Monday, March 5, 2012

Sam Harris' Book on No "Free Will" Will Be Unreasonable Rhetoric

Tomorrow, March 6th, marks the date for Sam Harris' book on "Free Will" hits the news stands and book sellers' shelves.  This book is promoted on Richard Dawkins' web page, and states the following:

"A BELIEF IN FREE WILL touches nearly everything that human beings value.  It is difficult to think about law, politics, religion, public policy, intimate relationship, morality -- as well as feelings of remorse or personal achievement -- without first imagining that every person is the true source of his or her thoughts and actions.  And yet the facts tell us that free will is an illusion.  In this enlightening book, Sam Harris argues that this truth about the human mind does not undermine morality or diminish the importance of social and political freedom, but it can and should change the way we think about some of the most important questions in life." (Source:

What?  No free will?  You might  think that kind of strange coming from one who holds to a balanced view of the doctrines of grace (reform theology, "Calvinism"), but I can't help but take a swing at this.

First off while some of you let the fur go down on the back of your neck, I want to let you know that I do believe in "freedom".  The question is what kind of freedom do I believe in?  First it is not a fatalistic view that those who want to say that Calvinist's hold.

Then what does it mean to be free or what does it take for a decision to be free?  I mean we believe that God causes faith to come to the person seeking truth, and in some sense that faith is even secured by God Himself.  Supposedly at the opposites of the spectrum is the conflict between the freedom of choice and the view that God causes and secures salvation for the individual by the provisions of His grace and mercy and not the individual.

What does this have to do with Sam Harris not believing in free will?  Well, I would like to ask Sam a pretty vital question, "what does it mean to be free?"  This is a question that many people have never really thought about carefully, and I suspect that Sam's book is going to be a production of his illogical rhetoric to say that you and I are not free.  I suspect that Sam, like many others think that there are only simple and obvious alternatives.  Those alternatives are:

1.  We are determined, puppets on a string making mechanistic decisions completely dictated from the outside like one domino falling against the other.  I think this is probably where Harris is landing.  My question here are as follows:   Does he think that because one does not have a choice in when and where one is born that the rest of life's choices are the same?  How did he freely think up the thoughts he put on the page?

What about those thoughts or the initial thought to write a book on no free will?  He cannot say that he did not freely think up the thoughts he put together for the book.  He cannot say that he was a puppet on a string hammering out the rhetoric that he was not free to write what he was writing.   Does he really think that each thought was "a domino" of one thought falling upon thought "domino" after another and on and on?  Where did the initial thought come from?

One of the problems that Sam and atheists parroting his rhetoric need to admit but will refuse, is that there cannot be an infinite regression of current causes of thoughts.  There must be a starting point; a thought has to start somewhere and usually that is one that is freely thought up.  Just like thoughts on this posting; they are not the production of random chemicals and neurons firing.  There is information, and where there is information there is design.  Hmmm, sounds like a teleological argument brewing, eh Sam?

2.  The second option is more liberating!  We are not determined.  What I had for breakfast this morning and what Sam had for breakfast whatever morning was chosen freely.   My choice, under the sovereignty of God this morning, of a blueberry bagel, toasted and spread with Promise margarine with a glass of orange juice was a free choice that I made.

We are not chess pieces or puppets being strung by an unseen maniacal cosmic puppeteer.  We are completely free with all choices available to us, no matter whether one is a Christian or a skeptic.  There is a free choice that is made.  The former is a free choice, that is given, to respond to the liberating work of God toward redemption. The latter is the freedom to continue in bondage, in the deadness and bankruptcy of atheism.  What about Sam's thoughts that are going to be bound between the covers of his book coming out on the morning of March 6th?

My question to Sam would be:  "Where did those thoughts come from Sam, for you to weave your web of rhetoric"?  We know that all the atheist groupies will parrot his words, will they do this by some fatalistic domino factor of thoughts wrought by a chemical reaction of neurons and stuff?  No, Sam and those who read and believe his nonsense will make a free volitional choice to push it on those that they freely believe are deluded by their belief in a supernatural "God".

You see I believe God does elect those who He draws to Himself and we respond.  I also believe in evangelism.  At the same time there are those, I believe, that are spiritually dead in their sins who are freely making the volitional choices to disbelieve and do the works of unbelief or false religion, or the diabolical things done in the past of Western civilization where millions were killed under atheistic regimes.  (I am sure some skeptic will get riled up on this one.)

I started off in making a statement that I believe in the doctrines of grace, but I do not believe in pre determinism.  What we do as believers will either glorify God or the self.  Those who are atheists and agnostics and skeptics of whatever flavor will do what they know to do and they will do it FREELY.

So what about Sam's book that is coming out tomorrow?  What am I guessing it will be like?  My prediction is that it will be nothing more than rhetorical banter and a futile attempt to continue his rant in hopes to bash and destroy Christianity. Yes, he will have some folks cheering his work.  You know that his cheerleader, Richard Dawkins will be singing the book's praises at the Reason Rally on March 24th.  But what will that prove?

It will prove that as a free "moral agent", Sam freely wrote a book, and he freely expressed his thoughts and put them in a book about the fact that he [freely] does not believe in free will.  Sam is freely going boldly into the realm of unreasonable rhetoric. . . once again.  As a free moral agent, is he really willing to go there and think that he is being reasonable?

Sam, surely you jest!


Greg said...

Great post. When you said, "How did he freely think up the thoughts he put on the page?" and "Sam freely wrote a book, and he freely expressed his thoughts and put them in a book about the fact that he [freely] does not believe in free will," those were two of the best sentences I've seen that most clearly describe the self-defeating nature of Sam Harris's (and others') stance. Bravo!

Ron Krumpos said...

Sam Harris does feel that free will is mostly an illusion. I believe we can make choices, but seldom freely. In my (free) ebook, "the greatest achievement in life," is a chapter called "Outside the box." Here are three paragraphs from it:

What if you had to make all your decisions about living while detained in a jail cell? The cells may be open for brief periods each day, but the prisoners are still surrounded by walls. There are also walls around cells of everyday life. We are restricted by our ability to control our emotions, mind and body. Even with full command of our “self,” we must live within the restraints of Nature and society. Freedom is relative.

“Free will” is really quite limited, despite belief that we control ourselves and our lives. We think we have endless choices...until we try to make them. Each decision must not only be based on what we “want to do,” but also on our own capabilities and what is expected of us. Nature and society imprison us, whether we like it or not. The key to release is mystical realization. All in One and One in All, the divine unity, opens the gate between a universal consciousness and most people’s constrained awareness.

Outer walls are the boxes of Nature and of society. Inclement weather, lack of sunlight, gravity, and/or other natural phenomena may restrain our movements. Our own natural aptitudes, practiced talents and learned skills are always lacking in some areas. Human nature is controlled mostly by society. What we believe that other people expect of us greatly influences how we feel, think and act. Considering the reactions of our family, friends, business associates, community, and/or nation determines much of what we do. Those “laws” of Nature and society govern our lives, usually more so than we wish. Mystical awareness can allow us to obey divine law here and now.

Sam Harris has written positively on mysticism and said "“I see nothing irrational about seeking the states of mind that lie at the core of many religions. Compassion, awe, devotion and feelings of oneness are surely among the most valuable experiences a person can have.” Harris' personal background reflects his own search toward that goal.