I am sure that most of you, weather you be Atheists of Theists have heard a whole lot about God's Will. This is thrown out like verbal diarrhea every time that someone dies or a natural disaster occurs. I have often questioned why people are so quick to say that a kid that gets caught in the crossfire of a gang shooting received a "gift" and that it was God's Will that she get shot and killed in a park. How is that a gift? What proof is there that she is in a better place? Who are you to make such claims? It may sound nice and comforting at the time, but it is not all that it is cracked up to be. As the title of this post implies, I am going to be talking about God's will and our own freedom. Does God's Will take away our freedom?
To start let us look at the Frankfurt Cases. This is a thought experiment that involves two cases that are identical, except for one part.

Case 1
There are two men: Smith and Jones. Smith is pointing a gun at Jones and is deciding whether or not to shoot him. There is also an evil demon that COULD control the outcome. In this case Jones decides not to shoot Jones, however the evil demon forces Smith to pull the trigger and kill Jones.

Case 2
There are two men: Smith and Jones. Smith is pointing a gun at Jones and is deciding whether or not to shoot him. There is also an evil demon that COULD control the outcome. In this case Smith decides to shoot Jones with his own free will, and the evil demon does nothing.

Take a good look at these cases. What do you notice? First off, they are identical except for one part, which is where the evil demon comes in. The other thing is that the outcome was the same, but the method of getting to that outcome was different. If it was Smith's choice to shoot Jones or if the evil demon commanded him to, the result was the exact same. So, my question is, if "God's Will be done" then the end result will always be the same. So are we really free to make our own decision? If we are, what is the point of making them if it is just going to achieve God's Will in the end?

Another thing that I question is how a person would know what God's Will is. I really don't have a concrete answer for how one would definitively know what God's Will is, but I can speculate as to why it would be appealing to chalk up the bad things in life it "it was God's Will".
The same sort of thing happens (in someone's mind) when there is a conspiracy about something like 9/11. Sometimes when something horrible happens it scares people, which is normal. However, being humans it is in our nature to want an explanation of why something happened. In the case of conspiracy theories Jodi Dean says,

People hate thinking about, in the flash on an eye terrorist bomber...

I think that the same thing happens in the minds of Theists when a natural disaster, like Hurricane Katrina, occurs. It is much more comforting to think that there is a plan in place. People don't like to think that bad things can just happen, they would rather be optimistic about some plan that would take them to a better place (heaven supposedly, but I'll save that for another post). Michael Martin said it best in his book Atheism: A Philosophical Justification -

If pessimism is justified by the evidence, then we must be pessimistic. If we are optimistic when pessimism is justified, we are irrational.

If you are a Theist or an Atheist, please leave your comments and opinions, I would love to know more about the topic from all perspectives. Bear in mind, however, I will research what you say if I think that you haven't done your research.

Views: 1409

Comment by Mabel on March 21, 2013 at 10:19pm

Speaking of me and my cat, you can judge how robotic I am in this video:  http://www.tomsfilespace.com/SqueakySqueaking.mp4

@ Unseen - That is the cutest kitty EVAR! She obviously loves conversation. (correct my spelling again and just see what will happen lol).

Comment by Strega on March 21, 2013 at 10:43pm

No, Arch, that doesn't help me at all

Comment by Strega on March 21, 2013 at 11:32pm

Ooh look - it's almost an apology!  not quite, of course, but there is a definite similarity....

Comment by Unseen on March 22, 2013 at 12:29am

@ahkayoptricks - that's OK, I don't expect .......

Oh Get Fucked!!!!!!

It might be good to remind archy what a fuck is. The last time he had one Reagan was probably President. ;)

Comment by Jimmy on March 23, 2013 at 5:06am

@ archaeopteryx 
It's funny you should mention delirium tremens. One of my favorite authors, Jack Kerouac, suffered from this and coincidentally enough, also was experienced psychedelics. So, who better to distinguish the hallucinatory experiences from DT to the tryptamine-based hallucinations?

They're quite different, indeed. Sigmund Freud was also heavily interested in alcoholics, he studied dipsomania in some of his patients. Hmm… How shall I slice into this pie?

I'll start with the comment you made about the study and the so-called "tunnel vision." While I can see how someone might come to that conclusion, that's definitely not an explanation for it. I mean, I think people are starting to become aware that it's actually DMT as the culprit behind the near-death-experience as DMT floods the dying brain. And what's with this, "I'm with Dawkins in why would anyone be willing to 'artificially-created' condition"? I'm not sure that's Dawkins' position on that, maybe it was, but it certainly isn't now. Recall that Dawkins volunteered to wear the infamous "God helmet." Dawkins has actually been curious about psychedelics since reading Aldous Huxley's "Doors of Perception."

Dawkins on his position regarding "psychedelics."

And again with this "pink elephants." You do realize that "pink elephants" actually derives from Disney's animation "Dumbo." This is what I mean about how media can influence your opinion about these things. I don't mean to bash these comments left and right, but I'm doing it to make a point.

Another thing you said, "I can face reality head on, I have no need to escape to an artificially-created world, if I do, I'll go read a book." I love when people make comments like this because it just reveals how much they underestimate this exprience. I did mention this experience is utterly terrifying, but that apparently wasn't enough. Let's see if I could attempt to describe how terrifying it can truly be. Lily Tomlin once said, "Reality is a crutch for people who can't handle psychedelics." That isn't very far from the truth. This experience is DEFINITELY NOT escape. You see, this sate of mind is so profound that if you weren't able to come down from it, you'd eventually find yourself contemplating suicide to rid of this colossal state of mind. Fortunately, this experience is temporary, and you get to come back to the baseline of consciousness where you're safe from the onslaught of this vision. That's why I emphasized that it's not done for fun, but for insight, spiritual insight or if you don't like that word, psychological insight.

While I agree that what you haven't confirmed for yourself, you should view as simply informed speculation. You may think whatever you'd like about me and my take on this, and in fact, please do, but I think people who've never tried psychedelics are in a way intellectually set-up to doubt this. Unexamined cultural values and limitations of language have made us unwitting prisoners of our own assumptions. Terence McKenna thought that this was a dimension of experience inaccessible by any other means. There's a funny quote on the psychedelic experience by McKenna which I'll lay out below…

"What I'm trying to get out here is that these things contain something that our art, our history, our literature, our religion did not prepare us for, and it appears to be an alien god, an unknown dimension, the edge of our ideological world in some way. Not prolonged erection or enhanced memory or ability to rave all night or ability to recall instances of molestation in your child hood which may or may not have occurred, but something else… Something really transcendental, completely astonishing, and as a rationalist, I think we have no right to expect that it exists. Most people don't know that it exists. People go from birth to the grave and never have the faintest inkling that there are these things in the environment that just could pierce dimensions. I mean, really, reality just comes apart. If you've never had that experience, be assured that you could. A lot of people live their lives in the faith that there is no Santa Claus. Well, I've got news for you." -Terence McKenna

I did say I would offer a few of Sam Harris' words on this experience, but as I mentioned, all efforts to coin the perfect analogy have failed. Yet, once explicated, does not yield a satisfying reflection of ourselves. I'll speak about two aspects about this experience as I realize this post is running really long, but apparently, there isn't enough you could say about this experience is there?

I'll talk about an emotional aspect first. At the height of this experience, if you've taken a "full-spectrum" dose, it seems as though your emotion is elevated to some kind of agapé. As you may or may not know, this is a Christian word for the love Christ felt. It's a love defined as spiritual or maternal in nature, not sexual. Quite akin to the love you'd read about in the bible, you know, the so-called infinite, unconditional, and ever-forgiving... Well, suddenly, this manifests somehow. It's so profound that you could have the impression that everyone else is "emotionally asleep." If you've noticed below, I've made a diagram with a series of concentric circles. Imagine the very outer rim being the place where most men reside generally in respect to their emotions. You know, we could be inconsiderate douches at times, complete assholes, so forth and so on. Perhaps some women might place that line further out, much further out. Now, the second line going in is where I'd say women orbit, generally. They seem to be more attune with their emotions, they're more aware of empathy, naturally maternal, etc. Now, the center would be this "agapé", a place further in that, on average, men nor women really take from this perspective. Now, this is where I felt was shoved at the height of this psychedelic experience, and it's represented by that curve coming from the most outer rim to the center. How far? I'm not sure, but quite deeply into it. Perhaps it goes infinitely inwards, but I'm not sure. I haven't had this experience enough to validate that.

Now, I'll discuss Sam Harris' take on this emotional aspect. Sam thought because these are serotonergic substances, meaning that they attach to the same receptor sites that serotonin attaches to, and since serotonin, amongst other neurotransmitters, is usually heavily associated with "emotion" in neuroscience, that perhaps this powerful emotive feeling is due to a kind of overhaul or cataclysm of these receptor sites. Well, it's as simple as that. I know that's going back to the ol' cliché saying, "Love is a chemical reaction," but there you go. When you have these serotonin receptors hijacked completely with something like psilocybin or dimethyltryptamine, then you have this overwhelming impression of a love so powerful it'll have you on the ground in tears for about four hours saying, "My God, I love everything!" Is that really a bad thing for this country, by the way?

Now, another aspect which I find more interesting is what it does to consciousness. This one is a little harder to describe as even if you Wiki "consciousness," the most profound message you get there is that, "Nothing worth reading has been written about consciousness." In other words, it's basically still a mystery, even to Philosophy of Mind or neuroscience, and what psychedelics do is cause this very drastic, titanic, collosal transformation of consciousness combined with, of course, this agapé that I've been talking about.

So, here goes… At the very peak of this experience, beyond all the "lovey, dovey spiritual mish-mash," there is a kind of what I've come to call "intuitive omniscience." A powerful sense that somehow, you know everything, but it's not a kind of intellectual knowingness such that at the height of the experience you can be asked any question and be able to answer, it's purely intuitive. The only way I could describe this is as ultimate boredom, an ennui so profound it could sway you to the contemplation of suicide. It's a feeling that if you were to say what it is, you'd have to say something like "I am everybody, everybody is me, I am everywhere, I am every when, I am every which, and every when, which, and where is you." That, of course, I know sounds absurd, but… Now, let me tell you Sam's take on this phenomenon, as even he has admitted to having an experience quite akin to this.

Here's Harris' take. As you sit there in your chair, your experience is constituted by certain electrical neural patterns in the brain. Now, what he thought the psychedelics may be doing is setting off, in a sense, all neural pathways. Not most neural pathways or some neural pathways, but all neural pathways, and if not all, over 90% for sure. So, if your experience now is constituted by a small degree of neural pathways, a small degree of microscopic electricity in the brain, then if you had them all go off, then you'd have this impression of having all experience at once. You'd have an impression of exploring all possibilities at once. Seems like a simple enough explanation, but of course, Sam's a reductionist atheist, and of course, this is a very naturalistic explanation defining it down to brain activity.

And perhaps this is so, but to elaborate on that interpretation, Terence McKenna said something very similar to that, and I quote,

"I mean, think about… and I don’t think you could discover consciousness if you didn’t perturb it, because as Marshall McLuhan said, “Whoever discovered water, it certainly wasn’t a fish”. Well, we are fish swimming in consciousness; and yet we know it’s there. Well, the reason we know it’s there is because if you perturb it, then you see it; and you perturb it by perturbing the engine which generates it, which is the mind/brain system resting behind your eyebrows. If you swap out the ordinary chemicals that are running that system in an invisible fashion, then you see: it’s like dropping ink into a bowl of clear water – suddenly the convection currents operating in the clear water become visible, because you see the particles of ink tracing out the previously invisible dynamics of the standing water. The mind is precisely like that, and the psychedelic is like a dye-marker being dropped into this aqueous system. And then you say, “Oh, I see – it works like this… and like this.”

So, you see, the bowl of water metaphor is very similar to Sam's 1,000 volt explanation where the ink would be analogous to all your neurons just firing away revealing the dynamics of mind. However, reducing it to substrate, which is brain, I feel, isn't the whole story. I mean, this is the conundrum of Philosophy of Mind. After all, if you are of the hard brain theory of consciousness and believe that every thought that we have is accompanied by chemical changes, the breaking and forming of chemical bonds. Well, that means mind or consciousness is simply the current state of the brain - the literal physical state of the brain. I think there's a little more to it than that, because consciousness isn't an entity which is purely brain function, consciousness is an epiphenomenon of brain function. In other words, what may be going on may be more accurately described by David Bohm's "Quantum Mind."

I'll give an example by starting off with something Steven Pinker once said, he said, "The way I think of mind is as a 4th dimensional organ of your body, you cannot see it, because it resides in a higher dimension, but you experience a sectioning of it within the phenomenon of consciousness, but that is only a partial sectioning of it in the same way a plane is a partial sectioning of a cone when it transects it." I know that quote sounds like something Stuart Hameroff might suggest, but what’s implicit here is that this emergent property of matter, what we call “consciousness” is somehow intertwined with what M-Theorists rave about, the “higher dimensions” which make up String Theory. For instance, to give an example of this “sectioning” in the quote, when you imagine, say, a tree in the daytime spring scenery, you can see it in your mind’s eye quite vividly, can't you? You can make out the brilliant colours and and even almost hear the wind as it brushes against its branches and leaves. But where is this tree, really? Where is the tree being projected? We can’t make the analogy from the computer’s output to a monitor, you see, because the tree isn’t really anywhere in your mind. If we were going to take a look at the physical brain, we wouldn’t find the tree, instead we may find certain electrical neural patterns, the breaking and forming of chemical bonds and various other fast chemistries, etc. But if we were going to use the computer analogy, then the monitor, where the image is being projected is in within this “sectioning” of hyperspace while the hardware is a direct correlate in the physical brain, they go together. So, what seems to be happening here is that the potentiality to imagine the tree was already there, perhaps had always been there. Graham Hancock had an interesting take on this issue, he said, “I don't believe that consciousness is generated in the brain any more than that television programs are made inside my tv.” So, it may be that the brain is the dipstick into this field of potentiality, and can entertain a certain degree of this potentiality, and maybe when we’ve maxed out all these permutations within our hardware (the physical brain), this is cause for the longer process of change in the brain, the hint at evolution of the hardware or brain to entertain greater and greater degrees of potentiality. Of course, I don't think it would happen that way, we'd find ourselves at the frontier of genetic engineering before we evolved naturally.

Ah, I'm going to end it here, because I've obviously gone off on a tear here, but I don't think this has swerved the original topic of free will vs. predestination, which I'll get into, but first I'll let you guys digest this one.

Comment by Unseen on March 23, 2013 at 10:49am

Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy. 

You've got to aim for brevity. Learn to make your points in just a few lines. The tactic of responding with a storm of the century blizzard of prose just makes you look like an OCD nut job, and 99% of the readers won't bother reading your posts, meaning that all that effort turns out to be for naught.

Comment by Unseen on March 23, 2013 at 10:51am

@Angela Evangelia  I digested it and have already made an offering at Strega's church.

Comment by Unseen on March 23, 2013 at 12:43pm

@archie  I didn't think he said anything to me. I just look at some of his posts and my eyes glaze over. I have more fun things to do than plow through a half page or page of dense prose. It shouldn't take that much verbiage to make a point. In fact, a well-distilled comment is far more damaging to one's opponent than a landslide of argumentation.

Comment by onyango makagutu on March 23, 2013 at 12:48pm

that response is quite long. someone please tell me what it says

Comment by Strega on March 23, 2013 at 1:22pm

Pascal, apparently Arch - here's the link


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