Examining Steven Pinker – Part 1: Free Will

Please see the following 2 minute video before reading this blog post:

1. Dr. Pinker does not believe there is any such thing as free will and that brain processes account for all the  choices we make

Dr. Pinker has the right to believe in anything he wants. However, this does not mean we are going to find him compelling. Atheists cannot admit to free will or else their entire world view disappears. If naturalism is true, then EVERYTHING boils down to physics and physics alone. Nothing outside the system can enter into play. Or else this would admit to something that is outside the system of physics. In other words, metaphysics. Or, the  supernatural. So Pinker chooses to not believe in what we experience every day: the impression that we have free will and can choose to behave as we desire. Yet, Pinker offers no reason to ignore our most obvious first-person experience.

2. Human brain are so complex that it is  impossible to predict human behaviour

There are 100 billion neurons and they interact through 100 trillion synapses. So how could anyone predict how such an incredibly complicated system will behave? This is the “way out” for atheists who can’t quite stomach the notion of being a biological robot. “Don’t worry,” say the atheists, “you will feel as though you are free, so don’t be bothered by our worldview which imprisons you into a genetic jail which you cannot escape and which contradicts your first-person experience.” Yet, this does nothing to escape the notion that you do not exist as a free being. Just because you feel as though you are conscious and free acting, does nothing to change the fact that, under atheism, you are most certainly not. No matter how you slice it, either we are genetic robots or free agents. Naturalism (i.e.: atheism) does not allow for freedom. Plain and simple.

3. Involuntary reflexes are different from high order thought processes.

To further soothe the audience, Pinker describes simple brain reflexes like knee jerks or eyes reacting to lights and compares them to brain processes like deciding how to play your next move in chess or where to invest your money. Pinker says the two are very different in how we experience them. Yet, if his worldview holds true and free will does not exist, even these complex processes in our brains are simply knee jerk reflexes — they just take a bit longer to manifest. Again, somehow, the length of time for an automated response to take place is supposed to disarm our horror about being the robot atheists say we are. How physics interacts within the macro-molecular world of neurology is up to physics alone, but the process is so unpredictable that Pinker says we can rest assured that it will feel like free will, even though it’s not. According to atheists you don’t need to worry your pretty little head about the nightmare scenario of being trapped in a meat puppet acting as it wills. Why? Because it will feel like free will even when it’s not.

In Conclusion

C.S. Lewis in his book “Miracles”(1) speaks at length about the inability to account for not only free will but rational thinking in a purely materialistic system (i.e.: atheism). Why include rational thinking on the list? Well, when we discuss the notion of reasoning, we are pre-supposing the ability to change our minds based purely on whether or not our  thoughts are rational. This process would require the total free will of our mind to adopt what we see to be rational. Logical. Yet, a biological robot has NO such capacity. It can ONLY proceed along the lines allowed it by physics. It MUST follow the train tracks predetermined before it by physics. It has no pure connection to reason, only to biology. Therefore we can very obviously be forever trapped in an irrational loop, depending on our biology’s established track. We all recoil at this notion as it contradicts, yet again, our first-person experiences of the world.

Interestingly, most of our history’s greatest thinkers, including Socrates, Plato and Aristotle have reasoned for the existence of free will and an immortal soul that is separate from our physical bodies. They did so through laborious dissertation, not simply off the cuff as we see Pinker do in this “Big Think” video.

(1) “Miracles,” by C.S. Lewis, 1947

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