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Free Will with God: An Illusion

Discussion in 'Archived - Ethics & Morality' started by Lucretius, Apr 30, 2005.

  1. Lucretius

    Lucretius Senior Veteran

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    I’ll try to make this as simple as possible.

    A) God is the Creator of Everything
    B) God knows everything (omniscience)
    C) A and B prove that God creates you and your choices for your whole life, and that God knows ahead of time those choices. You are not doing any choosing because God made you with those choices.

    Explanation needed: If God Creates everything, that would mean he creates you, and everything you will ever know, and everything you do. You are basically one of those wind-up toys that goes about doing stuff after it is finished being cranked. God, because he Created all, knows if you are given "choices" of left, right, up or down. Because God is omniscient, he knows that out of those choices, you are going left. Do you choose left? Not really. Why? Because you could not go right, up or down. It was not your decision, because it was known prior to you even having to "decide". There only is one path you can take; the one that God already knows.

    E) If God did not make choices for you he would contradict his attributes A and B.
    D) Free will states that God only gives people choices, but it is still theirs to do the choosing.
    E) Choices are not for humans to make, because God, as shown in C, knows the answers, and made you with your choices. Humans do not make the choices as demonstrated in D.
    F) Free will logically contradicts the idea of a God as given in A and B.
    G) Free will cannot logically exist; it is an illusion.
     
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  2. 12volt_man

    12volt_man Well-Known Member

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    Your logic fails at premise "C".

    You haven't demonstrated that foreknowledge means predestination or that God made us "with these choices".
     
  3. MuAndNu

    MuAndNu Practical Atheist

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    I'm open to this reason, but I also have a concern. If God does know the future infallibly (in other words it will happen) what is it that determines that it will happen other than God? If he left it up to us, he could only know provisionally, right?
     
  4. nadroj1985

    nadroj1985 A bittersweet truth: sum, ergo cogito

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    I'm not a big fan of medieval philosophy, but those guys figured this one out a long time ago, with a bunch of different arguments. Generally, the one that displays it most clearly IMO is that God, being infinite, is outside of time, and sees all of our experiences in time as if in a single instant. His omniscience, therefore, doesn't determine our actions any more than my roommate determines my typing this post simply by watching me do it.

    Of course, I never saw too much problem with saying "God knows in advance what we will do freely in the future." Either way, this has never been a convincing argument against free will. There are better ones :)
     
  5. Lucretius

    Lucretius Senior Veteran

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    Using your roomate watching you type this post is not an example of omniscience. An example of omniscience would be him knowing the exact words you are going to type because he Created you with the knowledge you would type this exact message. You could not type any other message because your roommate is omniscient, implying he is never wrong about his knowledge, which told him you would type this exact message.
     
  6. smog

    smog Senior Member

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    In that case, God wouldn't create anything at all. He would just be watching.

    Yes, there are. For instance, it's fairly easy to show that choice is determined, or it is random. There is no other option and that's all you need to know to conclude that free will, God or not, is a broken concept.
     
  7. James T

    James T ex nihil nihilio fit

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    I think your error is in assuming that omniscience means only that god must know and be able to predict anything and than omniscience does not mean that god knows how to create something with sufficient complexity to be unpredictable.

    On the other hand free will is something that, by it's definition, that many of us clearly have. What you are doing is redefining the term free will to include a practically impossible view of what it is to have free will.

    Consider the non-existence of god and that the universe is an utterly random creation that has somehow inherited a range of physical laws that support determinism in larger and with QM effects that support indeterminism in small. Where does free will (per your straw man) magically arise out of this. It does not.

    The key question for me was what is it about the roll of a die that gives me free will? the question made the idea that free will depends on indeterminism absurd.
     
  8. nadroj1985

    nadroj1985 A bittersweet truth: sum, ergo cogito

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    You miss my point. If God is infinite, then there is no future that he is looking forward to that doesn't exist yet. He sees all as one perfect, infinite instant. He is the perfectly actual being, and thus sees the world as actual, and not possible.

    Yeah, it does raise other problems. Maybe God's "creation" is more of an upholding of the world- the actuality that holds the world together. Who knows, I don't believe in it either :)
     
  9. Carrye

    Carrye Weisenheimer

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    *** MOD HAT ON ***

    This thread has been moved from GA to P&M. Please observe forum specific rules.

    *** MOD HAT OFF ***
     
  10. hordeprime

    hordeprime God loves Atheists.

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    I like my proof that free-will and God are incompatible better:
    http://www.christianforums.com/t1229199-god-vs-free-will-fight.html

    And I only used 6 steps. :p
    I'd hate to agree w/ 12_volt_man, so I won't. But I will say that the argument jumps the gun around pC, because pC would be more appropriately placed as the conclusion.

    Also, when you form arguments about free-will you're bound to get people who say; "Just because God knows the future doesn't mean you don't make choices." In your case, I think you've made a mistake by coming out & saying in pE: God makes people's choices for them.

    My conclusion is that the idea of omniscience simply renders the idea of "choice" meaningless. God does not make people's choices for them, nor do people make choices, for if there is an omniscient God then "choices" do not exist. (And neither does free will.)
     
  11. :æ:

    :æ: Veteran

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    I'm not convinced that you presented a valid dichotomy, and I disagree that free will is incoherent.

    For starters, I don't think it's possible to differentiate sufficiently complex strings of data from "true randomness," so I don't think you have any basis upon which to assert that randomness exists at all. Even probability distributions reveal their own order.

    Secondly, I don't think that "determined" is a sufficiently rigorous opposite of "random." Determined in what sense, "caused" or "inevitable"? Determined to what extent? Determining what won't happen is not the same as determining what will happen, so it's conceivable to me that events could be partially determined and yet partially spontaneous.

    Last, free will may not be empirically meaningful, and I do not think it is, but I think that it remains coherent and arguable in matters of philosophy -- hardly the "broken concept" that you characterize it.

    :æ:
     
  12. smog

    smog Senior Member

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    I never said it existed. And there are methods to differenciate random strings from non-random strings. I simplify, but basically, if you take some language, most random strings can only be produced by a program that is at least as long as the string itself. As the length of a truly random string tends to infinity, you will realize that the length of the smallest program that can be used to produce it, no matter what language you use, will increase proportionally. On the other hand, if you have a pseudo-random sequence, no matter how long it gets, the length of the program used to generate it will remain constant. That's pretty much it.

    Then again, that task is so insanely, exponentially long and difficult to do in general (and requires super-turing capabilities to be performed exactly), so your point would be valid in practice.

    In a nutshell, randomness is the mathematical object that takes no input, creates information out of absolutely nothing, and regurgitates it without any post-treatment. And everything that creates information out of nothing can in fact be reduced to randomness.

    Determined in the sense that it is possible to represent the event with a function which, for a given input, consistently returns the same output. An event that would not be deterministic would therefore be an event where it is not possible to find such a function: if I was to call it a sufficient number of times, I would necessarily get two different choices. However, it is easy to show that such a function would necessarily have to use randomness, because if it didn't, it would need to keep count of each call I make to it. All I have to do, then, is to create a new function that takes the count as one additional parameter, and it would be deterministic.

    In other words, at every moment in time, there's a certain amount of possible worlds that can exist the next instant. If someone's choices are deterministic, it means that in all the possible worlds, he makes the same choices. You could imagine that it is not the case. But the problem is: how are those choices actualized? How do you go from all those possible worlds to the "actual" world? That also is a choice that can be analyzed, and correlated with all the others. If you decide to choose "the first one" (as a rule), then your choices are in fact determined. The probability that the first world actually happens is 1, and for the rest, it's a big fat zero - thus they aren't possible in the first place. If you choose to take the first the first time, the second the second time, and so on, then all possible worlds would remain possible, as long as you hide that extra information. But if you want to be exhaustive, and add the "choice count" in the variables for the world, then the multiple paths vanish, once again. In reality, only randomness can provide you with multiple paths, without hiding crucial information.

    My philosophy for all that free will/determinism/randomness business is "try to do it more than once". Imagine that you are God, viewing the world without interacting with it, ever, and that you have a nice machine that can rewind time in the universe, and replay it. It's just a thought exercise, but it is crucial to understand what determinism represents. If you rewind/replay, rewind/replay, over and over, and that the same thing always happens, then the world is deterministic. If it doesn't, then it can mean one of two things: 1- you didn't rewind everything, or the universe can somehow remember that it was replayed, and thus you have rewind that data too and redo the experiment, or 2- there is something random in the world.

    Well, I don't know if it was clear. I hope so.

    Maybe I said it too emphatically :)
     
  13. MuAndNu

    MuAndNu Practical Atheist

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    I understood all that well enough to suspect I'd find it more convincing if I understood it better. :scratch:
     
  14. jjdoe

    jjdoe Criticus Thinkus.

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    some believe that QM implies God cannot be omniscient, thus the argument fails and literalists cannot read into the text so literally. problem solved. bring on the next hurdle.
     
  15. eptatorata

    eptatorata Member

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  16. :æ:

    :æ: Veteran

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    Yes, my mistake. I suppose what I was getting at is that I can conceive of a sufficiently complex string that would be indistinguishable from a random string yet still be non-random, and thus we might describe a string as random when in reality it isn't, but we'd never know any better. I suppose it is arguable that we're justified in describing something as random, even if it weren't, if it were the case that we were simply incapable of compressing it. Identity of indistinguishables, and all that.

    I think I spoke unclearly there, too. I have no doubt that we can determin which strings are non-random, but doubt that we could identify "true randomness" in a string with any type of meaningful certainty.

    I suspect that "nothing" exists much in the same way that "true randomness" does. :)



    This paragraph makes me think that you and I don't agree on what is or is not random. For example, suppose we constructed a machine that would take your input and transform it in one of two different ways that depended on whether or not a photon emitted simultaneously with your input hit a detector plate on the left or right side after passing through a diffracting slit. Naturally, we cannot predict with certainty where any single photon will hit, but we can predict with precision that the probability will be 50%.

    To me, that fits neither the definition of "determined" nor that of "random," but it is really a little bit of both. That's what I meant when I said that I didn't think your dichotomy was a valid one.

    I also remain unconvinced by this. As another example, my personal favorite interpretation of quantum mechanics is the Everett, or "many-worlds" interpretation. If you're familiar with it, it posits that every probable state described by the wave equation exists as a valid probable reality, and that upon decoherence, worlds "diverge" into actualizations of every probable state of the system. A scenario such as this still fails to fall neatly into one or the other category in your dichotomy--at least in my opinion.

    I thought you were clear, and I hope that I was a bit clearer this time, too. I didn't mean to give you the impression that I thought randomness isn't real. About that, I'm not really sure, but my point is simply that I think events can be a little bit determined and maybe a little random, too, if there is such a thing.

    :)

    EDIT:
    And just to try to be clearer, my statements are based on a presumed distinction between "randomness" and "true randomness," which is why I tried to always put the latter in quotes, but reading again I don't think it's as obvious as I thought it was when I was writing. I think randomness can characterize events in reality, but I think that "true randomness" or "total randomness" is a meaningless idea.
     
  17. smog

    smog Senior Member

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    Not in practice, no. Maybe if the string was big enough, but we don't even know what's big enough.

    I don't know. If you compress any string well enough, and long enough, one could argue that the result -is- true randomness. In other words, just like any rational system is based on axioms, any world is based on some arbitrary data. If you remove all redundancy from a world, using a certain language and formalism, you'll end up with its base, which is in fact random for that language and formalism... thus, given optimal compression, you could actually build "true" random strings out of whatever strings you have at your disposition. So I'd say "true randomness" does exist everywhere, but unfortunately we can't isolate it.

    You're right about that. There's a whole continuum from "pure" randomness to "pure" determinism. I just cut corners to concentrate on the extremes. What I meant to say is that there are only two components, rather than two possibilities. Some event can be a little bit of both, I mean, after all, many events are composed of several sub-events, but you can't add a little of "something totally different" in the mix. Sorry for the confusion :(

    There are many neat theories such as this one that seem to deserve special attention, but I'd say that they can all be reduced to each other, and encapsulated in a single world. For me, the "many-worlds" interpretation just cuts the step from the possible worlds 2D table to the "actual world" 1D table (plus an exponential explosion). But up to that point, everything is deterministic. The step that could include randomness is the one that reduces a large set to one of its subsets. But if you have everything, well, you have everything, and that's it. You can see it as some huge tree-structured virtual world encompassing all the possible timelines. Its contents are totally calculable, and from the root, you can trace a path to all worlds.

    Well my dichotomy isn't really the dichotomy you think it is, so maybe I didn't even need to say all that. But whatever.

    By the way, does that theory make any predictions or has any interesting consequences? It sounds cool... but it seems sort of useless at the same time.

    That's what I think too, but I skipped some, well, many steps.

    You mean, like, "randomness" is the practical equivalent to "true randomness", which is only a theoretical mathematical object?
     
  18. Amoranemix

    Amoranemix Democrat

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    I don’t think God’s omniscience in itself is enough to rob people of free will. There should be at least be design (meaning intent) and even then I’m not sure that means absence of free will.Suppose God designed Lucretius to kill his brother and then sends Lucretius to hell as punishment. Whether Lucretius can have free will under those circumstances I don’t know, but at least God is more responsible for the murder.
    What seems more relevant is whether one knows one’s own future. If God tells Lucretius that he will kill his brother and go to prison and be unhappy, and assuming Lucretius doesn’t want that, then Lucretious must be forced to kill his brother, perhaps by taking away his free will. But predictions are also ways to fold the future. If God sees Lucrutius will kill his brother, then God may prevent it by revealing his prediction to Lucretius, who can then falsify the prediction. Of course God knew that would happen; he just didn’t tell everything.

    However, God’s omnipotence could work differently. Perhaps God is not all-knowing, but has an oracle at his disposal (which would be part of God). God can ask this oracle questions anytime and it will always give him the correct answer. So God can create humans, not knowing their future, but always being able to find out. God could for example design Lucretius and then ask : ‘Where will Lucretius be on May 8 20xy at 23:46 ?’, getting the answer : ‘standing above his brother’s bed with a knife in his hand.’ I don’t see why God acquiring this knowledge from his oracle would suddenly reduce Lucretius’s free will. God may in that case refrain from creating Lucretious, so he could use this approach in my opinion to create the world he desires without removing free will. (that is by selectively creating the people he desires).
    Even if God’s omniscience doesn’t work that way, he could make it work that way because he can allegedly do anything.

    You assume that God’s knowledge compels you to comply to it. It could be the other way round, that God’s knowledge complies with your future activity. According to quantum mechanics I think the former would indeed be the case, because measuring a system (that is acquiring knowledge about it) always influences the system by forcing it to comply which the measurement (which before was really indeterminate, not just unknown). But God may not comply with quantum mechanics.
    You are saying that the roommate watching, doesn’t determine in anyway what nadroj1985 is typing. Well perhaps God having prior knowledge of what nadroj1985 types doesn’t either.

    2 final remarks :
    1) I think most proofs for or against free will are doomed to failure without a proper definition of free will.

    2) An important aspect that has to be taken into account is the link between free will and responsibility. If free will doesn’t imply responsibility then I am content to accept that I have free will. Otherwise, in a Christian context, I am much more sceptical.
     
  19. eptatorata

    eptatorata Member

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    As the preceeding poster pointed out, it's futile to discuss this topic unless a meaningful definition of 'free will' is supplied. It seems to me that free will is an oxymoron; 'free' denotes a random component, 'will' is a determinate component, and the sum total is an overrated concept. The closest I can personally come is to define 'free will' as the exercise of decisions I cannot predict. Or in nature, events that I couldn't predict, even if I had been fully aware of all preconditions.

    Another remark - the 'god is outside time' argument is not a card I would willingly play if I were a believer. I am not interested in the philosophical analysis of the argument, but at first glance it would appear to be at odds with the concept of a personal god and makes divine intervention in the form of miracles quite a puzzle.
     
  20. enlightenment

    enlightenment Guest

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    I agree.
     
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