Converted Canadian Muslims crush, and shoot Canadians. Hey, they read it in a magazine! Do those killers have free will? Or are they just Qur’an programmed machines? This is the sort of quandary which advances in neurology show the ancient debate on Free Will ought to be about. Here is a tiny refresher about the Qur’an:
Quran (2:216) – “Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.”
Quran (3:56) – “As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help.”
Quran (3:151) – “Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority”. This speaks directly of polytheists, thus including Christians, since they believe in the Trinity (Muhammad incorrectly believed that Christians had ‘joining companions to Allah’… as his mentor was a relative, a Coptic monk!).
Quran (4:74) – “Let those fight in the way of Allah who sell the life of this world for the other. Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward.”
Quran (8:12) – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”
Quran (8:39) – “And fight with them until there is no more fitna (disorder, unbelief) and religion should be only for Allah”
OK, I stop here with Qur’an machine’s quotes, because this essay is not about Islam, but about Free Will. The preceding makes it clear that whoever really believes textually and literally in what’s written in the Qur’an ought to march into the Parliament in Ottawa, and destroy the disbelief there, to gather the vast reward.
And the question is: do these people have Free Will?
The modern debate about Free Will has not been about that. It has been, for centuries, about “gratuitous acts” [actes gratuits]. This has been an entirely stupid debate, the provinces of lost philosophers; any bear or lion hunter knows free will exists, not just in humans, but in the minds of ferocious beasts (thus making them hard to predict; once I found myself weaponless, 10 years old, and facing the largest lion I ever saw; I carefully paid my respects, and backed off slowly as I anybody in such circumstances ought to do, acknowledging the splendor of the king of beasts, making Him feel very good about Himself, and thus making my on-going existence something which, however minute and unworthy, represented an element of satisfaction for the Lord of Africa).
Modern brain scanning techniques have brought a twist on that: the launching of an act is preceded by unconscious brain preparations, several tenths of second prior.
That is totally unsurprising. The brain is like an immense, giant machine, with millions of programs and preparations running simultaneously. Consciousness looks, and can only look, at very few of them.
At least, we know this now.
For example the latest Nobel in Biology was attributed for the discovery of tiny hexagonal networks of neurons which act like microscopic Geostationary Positioning Systems. Such circuitry is active continuously, to provide a sense of place. It influences consciousness, and thus Free Will.
(Say: if the internal GPS indicates we are falling off, the Free Will debate will be shut-down. Instantaneously.)
The free will debate is thousands of years old. It became acute after Constantine’s terrorizing dictatorship imposed as state religion an omnipotent, omniscient god. How can be free, if god is everything?
That had the pleasant consequence that intellectuals, instead of worrying about the dictators, conducted 17 centuries of sterile debates about whether god allowed them to be free (in truth it’s Constantine and his tyrannical successors who did not allow them to be free).
When a bell rings, Pavlov discovered that the dog’s digestive system sprang to attention. The free will is the one who rings the bell. But what if it was not an individual ringing the bell, but history itself? Would we be conscious of it?
Of course the phenomenon of springing to attention is familiar to macho men seeing a beautiful woman in the distance. Conditioned reflexes are all over. But could it be that the exaggerated masculinity of those who spring to attention when seeing a woman, be itself a conditioned neural, glial, and neurohormonal system of sorts?
It is well known that people learn to fake emotions and behaviors: homosexuals living in the closet have long done this. But not just them. I claim it’s all over the place. Even in the fascination with wine. So some will reach happiness only when they can drink a bit of alcohol, etc. This conditioning is cultural: Bacchus has been celebrated, and associated to wine, for millennia. A fundamental sensation, happiness has been subjugated to a cultural notion.
Each nation has its crazes, its conditioned reflexes, its own notion of free will. Most of the minds are made from the outside, complete from ideas to emotions, to what to say in most situations encountered. And so it is, all over.
But then what happens to fee will? Is it all about conditioned reflexes from elaborated systems of mood and thoughts, many of them culturally given?
When called to exert free will, all what is happening is a cocktail of conditioned reflexes of long, and subconsciously established, systems of thoughts, emotions and moods. In other words, most people are just puppets from the genealogy of ideas, morals, moods, emotions, and conditioned reflexes.
What’s Free Will?
I started with Qur’an programmed robots. But then the Anglo-Saxon enslaving West is not a place exempt from the most absurd, obnoxious and criminal programmation.
I recently partook in an exchange on Free Will on an interesting and open minded philosophical site. The author had extolled the “philosopher” David Hume as the “first psychologist” Let’s roll a quote from that great Anglo-Saxon genius. Here is David Hume, enthusiastically buttressing the Anglo-Saxon slave masters’ system:
“I am apt to suspect the Negroes to be naturally inferior to the Whites. There scarcely ever was a civilized nation of that complexion, nor even any individual, eminent either in action or speculation. No ingenious manufactures amongst them, no arts, no sciences. On the other hand, the most rude and barbarous of the Whites, such as the ancient Germans, the present Tartars, have still something eminent about them, in their valour, form of government, or some other particular. Such a uniform and constant difference could not happen, in so many countries and ages, if nature had not made an original distinction between these breeds of men. Not to mention our colonies, there are Negro slaves dispersed all over Europe, of whom none ever discovered the symptoms of ingenuity; though low people, without education, will start up amongst us, and distinguish themselves in every profession. In Jamaica, indeed, they talk of one Negro as a man of parts and learning; but it is likely he is admired for slender accomplishments, like a parrot who speaks a few words plainly.”
This grossly racist quote is from whom some Anglo-Saxons searching for respect call the “first psychologist”, David Hume. It brings the same question about Free Will.
Notice that Hume does not just imprint with offensive notions about “negroes”, but also offensive emotions about them. And by “offensive” I mean just that, inducing an offensive, that is, an attack.
That anti-human Hume’ notion of sub-humanity sprang from the greed of gross exploitation: having armies of slaves overseas made many a plutocrat in Western Europe extremely wealthy.
In this, it does not differ from the Qur’an’s main axis of attack. We know from the Hadith (a book gathering all what was said about the life of Muhammad by direct witnesses) that the context of the very first (2; 216) quote is that Muhammad the Prophet, then Master of Medina, was trying to convince his followers to go attack and raid some caravans.
It’s an axis of attack, but also an axis of imprinting, of making people into assault machines, enslaving, killing, “striking off their heads and striking off every fingertip of them”. As seen on TV.
So what’s Free Will if we are just machines programmed, emotionally and logically, from the outside? Even for the most inhuman tasks?
If any, Free Will has to incorporate the impact, the struggle, one is having feeding one’s brain with seriously, strenuously examined data. It is exactly what parrots do not have.
One cannot decide when to decide. One can only decide to examine with an open mind, what one’s deciding structures will be constructed with. At best.