Free will

March 25, 2009

It’s common to hear theists use free will as a debating point against antitheists. This is odd. Properly understood, the scientific method functions to filter out the influence of all-too-human perceptions, biases & intuitions, so that the data speaks as clearly as possible how the world actually is, not how people think it is. That is why so much science is counter-intuitive.

Yet what could be more purely intuitive than the notion of free will? We feel it, we experience it, but we cannot account for it. This is so for the theist as well as the scientist. How is free will compatible with an omniscient creator? How is free will compatible with a scientific account of the universe? The whole of humanity fails to account for it. We don’t understand it. It’s a puzzle at the very least, possibly a mystery (a puzzle that perdures).

Properly understood, science makes no actual claim to a “scientific account of the universe”. Science is an ongoing project that rejects certainty. Science is young – still toddling along with uncertain steps. Hypotheses and even theories are provisional accounts that will be improved upon or even replaced.

Scientists who unthinkingly present science as a world view should desist from combating the false certainty of theism with false certainties of their own for they bring disrepute to the field and a scientifically illiterate public is all too keen to believe the worst of the world of science.

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