A couple of days ago, columnist Joe Bennett concluded his column in The Press by telling us

I’m going to spend the afternoon finding out how I’ve chosen to enjoy myself.

You’re about to find out that you’ve chosen to read on to see what on earth Joe Bennett was talking about. Here’s the start of his column.

But first an apology. A month or so back a gentleman emailed me about something I’d said on the radio. He wrote, and I quote, “free will is a childish delusion”.

“Scoff,” I wrote back. “Pooh pooh. I have free will. My free will is writing this email. Without free will we are automata.”

Since then, however, I have been on a wee journey and I would like to retract my scoff and pooh pooh. But I have forgotten the gentleman’s name and deleted his email.

So if you’re reading this, sir, sorry. You were right. I was wrong.

The change of mind followed last week’s column about the mutiny of the body.

In response I got several emails directing me to some neuroscientific research. It seems that neuroscientists have been nibbling at the idea of free will for years without telling me.

For example they attached electrodes to people’s skulls and then asked the people to click a computer mouse at a moment of their choosing. The boffins found that when people decided to click the mouse, their brain had already begun the physical process of clicking. In other words, the decision to click had been made before the people realised they’d made it. The click was already going to happen.

There were numerous similar experiments. They all suggested that when we think we decide to do something of our own free will, our consciousness is merely catching up with a decision that we have already made. We are rationalising after the fact.

We are deluding ourselves into thinking we are in conscious control of our actions. It’s a nice, consoling delusion, but a delusion none the less.

Problem? Well, yes! If we have no free will, we have no moral responsibility for our actions.

No free will means that Christianity is a nonsense.

No free will means that Objectivism is a false religion.

No free will means that “not my problem” doesn’t cut it.

I’ve known of the experimental results to which Bennett refers for the past 15 years or so, ever since I read Daniel Dennett’s Consciousness Explained. 15 years later, I still have no rejoinder.

Dennett takes us to a very high mountain and shows us all the sciences of naturalism and their splendour. “Everything you want … you can have,” says Dennett.

7 thoughts on “Problem?”

  1. “…when we think we decide to do something of our own free will, our consciousness is merely catching up with a decision that we have already made.”

    And? Who made the original decision, consciously or sub-conciously? I can’t see the significance of the experiment to the existence of free will.

  2. Poo Poo Joe!
    It is a testimony to the gullibility of Humanity that so-called intelligent people can be duped by such ridiculous ‘science’!
    The Idea that the ‘timing’ aspect of this experiment ‘proves’ Matter is in control… is purely imposing your own preconceptions upon a flawed experiment.
    It can only *measure* our physical aspects. And make assumptions thereby.
    Understand that this experiment was pre-conceived with the aim of ‘Disproving’ that most vexing Materialist frustrating and rebellious reality’…’Free will’…

    And for the Christian this is one of these ultimate showdowns that we must face on a daily basis.
    … Do you Trust in the Scriptures or in the Bumblings of Humans in white overcoats?
    Are you so naive as to think Man Knows the truth via such ‘appearances’ Richard?
    Do you think this experiment is really that conclusive?
    Does it really measure and negate our Free will?
    … ie that their interpretation of the results must be valid?
    Have you built your house upon the Rock or the Sand?

    There are at least two different types of Human action. Volitional and Reflex.
    Reflexes are Automatic responses either hard wired as instincts or are trained habits.
    There are physical attributes to this test that entail the brain pre conceives and co-ordinates the appropriate actions.
    For eg when I am pacing around a room in thought and realize (by sight) that I am getting close to the wall and need to turn around. I will do so automatically without breaking my train of thought. My brain was thinking about it …I was not (except for perhaps a millisecond).
    The fact is that as soon as I chose to start pacing, my brain went into gear and pre-emptily considered what ‘Pacing in a confined space involves’…. Likewise with this test. Once we have decided to participate in this test we have engaged our brains, and this will involve a whole series of automatic processes and conscious volitions… including ‘double checking’. Our Brain will throw up on our interface all sorts of ‘memories’… it does this via ‘hard wiring’… ie while we do have a choice at much of what gets stored in our memory banks, we don’t have a clue as to how the brain does that or how it retrieves the Data… for us to base our conscious decisions… Thus there is a mixture of automation and volition working in unison and it is absurd to think this experiment can make any distinction between the two simply based upon the brain activity and the time we push the button. That assumes no volition was active while the brain did its ‘calculations’.

    Our brain does not decide *It* wants to go on holiday in three weeks time…. And we are commanded to ‘obey!’
    Neither is my brain writing these words addressed to your Brain!
    *I* am communing with *You* Richard…. The inner non-physical conscious volitional being whom I hold accountable for moral actions and inactions… not your body.

    My position is the opposite to yours…. I have an answer! My volition proves Freewill is a fact and that Materialist Monism is flawed.
    And the Materialist know this.
    That is why they are Hell bent on deceiving people into thinking Freewill is an illusion.
    I have valid reason to keep faith in The Bible and Christian Morality.
    My House is build upon the Rock, not the shifting sands of Hell bent human ‘science’ falsely so-called.

    “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:…”
    (1 Tim 6:20)

    “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”
    (Col 2vs8)

  3. How many times was the experiment tested for validity?

    If the results were not tested multiple times for replication then dont get too uptight about it.

  4. Tim, what is it that makes you so passionate about God and Christianity?

    Reading my own question to you I realise that my question may be read like I am questioning your beliefs like I think they are silly . . . but I dont.

    My question is straight up – you are really passionate. What is it that drives that passion in you?

  5. “Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!
    I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind but now I see!”

    I have a serious case of the Judeo-Christian Messianic Complex

    God has played an active roll in my life since I converted from Atheism at the age of 18.
    I am now 45 so for many years God has taught me to be a witness to his truth.
    I am filled with gratitude for Christ removing the scales of atheism from my eyes so that I may apprehend God’s amazing love, goodness and grace towards me.
    That He created *Me*, and sent Christ to be my savoir.
    Though a sinner I live not under the curse of the Law, but under grace.
    This powerful Revelation inspires me to spread the Good News so that others may share my glorious discovery and Know the wonderful Life-infusing experience that comes from having faith in Christ.
    God is my Heavenly Father! I love him, and am eager to please him, and to be of service.
    Time is of the essence, and the knowledge of the Gospel is of the utmost importance. My task is urgent.
    Life is short and uncertain. I know my opportunity is limited and fleeting to testify to the truth of the Gospel of the grace of God. I am holding up a lighted Torch in a dark and lost world, full of lies and delusions. Every day could be the last one a precious member of my family or friends has to receive Christ.
    We christians are ‘the Body of Christ’… Gods active Agents in this world and it is through our deeds that Gods Love and Providence towards mankind is made manifest.
    I labour for the salvation of sinners out of Love and compassion for them and in grateful service to Christ. My Christian Testimony bares witness to everyone, esp my Children that they ought to trust their eternal souls To Jesus Christ, and have confidence that the Bible is the Word of God.
    I seek to instill faith in the Lord, and the realization that being Good People and having values and morals is not merely cultural relativism but truly and objectively the right way Human beings are supposed to live, being governed by inner convictions, rather than mere Laws of society.
    There are many evils and injustices in the world that need to be opposed and overthrown, esp political oppressions. There is so much un-nesassary suffering due to spiritual/ moral darkness.
    The world needs sages, preachers, and teachers.
    Christianity itself has been faultering, and being twisted to justify oppressive socialism, thus I must busy myself countering such lies by testifying to the fact that Christianity works via voluntary action not Legalistic coersion and compusions. This is nesassary to keep the Gospel pure ,and remove grievious errors from the church.

    I believe these are essential truths worth bothering about. Worth spending my life propagating and defending. I believe this is wise use of my finite time.
    I believe God has a purpose for my life and that by propagating Bible believing Christianity and Libertarianism, that I am being a Good Father, fulfilling my role as spiritual guide to my children so that they may make an informed choice whether or not to become Christians too.
    My Daughter and Eldest son both tell me they believe.
    My youngest son is merely 18mths old and so I have a moral duty to raise him up to be a morally self-responcible Adult who understands what life is all about, and that he too has a decision to make regarding Jesus Christ.
    I am both a pilgrim and a combatant in the Great Drama of Life.
    I have hope, and I will preach it as long as I have breath.
    Then one day… when it is my time… I shall stand before My God and give account of how I utilised my life.
    Yet please dont mistake all this ‘high jargon’ as a claim to superior moral character.
    I consider myself a very poor calibre Christian. I am extremely carnal.
    These are the ideals I aspire to, yet fall tragiaclly short of attaining.
    If I am saved, it will be totally the work of Christ, by the Grace of God.
    My testimony is Hope for imperfect sinners.

    “For by grace are ye saved through faith. And that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works lest any Man should boast” (Eph 2vs 8,9)
    Tim Wikiriwhi.

  6. Richard, I hope you are not mistaking Dennetts Naturalistic Mantras for an argument! There was no arguement, only a derision against Dualism and Theism.
    Dennett displays just how un scientific, agenda driven, and Atheistic the monist position is and its blatant attack of Free will and consciousness!
    There was not one once of *real science* in what he said.
    Neither was there any explanation of Consciousness that gives credence to the Naturalistic/ evolutionary argument!
    He waffled in circles , made presumptions, and then blatantly declared that the Materialist position does not negate Free will… all without a scrap of anything scientific!
    Basically he says…
    “You ought to Believe Consciousness is a natural phenomena of Matter… by blind faith… just like I do… because I’m sure atheism is correct and we simply cant accept anything that does not conform to our Naturalist materialism!”
    That’s a mantra!
    This is a man who thinks a Brain can be formed in this universe… by a series of blind coincidences…no need for God he says… no spirits at all… saith he!
    I am appalled Christians swallow the lies and delusions of Evolution and materialism!

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