Determinism and Faith


I propose that an individual cannot be held accountable for their beliefs.

This is because beliefs are typically formed by outside influences beyond the control of the individual; whether dictated by fate or a God or by sheer dumb luck, it is beyond their control. Firstly, though, are my thoughts on belief:

The system of belief – whether it is in God, Allah, Buddha, magic, physics or whatever else – is primarily a tool for the individual to connect to reality in a way where he or she may gain some knowledge over it. To do these through study is the most common method, and the most socially acceptable. To come to your own opinions through your own channels, without first referencing the ‘facts’, is a heresy not much appreciated.

That’s because while the primary nature of beliefs is to support that illusion of control, the secondary nature is another, more insidious trick; to act as a metaphor representing just how the universe works. This is an illusion that drives many seemingly mad, desperate to commit horrible acts in the name of whatever faith they belong to, theistic or otherwise… and it is, naturally, the same illusion that drives fundamentalism. This is reality without studying, without wisdom: this is why the heresy is not appreciated by many.

But these people can’t help it. They are a product of their environment. The Catholic, for example, may derive their beliefs from a much earlier experience: a close relative was very sick, and they prayed as hard as they could, and the relative got better. This is a miracle in the subjective eyes of the Catholic. Regardless of whether or not it was a coincidence, it is interpreted using the Catholicism model as a miracle. A physicist, then, has the luxury of seeing physical results of his reality-tunnel; but these are no more (and no less) convincing then the experiences held by the Catholic. Two models can intersect, naturally, but they clash much more often.

Anyway – enough from me. What do you think?


3 Responses to Determinism and Faith

  1. Brian says:

    By the same logic you could excuse any and every crime or action taken by an ‘individual’ on the grounds of previous influence, allowing no accountability for individual self-elucidation. Which, for 99.9999 per cent of the population is fair enough. People, on the whole, are, basically, thick.

  2. Reuben says:

    I think there is some kind of psychological ‘desire’ for Theistic beliefs; but people should know that the most objective way to interpret meaning from events in the universe is through science. I think it takes a bit of effort to hold back the intuitive idea that there is something beyond science.

    I also agree with Brian, on the whole. If we accept (or in your case, assume) that we are products of our environment, there’s no accountability; there’s no way of measuring if we humans have any control whatsoever. It’s an unscientific idea too; it’d be virtually impossible to test under laboratory conditions. I reject it.

  3. Oskar says:

    Reading that was very strange. Half the time it felt like I was thinking in someone elses voice, and the other half I greatly disliked.
    I am not a determinist and believe that we have free will. I don’t think everyone exercises their free will to its full extent, so in some cases what you said is true. On the other hand I disagree with what you said about ‘sheer dumb luck’. I believe that probability is inextricably tied in with free will. The probabilistic nature of reality allows free will through mass affectation of pivotal probabilities (crucial neurons firing, etc).

    About the criminal issue: I hope we don’t punish people for crimes simply because we are spiteful. The reasons for imprisoning people is to separate others from those who are likely to re-offend. In this way it does not matter if they can truly be held personally responsible.

    Finally, why is the determinism debate unscientific? Science is not just about collecting data, it is about logically interpreting the data and extrapolating. If we find that everything in the universe behaves according to deterministic rules (as in classical physics), then we can extrapolate that either we are being affected by something immaterial, or we are deterministic. If on the other hand, we arrive at the conclusion that all particles behave probabilistically, then I think we have room for free will in our universal view.

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