This is my current, rather depressing, weird thought.
Currently, generally, humans are firm believers in free will. It is what runs through the core of modern Western politics and society and perhaps spreads further afield. Free will guides us to make the choices that we make. Free will voted for Brexit. Free will voted for Donald Trump. Free will also guides us to carpes diem and follow our dreams. Free will guided me to start an art degree five years ago. Free will is willing me to continue my studies with a Masters. Free will led me into a career in publishing. Free will guided me to end up in Newport (although, interestingly, a Japanese palm reader predicted my current living and working arrangements in 1996 so that is one / nil to the determinists).
If we don’t believe in free will, what is the point of having hope? What is the point of ‘following your heart’ or staring at the stars? You may as well just plod along and take the road more travelled. There’s no point fighting injustice. Accept what is. It is what it is. You may as well just spend your evenings watching Game of Thrones and your days working, or, just existing.
My belief in free will is my optimism that good will prevail, personally and globally, eventually.
However, I am starting to worry that my belief in free will is being squeezed into that category of the ‘teeny, tiny theory’ of the unlikely. Scientists have more recently come to believe that our ability to choose our fate is not free, but depends on our biological inheritance. Scientists have started to believe that our thoughts, emotions, hopes, dreams are just the work of neurons and electricity. All that we ‘decide’ and ‘do’ is determined by brain action. We aren’t thinking for ourselves. Our biology is our god.
Helping the scientists in their argument, is the fact that brain injuries and brain traumas can influence our so-called ‘free’ will by influencing decisions and behaviour in certain ways. In addition, mind-altering substances can turn us into irresponsible psychopaths: from the alcohol-induced declaration of love to the drug induced murder. That isn’t our essence that is doing it; it is an artificial influence. It is determined.
The danger of believing the scientists is that we may start to blame our irresponsible actions on our brains: ‘It wasn’t me, my neurons did it.’
Another downside in a scepticism about free will is that we will feel less inclined to be creative or to take chances. There’s no point leaping. It wasn’t in my destiny. That belief will basically depress us. That’s not good.
The paranoid part of me worries that those in power already know that free will is an illusion and they just aren’t telling us. It isn’t in their best interests to let the hoi polloli know what they know. If we find out that free will is a lie then we will just turn into vegetables with no sense of morality and no kindness. We will start to kill each other and we won’t innovate and create.
I don’t know about anyone else but I’m happy to live in my happy cloud where free will reigns uber alles. I am now going to choose to eat a piece of orange chocolate. This is not pre-determined. I don’t have to eat it. I want to. My neurons don’t care.