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  1. That is a strange link: a cartoon featuring an apparently Christian preacher lecturing about the consequences of non-atonement and the [presumably] Christian concept of free will embedded in a post mentioning Yom Kippur. Leaving out the various Christian approaches to free will, I will point out that the Jewish approach to free will is not the same and the notion is considered to be a paradox. Interested parties will have to look it up.

    Jews do not usually wish each other “Happy Yom Kippur” which would be a strange greeting for the Day of Atonement. None of my Jewish friends or family say that. Perhaps he meant it as a joke.

    Changing the subject, in the Northern Hemisphere we get flu vaccinations starting in September. Is that when you get flu shots Down South?

  2. The rhetorical use of the Bronze age did it for me, but I am not the target audience. Skeptical cultural warriors do not read early law codes for the most part but are clearly more than capable of uncritically deploying the same cultural and social moves.

    An audience that is primed in advance to understand archeology and history as a collection of past fallacies, it stands little chance of reading in an unbiased manner or of engaging in anything that comes even remotely close to critical thought.

  3. Rather than viewing religion as some static throwback to the bronze age it is perhaps possible to question if more advanced agricultural societies introduced new creative ideas and philosophical possibilities. Reverence for life is one, limited in that it only appeared to extend to humans yet its potential to reduce violence and conflict cannot be dismissed.

    culled from Jonathan Haas, Biosocial and Bioarchaeological aspects of conflict and warfare, in J. Carman and A. Harding, Ancient Warfare.

    By unfortunate chance I took a break from refreshing my reading on bronze age cultural conflict (and beyond) to read E.T.

  4. It’s probably pedantry on my part, but I object to calling Jewish religious ideas like the Ten Commandments “Bronze-age laws.” Like everything else in the Bible, they belongs to the Iron age. No less than the Greeks, the Jews were relative new comers to the civilization business; and it’s misleading to assume that their ideas and institutions reflect a venerable (or decrepit) antiquity.

  5. Mitchell Coffey Mitchell Coffey

    I think it’s a joke.

    • … by a fellow with a suspiciously Jewish name, who might possibly know this stuff, and who publishes a very funny social satire set in (as the name of the comic might suggest) parallel worlds in the Multiverse…

  6. John the Plumber John the Plumber

    The animals I share my life with, farming, seem to show much more reverence for life than my species does on this humanised civilised war begotten planet.

    Do virus migrate like swallows – mmmm – and is immolation having your legs waxed?

    • is immolation having your legs waxed?

      After a fashion…

  7. “I think it’s a joke.”

    I would agree, it is indeed. Its just a pity such things pass for thought in the minds of some.

  8. I’ve noticed that the one group which has most often told me how I am to think have been the “free thinkers” who, largely, don’t believe in free will or freedom of thought but in material determinism. This cartoon is typical of how the “free thinkers” think about something like free will. Or, rather, how their cerebral molecules arrange themselves around it due to purely material causation, no truth value able to be attached to it.

    I’ve always wondered if those who mockingly dismiss “bronze age” culture would like to do without things like agriculture, written language and mathematics which also have an ancient heritage. I doubt our species will survive our oh so enlightened culture long enough but if it does someday I think the fragments left from today will be mocked as benighted “plutonium age” depravity.

    • I have a lot of respect for bronze age cultures, but I also realise that like human cultures of all stages of development they are often not very universalistic in their morality. Most moral rules are arbitrary ways to mark out ingroups and are based on local environmental factors, so the criticism “bronze age” (or for that matter “iron age” is relevant. We do not live in those conditions any more.

      • Jokes, humor, what parts of culture we find relevant are also based on local environmental factors I suspect. Reading whats below at the same time I made my comments (a local environmental factor at work in my perspective)

        “These Difficulties arise in part from the fact that the cognitive operations necessary for solving certain problems are activated in culturally specific ways. It may not be possible in a foreign culture to recognize the nature of the problem with which one is faced, or to think about the problem in the appropriate way.”

        Folks are going to read in different ways. Going by repetition in the culture I don’t think you have to resort to mind reading to suspect how some folks may choose to interpret.

        • ‘choose’ wrong choice of word. Culture it helps us appreciate why we should not be on fire but why the people down the road should.

        • P.s John I should add Nativisim is the term, borrowed from sociology used for those who use early christian material to explore a much deeper past. It was a very popular perspective. I suspect the cartoonists is not familiar with this debate. I may be wrong he may be an old school nativist, I am not.

  9. Ian H Spedding FCD Ian H Spedding FCD

    Free will is like a free lunch. There ain’t no such thing.

    This would be especially true if there were some sort of omniscient deity around.

    • That only applies if free will implies lack of determinism. I don’t think it does. All acts are caused by the natures of the entities acting, but some acts are appropriately unconstrained by external coercion. [External deities can act as inappropriate external coercion.]

      • John, if I correctly understand you, you make this sound as if there are no causes with genuinely stochastic effects

        • Nature is often stochastic… its effects are stochastically caused.

        • John,

          I’m glad to hear that you’re starting to feel better.

          Per your comment above, how do you define and describe a stochastic cause? I would suppose that a stochastic cause has a stochastic effect, but I think that you mean something different.

  10. “All acts are caused by the natures of the entities acting, but some acts are appropriately unconstrained by external coercion.” JW

    All physical acts which we can analyze in terms of causality seem to be constrained by external coercion, if there are even physical events that don’t fit within that framework they would entirely escape our usual methods of analysis. As Eddington said, there may be even physical laws that we are incapable of imagining and those would always elude us. Looking at the near complete inability of science to deal with our experience of consciousness, creating ersatz evidence in forms that seem to evaporate, one after another, I strongly suspect that consciousness is one thing that will not ever be shoved, permanently into that kind of straitjacket. The inability to close the foundation of mathematics and logic sort of lead me to suspect that the “hard problem” will not be solved because consciousness is just such an entity. Freely choosing to deal with things that are not as we might wish them to be might impose limits of that aspect of freedom but that doesn’t make the choices not free but merely conditioned.

    “This would be especially true if there were some sort of omniscient deity around.’ IHS

    In my reading that omniscient deity is also omnipotent, an omnipotent deity would not be bounded by human rules of logic and our concept of causality and would, presumably, be able to violate any “laws of nature” that we are able to conceive of at will. That those “bronze age goat herders” were able to think about a God which could so totally violate human experience, far more than a mere human being with superpowers, impresses me as surprising, at least. I’m at a loss to imagine how natural selection could prepare our reproduction fixated minds could imagine such a thing, but that effort is just just creation myth making of the science kind. I’m struck at how many sciency folks these days can’t even deal with the possibility of such a deity or even the possibility that their own minds that they use to think about such things are real. Not believing in what you are using as you use it might be the highest level of denialism, or the most fundamental.

    Though your point does actually confirm my suspicions that the rejection and attack on the basis of human freedom is an ideological campaign because it might imply the existence of a God. It all seems to get back to the war against religion with atheists. Always.

  11. Ian H Spedding FCD Ian H Spedding FCD

    Consider this: an omniscient God is one who knows all that exists to be known. If such a being knows the future then it already exists to be known. If the future already exists then it is already decided – our decisions are already decided. Thus, an omniscient God who knows the future means there can be no such thing as free will.

    Another point to consider: whether we are consciously aware of it or not, we regard our ‘present’ – in the temporal sense – as the present. We can do little else because it is the only one we know. But do we have any reason to think our ‘present’ is in any way privileged over any or all others?

    For example, I’m sure Charles Darwin or Thomas Jefferson or Aristotle all thought of their ‘presents’ as the ‘present’. But what of the 200 years between, say, Thomas Jefferson’s ‘present’ on 2 October 1812 and our ‘present’ on 2 October 2012. For him that period was a mystery, but full of possibilities that he was (relatively) free to choose between. For us, those two centuries are (largely) settled history. The choices have been made and they are “set in stone”.

    What then of our futures? To us it is “the undiscover’d country” but to someone looking back from 200 years in our future it is, again, settled history. To that person our mysterious future already exists to be known. And if we have no reason to think our ‘present’ is in any way privileged over that of the future observer then our future already exists to be known and our free will is an illusion, a comforting conceit.

    • “Consider this: an omniscient God is one who knows all that exists to be known. If such a being knows the future then it already exists to be known. If the future already exists then it is already decided – our decisions are already decided.”

      I did that for a couple of decades and eventually accepted open theism that says God knows all possibilities, everything that has happened, everything about the future that is unsettled.

    • Ian H Spedding FCD Ian H Spedding FCD

      So the question for that God would be, “Why bother?”

      • Hi Ian, Sorry, I’m not following the context of your question. Could you explain the context of your question?

  12. I was going to say something like what James Goetz does. The idea that IHS gives seems to presuppose that the entire future exists now. It’s remarkable how those who believe everything is the result of random causation would hold that idea. I suspect it’s a mixture of 17th -19th century mechanistic habits of thought clumsily trying to glue themselves to 20th century physics. Whether or not any of that is relevant to the entire range of what we call time is entirely unknown. I suspect it’s another instance of trying to tie another non-physical entity to the more successfully understood matter that we partially understand. I wonder if time is going to be the aspect of current doctrine about matter that eventually proves to be the weak link that leads to future crises.

    What I can say is that we have so little understanding of what time is, that is to say no knowledge at all, that using it in this kind of argument can only bring an illusory understanding. If our choices are part of what makes up the present and the results of those lead to what will come, then the idea that our choices are an essential part of what will happens seems reasonable. But that’s only because we’re so used to thinking that everything is caught in the web of causation when there isn’t any way to know if everything is. We don’t know if that’s even relevant to how time works if the idea of “working” is relevant to time at all.

    An omnipotent-omniscient God wouldn’t necessarily be limited to any human ideas on these topics. Neither would human free-will. Using Eddington’s fishnet metaphor, if free will is truly free, it would not be the product of causality and it would pass through a fishnet for catching causation as easily as water passes through even a very fine fishnet. You might be able to catch a lot with causation but that doesn’t mean you catch everything with it. It’s possible that you will even miss aspects of physical matter if there are aspects of matter that aren’t cemented into a causal network. That that idea isn’t very satisfying for people who like to think everything can be figured out doesn’t really make the idea any less possible.

    I’d love to go into what IHS’s idea does to the presumption of the pseudo-skeptics that precognitive knowledge is impossible because the future doesn’t yet exist but that would only be for fun.

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