The Human Exceptionalist Explores Free Will

The newest edition of the The Human Exceptionalist is out.  And among the stories we cover are the claims that we don’t really have free will.  I touch upon the importance of that issue in my letter of introduction. From the July 31, 2012 Human Exceptionalist:

Dear Exceptional Human:

Free will is one of the crucial moral attributes that distinguishes human beings from animals. But now, even this long taken for granted attribute is under assault by human exceptionalism deniers. Oh sure, we think we have free will, this argument goes, but in actuality, we have no choice in our behavior or indeed, even our thoughts.

It is a paradox, is it not? We can’t help but think that we think what we will, even when we think that the we-really-have-no-free-will meme is pure baloney.

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take the increasing attacks on free will seriously, such as the proselytizing atheist, Sam Harris’s, newest book Free Will. If we have no free will, moral agency is actually a fiction. Without free will, we are reduced to so many automaton slaves of our genes, chemicals, or whatever overlords. In such a worldview, no one could be held morally accountable for their own actions since their biology would have made them do it.

Moreover, if humans have no free will, we are not really moral agents. Once we accepted that premise, the bases for judging behavior and establishing moral standards would eventually collapse.

Destroying the unique dignity of man, would, for many, also make God go away. Ironically, that would elevate us back into sense of superiority (as opposed to exceptionalism), since in a Godless milieu, our unique “god-like” capabilities would make us even more remarkable, with no theists around urging humility in the face of a Creator. Perhaps, that is the point.

That isn’t the only issue covered, of course.  The point is to show the variety of issues and subjects that touch on good old HE these days.  Check us out.

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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