Why would two members of the ID creationist Discovery Institute keep attacking me for rejecting libertarian free will? After all, that issue has very little to do with evolution. But they keep on trying to land blows, for the real object of the Discovery Institute goes way beyond the promotion of ID creationism in schools. Their goal is the elimination of materialism and naturalism as the basis of Enlightenment Now. (Read about the Wedge Strategy.) They’re upset at me because I adhere to views that don’t require or are associated with a God — and determinism (I’d call it “naturalism”) does just that. If we don’t have spooky free will, and, as I claim, all our behaviors and decisions occur according to the laws of physics, then you can’t “choose” whether to be good or evil, and choice of that sort is essential for the Abrahamic religions to function.Free will is essential for Christianity, but not Islam or Judaism. Islam is fatalistic. Judaism is based on heredity and customs, not beliefs.
Does free will have anything to do with evolution? I might have said not, but there are scholars who go around promoting evolution in the schools as a way of affirming naturalism, and they mostly deny free will as contrary to that naturalism.
Coyne says his views are misstated here:
Michael Egnor: Well, one of the points about Coyne’s denial of free will that I find in some ways the most frightening is that Coyne has suggested in several of his posts that, because he believes that there is no actual free will, we should change our approach to criminal justice — so that the approach to criminal justice does not entail retribution, but instead entails correction. That basically sort of like training animals. You’d want to train people to do better. Of course, how one could define “better” in a world with no moral good or evil is a question Coyne doesn’t address.Coyne replies:
We ARE animals, and can be influenced by environmental circumstances—like jail. Sadly, our criminal justice system is, by and large, not set up to reform people, but to punish them. ...Okay, Coyne believes in moral responsibility, but it does seem fair to say that his belief in naturalistic evolution leads him to conclude that humans are just animals with no free will. They have no ability to choose between acting morally and immorally.
If you consider “morality” to be a subjective set of guidelines about what things are good and bad for society or individuals, as I do, then yes, the Nazis were immoral. However, I prefer to avoid the term “moral responsibility”, which presumes, as Luskin and Egnor believe, that people always have a choice between acting morally or immorally at any given moment. They don’t. I prefer the word “responsibility,” which means “the person did it; caused it to happen.” And you can be responsible in ways that mandate punishment, including imprisonment. “Moral responsibility” adds nothing to “responsibility” construed in this way.
In a separate post, Coyne argues:
I cannot think of a single feature of organisms, nor can other non-ID biologists, that could not in any way have evolved by naturalistic processes. Behe and his DI friends have suggested several in the past, like blood-clotting and the bacterial flagellum, but all of these have been shown to have possible origins through naturalistic processes including natural selection. True, we don’t understand the origin of some features, but the most parsimonious explanation for these is that we don’t have the historical evidence (we weren’t there when they evolved), not that we should give up trying to explain them scientifically, go to church, and thank the Lord God for his Intelligent Design.Okay, everything has a possible naturalistic origin. But it is a big leap from that to say that we have no free will.
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