Saturday, July 22, 2017

Free Will - Another Intractable Problem for Atheism

Flowers for Linda

It would take more faith than I have to be an atheist because of how I see the logic of atheism; viz., given atheism, what follows logically?

I think the only variety of atheism worthy of the name is philosophical naturalism (PN), or physicalism. That is, anyone whos elf-refers as an atheist should be committed to PN.

What is naturalism? 

Philosopher Louise Anthony, a confessing  PN-er, says naturalism "can be taken to be the view that all entities, processes, and events are governed by natural law ; there are no supernatural forces." (Louise Anthony, "The Failure of Moral Arguments," in Debating Christian Theism, p. 105) Anthony says many atheists are naturalists, though not all. How odd, I think, to be an atheist and think there are forces in the universe that are not natural (nature).

On PN "matter" is all that exists, in various, accidental collocations. Therefore "free will," whatever it is, is only material on PN (which means: "free will" is fully reducible to material conditions). This leads to the counterintuitive atheistic over-reach called "compatibilism"; viz., the compatibility of free will and PN-determinism. 

Here is where I lack the faith to be an atheist. The ramblings of a Daniel Dennett, about how free will is something very different from what we've always thought, not only don't help me, they make me suspicious that the PN-Emperor has no clothes.

PN, writes Paul Copan, cannot account for the very features on which the naturalistic moral realist hangs her hopes. These include self-awareness/consciousness, and reason. Free will is an illusion to some PN-ers (to their logical credit, no matter how hard it is to swallow a PN-er's "decision" to write books and articles on the illusion of decision-making). 

On PN, free will simply does not exist. Note these supportive quotes from atheistic PN-ers.

William Provine: “Free will as traditionally conceived— the freedom to make uncoerced and unpredictable choices among alternative courses of action— simply does not exist. There is no way the evolutionary process as currently conceived can produce a being that is truly free to make choices.” 

Francis Crick: Our sense of identity and free will is “nothing more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” 

Thomas Nagel: “There is no room for agency in a world of neural impulses, chemical reactions, and bone and muscle movements.” Given naturalism, it’s hard not to conclude that we’re “helpless” and “ not responsible” for our actions.  (Note: Nagel is a different kind of atheist - he's not a PN-er. He does acknowledge that, given PN, free will is an illusion. See here, e.g.)

John Searle: We believe “we could have done something else” and that human freedom is “just a fact of experience .” However, “the scientific” approach to reality undermines the notion of a self that could potentially interfere with “the causal order of nature.” 

John Bishop: Our scientific understanding of human behavior seems to be in tension with a presupposition of the ethical stance we adopt toward it.” (All quotes in Ib.)

If I am not free to make choices, what sense does it make choose PN as "true?" I don't even have a mustard seed in me for that one.