Atheists are fond of telling us that we do not have free will. Atheist writer Sam Harris has made a book-length explanation of why he believes all human thoughts and actions are predetermined. In his book Free Will he states “One fact now seems indisputable: Some moments before you are aware of what you will do next–a time in which you subjectively appear to have complete freedom to behave however you please–your brain has already determined what you will do.” (p.9) Further, the Center For Naturalism tells us that we are “fully caused” and “since we see that we aren’t the ultimate originators of ourselves or our behavior, we can’t take ultimate credit or blame for what we do.” (see here and here for responses)
The atheist naturalists are trying to tell us that all actions in the universe are caused by natural physical effects and forces, such as our interactions with friction, electromagnetism, heat, and gravity. There is no mind with free thoughts or free will, only a brain that is determined to do what it does by a complex series of physical and chemical cause and effect. To the atheist naturalist, we have no free will, we have no ability to originate thoughts. They tell us that we cannot begin a thought at all, for all our thoughts are merely effects of natural forces that we have no control over. Free will and free thought are an illusion. As the Center For Naturalism explains, “We don’t have souls that continue after death. Instead, we are fully physical creatures, fully caused to be who we are. We don’t have free will in the sense of being able to choose or decide without being fully caused in our choices or decisions.” (see http://www.centerfornaturalism.org/descriptions.htm)
The atheist naturalists must hold this view, for they fully understand that if we have freedom of choice, we must be responsible for our moral actions, and morality must be reduced from a moral law to a physical force. Moral laws have moral law givers, and we cannot have one of those, can we? Further, the ability of a human to generate an original thought would mean something besides physics and chemistry exists. Even a weak human mind cannot be allowed in the atheists’ world, for they want to believe that humans must be only driven by physics and chemistry, not by anything resembling a spirit.
The atheist pays a high price to hold this view. The atheist tells us that all human sense of having a choice is an illusion. You just think you have a choice of whether to continue reading this paragraph, when in reality whatever you do is predetermined. If you decide to stop or if you decide to continue, you were caused to do so. You do not have a choice as to whether to eat that chocolate cake or pass it up, for all your actions are caused. Your choice to do an act of kindness or cruel torture is actually just an illusion, for whatever you decide is actually not your choice, but a result of physical and chemical forces beyond your control. The Center For Naturalism tells us “responsibility for their character and behavior isn’t ultimately theirs, but is distributed over the many factors that created them. And after all, were we given their environmental and genetic conditions, we would have become what they are, and acted just as they did: there but for circumstances go I.”
But the price gets even higher and the bill harder to pay. If none of our choices are due to free will, but all determined by the many factors that caused them, then all the messages in the thoughts are not truly messages at all, for they were never thought in the first place.
A bit of communication theory is in order. Standard communication model goes something like this:
- A sender conceives a message.
- The sender encodes the message. (puts it into language, symbols, words, etc.)
- The sender sends the message.
- The receiver receives the message. (reads the book, listens to the words, etc.)
- The receiver decodes the message. (understands the message)
This communication model of sending and receiving a message is used to explain all communication.
However, the atheist now has to tell us that through all the communication that we think we are doing, there is no message there at all. No communication can happen, for there is no meaning at all. The “message” that we thought we were thinking is not truly a message, but merely the equivalent of an electromagnetic force. If indeed we do not have free will, then we cannot even do step 1 of the model. If we have no free will, we cannot conceive of a message, for there is no message there to conceive. If all of our choice is actually an illusion, a predetermined firing of neurons in our brain, no message can exist because no meaning is there. One domino falling and knocking over the next domino creates no data — it is just an effect.
I am reminded of the atheist I once knew who was a PhD candidate in biology. I asked him if there was information in DNA. His response was “It is sort of information.” He was fudging. Well, there is no fudging in Sam Harris’ book, for he makes it quite clear that our brains determine what we will do, and free thought is an illusion. If this is so, then the mind can think of no message, but is actually just outputting what it was caused to output. One neuron fires because the one before it fired, and there is no true meaning there at all. If our choices and thoughts are caused by genetics and physical forces, as Harris so quickly tells us, then there is no thought there to encode into a message.
The atheist naturalist has spent quite a bit of ink and warm air trying to convince us that nature has no intelligent design because the design is simply not there. Richard Dawkins tells us that we must continually remind ourselves that nature has but the appearance of design, but design does not actually exist.
The trouble is that in communication, the message has design by definition. Everyone knows that messages have information. Books, phone calls, drunken arguments, love letters, and computer code all have information, and we know that they do. There is no real denying that messages have information and that humans communicate meaning to each other. You may disagree with my conclusions, but surely you will not hold that the sentence you are reading has no information or meaning at all. We all know that information exists and is communicated in a variety of forms. This is undeniable, for to deny meaning is to make a sentence that communicates meaning.
Well, if communication happens, and information exists to be communicated, then something exists besides physics and chemistry. If we do indeed communicate messages, then there must be a message to communicate, a meaning generated somewhere, and encoded into language or Morse code or smoke signals. Atheist Richard Dawkins tells us that we dance to our DNA and have no real control over our actions. He tells us plainly that there is no meaning anywhere in the universe. He gave a speech on the mall in Washington where he told us “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”
Richard, Sam, really? No purpose? Nothing but blind, indifferent forces? Such a large price to pay, giving up all communication. But we all know there is meaning — to deny there is meaning is to make a meaningful denial.
Therefore if communication, then atheism and naturalism are false. It is much more reasonable to read the words that God has communicated to us in the Bible: “ Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)