Does free will prove God exists?

From the IAmAnAtheist.com comment form:

“If there is no God everything is purely material, including ourselves. Material things do not make decisions, but respond in determined ways to prior physical events. They do not act, but simply react to prior physical factors. For any particular event there exists a series of prior physical events that not only result in the event, but necessitate it.

If man is just physical stuff, then our “choices” and “knowledge” are like boiling water and falling dominos: they are necessary reactions to prior physical processes. There is no free will.

Where does the atheist’s knowledge that God does not exist come from, then? Does it come from a free will evaluation of the evidence? No, his belief is the result of prior physical causes acting on his physical stuff. It is caused by the way prior physical events randomly played themselves out in his life. Ultimately the atheist’s belief that there is no God is not based on good reasons, but good physics!

If materialism is true we cannot claim to know anything; we are simply led to believe them (whether they be true or false) by prior physical factors, and cannot believe anything else. If all that exists is the material world knowledge is determined by physics, not meaningful and objectively related to reality. For knowledge to be meaningfully related to reality requires the existence of some immaterial aspect to man (soul) that can transcend the determinism inherent to a purely physical word. Such an immaterial aspect to man begs for an immaterial source for its existence. That source must be God, because physical stuff cannot produce non-physical stuff, of which the soul is. Ultimately, then, God must exist for one to know He doesn’t.”
I really didn’t write this but i wanna know what u think about it.

Thanks for being upfront about not having written this yourself. Could you leave a note in the comments about who wrote it originally? I’d be interested.

Now, to address the points in the text you forwarded.

I generally agree with the first two paragraphs (aside from a few quibbles with vocabulary that are too picky to need going into here). Although I don’t have enough evidence to reach a firm conclusion, I suspect that free will is an illusion.

The rest of the argument seems to boil down to the statement that knowledge (a true, justified belief) cannot arise from a purely physical process. I disagree. One reason is that even very simple purely physical processes can, in a sense, demonstrate truths that would be quite difficult to find through pure reasoning. For example, a beam of light can unerringly find the easiest of all possible paths before it without any kind of intelligent interference. Moving up the scale of complexity, a flower can open, close, and turn its petals to the sun without a soul to tell it whether “the sun is up” is a true statement or not. I would argue that a brain is just a more advanced deterministic system.

But how can unintelligent deterministic processes lead to a deterministic system that can distinguish truth from untruth in questions as advanced as “does God exist”? Evolution provides us with a possible answer. Brains that reason well would clearly have an evolutionary advantage over brains that do not reason well.

One way we might test whether or not reason arose through evolution or is a function of the soul would be to see how well reason works. For example, if there are types of reasoning that would likely not have had the opportunity to be tested by evolution, then humans might not be good at these types of reasoning if reason evolved, but would likely be good at them if a created soul is behind the process. I think that if we look into this, we will find that there are many areas of reasoning where humans are naturally bad, as would expected from an evolved mind. I’d say that this is why we are fooled by many optical illusions, and why we can instinctively calculate the endpoint of a thrown object but feel that the behavior of subatomic particles feels wrong, no matter what the evidence might say otherwise. An evolved mind might also explain why reasoning can break down under extreme stress, when people are in large groups, or when drugs or alcohol are involved.

One minor picky note. This sentence, “If all that exists is the material world knowledge is determined by physics, not meaningful and objectively related to reality,” makes no sense to me. It seems to me that if the world is purely materialistic, then everything in it is by definition objectively related to reality because nothing but objective reality exists.

Now let me ask you a question. If you agree with the argument quoted and believe that deterministic reason cannot lead to reliable true beliefs, then how do you justify the belief that a created soul leads to reliable true beliefs? If a created soul is doing your reasoning, then it is not an independent, objective reasoning machine. Rather, it is a thing designed by its creator to (presumably) fulfill the desires of its creator. You might believe that God, being good, would not give you a soul that led you into falsehood, but where are you getting that belief? From your soul. And your soul would believe whatever its creator wanted it to believe. So I would argue that you could not trust that a created soul necessarily leads to true beliefs any more than a deterministic universe does. In fact, you might be able to trust a deterministic universe more because at least it is subject to objective inspection in a way that God is not.

Posted on May 22, 2010 at 10:16 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Evidence

2 Responses

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  1. Written by jesse same person that left the comment
    on May 22, 2010 at 10:46 pm
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    in the final paragraph i dont really belive the soul can make resonable answers i think that is why it is that we have these bad things happening like war famines etc…. and yes

  2. Written by m
    on May 23, 2010 at 3:52 am
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    well there is no higher meaning why a rat poops in your shoes, i don’t see why human actions should have a higher meaning.

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