Miracles and Free Will
Way back in the dark ages of January 2018 I wrote a piece in which I attempted to explain why I believe free will would be impossible if we lived in a simulated universe (specifically an SH1 variant version). See the article for details of what SH1 means and why it is important. As part the argument I wrote “if any intervention collapses free will than miracles do.” This is the crux of my argument against freewill in (almost any) SH1 version of reality (see the article for the one major exception). If you agree with that position it follows that in most (one could say all or almost all) major religions we do not have free will. My reasons for believing this are really quite simple. If any choice/act/decision we make can be “over-ruled” by the actions of a more powerful being or beings we do not have free will because the natural course of events has been altered and we had/have no choice in the matter. We have lost the ability to freely choose and thus we have lost free will. A “positive” miracle like raising of the dead might seem a great thing, and it certainly is for the revived dead man, but what about for the men that chose to kill him? They lost their choice. Their choice was revoked and thus they lost free will. If one or any lose free will, all do. The situation is identical for a simulated universe, except in place of God or Gods we have a Simulator or Simulators that intervene. If they alter the code to make something occur that would not have occurred in the natural or simulated but unmodified course of events, free will is lost for all. Even if it only happens one time, to one person, or even to one animal, or plant, or rock, or atom, or subatomic particle. Any intervention results in the total loss of free will for all things for all time. Since I find it very hard to believe that simulators would create a universe and then never intervene in any way in its evolution I find an SH1 universe extremely unlikely to have free will.
Seems to be a strong argument and I certainly think that it is, but it is not immune to attack. For instance, one could argue that just because a choice is over-ruled that it was still a freely made choice at the time it was made. Thus free will is saved because even though the choice was subsequently revoked it was a real, viable, freely made choice when it mattered, that is at the time of choosing. I don’t find this a very persuasive argument as it would imply that free will is contingent upon the ‘universe situation’ at the exact moment each choice is made. Free will thus becomes measured at every smallest time slice and could change or disappear at any moment. Free will seems to be one of those things that we either have or do not have for all time and the situation will not/cannot change.
There is however a much stronger attack against my argument and that is the question of exactly how to define a ‘miracle’ and/or what exactly is to be defined as a more powerful being or beings. One could argue that for a child his father and mother are more powerful beings, and that they ‘over-rule’ the choices of their children on a daily basis. Do children with fathers and mothers not have free will? My reply to this is to suggest that there is a ‘scale’ of change, and only a change which exceeds the ‘normal’ limits of natural abilities/capabilities would have the effect of erasing free will. This also happens to be the same point at which some action/choice/thing goes from being something that could or might happen to something which most people would choose to call a miracle. Thus, in my system the vast majority (almost) all choices that are revoked or altered have no impact on the question of free will, because they could and did happen in the normal, natural course of events. No supernatural ability was required and no law of nature was violated. Of course it may be we do not fully understand the laws of nature and that what we now view as supernatural might one day be considered normal. That is true, but in the system I am suggesting human knowledge or ignorance of the laws of nature is irrelevant. The thing that happens is or is not naturally possible. If it is possible given the laws of nature (whatever they might be) then free will is not impacted, if it is not possible then free will is lost. From my perspective if Jesus really did rise from the dead it was a terrible day for humanity for on that day we all lost free will for all eternity.