Recently, I read an article called Your Move: The Maze of Free Will, which discusses the concepts of determinism and free will; it focuses on the notion that despite having free will, and regardless whether our lives are pre-determined or not, we are not ultimately responsible for our actions. And as interesting as I found this article to be, it inspired me to delve into this whole idea of determinism.
So, what exactly is determinism? Galen Strawson, the author of the above-mentioned article, defines it as follows:
“The theory that absolutely everything that happens is causally determined to happen exactly as it does by what has already gone before — right back to the beginning of the universe.”
And, if I understood correctly, this quote pretty much summarizes that our lives are pre-determined and that everything occurs in a series of chain reactions — or in other words, through what is called the domino effect.
However, what I am aiming to understand is whether this concept is true; because if so, then that would mean that everything, including the thoughts in our heads, or the ray of light entering our eyes, can be traced back to a single point in the universe (of course, not necessarily the absolute beginning per se). This, as a result contradicts humans having any iota of free will to begin with, because without evidence of any truly random activities or occurances in the universe, there is no space for actual free will, as we know it. This is because every movement, thought, emotion, etc. will be explained by a cause, and that cause has a cause, etc. Thus, it can ALL be traced back to a previous agent. Now if that’s the case then it means that no matter what we do, it was (for lack of a better term) destined to happen, similar to the way the initial explosion (Big Bang) happened (the trajectory, speed, contents, heat, etc.).
Therefore, determinism openly contradicts free will. And not only that, but from a religious standpoint, it is even more contradictory, because it blatantly undermines the whole concept of heaven and hell. Although, it’s true that determinism was initially tied to the ancient belief in a divine deity, and that it was further believed that the whole world was deterministic, as in believing that God controlled each and every facet of the past, present, and future. But, at the same time, if our lives were pre-determined by God, then whatever we do, immoral or moral, would not matter, because God has already pre-determined our ultimate destinies. Hence, the world is not a “test” anymore, as most Abrahamic religions tend to believe. The “test” notion completely contradicts determinism, because in order for the world to be a “test” from God, humans will need to have free will. This, in turn, means that we need to have the freedom to do whatever we want, how ever we want, and have complete precedence over our actions, keeping in mind that we have to pass the “test” set up by God, in order to get into His good books, and hence make it into heaven — a Utopian world that everyone ultimately wishes and aims for.
Personally, I believe that obdurate determinism is a bunch of bull. Yet, on the other hand, determinism that is more yielding (dependent on the passage of time) makes more sense. While quantum physics states that people create their own realities, it also hasn’t managed to prove that determinism is false. Absolute determinism claims that our entire experience is an illusion; however to simply state that is an extraordinary claim. And it, in turn, requires extraordinary evidence. But there is no evidence to support that claim. None whatsoever.
On the flip side, I don’t believe that human behavioural actions, moral or immoral, are necessarily objectively random either. While it may be pre-determined, through forces of the universe and through the law of attraction; such behaviours and outcomes are not necessarily stagnant – meaning that (contrary to popular belief) we DO have the power to take control of something that may have already been initially pre-determined, and use time as a modus operandi to change it. So, time, in this aspect, is key. Of course, this is all without our knowing beforehand about what is to come; but because we have the ability to create our own realities, we too have the intuitive ability to control our lives just by simply living it.
So, to conclude, free will doesn’t necessarily mean total immunity from causality. Rather, we are subjects to – and masters of – causality. And this can be done simply by understanding, anticipating, and using causality as a basis upon which we do our bidding in every facet of our lives.