December 2007
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Elgin’s Books


  • Christianity and Secularism

  • Evidence for the Bible


  • Free Will

    Listen to the MP3

    Dec 14, 2007, Wausau, Wi —  Last time I looked at the issue of Free Inquiry and the skeptic’s false claim that they were free to go wherever the evidence leads, while Christians were limited by their religious beliefs.  But there is a deeper more subtle problem with the skeptic’s claim that they are free to go wherever the evidence leads them.  This problem concerns freedom itself.

    Inherent in the skeptic’s belief to be free is the belief that they are free to make a decisions.  In fact much of the skeptic’s criticism of religion centers around the concept of freedom.  Skeptics believe that Christians surrender their freedom to false religious beliefs.  Christians choose certain behaviors, not because they want to, but because the Bible says so. The problem for the skeptic, however, is how they can account for this freedom in the first place. 

    Now this problem can be difficult to see because the freedom to choose is something we all just take for granted.  Of course we have a freedom to choose.  Our entire view of our daily lives, our interactions with others and everything we do is dependent upon our freedom to choose.  In fact it is difficult to conceive of how we would view the world if we didn’t make the assumption that we have a freedom to choose.  For example, the entire legal system and its concept of punishment for crimes is based on the assumption that the criminal had a choice whether or not to commit the crime.

    The problem for the skeptic is not so much that we have free will, but rather how can they explain that we have free will.  While the concept of free will is difficult for every one religious believers and skeptics alike, it is particularly difficult for the skeptic who has a naturalistic view of the world.  For the skeptic, the natural universe governed by natural laws is the only thing that exists.  Miracles are rejected because they would violate the laws of nature.  For the skeptic, everything is governed by the laws of nature.  There is no room for God.

    What the skeptic often over looks is that free will, the freedom to choose, is inconsistent with their naturalistic view of a universe governed by natural law.  Now again, this can be difficult to see because the idea that we have free will, that we have the freedom to make some decisions, is something we just take for granted.  We don’t even think about it.  We certainly don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how it can happen.

    For the skeptic, we’re simply animals, the result of a long evolutionary process.  Our origin and everything about us, just like everything else in the universe, can be explained by the laws of nature.  There is no soul.  There’s nothing beyond the material body.  Our actions are completely explained by the electrochemical interactions taking place in our brain and in the rest of our body, or at least will be once science can figure everything out.  But therein lies the problem.  If everything can be explained by the electrochemical interactions taking place in our brain and in our body, where is there room for freedom of choice?

    Now skeptics often claim that what we call consciousness is the result of the electrochemical interactions in the brain, and it is our consciousness that makes our decisions.  But while this may be a nice explanation for the skeptic, again how does this happen.  Even if for sake of argument we assume that they are correct and consciousness is nothing more than the electrochemical interactions taking place in our brain, how do those electrochemical interactions actually make the choice?

    The simple fact is that the concept of choice is incompatible with a universe governed by natural laws.  A rock falling down the side of a cliff, does not make a choice to bounce right or left when it hits the side of the cliff.  Every aspect of its fall is determined by the laws of nature.  A choice, on the other hand, transcends the laws of nature.  It is not determined by the laws of nature; it is determined by something else.  If it was determined by the laws of nature it would not be a choice. 

    So if choice is nothing more than the result of consciousness which is itself the result of the electrochemical interactions taking place in our brain, then at some point these electrochemical interactions that are governed by the laws of nature must somehow transcend the laws of nature so as to make a choice.

    But if skeptics are correct and somehow our consciousness does transcend the laws of nature so as to make a choice, than this would violate one of their fundamental starting premise is which is that everything is governed by the laws of nature.

    So the skeptic is caught in a real quandary.  They must either deny freewill, which is virtually impossible for them to account for anyway, or they must accept that there are things that are not governed by the laws of nature.  If they deny freewill, they are denying something so obvious that we simply take it for granted. Yet if they accept that there are some things not governed by the laws of nature, they deny one of their fundamental premises. Either way they have major problems.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact. 

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