Friday, August 23, 2013

Secularists Are Becoming the New Hyper-Calvinists

Here is something you don't see everyday: a Calvinist defending free will. Yet in light of the ongoing threat rising from the scientific community suggesting we are merely material brains which function as organic robots, a brief response is warranted.

For decades now, many scientists and their reporters have made metaphysical claims from those in a discipline limited to studying the physical. For example, many students of evolution who hold fast to the naturalistic claim that everything originates from the Big Bang continue to deny the existence of God. It is quite the bold claim to reject the existence of an immaterial deity through a material microscope. In addition, many students of neuroscience have denied the existence of an immaterial soul suggesting we are only material bodies.

Taken together both biology and neuroscience have adopted a materialistic worldview that suppresses the world and the human experience to merely the physical leading inevitably to a rejection of free will. In a 2012 USA Today column entitled Why you don't really have free will, biologists Dr. Jerry Coyne argued:
Now there's no way to rewind the tape of our lives to see if we can really make different choices in completely identical circumstances. But two lines of evidence suggest that such free will is an illusion.

The first is simple: we are biological creatures, collections of molecules that must obey the laws of physics. All the success of science rests on the regularity of those laws, which determine the behavior of every molecule in the universe. Those molecules, of course, also make up your brain — the organ that does the "choosing." And the neurons and molecules in your brain are the product of both your genes and your environment, an environment including the other people we deal with. Memories, for example, are nothing more than structural and chemical changes in your brain cells. Everything that you think, say, or do, must come down to molecules and physics.

True "free will," then, would require us to somehow step outside of our brain's structure and modify how it works. Science hasn't shown any way we can do this because "we" are simply constructs of our brain. We can't impose a nebulous "will" on the inputs to our brain that can affect its output of decisions and actions, any more than a programmed computer can somehow reach inside itself and change its program.
Tom Gilson, at the Thinking Christian blog, has offered a helpful response to the article above. I will highlight just his third point of contention:
Why would Coyne care to write about this, anyway? What’s the point, if we’re only “meat computers,” as he said later in the article?

I think he’s flogging (as the Brits would say it) naturalistic atheism here, under the guise of science. Elsewhere and frequently he has demonstrated a strong need to deny God. He is willing to give up humans to do so. For a being who cannot choose is not, as Aristotle described us, a rational animal. Such a being bears no resemblance to anything the ages and the sages have considered human.
At the end of his article he writes,

by losing free will we gain empathy, for we realize that in the end all of us, whether Bernie Madoffs or Nelson Mandelas, are victims of circumstance — of the genes we’re bequeathed and the environments we encounter. With that under our belts, we can go about building a kinder world.
There are other, better ways to gain empathy. The Christian way of love and humility gains empathy without sacrificing humanness.
You can read the rest here. I would only add one key critique of this materialistic denial of free will. The fundamental question that Darwinists have not (and likely cannot) answer regards an important presupposition of evolution. Are we hardwired for survival or for truth? If evolution is primarily the survival of the fittest, then in our pursuit of survival are we geared towards truth for the sake of truth or for the sake of survival? Are our scientific and philosophical endeavors about finding fact or just progressing to the next stage of dominance? If we are hardwired for survival, is the belief in evolution true or necessary for the survival of the fittest?

In his great book Why God Won't Go Away: Is the New Atheism Running on Empty? (read my review of the book here) Alister McGrath raises this question. He writes:
Does natural selection select for truth or for survival? More than one evolutionary theorist has concluded that natural selection does not care about truth; He cares only about reproductive success. "Is human reason hardwired for survival rather than for seeking truth? If so, what are its implications for the pure reason in which the new atheism places so much trust? (104)
If we are hardwired free from any autonomy, then what Coyne wants us to believe may not actually be true, but a convenient "truth" beneficial for our survival. The same is true with materialism and Darwinism. What matters is not fact, but survival, and Darwinism is a great theory to turn us all into mere animals living only to survive.

All of this, of course, raises the challenge of the existence of evil and wrong. If free will is an illusion then so is morality. A murderer, then, is not guilty of a crime, but a slave to his genetic and neurological makeup. Similar arguments are prevalent throughout the culture. Politically motivated scientists and their supporters have for years sought for an allusive gay gene. More recently, others have similarly suggested that there might even be a gene for religious belief. Thus one's lifestyle (religious, sexual, etc.) is not a matter of right and wrong, but of biology. Those who critique free will deniers, whether among secularists or hyper Calvinists, miss the point when they only emphasize the robotic implications of their arguments. Yes these materialists are suggesting we are biological robots. In the end, however, what concerns me is not that I may be a robot, but that I am a slave.

In a 2011 article on Slate, the suggestion that evil is an illusion was put forward.
Of course, people still commit innumerable bad actions, but the idea that people make conscious decisions to hurt or harm is no longer sustainable, say the new brain scientists. For one thing, there is no such thing as "free will" with which to decide to commit evil. (Like evil, free will is an antiquated concept for most.) Autonomous, conscious decision-making itself may well be an illusion. And thus intentional evil is impossible.
If this is true, then the opposite is true: good, right, and justice are just as illusory. Of course, no one consistently lives out this conviction. No doubt that when a denier of free will are slapped "unjustly" they would immediately protest. Likewise, if someone where to donate a million dollars to their favorite cause, I have no doubt they would praise the donor for being "charitable." Yet if we are merely physical objects, then words like "unjust" and "charitable" have no real meaning. But no one lives like this. Everyone has been hurt and wronged against. Everyone has been blessed by what is right and good. To suggest that evil is an allusion does a disservice to victims of genocide, holocaust, rape, racism, murder, violence, adultery, and suffering. It also damns the merciful, the servant, and the humanitarian to genetic materialism.

This is the inevitable end of a secular society faithful to the orthodox doctrines of Darwinism. If all we are is material, then ethics and morality are not only culturally conditioned, but illusory. In addition, even words like "beauty," "wonder," and "love," all lose their meanings.

As a Calvinist I wholeheartedly reject this direction secularism is taking us. Though I would articulate that our will is in bondage to our sinful natures, I do not deny that human responsibility does in fact exist. By fundamentally reducing all of life to bare material, secularists, at best, have dehumanized humans and turned society into a field of barbarism.


USA Today - Column: Why you don't really have free will 
Slate - The End of Evil?


For more:
The Danger of the New Monism: Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Complete Series
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 1 
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 2 
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 3
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 4a  
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 4b   
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 4c
The Danger of the New Monism: Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 5a
The Danger of the New Monism: Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 5b 
The Danger of the New Monism: Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 5c
The Danger of the New Monism: Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 6   
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