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Monday, April 28, 2008

Free Will

I've been reading Scott Adams' book called Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain!: Cartoonist Ignores Helpful Advice, and although I have trouble recommending it (it's hysterically funny in places, but it's pretty full of profanity and sexual/scatalogical humor... not particularly edifying reading) something in it caught my attention. Scott Adams does not believe in free will; he believes in what he calls "pleasure units." Basically, his theory goes, everyone has a minimum number of "pleasure units" that they need to obtain to be happy with their life. Some have more and some have less, but everyone is driven to do whatever it takes to get the pleasure units they need, thus "free will" is an illusion. If you'd like to read the shorter version of the book chapter that previously appeared on Scott's blog, someone has reproduced it here.

The theory does make some sense. We all try to do things that make us feel happy. We try to avoid things that make us uncomfortable or unhappy, unless by enduring those things we achieve something that ultimately makes us feel happy. Scott is basically saying that those kinds of reasons are why we do every single thing we do in life.

I don't know if he's right or not, and I'm not totally sure that Christianity actually fully explores the nooks and crannies of this kind of thought satisfactorily. But this morning something struck me. Does it really matter if free will "really" exists or not? It seems to us to exist, we act as though it exists, and so whether it is an illusion or not, we can at least consider it a useful concept and leave it at that. It's like... do we really "think" or do our brain cells just have chemical and electrical responses to stimuli? Well... does it matter? It SEEMS LIKE we're thinking. And it seems like we have free will, so for all intents and purposes, we do.

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