Control

I remember, as a kid in Lutheran catechism class, the following conversation:

Bob: “The Lord thy God is a jealous God” – but Reverend, what would God have to be jealous of? How could an all-powerful, all-knowing being be jealous of anything?

Reverend: “You need to memorize the material! So, please stop asking questions and just memorize the answers in the catechism.

I think now that was the moment I began to doubt that the church had anything to offer me. Later on I would learn about the fallacies used to win arguments and to shut off learning. [Check out the fallacies in the side bar.]

This morning I read two newspaper articles that reminded me of that long ago attempt by a figure of authority to shut me up. Both are from the USA. One from Texas. One from Florida. Both attacks on education and freedom.

From Florida:

Any resident in Florida can now challenge what kids learn in public schools, thanks to a new law that science education advocates worry will make it harder to teach evolution and climate change.

From Texas:

But here in Texas, the bigger battle over tree ordinances is whether they represent a form of local government overreach. Gov. Greg Abbott (R), citing grave worries about “socialistic” behavior in the state’s liberal cities, has called on Texas lawmakers to gather this month for a special session that will consider a host of bills aimed at curtailing local power on issues ranging from taxation to collecting union dues.


Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive,” happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. 


Free Will: a rejection

Free will is such a great idea. I would totally choose it if it existed. Believing we are in control of our destiny, becoming who we want to be, taking (and giving) credit for our successes and knowing who to blame for failures. Everyone loves free will. Religion loves it so much it made room for where there is none.

But isn’t the problem obvious? Free will hinges on being able to choose, and I just don’t see how it can be possibly true that we ever have a choice. That’s the illusion. We think we are making our own choices among the available alternatives, but really, we couldn’t have chosen otherwise.

The moment before you make any decision is the last stop in a casual chain of events spanning from the beginning of time. Whichever way you could think to interfere is just another necessary part of the chain that will inevitably lead to the decision you can’t avoid. This is because every cause has one – and only one – effect. We observe that to be true.

chooseadventurefreewilllukesurlSo the way something is at any given moment is the only way it could have been. If it were anything else, then the moment that came before has to be different to have caused it, and the moment before that, before that… so unless our past is constantly rewriting itself, we have no choice. For free will to be true, we need to have been able to act otherwise. But there is no way to avoid acting the way you do.

It does seem like sort of a cop-out, I know. Maybe whatever’s going on in our brains before we make the choice that we couldn’t have made otherwise is free will in action? But that doesn’t make it any less true that there is only one choice we do make, and it was the only choice we can make. Doesn’t that negate free will?

And the other thing – how do you know it’s your conscious self that accounts for any decision you ever make, anyway? Our actions are our choices, but what drives our actions? The unseen forces of desire. And what accounts for desire but a whole bunch of stuff that’s out of our control? Hormones, genes, and the effect of a lifetime of experiences that happen to us. We are the sum of all of this, and more. This is what decides what choice to make – this is the programming we’re stuck with.

Maybe we can define freedom as being able to do what we want, if we wanted. But often it turns out that we didn’t really want what we chose after all./ And how often do we have desires we don’t approve?  Ones we wish we had? If we could choose how to feel we’d be a lot happier with our choices because they’re the only ones we would have wanted. But apparently we can’t choose how to feel, so how can we take responsibility for what comes of it?

We’re just automatons living in a mechanistic universe – I can’t see it any other way. Now excuse me, it’s time for my kill-crazy rampage.

the brights

brights

 

I am not a fan of the name (“the brights”) but I am a fan of the work they do. The material they create for classrooms is excellent and the bulletins they produce are informative and excellent. The most recent bulletin is available online here. Take a look; check them out; contribute if you can! And you can find books (including Bob’s book on the bible) there too! Click on the images below.

rtb2.jpg

booksbybrights

Happy Birthday, Darwin!

TVOL

As we celebrate Charles Darwin’s 207th, This View of Life publishes your thoughts on the single most important takeaway from the theory of evolution. You let us know that evolution is more than the biological mechanism by which species change over generations — it’s also responsible for changes in our culture, politics, economy, and religion. 

In this special issue, you’ll also find new essays: Educator of the Year Jason Niedermeyer shares with us how he teaches evolution to students who hate it before they know it. Cognitive scientist Andrew Shtulman explores the best way to draw the tree of life. David Sloan Wilson and Michael Price take on the “huh?” factor of Trump’s candidacy; and Dustin Eirdosh delves into Darwin’s mind to see how he saw.

We hope you enjoy this special issue and wish you an intellectually curious Darwin Day! 

— TVOL staff