Do you believe in free will? Why or why not?

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CyberLN's picture
SfT, you wrote, “Rent free,

SfT, you wrote, “Rent free, brother. Rent free.
For those wondering what i am talking about i have constantly said that "Theists are living rent free in the minds of some atheists and ALL anti-theists...”

Well, then it can also be said, eh, that atheists and anti-theists are doing the same in your mind, busily sowing their seeds of doubt.

David Killens's picture


"Well, then it can also be said, eh, that atheists and anti-theists are doing the same in your mind, busily sowing their seeds of doubt."

Very true. Otherwise they would not be making posts in an atheist forum.

arakish's picture
@ SfT

@ SfT

Obversely, why do us atheists live rent free in your mind?

I may have stated you need to prove your deity exists because you first to brooch that subject. Not me.

I guess you just skipped over the second sentence where I stated “Prove to me that I do not have free will to believe whatsoever I wish to believe.

Typical theist tactic. Misquote and lie about what a person actually said.

I know I have free will because I have the ability to refuse to believe in horse hoowhee spewed by theists like you. Ever since you first showed up, these have been your tactics because you cannot refute our disbelief in anything you have to say.

X-Files: "Why can you type a single sentence, take a single breath or answer such a simple question without injecting a diety?"

I see you still refuse to proof anything you type. It is deity.

And for your enlightenment, I only discuss deities because people like you cannot keep any deity out of anything you discuss. As said, you were the FIRST to brooch that subject.

The true question you should be asking yourself is why you cannot keep from first brooching the subject about deities. Why can you not type anything without keeping your immoral monster out of anything you discuss?


EDIT: fixed HTML Entity

Sheldon's picture
Another theist who comes to

Another theist who comes to an atheist website to tell us we're obsessing over theism. If you can't see how asinine that is then there's not much else to say. You cam here to preach vapid superstition, atheists didn't seek you out.

You still can't even tell us if it ever moral for a 50+ year old man to rape a nine year old child? The way you have shamelessly ignored that question speaks volumes, and if you don't want to discuss religion with atheists, or the way atheists think it affects our societies for the worse, then this is an odd place to come.

gupsphoo's picture


If it can be manipulated somehow, what is the non-physical entity that is capable of manipulating an object into disregarding the laws of physics?

You seem to believe that your free will is the result of your god manipulating physical/chemical activities inside your brain, on the molecular level.

I'm curious, what do you think would happen if your god stops doing so?

What would it be like for you to lose your free will?

Randomhero1982's picture
"Yes I have free will; I have

"Yes I have free will; I have no choice but to have it." - Christopher Hitchens

arakish's picture
⇑ ⇑ ⇑ ⇑ ⇑ and that ⇑ ⇑ ⇑ ⇑ ⇑

⇑ ⇑ ⇑ ⇑ ⇑ and that ⇑ ⇑ ⇑ ⇑ ⇑

I have no choice but to have a free will.


Nyarlathotep's picture
When someone tells you that

When someone tells you that you don't have free will; insult them with the worst insult you can come up with. When they ask you why you would do such a thing, shrug your shoulders and tell them you didn't have a choice, since you don't have freewill (or just refuse to accept responsibility for anything since you don't have free will).

arakish's picture
Nyarlathotep: "When someone

Nyarlathotep: "When someone tells you that you don't have free will; insult them with the worst insult you can come up with. When they ask you why you would do such a thing, shrug your shoulders and tell them you didn't have a choice, since you don't have freewill (or just refuse to accept responsibility for anything since you don't have free will).

LMAOWF I am plagiarizing this.


Nyarlathotep's picture
No problem. Yes, if you do

No problem. Yes, if you do such things, it will be quickly apparent that the people who claim we don't have freewill, act as if we do.

David Killens's picture
So the ultimate goal of a

So the ultimate goal of a theist is to have an afterlife, commonly expressed as "heaven". What does it take to qualify, to get there? One must strive for perfection, to cast aside weakness and sin. One definition would be "perfect in god's eyes".

Is there free will in heaven?

Empedocles's picture
@David Killens

@David Killens

I certainly wouldn't want to go to heaven. I would much rather keep my feet firmly planted on the ground. Jehovah created heaven for the spirit creatures (angels) and himself. He created the Earth for man.

algebe's picture
Empedocles: Jehovah created

Empedocles: Jehovah created heaven for the spirit creatures (angels) and himself.

And how do you know this? Most Xtians seem to think that they will be admitted to eternal life in heaven if they've been really, really good.

Sheldon's picture
Nonsense - Hitchens's razor

Nonsense - Hitchens's razor applied.

Zoorhess's picture
I form my belief on free will

I form my belief on free will based on a futuristic kind of logic I discovered. So, as for what I say, ‘free will based on God’ is a contradiction in terms. Free will does exist IMO, but not because of “God”. Before I explain myself, I will define God and free will in terms of what I know and believe:

My believed-in definition of God is this: a single coherent entity of reality containing (“governing”) all of real existential possibilities, including other entities like itself.

My believed-in definition of free will is this: a totally determined kind of freedom that matches non-determinism and determinism combined as a third kind of ground for reality theory. That is, self-determinism. So, what is free will IMO more simply, one asks? I.e. freedom determined by the self, where the ‘self’ is defined as self-determined. In other words, free will is freedom by law because of the self, just like in the United States constitution (where ‘the self’ is ‘we the people’).

The Explanation of My View:

If God governed all of reality, then other people who have the same potential as God - being one of the many possible ultimate creators or determiners of the composition of reality - would fall under God like He/She (often being a He…) is a dictator. Essentially, that makes it so that God is free in decision making while everyone else isn’t … because God only has “His” particular beliefs and no one else’s (a big example of such a person disregarded like that in religion is Satan). Now, God is defined as “good” according to many, but true goodness doesn’t exclude people for who they are, whether good or evil (mathematical or emotional, white or black, female or male, heterosexual or homosexual).

In other words, the truth behind my statement of free will existing and not being due to God is this: God doesn’t cooperate with others to be regarded as (truly) good enough to offer free will to just anyone. Anyone who is good enough would share free will equally, not take it for their self, and so wouldn't take the place of "supreme ruler". To note, in most people’s eyes, God disregards Satan’s “evil” beliefs as much as Satan disregards God’s “good” ones. So there is no honest goodness happening between them … in religion. But in reality, there are endless possibilities of real people with various beliefs that can all be considered equally good people if they would just cooperate (like in the real world?).

Wouldn’t it be nice if diversity didn’t mean opposition half the time?

Sheldon's picture
Logic is a method of

Logic is a method of reasoning based on ***strict principles of validation.***

You don't get to have "Your own logic" it's a risible contradiction. What you've "discovered" is your own unevidenced subjective opinion, nothing more. It is the very antithesis of logic though.

Also your whole post is dismissed in the fashion it is offered.

Hitchens's razor applied.

Calilasseia's picture
I have something interesting

I have something interesting to bring to the table here, but before I do, I thought I'd take a quick peek at some relevant posts, given that this thread is relatively short ...

I would think that you can be all knowing and all powerful

This on its own constitutes a mutual contradiction. Because in order to be all-knowing, this would imply by definition that the future is pre-determined, and as a corollary, one is unable to change that future, which places a constraint upon one's power of future action. Therefore the two attributes cannot be consistently possessed by the same entity.

yet others the freedom to act according to their own will.

Which directly contradicts being in a position to know the future, because you have given another entity the ability to modify that future in potentially unpredictable ways by definition.

One cannot escape this by apologetically asserting that one knows all possible futures, because the one thing one does not know, once again by definition, is which of those futures will be realised.

You know the outcome in advance, you allow it to happen but you can still allow someone to choose something and experience the consequences of that choice.

Utter nonsense. If you know the outcome in advance, then there is no choice for that other entity, because by definition, the future is pre-determined. There is no escape from the paradox you've erected for yourself here.

A simple example would be if I saw an ant walking towards glue, I know he is going to get stuck, he doesn't know it. I can allow that ant to continue on its path freely even though I know the outcome of him choosing to do so.

What you know here is contingent knowledge, namely, knowledge that by definition, depends upon an outcome that may or may not happen. Because the ant could decide to veer away at the last moment, or earlier. If you know with absolute certainty that the ant will walk into the glue, then by definition, once again, the future is pre-determined, and neither you nor the ant can alter it.

Moving on ...

I didn't read all of your reply, but I guess I believe God is outside of time. Thus capable of being all knowing and allowing for decisions. I don't believe time exists for God. All moments are as if present.

This apologetic waffle does nothing to escape from the conundrum given above. Not least because in order to advance this bizarre idea, one has to provide a robust definition of "being outside time". I suspect even the most gifted of cosmological physicists, would find it extremely difficult to construct a metric in which dynamic change of any sort was possible without a time dimension. All you've succeeded in doing with this vacuous apologetics, is to lock your magic entity in a de facto stasis field.

Now, on to something interesting, that has a direct bearing upon notions of free will, particularly naive ones ... courtesy of a psychologist called John Bargh. Who has made some fascinating experimental discoveries. The paper I'm bringing here is this one:

Experiencing Physical Warmth Promotes Interpersonal Warmth by Lawrence E. Williams and John A. Bargh, Science, 322: 606-607 (24th October 2008).

Before covering the paper in detail, here's a nice little video clip illustrating the basic thesis (click on the link).

Now, back to the paper. First, the abstract:

“Warmth” is the most powerful personality trait in social judgment, and attachment theorists have stressed the importance of warm physical contact with caregivers during infancy for healthy relationships in adulthood. Intriguingly, recent research in humans points to the involvement of the insula in the processing of both physical temperature and interpersonal warmth (trust) information. Accordingly, we hypothesized that experiences of physical warmth (or coldness) would increase feelings of interpersonal warmth (or coldness), without the person’s awareness of this influence. In study 1, participants who briefly held a cup of hot (versus iced) coffee judged a target person as having a “warmer” personality (generous, caring); in study 2, participants holding a hot (versus cold) therapeutic pad were more likely to choose a gift for a friend instead of for themselves.

The authors then deliver their opening preamble, which itself is likely to prove disturbingly revealing:

Ever since Solomon Asch’s (1) original demonstration of the transformational power of “warm” and “cold” as personality traits in first impressions of individuals, the concept of psychological warmth has been prominently featured in research on social perception and interpersonal liking (2–4). The warm-cold dimension has emerged as one of two main components of the first impressions (along with competence) we quickly form of other people (2, 5); together they account for a large proportion (82%) of the variance in people’s evaluations of social behaviors (6). Notably, the warmth and competence dimensions have been found to be the principal ones underlying every group stereotype studied across dozens of countries (2, 5). Of these two fundamental dimensions, warmth is primary, as “people are more sensitive to warmth information than to competence information” (5, p. 79) and make trustworthiness judgments of faces faster than for other traits, including competence (7).

Time for some definitions, which our authors thoughtfully provide at this point:

What does it mean, exactly, to perceive someone as a “warm” versus a “cold” person? According to recent theory and research in social cognition, interpersonal warmth refers to a constellation of traits related to perceived favorability of the other person’s intentions toward us, including friendliness, helpfulness, and trustworthiness (5). The warm-cold assessment is the social perceiver’s immediate “first-pass” as to whether the target individual (or social group) can be trusted as a friend (7), or at least as a “non-foe” (i.e., warm), or is instead a potential foe who might attempt to interfere with one’s ongoing goal pursuits (i.e., cold). [The competence assessment is then a “second-pass” evaluation of whether the newly encountered individual (or group) has the capacity to act on those perceived intentions (5).] This assessment appears to be an automatic and obligatory evaluation that does not require the perceiver’s intent to make it.

Note my highlighting in particular of the last sentence in that paragraph above. Namely that decisions about whether or not a person is "warm" or "cold" in accordance with the above are made without our being consciously aware of many of the underlying processes leading to that decision, and indeed that in the absence of awareness of those manipulating forces, those forces effectively all too often decide for us. Needless to say, this has interesting ramifications for the concept of free will, but that is a tangential diversion deserving its own thread.

I'll skip a paragraph at this point, changing the reading order, and point to another collection of illuminating insights contained in the paper:

Harry Harlow (15), in his classic studies on maternal-infant bonding in nonhuman primates, demonstrated that macaque monkeys preferred to stay close to a cloth surrogate mother rather than a wire mother. This preference held even when the wire mother was the infant’s source of food (a bottle was attached to the wire) and the cloth mother was not. Tellingly, the cloth and the wire mothers differed in another important respect: The cloth (but not the wire) mother was a source of warmth for the infant monkey (a 100-W light bulb had been placed behind the cloth). As Harlow (15) concluded, contact comfort with the mother was a very important factor to the infant monkey, over and above her meeting nourishment needs; moreover, monkeys “raised” by the warm cloth mother showed relatively normal social development as adults, in stark contrast to the infants left alone with the wire mother.

I should not need to make any further statement about the evolutionary implications of the above for us humans.

However, having altered the reading order of the paper, I shall now return to the skipped paragraph in the light of the above. Upon reading the paper, whilst aware that the choice of paragraph arrangements was made for a professional scientific audience, re-ordering them for a lay audience was appropriate. In the light of the above, the preceding paragraph delivers a much greater impact:

Why, then, do we speak so naturally of “warm” and “cold” individuals (and not “friend” or “foe,” or “trustworthy” and “not trustworthy”)? Asch (1) gave no rationale to support his hypothesis that warm and cold would be uniquely “central traits” in impression formation, other than his own intuitions. However, in subsequent theorizing he offered a clue, arguing that most abstract psychological concepts are metaphorically based on concrete physical experiences (8). Contemporary cognitive linguists have advanced similar arguments that people conceptualize their internal, mental worlds by analogy to the physical world (9–13). Applied to the question of how warm objects can produce the same affective states as a “warm” person, embodiment theorists have noted how objects and events that produce the same quality of affective response are associated (categorized) together in memory (14). In this way, the feelings of warmth when one holds a hot cup of coffee or takes a warm bath might activate memories of other feelings associated with warmth (trust and comfort), because of early experiences with caretakers who provide warmth, shelter, safety, and nourishment.

The authors then provide their readers with a handily encapsulated summary of what is currently known about specific brain regions involved in the above:

Because of these frequent early life experiences with the trustworthy caregiver, a close mental association should develop between the concepts of physical warmth and psychological warmth. Indeed, recent research on the neurobiology of attachment has added further support for the proposed link between tactile temperature sensation and feelings of psychological warmth and trust (18). This research has revealed that the insular cortex is implicated in processing both the physical and the psychological versions of warmth information (19). First, the dorsal posterior insula is active during both temperature and touch sensation (20, 21). For example, activity in the right anterior insular cortex was strongly correlated with normal participants’ reported perceptions of the thermal intensity of stimuli (20), and warm thermal stimulation with a fomentation pack (as compared to neutral thermal stimulation) produced an increase in activation of the contralateral insular cortex, among other regions (21).

The insula is also involved in feelings of trust, empathy, and social emotions of guilt and embarrassment. Indeed, there appear to be specialized neurons for these social functions that have been observed in only two regions of the brain, one of which is the frontoinsular cortex (22). The insula is more highly activated after social exclusion or rejection than after social inclusion and acceptance (23, 24), and heightened activity in the anterior insular cortex was associated with the rejection of unfair offers in an economic trust game (25). Recently, the severe mental illness of borderline personality disorder, characterized by a profound inability to cooperate with others, has been linked to a lack of differential responsiveness in the anterior insula to trustworthy versus untrustworthy behavior in economic game partners (19, 26).

So, we have a part of the brain that has been empirically determined to be involved both in determining physical warmth cues AND psychological warmth cues. Which, needless to say, are associated intimately in memory.

And so, to the experiment! At this point, the astute reader will be anticipating all too easily what follows, but, for the sake of completeness and rigour, I shall present the relevant paragraphs anyway. Not least because they document experimental results that can be replicated with ease, and which point all too disturbingly to the fact that our capacity to be influenced by real world forces of which we are unaware is greater than many of us would like it to be:

For these theoretical and empirical reasons, we hypothesized that mere tactile experiences of physical warmth should activate concepts or feelings of interpersonal warmth. Moreover, this temporarily increased activation of interpersonal warmth concepts should then influence, in an unintentional manner, judgments of and behavior toward other people without one being aware of this influence. Such priming or construct accessibility effects, in which concepts activated in one context are residually active for a short time thereafter and exert influence on judgment and behavior in subsequent contexts without the person’s awareness, are a staple of contemporary social psychological research (27). We recruited 41 undergraduates, modally white and female, with an average age of 18.5 years. Participants were assigned to one of two temperature priming conditions. Participants were primed with temperature by briefly holding either a cup of hot coffee, or a cup of iced coffee. To do this, a confederate blind to the study’s hypotheses met participants in the lobby of the psychology building, carrying a cup of coffee, a clipboard, and two textbooks. During the elevator ride to the fourth-floor laboratory, the confederate casually asked participants if they could hold the coffee cup for a second while she recorded their name and the time of their participation. After the confederate wrote down the information, she took back the coffee cup. The temperature of the coffee cup (hot versus iced) was the only between-subjects manipulation (28).

Note the care with which the experimental setup isolated the confederate (the person performing the manipulation via temperature) from the study's hypotheses. This individual was recruited solely to perform this manipulation, and was not told the underlying rationale for this, because psychologists have been aware for some time that prior awareness of hypotheses can exert undue influence if measures are not taken to insure against said undue influence - the psychological literature is replete with research on the subject of confirmation bias, and physical scientists have taken due note of this in their own research practices.

However, let us move on ...

When participants arrived at the experimental room, they received a packet containing a personality impression questionnaire, following the same procedure as in Asch’s original study (1). Participants read that “Person A” was intelligent, skillful, industrious, determined, practical, and cautious. They then rated the target person on 10 personality traits using bipolar scales anchored by a trait and its opposite. Half of the personality traits were semantically related to the warm-cold dimension, and half were unrelated, again following Asch’s procedure.

As hypothesized, people who had briefly held the hot coffee cup perceived the target person as being significantly warmer (mean = 4.71; 1 = cold, 7 = warm) than did those who had briefly held the cup of iced coffee [mean = 4.25, F(1, 39) = 4.08, P = 0.05]. The coffee manipulation did not affect ratings on traits unrelated to the warm-cold dimension [F(1, 39) = 0.67, not significant], replicating the findings of Asch (1) and Kelley (3) in their original demonstrations of the warm-cold effect on impression formation. The effect of the coffee manipulation was specific to feelings of interpersonal warmth and was not a general mood or “halo” effect. Thus, a brief warm or cold physical experience influenced participants’ subsequent interpersonal judgments of a target person in the same way that presenting the words “warm” or “cold” was found to affect judgments of the target person in Asch’s original study; moreover, participants in the present study showed no awareness of the impact of the physical experience on their judgments (28).

So there you have it. As was succinctly noted in the video clip above, beware of politicians handing you warm cups of coffee before trying to persuade you of their good intentions. :)

In short, quite a few of our decisions could be, and no doubt more frequently than we would like, are influenced by factors that we are all too often unaware of. Before this experiment was conducted, who would have suspected that decisions could be skewed by an event as seemingly innocuous, as holding either a cold or warm drink prior to making those decisions?

Now, of course, someone aware of this effect, may be in a position to take steps to mitigate that effect, but unless one has detailed data on the effect in question beforehand, even trying to pre-empt the effect could prove futile. One might be aware of the dangers inherent in, to bring up the humorous example once more, politicians bearing warm drinks, but what if one of the influences skewing our decisions turns out to be, for example, the current state of the Earth's magnetic field? This particular example may seem facetious, even to those with an understanding of Maxwell's Equations, on the basis that any effect upon brain electrochemistry would be insignificant, otherwise we would have alighted upon this some time ago, but Bargh's experiments (and he's conducted a good few more since the one documented above) have demonstrated that a range of manipulations can exert hitherto unsuspected profound effects.

Enjoy ... if of course, you can after reading this ... (exits room uttering Dick Dastardly laugh)

LogicFTW's picture


Thanks for putting all that together, I did enjoy and even learned a few things.

I am going to borrow some of your writing, if you do not mind as you distilled down the all knowing and all powerful contradiction into a few solid sentences better then I have.

The link you gave is broken, at least here in the US. I believe this is a link to same video you were trying to show, let me know if this one is not correct:

Did not know about the warm = powerful effect on trusting and openness and good feeling, but I am aware that many professional ad's definitely play on things similar to this and those ads do have a much more powerful affect then any of us would care to admit or possibly even aware of.

Even more scary perhaps is as people move increasingly further away from traditional ad's these same techniques are increasingly being slipped into tv shows and movies themselves, in a possibly quite a bit more effective emotional manipulation. Of which it is likely most all of us are not completely aware of all the techniques and effect being used.


I am an atheist that always likes a good debate
Please include @LogicFTW for responses to me
Tips on forum use. ▮ A.R. Member since 2016.

NewSkeptic's picture
A brief anecdote:

A brief anecdote:

I hold out both my hands and ask you to pick right or left. Use your freewill. You have more than just two options, you can pick right, left, neither, walk away, tell me to fuck myself, etc. In this case, you choose "right".

I then ask you, as a theist who beliefs in an omniscient deity, "did God know you were going to choose 'right'?"

"Of course", you say, "God knows everything, no distinction between past, present or future."

So, I say, "then God has known forever what your choice would be. He always has known that at that exact time and in that exact place you would be asked that exact question and that you would answer 'right'. He knew it before he created you, before he created the heavens. This is after all what omniscience means."

"Sure", you say, "God knows everything".

"So", I say, "could you have chosen 'left' or 'told me to go fuck myself""?

"Sure", you say, "God gave me freewill".

"But,", I say, "you just told me that God has always known that you would pick 'right'."

"Yes", you say, "God knows everything."

"Then", I say, "How could you have picked 'left' if God has always known that you would pick 'right'?"

"Because I have freewill", you say.

And around and around it goes, and where it stops, only a true moron like the Hulkster knows.

Calilasseia's picture


You have the correct video clip. Spooky isn't it? :)


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