British woman who joined ISIS calls for beheading of Christians
New York man charged with hate crimes for seven 'knockout' assaults
Homegrown jihadist shoots N.J. teen8 times, calling it a ‘just kill’: report Headline, Washington Times, September 18th, 2014
Scandal of the 1,400 lost girls in Rotherham
Fort Hood shooter sentenced to death for 2009 killings
"God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can't. If a thing is free to be good it's also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. " C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity
FREE WILL OBJECTION 1: THERE IS ONLY ONE FUTURE FOR THE UNIVERSE
"To take the space-time view seriously is indeed to regard everything that ever exists, or ever happens, at any time or place, as being just as real as the contents of the here and now. And this rules out any conception of free will that pictures human agents, through their choices, as selectively conferring actuality on what are initially only potentialities." Michael Lockwood, The Labyrinth of Time
"People may sincerely think they believe in determinism, but they act otherwise, and must act otherwise, every time they deliberate. The great American philosopher Charles Pierce argued that a belief that cannot be consistently acted on cannot be true. If he’s right about this – and I believe he is – then determinism must be false." Greg Boyd, Three Arguments against Determinism.
FREE WILL OBJECTION 2: MY NEURONS (GENES) MADE ME DO IT
If then universe is determined, as in objection 1, it would follow that whatever we did and thought was purely a function of our brain states, and since these brain states are physically set, there is no way to make free moral choices, no such thing as an immaterial soul to oversee our actions. On the other hand, even in a indeterministic universe the claim of most cognitive scientists would be that the assembly of neurons, the concatenation of biochemical and electrical events in the brain, determined our acts. Neuroscientists cite much research, ranging from the 19th century case of Phineas Gage, whose character changed radically after a railroad spike was driven through his frontal lobe, to that of the neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga, who argues that split brain phenomena show free will does not exist.
- Material damage to the brain causes change in behavior and moral attitudes.
- Psychoactive drugs change behavior and moral attitudes.
- Therefore behavior is determined only by the physical nature of the brain and the biochemical/electrical events occurring therein, and there is no such thing as free will.
Nevertheless, neuroscientists conclude that free will is an illusion, on the basis of experiments involving simple, inconsequential choices. The most cited of these is the Libet experiment, which shows a brain potential exists before a subject is consciously aware of making a choice. On the other hand Timothy Bayne and Eliezer Sternberg say that the Libet experiments do not justify free will skepticism. The most significant objection, which Sternberg supports by several detailed examples of moral/ethical decision problems, is that the Libet experiment (and others) involve inconsequential choices, choices which do not require reflection, consideration of an unlimited set of moral and situational factors. Sternberg classifies these kinds of decisions as "boundless", that is to say decisions that cannot be determined algorithmically, as might be done in a computer, unlike those processes that proceed almost without conscious deliberation (like riding a bicycle). Since ethical decision making is "boundless", it cannot proceed solely from algorithmic brain processes, but requires another agency.
FREE WILL OBJECTION 3: "IT'S OUR BRINGING-UP THAT GETS US OUT OF HAND"The best (and most entertaining) case for nurture as the prime element determining moral behavior is the "Gee Officer Krupke" routine in West Side story. It encompasses all the factors--parental neglect, economic deprivation, bad moral influences--that sociologists claim as causal for criminality.
However, there are two objections to nurture as the sole determinant. First, there are many examples of people who have escaped poor economic circumstances, racial prejudice, bad parenting to become models of moral behavior. Second, there are many examples of people in good economic circumstances, with good parents who do evil deeds. Thus economic circumstances and parental care are neither neccessary nor sufficient conditions for evil behavior. If we look at the headlines above, many of those involved--the rap singer who converted to Islam, the Fort Hood shooter, the 9/11 terrorists--were comfortably situated economically or even well-to-do. For every "knock-out" criminal who comes from a single-parent environment, there is another that gets to be a judge or politician.
Again, the influence of a poor environment--economic or parental--can not be overlooked. But it is not the only or the sole factor in moral behavior. There is that small, still voice within us that tells us what is right or wrong, implanted at birth, the " ius naturale est quo natura omnia animalia docuit", the natural law which underlies the behavior of a rational being.
NOTE (added later): a recent study at St. Mary's College, University of London has shown that terrorists are more likely to be well-off and educated.
FREE WILL OBJECTION 4: GOD'S GRACE DETERMINES OUR ACTIONS
"There are some persons who suppose that the freedom of the will is denied whenever God's grace is maintained, and who on their side defend their liberty of will so peremptorily as to deny the grace of God. This grace, as they assert, is bestowed according to our own merits. It is in consequence of their opinions that I wrote the book entitled On Grace and Free Will."