selfish thinking. Murder happens all the time, and when it does, we must remember that the freewill of the murderer had to be preserved. God has so decreed! Praise God for freewill and praise God for murderers!

I am thankful to God for prostitutes, for rapists, and for all sexual deviants/predators. Morally, this crowd may go a different route than I, but they are exercising their freewill. And freewill, as we have seen, is a gift from God. This is very hard for me to accept. I must regularly ask God for strength on this matter because I keep seeing horrified faces of raped women, of traumatized children, bleeding orifices, multiple contusions, and unsightly facial bruising, and my instinct is to blame God for these horrible deeds. But what I have to remember is that it would be wrong to blame God! I feel so sorry for the victims that I want to lash out at the human scum who made them victims. Then I recall God’s wonderful gift of freewill and my mind is eased. Thank God for freewill and thank God for sexual predators!

I am thankful to God for wife-beaters, substance abusers, thieves, and for violent street thugs. Yes, they may go a different route than I go when it comes to human values, but they are exercising freewill—God’s greatest gift to mankind. And tell me something, atheists: If mankind doesn’t use the gift of freewill, how can they ever come to need the gracious gift of salvation??? A part of me really wants to feel sorry for beaten wives who must seek solace from their husbands in battered women’s shelters to save their own lives. I want to sympathize with businesses that take terrible financial hits annually because of valueless thieves, and I even want to stop them if I can. But then I remember how I am not commanded to judge anyone. God gave abusive husbands and conniving thieves a gift – the gift of freewill – and they are using it as they see fit. How can I find fault with those who walk by God’s plan?

I am thankful to God for ambitious men, dictators like Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Zedong. These wayfaring men have taken so much flack from believers and atheists alike. Well, it’s time to set the record straight. Most of us don’t approve of these leaders’ actions at all, but who can deny that they were most ingenious and unorthodox in their usage of freewill? No one can deny that. Depending on the figures you consult, Hitler killed six million Jews while Stalin killed as many as sixty million. Zedong killed perhaps thirty million people. While a part of me wants to look at these men as blood-bathing, murdering tyrants, I also want to personally hand out to each of them freewill trophies. We have freedom of speech awards—why not freewill or freedom of action awards? Praise the Lord for freewill and praise the Lord for bloodthirsty despots!

In any case, the conclusion of the matter is this: No matter what our personal views are, and no matter what we believe about morality, we can’t force that morality on others because that would be to deny others their freewill. This means that we must never intervene in the actions of someone else—if God’s not going to stop a murderer, rapist, thief, thug, or despot, why should we? Thank God for his glorious gift of freewill! Oh thank Him!


*** P.S. Now that I have repented, I want everyone to know that I am celebrating my re-conversion to Christ by selling autographed pictures of Jesus for love gifts of $100 U.S. or more. Contact me for more details.

People Can't Choose To Believe, Therefore Christianity is False.


The Following is a contribution from The Dude in the Atheist RFC for Empirical Evidence... I think it is brilliant.

Christian salvation doctrine clearly stated in the bible dictates that in addition to good deeds, a "saved" follower must, above all else, choose to believe with no doubts. If one does not utilize the "free will" given to him by god and choose to believe, they will be banished to an eternity of hellish suffering upon death. No amount of good deeds over a lifetime will save a person if they do not choose to believe in the biblical god/Jesus.

The problem with this biblically-stated doctrine is that humans are naturally unable to choose to believe in anything, as belief is the result of biochemical/neurological processing of evidence in the human mind, and how information is processed is biologically unique to every individual. The way an individual processes information is absolutely out of their control - one cannot simply choose to accept evidence, it must be processed and evaluated by the brain, and the result of this processing is either non-belief or belief. Humans are born with specific genetic tendencies beyond their control that dictate how to process information, which can then nurtured or suppressed based on outside factors such as parenting, education, social influences - all of which are not within the control of the individual.

With this premise laid forth, the biblical requirement for salvation based on choosing to believe goes out the window, and thus in my mind dismisses the entire doctrine as jibberish.