Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Free Will

I've just returned from a kersnooze, an evening out with a friend to watch a film up in Oxford.

A God is angry and will wipe the face of the earth flick, which had a great premise, a great cast, and a terrible director and script. So bad, in fact, that I enjoyed it quite a bit.

The highlight was the conversation I had with my friend in the windy parking lot after the movie.

Recently (the last couple months) I've been pondering the downside of not having free will. (Presupposing, for my devote atheist reader, a God who decided for rather than against free will. Hi John.)

Honestly, I can't find a downside. What if, at the point of a decision, people could identify the correct/best/right choice, and "choose" to make it every time? This would not eliminate hard choices, accidents, and from what I can see, curiosity, and the opportunity to play and explore within our world. Relationships, love, friendship, marriage even, could thrive. "Choose" a spouse, just choose the right one.

The up side would be the elimination of malicious behavior, and possibly, of guilt, greed, and hate. At the least these emotions would be reigned in, and certainly actions based on them would not be as destructive.

The downside, to present my most biased argument, would be no option for war, persecution, abuse, or all the other lovlies we "choose" to exercise as a species.

Which led me to the next question, if free will is such crap, why would God choose that for us? Is our life better for it in a way that I don;t understand, having such an experientially driven perspective?

This is what was in my head, and what I was venting in the parking lot this evening.

To which Jav responded with this argument:

If you have 2 children, (fancy that, I do,) and one grows to be a giving, loving, positive person, the other to a drug addled, angry, even destructive towards other people person, do you love one and not the other? I don't know that this example would have worked for me in the past, but it certainly does now. No, I would not cease to love either.

I might focus my love more towards the child that is hurting those around (pick a pronoun.)

How does this tie back to free will?

Well, if we are offspring of God, His image and whatnot, then free will would not be a choice to bestow on us, it would be a part of our makeup. No choice there for God to make, except possibly that of determining what sort of playground to set up for us. (The universe, laws of physics, our brand of logical linear thought, etc.) Which is an interesting shift from what we often assume, that free will was granted, rather than not taken away.

This answers some questions, and raises a whole lot more. (By answers, I don't mean conclusively, but based on the postulates. Again, for John's sake. :) ) Whether or not God knew how his children would turn out, that their descendants would ravage both the playground and each other, could he love them less? Would he have chosen not to have them? Would he restrict their essence, remove the option to turn out poorly?

Having children is a crap shoot. But I want the best for my kids, and have very little idea of what that means for them now. I may think I know more as they reveal themselves more over time, but who knows. But what stood out to me, and I thank Jav for this new thought, though it baffles me, is that love for our children is a prison. In some ways it is a forfeiture of our own free will.

Two trailing thoughts: 1) Obviously that isn't true for everyone, examples being the craptastic folk who made me want to strip them of their free will in the first place. 2) How is God's free will holding up? What have we done to Him?