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Determinism and You

People have long believed in forms of determinism, where behaviors and even events are the result of environmental causes, genetics, conditioning, and so on. This also extends to belief in fate, karma, and God (some religious views make God our puppeteer). So much for free will, huh?

I have a vague memory of watching Steve Irwin on television where he came across a dead animal, looked at the camera, and said reverently, "It's nature's way!" In addition to the fallacy of reification, he was affirming an aspect of determinism.

Determinism is where behaviors and events have external causes. We are helpless. Some religious views and especially evolution, are deterministic.
Original image: Wikimedia Commons / Tage Olsin (CC BY-SA 2.0), modified at PhotoFunia

I'm going to lose friends and followers over this, but I have to be truthful. Like Steve Irwin in that show, some Calvinists solemnly declare after something bad happens, "God is sovereign." We know and believe that, but a little humility is in order: there is no single Christian system that fully understands every aspect of the Bible. It's okay to admit, "I don't know." Then there's the "God ordained it bit yet there's free will" talk that strikes this child as confusing. To be blunt, I've had enough of the smugness and antipathy between Reformed and Arminian views, each acting like the other is evil or inferior — or unsaved. Stop it! You savvy?

It is ironic that atheists complain about their straw man of Christianity. There is no free will in it, but that is exactly what happens with evolution! Although evolution is supposed to be without purpose, teleology is frequently invoked by its proponents. Taking a materialistic worldview to its logical conclusion, atheists cannot be consistent if they demand free will. We are simply responding to our chemical impulses; evolution is deterministic.

It also means were are helpless to change anything.

Anti-creationists and misotheists accuse biblical creationists of relying on "GodDidIt" as an explanation for what is observed in nature, so there's no need to do science. That's the opposite of the truth. Creation scientists want to know how God engineered things. It would be fitting for evolutionists to simply draw on their presuppositions, saying, "It evolved", and determinism would kill scientific investigation.

There are extreme determinists in religion, but there are also extreme determinists in atheism and evolution. Something in the human heart wants to attribute everything to inviolable causes beyond our control. Perhaps it alleviates our fear of accountability, like Flip Wilson’s comedy spiel,”The devil made me do it!” Perhaps it makes the world a less scary place. Perhaps it makes explanation seem simpler. Whatever the reason, determinism runs counter to our intuition that we can and do make choices every day. Forces beyond our control can compel us, like the need to go to the bathroom, but we can hear our self thinking, “I should go before running this errand,” or “I think I can wait.” Extreme determinists would say that even those thoughts are determined. But if everything is determined, then even determinism as a philosophy is determined (cue sound of implosion). One cannot pursue science if one thinks natural forces are causing that pursuit.

To read the rest, see "Determinism Is Anti-Science." You must.

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