Thursday, September 6, 2018


PREMISE #1: Freewill Exists
PREMISE #2: Materialism (Physicalism) and Naturalism cannot Account for Freewill.
CONCLUSION: Freewill must be Derived from a Non-Naturalistic/Materialistic Cause - God.

This is a simplified version of the freewill argument for the existence of God. I think that if we can support the first two premises, the conclusion points strongly to a Creator.

Premise #1 is the more contentious of the two. Most atheists are freewill deniers (FDs). For example, in “Free Will,” atheist Sam Harris wrote, “Free will is an illusion,” even if he lives as if freewill is a reality. However, the evidence for freewill is highly compelling and cannot be denied by any scientific experimentation. So let’s look at the first of the two premises:

PREMISE #1: Freewill Exists!

FD goes against everything we intuitively know about ourselves and our lives. When I make any decision, like flipping through the TV channels, I directly perceive that I am freely choosing one station over another. Of course, like anyone else, I am subject to powerful biological-genetic forces. Admittedly, I am biologically predisposed to not like loud and glitzy programming. Therefore, some will say, “Well, this proves you’re pre-programmed to make certain choices.”

Although there is some truth in this claim, it falls far short of proving that pre-programming (biochemical determination) is the only factor involved in my choices.

Of course, Harris and many other atheists will respond, “Your experience of freewill is just an illusion.” Why? To be consistent atheists, they must be committed to materialism, which entails a rejection of any extra-material reality, which God might inhabit.

However, if I can’t trust my sense that I am making freewill choices, then I can’t trust my senses that I even exist, that I am a person, or that I am culpable for my actions!  If something that I experience with such clarity is illusory, perhaps my very existence and the existence of this world are also illusory. Perhaps I’m just someone else’s consciousness. Perhaps, as some Buddhists claim, we are just part of one universal consciousness and lack any individual existence.

If our intuitions and perceptions are simply part of this great delusion, then science and all reason are also part of this same delusion, along with Harris’ freewill denial.

In other words, if I apply such skepticism to my perceptions that, to some degree, I am making culpable, free choices, then I have to be skeptical about everything else in my life! I would even have to be skeptical about my skepticism.

To an extent, freewill and culpability differs among people. However, one FD writes that there can exist no freewill distinctions among us, since freewill is entirely absent in each one of us. For the FD, there is no such thing as a little bit freewill.

However, many recognize that we do possess differing degrees of freewill. The heroin addict is more constrained in his free choices than before he became addicted. He can think of little else besides his next fix.

Consider babies, the comatose, or the sleep-walker! Do they have as much freewill as others? Should we not take these varying states into account? We must! A diminished degree of freewill often serves as a mitigating circumstance in a court of law, as when someone is involuntarily drugged and forced to do a crime.

Consider the heiress Patti Hearst who had been kidnapped for ransom by a radical terrorist group. After some time in captivity, she actually joined the group and committed crimes along with them. Should this not have been regarded as a mitigating circumstance? Of course, but if no one has freewill, then everyone has the same and equal mitigating circumstance. However, the court recognized that Hearst had been subjected to deterministic circumstances beyond the normal.

If these observations of relative freedom are true, then the narrow, unvarying materialistic view denying any area of freewill and culpability is clearly mistaken. From the perspective of the FD, everyone is equally and completely controlled by brain chemistry. Consequently, there can be no room for varying degrees of freewill and culpability – the very thing that our justice system and schools depend on!

We can perceive a distinction between purely chemical determination of our behavior and our relatively free responses. Wilder Penfield, the father of modern neurosurgery performed experiments demonstrating that brain activity doesn’t seem to account for all of our mental experience. Lee Edward Travis sums up his findings this way:

  • Penfield would stimulate electrically the proper motor cortex of conscious patients and challenge them to keep one hand from moving when the current was applied. The patient would seize this hand with the other hand and struggle to hold it still. Thus one hand under the control of the electrical current and the other hand under the control of the patient’s mind fought against each other. Penfield risked the explanation that the patient had not only a physical brain that was stimulated to action but also a nonphysical reality that interacted with the brain. (The Mysterious Matter of the Mind, 95-96)

There appears to be a distinction between brain chemistry and a non-physical reality – the home of freewill. J.P. Moreland commented on another interesting aspect of Penfield’s findings:

  • No matter how much Penfield probed the cerebral cortex, he said, “There is no place…where electrical stimulation will cause a patient to believe or to decide.” (The Case for the Creator, Lee Strobel, 258)

If our mind is no more than a physical brain, then we should expect that electrical charges could stimulate every kind of response. However, this isn’t the case. It seems that our choices and beliefs cannot be entirely accounted for by the physical brain.

There seems to be a nonphysical basis for thinking. Raymond Moody published Life after Life in 1975 based upon 150 interviews with people who had claimed NDEs. Cardiologist and assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine, Michael Sabom, had been highly skeptical. However,

  • Over a five year period he interviewed and compiled data on 116 persons who had had a close brush with death. Of these, 71 reported one form or another of near-death experience…Sabom conducted extended interviews with the ten who had detailed recollections, either of resuscitations or surgery. The results were astonishing. In every case, the accounts jibed with standard medical procedures; moreover, where medical records were available, the records of the procedures and the accounts of the patients perfectly matched. In all of these cases, [unconscious] patients observed details that they could not possibly have observed from their physical vantage point. (Patrick Glynn, “God: The Evidence,” 103-104)

Materialism also denies the testimonies of many indigenous cultures which have claimed extra-body experiences.

Journalist and former atheist, Lee Strobel, adds:

  • In their journal article, Sam Parnia and Peter Fenwick, a neuropsychiatrist at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, describe their study of sixty-three heart attack victims who were declared clinically dead but were later revived and interviewed. About ten percent reported having well-structured, lucid thought processes, with memory formation and reasoning, during the time that their brains were not functioning. The effects of oxygen starvation or drugs – objections commonly offered by skeptics – were ruled out as factors. (Strobel, 251)

This contradicts the atheistic narrative that thinking and choosing depend exclusively upon physical brain activity. In order to maintain their narrow materialistic worldview, the atheist is forced to discount this kind of study along with the many accounts of extra-body experiences.

In a related study, it was found that consciousness (and consequently, freewill) can exist apart from a functioning brain:

·       Of the 2,060 patients from Austria, the US and the UK interviewed for the study who had survived cardiac arrest, almost 40 per cent said that they recall some form of awareness after being pronounced clinically dead.

·       Of those who said they had experienced some awareness, just two per cent said their experience was consistent with the feeling of an outer body experience – where one feels completely aware and can hear and see what’s going on around them after death. Almost half of the respondents said the experience was not of awareness, but rather of fear.

One man was able to recall the events in the hospital with “eerie accuracy” after he had “died temporarily.”

This finding has often been reported but also often ignored. Why? Dr. Parnia’s response is illuminative:

·       “The detailed recollections of visual awareness in this case were consistent with verified events."

·       "This is significant, since it has often been assumed that experiences in relation to death are likely hallucinations or illusions.”

Such findings are ignored, because they do not fit into the prevailing materialistic paradigm that nothing exists outside of the physical world. To suggest otherwise opens the door to considerations about the existence of God – an inconvenient truth.

PREMISE #2: Materialism (Physicalism) and Naturalism cannot Account for Freewill.

Materialists generally agree that the laws of science completely determine the activity of all physical-material objects, including the brain. Therefore, to account for any degree of freewill, there must be something that lies outside of the materialistic brain. However, Sam Harris denies this possibility. Although he lacks any evidence for this, his materialistic, anti-God worldview forces him adopt this conclusion.

Nevertheless, he admits that he has to live his life as if he is making freewill choices.

CONCLUSION: Freewill must be Derived from a Non-Naturalistic/Materialistic Cause - God.

The God of the Bible is the only extra-material cause that can account for freewill:

·       The cause(s) must always be greater than their effect. If the cause wasn’t greater, it would mean that the part of the effect, not covered by the cause, remains uncaused. Therefore, something greater than freewill must have created it.

·       Since billions of people have freewill, their cause would have to be great enough to account for these many instances of freewill. There is no evidence that non-material causes can propagate themselves.

·       Freewill itself is great enough to evaluate a great many choices and make a single choice. Besides, if it is non-material, there can be no evidence that it has evolved. This too would argue for a non-material cause that is greater than freewill.

·       Only the eternal God of the Bible could be that necessary uncaused Causer of freewill.

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