On Free Will

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about free will. And no, I’m not talking about that crappy kid’s movie that was made back in the 90s about some Macaulay Culkin wannabe and an orca whale (sorry if this disappoints any of you cinephiles out there). Nope, instead I am talking about something much, much more important. I’m talking about FREE will. I’m talking about the freedom that us human beings have. The ability to think, do, act, and say basically we please(of course, some of these things can be inhibited by law/legal authorities, but regardless we are ultimately still free to make our own choices and what not despite the possible outcomes/consequences). See, free will is really an interesting thing when you begin to consider it. Right now you and I are both exhibiting a level of free will. I personally am CHOOSING to write this rather long blog post, whereas you are choosing to read whatever random crap I write. Neither of us are bound by some external force that ultimately compels us to do something different. Both you and I can stop whatever it is we are currently doing, and do something completely different if we feel like it. You can right now decide that, “You know this blog isn’t really any good. I think I will go and see what’s on instead.” On the other hand, I can decide that I would much rather go and blow people up in Team Fortress 2 than sit here and write philosophical gibberish that no one will read/care about. And that’s the whole beauty of free will. It happens almost every second of every day, and if you are anything like me you likely don’t notice it as you go throughout your day. And I guess that’s the whole beauty of it. Wow I am taking a really long time to get to my point. Let me try a different approach here.

Right now as you sit here reading this wall of text, you are making a conscious decision to either continue reading (even though you might not think it’s a conscious decision, the fact that YOU ARE HERE AT THIS VERY SITE does in fact demonstrate a conscious decision on your part), or hit “back” on your web browser. However, whatever choice you decide to make it is ultimately your decision. There’s no strange creature/demigod/Higher Being/Flying Spaghetti Monster (that I know of) that pops in from time to time to tell me/you what to do (unless of course by chance you suffer from sort of mental illness and here voices from time to time who tell you to do things, at which point I would suggest you stop reading this blog and begin to seek help elsewhere). Even if we were allowed free will 99% of the time, but then that one percent of time we had to listen and obey some outside force against our will, we still couldn’t truthfully call that free will. The fact of the matter is if free will doesn’t exist 100% of the time, then it cannot exist at any time.

So now that I’ve briefly covered how free will allows us to perform any real action in any way we wish to, let me move on to thought and  free will (so perhaps I can finally get to the point of this post). See, because of free will, we are able to think and believe more or less anything that we want to. If a person wants to believe that he or she is a super hero who has inherited powers from a radioactive spider, and because of this is able to shoot webbing from his/hers wrists, then said person is freely able to think such preposterous thoughts. Granted, to everyone else around this “spider-freak” will most likely think that he is certifiably insane, but then again that’s the beauty of the whole thing: because of the free will we have when it comes to thought, we are all able to think of different things that may or may not directly match up to what another person is thinking. In short, free will allows us freedom in what we can choose to believe or not believe. Okay, now we are getting somewhere.

So then what’s the point of all of this? Well, I am getting there (albeit slowly). But unfortunately I am going to switch gears for a bit on you. Sorry about that. Here we go though. So I guess the next question to ponder is WHY do we have free will, but in order to answer that we need to begin to ask ourselves where does free will come from? Well, for reasons I won’t delve into in this post, we need to assume that our free will is either the result of a random instance that occurred without warning and without any real proper planning, and is merely the result of a need to survive and adapt, or our free will is ultimately the result of a higher intelligence who planned for us to have this ability from the get go. Now of course, most of you know my bias already, but let’s look at both of these sides anyway. On one side, we can see free will is simply the result as a need to survive. Human beings have adapted several abilities over time (according to this theory), and as a result free will must have been one of these skills that eventually transformed into something that allowed higher intelligent species the freedom to make their own choices.

 However, if this is truly how free will came about, if human beings went about only acquiring this ability over time, then one must assume that either (a) free will is merely a result of human beings needing to meet a skill necessary for the survival of the species which eventually developed over time (AKA adaptation), or (b) free will was simply a discovery made at some point early on by human beings. The problem is I see several problems with both these theories. With the first possibility (which happens to be the most logical of the two in my opinion), we need to assume that the development or discovery of free will is a result of human beings needing to survive and/or adapt to their surroundings. However, free will is hardly something that encourages the survival of a species. In fact, just the opposite can be true. If anything, free will causes strife, turmoil, and violence/danger amongst people, which ultimately leads to the threatening of the species. For example, look at a nest of bees. Nearly all bees share a common goal or idea (and for the most part, lack any real self/free will) which happens to be the survival of the hive/nest. Because of this lack of free will, or choice, bees serve the queen/nest with their lives, willing to sacrifice their self if need be for the survival of the species. Humans on the other hand, are allowed to choose for themselves whether or not they wish to aid/help/agree/listen to another fellow human being, which thus suggests that free will likely instead hinders (or at the very least doesn’t aid ) the survival of the species simply because it encourages human beings to not think on the same level, let alone to always agree with one another.

The second point which happens to be a rather silly one if I might add, can be thwarted simply by asking the question of when or how did human beings discover the idea that they even possessed free will? The notion to even discern that one has free will in fact demands that he/she is capable of free will. Basically, if one cannot freely think about his/her own free will, then who is to say it even exists at all? I hope that makes sense… (I feel like it doesn’t… I must go on though).

So then, let’s move onto “the other side” of this argument. If human beings were given this ability to think freely by some sort of higher power, the most obvious question to ask next would be “Why?” And here my faithful readers, is where I get to my “point” so to speak. If it’s possible that this higher power (who I will now call God) gave us the ability to freely think and make up our own conclusions about the world, then it is also possible to think that we can (and do) reach conclusions that dismiss the possibility of God existing or giving us free will. So then why would God possibly take a chance at allowing His own creation to possibly not believe in Him? Well, I’ll tell you, and let me just add, this is where it gets good. If we are talking about God, we have to assume that the God we are talking about is quite literally the greatest being possible, and because of this, He must also be the most benevolent being imaginable as well. Therefore, since God is both all-powerful and all-loving, He wants (notice, I didn’t use the word demand) his creation to love him back in a true and real way. Let’s see if I can explain this a bit further.

Imagine that you are a master engineer who has received countless awards and praises for all of your great inventions and accomplishments. Because of all that you have done for mankind, you decide that you want to create a small talking robot that praises you and tells you how great you are throughout the entire day. So you spend a few months building this robot, and after many hours of hard and arduous work you’ve finally completed your talking, praise giving robot. Obviously you are proud of yourself, so you decide to take a few weeks off from work. About a month later you come back and start working on a new project. As you toil away, your faithful robo-companion walks over to you, puts his hand on your shoulder and says, “You’re doing a great job. I love you master.” This pleases you of course, and you continue to work harder. A few days later, you are nearing the completion of what will likely be your greatest accomplishment yet, but something goes wrong. Possibly a result of your lack of sleep as of late, or perhaps just carelessness on your part, but you accidentally drop one of the main components that powers your latest invention! It shatters as it hits the ground, and weeks of work have just been lost in seconds. You curse under your breath, however your robot friend walks over, and repeats an all-too familiar saying, “You’re doing a great job. I love you master.”

Now obviously this is a colorful illustration to prove my point, but it works regardless. The robot in the story is in capable of showing any freewill, and although at the time it likely makes you/the inventor happy when the robot tells you how great a job you are doing, it eventually becomes obvious that this is no more than a programmed response once something goes wrong and the robot continues with his recorded message. The robot in the story lacks any sort of free will, and thus lacks the ability to show real love. This is exactly what God wanted to avoid when he gave us free will. Without giving human beings the ability to think for themselves, and without allowing us to choose who we wish to love and serve, we would be no different than the robot in the story. He wanted us to be able to make our own choices. He wanted us to seek for ourselves what the answers are, and what the truths of the universe truly are. In short, God took a risk in allowing us to have freewill in order to allow us to find what is true and real, and as a result He wishes for us to love Him in a way that is both true and real, as opposed to a false and dependent servitude.

However, there is a downside to all of this. With free will comes the choice to not only do what is right, but also the ability to do what is wrong. Because of this human beings are ultimately lacking something. If God is perfect, then it only makes sense that for us to have an equal relationship with God that we somehow, need to be perfect as well. And this is where God bends the rules so to speak. Even though He gave us free will, which presumably led to us becoming imperfect creatures, God still made a way out for us. Through sending His Son, Jesus Christ who was perfect to die for us, He was able to bridge the gap so to speak. Because of this, the connection that was lost due to our free will was once again rekindled. Of course this action happens to be the greatest example of free will: Because just as Christ himself was human, He too exhibited free will. At any point in time he could have easily not gone through with his terrible sacrifice on the cross, He could have chosen to instead returned to heaven, unscathed. But thankfully He did not. Once again, God showed us the greatest example of free will, and as a result showed us what real love is all about.

So ultimately, free will enables God to demonstrate a love that only an all-benevolent being can show, and through Jesus Christ, it allows us humans a way to choose God and show Him not just a level of servitude, but rather something greater altogether: true love.