Disclaimer: The following contains material of a potentially frightening nature. However, if you are unafraid to ponder the possibility of being unable to make any choice at all, or are kind enough to do me the favour of reading and critiquing my thoughts, please do read on.

Consider a closed system, comprising an apple, in existence a distance above an object of significant gravity, say, the Earth. Start time. The apple, obeying common physical laws, falls to the ground. Or a bullet, racing towards a man. Start time, and it strikes him.

Consider then, a larger system. Say, a gun. Pull the trigger, and a number of physical reactions occur, sparking a chemical reaction, which again triggers the physical reaction of a speeding bullet. All in accord with the physical laws that exist in the system.

Consider then, the Universe as a system. The cosmos dancing in beautiful rhythm, governed by a set of laws that exist, regardless of humanity’s knowledge (of these laws). In this Universe, there exists people, made of the very same stuff as everything else. And as all stuff, held accountable to the law, they obey with perfect precision, for every moment, right until the end of time.

Assuming that the body is governed by the brain and the brain is made of stuff, the decisions of the brain and the actions of the body are then governed by the particulate behavior of stuff, which is perfectly predictable by the laws of the Universe. And thus, the terrifying conclusion is reached; free will is an illusion and any state of the Universe is fated and (theoretically) predictable.

I give you the frightening possibility of a deterministic Universe. Determinism, however, is (at least partially) debunked by chaos theory and quantum uncertainty. Therefore, move on to what really terrifies me.

Take the existence of a sovereign, omnipotent God. (for those of you who can’t, assume, for the sake of argument). Let’s define omnipotence, shall we? We’ll take it to mean capable of anything, and aware and in control of every thing that occurs, until the end of time.

An omnipotent God is therefore aware of every man’s actions. God is also capable of influencing that man’s actions and choices. Is the God then responsible for the man’s actions? Is the man incapable of acting outside of the omnipotent agency of this God? By his omnipotent character, is God incapable of “not making a choice”, for by doing so he in fact makes a choice, that leads to consequences?

The existence of an omnipotent God thus brings us to the same, ghastly, conclusion. Free will is impossible. The closest one can get is a facsimile, true motivations possibly being the decisions of an omnipotent God or the result of matter blindly following dead laws, but never a consciousness that resides within a man.

However, I offer those of you who are greatly troubled some small comfort. Read on.

Chaos theory posits that large systems quickly degenerate into chaos, meaningless and unpredictable, despite the abundance of laws that can accurately predict short-term, small-scale outcomes. Quantum uncertainty makes it impossible for every property of any discrete particle to be known simultaneously. This “quantum fuzziness” makes it impossible to make perfect predictions.

However, consider instead the minutiae of the atoms that comprise your brain. It is rather difficult, is it not? Or the extreme complexity of a weather system. It is hard to grasp and predict the future, for our puny human minds, yes?

So, a perfectly predictable Universe remains perfectly perplexing (, and opaque) to us mere mortals. In making our decisions, we (our brains) experience what feels like choice and independent will. The decisions we make feel all too real to us. An excuse cannot be made “that wasn’t my choice”, simply because, to all measurable extents and purpose, an action is the result of free will and choice.

Similarly, the will of an omnipotent God are so far beyond us, so much so that our decisions appear to be motivated by independent will, and for all practical purposes are indiscernible from such. The existence of an omnipotent God does not absolve us from seeming (to ourselves and to other) to make the right choice.

Well then. I’m done. I thank you for reading this far, and do hope that you will poke holes in my arguments, delivering all of us from the deterministic terror of a world without free will, or plunging us further into this pit of despair. For the sake of truth, then, be honest with me!

Ps. Comment on the post, not on the tagboard, if at all possible. Much thanks.


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