Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cliffe's view on determinism vs. free will

One point which Cliffe uses as evidence that there is a God is the idea of determinism versus free will.  Cliffe argues that, if there is no God, then we are basically just robots, with all our actions predetermined by initial conditions and subsequent events.  Without God, Cliffe claims that we have no free will - that determinism rules the day.  Every action we perform, every thought we think, is predetermined.  But this is disturbing, because we naturally like to feel that we decide things for ourselves.

Cliffe points out that, without God, we are “just matter and energy evolved to a higher order”.

Cliffe's intention here is clearly to make students feel that determinism must not be true since each of us innately feels that we are making our own decisions, that we are not compelled to decide to do choice A over choice B due to pre-programming in our brain.  However, just because the thought that we are determined solely by our physical makeup and the collective set of the past events in our life is unpalatable does not mean that it cannot be so.

Similarly for emotions such as love.  If determinism is correct, then love is just a biochemical reaction.  When a girl tells her boyfriend that she loves him, she is just letting him know that her biochemical reactions are firing in such a way that she feels that she is in love with him.  She isn’t choosing to love her boyfriend – she is merely determined, or programmed, to “love” him.

This is a difficult problem.  Perhaps determinism does in fact rule the day.  Perhaps our thoughts are just the culmination of all the innumerable events that came before them.  How do we know that this is not the case?