Friday, March 27, 2015

Is the Future Open?

For thousands of years, most of the leaders of our human species have said, “No. The future isn’t open; everything is determined.” As recently as the devastating tsunami that killed almost 250,000 humans in Indonesia and other countries in 2004, world religious leaders claimed that the tragic event was necessary, was ordained, must take place, had to happen.

Al-Fawzan, member of the Senior Council of Clerics,
Saudi Arabia's highest religious body, and professor
at the Al-Imam University:

"These great tragedies and collective punishments that are wiping out villages, towns, cities and even entire countries, are Allah's punishments..."

Amazingly, now many secular leaders are also claiming the same thing—that every event is necessary and must happen, that there are no human choices and no accidents in nature (though instead of a god doing the determining it is the cosmos or the Big Bang). Everything is determined and therefore must happen. Every rape, every murder, every cancer victim…it all must be so.

In the last several months some leading scientists have especially emphasized this in their writing. (I guess they didn’t think they had a choice;-) Sam Harris has called this “tumors all the way down.” Jerry Coyne has written that not only does no one have a choice when it comes whether to murder; we don’t even have a choice of “whether to have a sandwich or salad at lunch” and “…we’re not morally responsible, for that means that we could have freely chosen a better way.”

So this ISIS leader doesn't have a choice each time he beheads an innocent victim?


I'm not a scientist so I can't marshal hard evidence to contradict such a nihilistic, hopeless claim, but it surely is the worst of the worst if Coyne and Harris and Al-Fawzan, etc. are correct.

According to such thinkers, even supposed accidents and chance events in nature, such as the gigantic meteor that probably eliminated the dinosaurs millions of years ago weren't actually accidental happenings. They had to happen.

Thankfully some modern scientists such as evolutionary biologist Stephen J. Gould think differently. Gould wrote before his death that the meteor which devastated earth millions of years ago was a chance event. Further, if time were re-run, humankind might not even show up.

Determinist thinkers disagree. According to them, the earth-changing meteor was fated to hit the earth from the moment of the Big Bang over 14 billion years ago.

And all of that, if true, means that I am typing this article, not by choice. Nature, existence, the Big Bang, whatever, is doing it. My consciousness is but a passive observer.

Well it’s worse than that. Scientist Sam Harris states that even our sense of self, the “I” of our consciousness is an illusion, that we humans are “tumors all the way down”—meaning no human has any more choice than a mass murderer who can’t stop killing because of a brain tumor making him slaughter.

Is this true? Is the Future Closed? Was the Past always closed?

Was it necessary for the Black Death to devastate Europe, the 30 Years War to slaughter nearly a third of Germany’s people, the Nazis to gas and execute 10 million humans including 6 million Jewish individuals?

Is this very present moment only a lockstep instant long ago determined by the cosmos’ beginning?

Is our future as a species so determined as this, that we a conscious species who thinks it makes decisions, thinks there are ethical choices, seeks to achieve goals, and dreams and hopes
is actually no more
than chaff on the cosmic wind?

That every action, every instant, moment by moment, was unalterably fixed, necessitated, determined at the moment of the Big Bang over 14 billion years ago? Everything including the mirage of us conscious beings is nothing but outward expanding debris?

Of course not all leaders or secular scientists think the Present and the Future are so totally Closed. As mentioned earlier the famous evolutionary biologist Stephen J. Gould disagreed, as do others.

Our existence and every action is not a lockstep result of the Big Bang; one needs to factor in Chance and Creativity and conscious human choice for good or ill.

What about the evidence? Philosophers, scientists, and thinkers come down on opposing sides, though at the present, it appears many leading thinkers in the United States are complete determinists. According to them it is obvious that the Future Isn't Open.

What do you think?

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

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