Wednesday, November 12, 2014

PZ Myers Sure Acts Like He Believes In Free Will

PZ Myers has come out, perhaps not for the first time, against the existence of free will. Fair enough and, for the record, I agree with him. But...

He sure acts like he believes in free will. He gets angry at TERFs and fedora'd dudebros and creationists and so on, but in a world without free will that's like getting mad at the tide coming in; it's just not rational. Moral outrage only makes sense in a world where dudebros can choose to be something other that dudebros ("ought implies can" and all that); if free will doesn't exist then they literally cannot act any other way.

I don't have my copy of The Blank Slate at hand, but I think it was Steven Pinker who observed that, absent free will, moral statements really just reflect an aesthetic judgement. We're justified in uttering them on the grounds that the can beneficially alter the behavior of people who hear them but, at the same time, such statements cannot be meaningfully imbued with any sort of moral censure (or approbation) in the traditional sense.

I suppose that PZ could respond that his apparent anger is an elaborate form of kabuki that he puts on for the good of society. But a much simpler answer is that he hasn't internalized just how far down the rabbit hole goes once you take free will out of the picture. Take, for example, this snippet from "Atheism and the real search for meaning":

... [O]nce you’ve thrown off your shackles you’re now obligated to do something worthwhile with your life, because now all of our lives shine as something greater and more valuable and more important. That with freedom comes responsibility.

How can you be "obligated" to do anything when you have no free will? What sort of "freedom" is he even talking about? Argh...


Anyway... yeah. I just don't think he gets it.

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