Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Political Liberals: Hidden Agendas That Go With Disbelief in Personal Responsibility

The latest mass-murder episode at a Batman movie premier raised once again the argument that people are compelled by bad brains to do bad things. Academics, scientists, philosophers, and political liberals increasingly endorse the view that humans do not have free willthat it is an illusion. The idea is that genes, neurotransmitters, and life experiences make us what we are. They should not be blamed for the bad they do, nor do they deserve credit for the good. So, it is convenient to claim when things go wrong, it is not our fault. Holding that premise requires also to make excuses for others who do wrong or bad things.
Likewise, if you believe there is no free will, you can't take credit for your success. This notion resonates with President Obama’s recent claim that entrepreneurs don’t deserve credit for their business success. He said they could not have done it without the government, citing for example the Internet. Actually, government did not create the Internet, and certainly not Al Gore. The Internet arose from the invention of the TCP protocol by Vinton Cerf, the concept of hyperlinks by Tim Berners-Lee, and the implementation of the Ethernet precursor by Xerox.
Those who want to believe that free will is an illusion turn to science, which in recent years has generated a host of research reports claiming to have provided evidence that all our actions are subconsciously generated and our notions of free will are illusory. I, and others before me, have pointed out flaws in the design and interpretation of this research (Klemm, 2010). Since my critical review, several new reports have presented evidence that also refute the notion of illusory free will. Yet the illusory free-will crowd clings to its unproven position. Why is that?
What I have most recently started to realize is that those who push the idea of illusory free will may have hidden ideological agendas, which even they may not realize. For example, I am struck by how often these zombians, as I like to call them, seem compelled to tell us they are atheists. Why does this matter? On the surface, atheism does not seem to compel a disbelief in free will. But maybe it does. Virtually all religions hold that there is a God who holds humans responsible for their beliefs and moral codes. Thus, it is convenient for those who don’t like the challenge of being held responsible for their actions to reject religion. That gets them off the accountability hook. So, there seems to be some sort of synergistic relationship between disbelief in God and disbelief in free will.
A similar synergism may exist in politics. It may not be an accident that many zombians are intellectually elite and politically liberal. In tune with President Obama, they seem to hold that people don’t deserve their misfortune, nor have they earned their success. It seems that most of the academics, scientists, and philosophers in this elite group also believe that free will does not exist. Thus, any disparities in life status and wealth are inherently unfair, and it is government’s job to expand welfare to the poor and redistribute the wealth of the successful. It harkens back to the old Marxist doctrine that “from each according to his ability to each according to his need”). We should note also that atheism is a cornerstone of Marxist doctrine.

Klemm, W. R. 2010. Free will debates: simple experiments are not so simple. Advances in Cognitive Psychology. 6: (6) 47-65.

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