Sunday, January 24, 2010
The only question there is
I am an inveterate reader of Calvin and Hobbes. The irony of using Calvin (the champion of predestination) and Hobbes (of "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" fame) as names should not be lost on us. I was grieved when Bill Watterson decided to end the strip in the 1990's, but the rerun continues to warm the coronary cackles of a morning. The republished strip from today is especially good.
True to his fore bearers, Calvin questions the very essence of morality:
What is predestination but the absence of free will? In a desire to make a godhead absolutely powerful, Calvin asserted that no single "free" action of man could contribute to salvation. Taking this to the bitter end gives us the Jehovah's Witnesses. This sect (comprising 7 million souls in the world, only half that of the Jewish faith) has some interesting beliefs, including the assertion that only 144,000 souls will be allowed into the eternal Woodstock. How one picks 144,000 out of 7 million (plus those who have "gone on before") probably occupies JW theologians for hours.
Free will (that which shall not be discussed) is such an interesting topic. I am reminded of counselling teenagers about drugs and sex. One can't say "its the right thing to do" because hedonistic Americans believe that pleasure is the be all to end all. They equate being "happy" with "feeling good." So, when telling teenagers about sex and drugs you have to threaten them with consequences. This is why Nancy Reagan's "just say no" was/is such a failure. This concept, that teenagers who are surrounded by adults who have no qualms about bopping whoever and snorting whatever, would, out of the goodness of their heart, refrain from bopping and snorting is like expecting Bin Laden to run for Pope.
Calvin hits it on the head. Teenagers need to be careful about sex to avoid contracting permanent (i.e. integrated into your genome) diseases such as AIDS, herpes, hepatitis B and HPV, and avoid unwanted pregnancy, which is a bittersweet disaster. They need to avoid drugs because they are illegal. Period. Free Will doesn't come into the equation. Puppies do not become house broken because they want to be good in heart and spirit. They become house broken because they fear the consequences. It is natural for them to poop where they want. That is why they look so mournful when you rub their nose in it. They are saying "WTF?"
A long time ago we addressed this issue in a series of posts. I realize now, after reading Unreal Nature's post of 23 January, that there is a large world of intermediate cognition that has to be addressed in discussing the neurobiological basis of this concept, Free Will. Part of the problem, for me, is the jargon. It is like trying to understand Fourier transforms without understanding complex numbers.
Posted by Dr. C at 9:11 AM