Friday, December 26, 2014

Leftist-atheist attack on free will

Philosopher Gregg Caruso has a video on the dark side of free will, and gives further details on a philosopher blog.

I posted these comments:
Your argument is that it is better to be a slave than a free man. I agree with that for many people. Some people are happy with arranged marriages. Some people appear to lack the agency to take responsibility for the personal decisions. A good test might be to give people some bogus smoke-and-mirrors argument against free will. If they are persuaded, then they are obviously not competent to be making any important decisions. ...

Most of the comments on these two article are not addressing the point of this essay, which is the effect of free will beliefs, not whether true or false.

Hard determinism (and free will skepticism) has become a leftist-atheist dogma like the Catholic transubstantiation. It is not usually taken literally. Yet it gets recited in order to show allegiances of beliefs.

Jesus said "Go and sin no more". Christianity teaches that you have to free will to accept or reject God. Other religions are more fatalistic and superstitious. To oppose free will is a way of opposing Christianity without mentioning religion.

Opposing free will is also a sneaky way of promoting leftist political goals. Conservatives (in America at least) celebrate individualism, personal and family autonomy, free markets, and libertarian ideals. Leftists strive for a society where everyone is dependent on everyone else, has involuntary empathy, and lets the government make all the decisions.

The philosophical and scientific arguments against free will are wrong, as Pigliucci explains here and here.

The right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) scale was created by a left-wing Obama supporter who was infuriated by the libertarian anti-government views of the Tea Party. Here is his anti-Tea-Party rant (pdf). The Tea Party is the least authoritarian political movement in the USA today. And yet he claims that the Tea Party is dangerously authoritarian because they believe that President Obama is dictator and that mounting debt and interference with the free market is destroying the country. This junk only gets uncritically published because the social science journals are overwhelmingly leftist.

Maybe if the Tea Party can somehow be convinced that they have no free will, they will go away and let the left-wing authoritarians take over the country. This is a leftist fantasy.

You argue that we should deny free will so that women can make rape allegations without being questioned about their choices and decisions. That was apparently the attitude of Rolling Stone magazine and most of the mainstream media that uncritically reported Jackie's story about a UVa frat party gang rape. Now it turns out that she invented the character of Haven Monahan, the date, the party, the rape, and everything else in order to arouse the feelings of another boy.

I guess the leftist anti-free-will view is that Jackie and Rolling Stone should have no moral responsibility for perpetrating this hoax, because the article has raised consciousness and empathy about a trendy leftist subject. It is not even clear that they wanted to hold the alleged rapists legally culpable, as they showed little interest in making a police complaint. No, they want Jackie's feelings validated, even if they are just symptoms of a mental illness, and to make a cultural statement against privileged blond fraternity members.

If your point is that belief in free will is contrary to certain leftist atheist goals, I agree.
Curiously, Caruso did not dispute any of this at all, and only noted that "There are plenty of free Will skeptics that are theists." Yes, of course, such as followers of Calvinism and Islam. But his "dark side" to free will is essentially a bunch of traditional American and Christian beliefs in personal freedom.

Caruso posts:
I’m surprised that no one has yet directly defended the claim that disbelief in free will would be harmful to society, our interpersonal relationships, meaning, etc.
I replied:
Yes, Gregg, a disbelief in free will would be harmful. If your goal is to promote leftist goals and undermine personal freedom and Christianity, then I agree that a disbelief in free will might help, as I argued in previous posts. You did not disagree, except to point out that beliefs among philosophers are not perfectly correlated. Of course some theists are free will deniers, as some believe in predestination.

Unless you are some sort of hard-core Marxist atheist, creating a nation of sheep is not a good thing. The Soviet Union tried it. It still exists in Cuba and North Korea. It partially exists in the Islamic world, where the mosques teach fatalism and the suicide bombers think that they are carrying out Allah’s will.

People want to be free. Modern civilization was created in Europe when Christian, Roman, and Greek influences created a system where people are free to do as they please, subject to a personal moral accountability for their behavior. I like it that way. So does most of the Western world, as far as I know.

You want to convince people of something contrary to common sense and modern science, in order to promote your personal left-wing atheist authoritarian ideology. Thank God it is not possible. My choice is for a free society.
Caruso replies:
Schlafly, you make some big leaps! I don’t know why you think I’m trying to undermine personal freedom and Christianity. First off, political freedom is not the same as metaphysical freedom. Secondly, we might end up with more freedom and better opportunities under the model I propose. I think what you are really opposed to is the idea that we should focus on addressing the social conditions and systematic causes that lead to criminality, wealth inequality, education inequity, etc, instead of blaming people on the tail end. I understand that we probably have different political philosophies, but to equate my ideas with the Soviets and North Korea is simply outrageous!
Really? He wants to convince everyone that they do not have free will or moral responsibility for their behavior, in order to promote an assortment of leftist ideological goals, and he wonders why I think he’s trying to undermine personal freedom and Christianity? Perhaps I did not make myself clear enuf. One commenter said that I connected the dots, so he understood me.

Another exchange, about his theory that studies showing benefits of free will can be better explained by "ego depletion":
[Caruso] My daughter, who is five, exercises self-control all day long at school. When she gets home at 3:30 her ego is depleted and she is more aggressive. I think it’s a common occurrence that all parents are familiar with.

[Schlafly] I have an alternate explanation. Her teachers believe in free will, and so they praise her when she does well and discipline her when she misbehaves. When she gets home, her father is indifferent to her choices and treats her like a pre-programmed automaton.

[Caruso] I don’t know why you think I’m trying to undermine personal freedom and Christianity.

[Schlafly] I explained that in my comment. Christianity teaches free will. Those with the individual ability to make their own choices have more personal freedom than those who don’t. You want to convince people that they do not have that ability, and you say that it will promote certain leftist ideological goals.

[Caruso] Schlafly, with regard to how I interact with my daughter, I by no means treat her as an automaton (another misreading of free Will skepticism). And yes, I have found that the reactive attitudes associated with basic desert MR are counterproductive and that other attitudes work much better. Read Pereboom for the replacement attitudes. Maybe losing some of your moral anger would be helpful.
He is saying that he does not believe in treating his daughter to the consequences of moral responsibility.

The current SciAm has an article and poll on free will:
Why We Have Free Will
Neurons fire in your head before you become aware that you have made a decision. But this discovery does not mean you are a “biochemical puppet” ...

Indeed, that neural activity explains why I imagined these options, and it explains why I am writing these very words. It also explains why I have free will.

Increasingly, neuroscientists, psychologists and pundits say that I am wrong. Invoking a number of widely cited neuroscientific studies, they claim that unconscious processes drove me to select the words I ultimately wrote. Their arguments suggest our conscious deliberation and decisions happen only after neural gears below the level of our conscious awareness have already determined what we will choose. And they conclude that because “our brains make us do it” — choosing for us one option over another — free will is nothing more than an illusion.
He is correct that the neurological experiments do not give any evidence against free will.

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