Posts Tagged ‘natural laws’
We have limited free will. Within certain limitations, we can make choices and act upon those choices. Our choices are partially controlled and determined by outside forces and by the laws of physics. But we have agency to act within certain bounds of natural laws that exist. We can exercise that agency, make choices and act upon those choices. Logic dictates there is no purpose or meaning to life if we do not have some free will. We instinctively know we have power to act in some things without constraint of necessity or fate. We are bound or limited by physics but we are independent agents within our sphere of influence. We intuitively think or feel we are free. We therefore act at our own discretion. We are capable of responding to random chance with purposeful choices. Thus we can be held morally responsible and accountable for our choices and actions in both the deterministic world of physics and the indeterminate world of observable quantum mechanics that we are still discovering.
Absolute free will is logically incompatible with determinism because we do not control the universe. However, as individuals, we are able to take more than one possible course of action in any given scenario. There are obvious choices in life we can choose to follow. We can conceive and believe things. This proves some free will even though there are limitations on the choices available to us. For example, because I am not a fish, I do not have the choice of living underwater without some sort of breathing apparatus. It is determined beforehand that human life is incompatible with living unaided under water. I am therefore limited to certain pre-determined boundaries if I want to sustain life. In like manner, in some situations I have a limited number of choices I can make because of the randomness of life. I hope I never have to decide what to do if I am in a plane that is about to crash. I would have no control of the physics causing the plane to crash, but I still have some obvious choices I can make and act upon, like remain calm or panic.
As an argument against any kind of free will, consider the views of hard determinism. Determinists believe that our thoughts, feelings, actions and behaviors are all predetermined from the moment that time began at the big bang. A determinist advocates that we do not have any control over the state of the universe or the laws that govern the universe. Free will is an illusion, they say. You may think that your choices and actions have an effect on the universe but you are really no more than an observer. For a determinist, free will is a nothing more than a necessary delusion that allows us to build a society where praise and punishment actually mean something. Compatibilists hold individuals morally responsible for their actions as if they had free will. Although it doesn’t really exist, they say, we can act as if it does, thus providing a necessary condition for moral responsibility – accountability.
Following this logic, the universe is deterministic and bound by the laws of physics. Our bodies are bound by those same laws. If you are a materialist, you believe that all behavior is caused by chemical brain states outside of our control. In order for free will to exist, there must be a supernatural agent that is not bound by those laws to inject an input from outside the system; in other words, a God. I wish I could develop this further, but for now I will propose that there are only two arguments against free will. First, if determinism is the true state of things, then the will is not free because all events are caused and our actions are predetermined. Therefore, there is no moral responsibility or free will. The second argument against free will is indeterminism of random events or chance. If all our actions are caused by chance then we have no control, and therefore, again, no free will or moral responsibility. True free will requires we have control of outcomes. However, we do not control the universe or the laws of physics. If you think about it, we control nothing of this world or the universe. To prove free will, we must prove that we can control at least some things, thus becoming independent agents with power to act.
I don’t disagree with all the views of materialists or determinists. In fact, I readily concur with determinists that the laws of the universe are outside our control. I also concur that a large part of our body processes are apparently outside the control of at least our conscious mind and will. I can’t control the motion of the planets, the effects of nature, or prevent myself from dying someday. These things are determined. My bounds are set in these matters and many others. I also concur with indeterminism as it relates to many of the choices with which I am presented in this life. So many things are just random and purely by chance. I come across an object on the freeway that gives me a flat tire. It was pure chance that I happened to come upon that object and embed it in my tire first because I just happened to be there at that place and at that time. Random chance is just part of this life. So many things – most things – are out of my control.
So what do I control? There are many things over which I have control and thus free will. I control my responses to the choices I am presented in life. I can control my thoughts. I can control the things I put into my body. I control the things I say and the things I do. Nobody forces me to act a certain way or respond in a specific manner. I control my attitudes and my beliefs. I decide what I will do with my time, who I will go visit, what work I will do, what I choose to study. I may not choose many of the things that happen to me in this life but I can and do choose how I respond to those situations. I determine the character I build by using my free will adequately. My free will is limited to those things over which I have some control and have choices. I do not have free will when it comes to the laws of physics and nature. They are out of my control. In the things over which I do have control such as thoughts, beliefs and opinions I choose what I want to think about or believe. My thoughts are not caused and are not random. They are purposeful and demonstrate free will, especially when I act upon them. Therefore, my conclusion is that we have limited or adequate determinism and limited but genuine free will.
Elder Talmage wrote, “Miracles cannot be in contravention of natural law, but are wroght through the operation of laws not universally or commonly recognized.” (Jesus the Christ, p. 148) In other words, what we commonly describe as a miracle such as the healing of the sick, the restoring the sight of the blind or even raising the dead, is done according to natural laws, which may only be known to God.
I accept Elder Talmage’s statement at face value. I believe there is always an explanation for miracles, even if it has not yet been revealed to us what is the real source of the miracle. For most people, it is sufficient to say, “It is a miracle. God understands how it works. That’s enough for me.” I live my life that way too, but I also make an effort to find out if there is some sort of explanation for the miracle. That’s not wrong, is it?
Can we apply this same logic to signs and wonders in the heavens from the Old Testament record and the signs that are foretold to transpire in the last days? For example, what about the miracle of the ‘pillar of fire and smoke’ that led the Israelites out of the land of Egypt in the time of Moses? Is there some explanation for this amazing sight recorded in Exodus 13:21? Isn’t it possible that God worked through some natural means to cause the pillar of fire and smoke?
What would happen if two planetary bodies came unusually close to each other? What if a large comet passed within several thousand miles of the earth? Could a pillar of fire and smoke be a description of the head and tail of the comet as seen through a darkened or cloud-filled sky? If you are like most people, you have not thought about this as it is not something that has happened in our lifetime. Comets we have seen have never come that close to the earth.
The closest measured comet since 1700 is comet Lexell at 1.4 million miles (1,403,632). By comparison, the moon is 238,900 miles and the sun is 92 million miles (92,955,810) away. There is nothing within our known written history that has recorded a celestial body coming close enough to the earth to cause disturbances or events like those that may have happened during the time of the Exodus. Or is there?
Have you ever heard the theory that the planet Venus used to be a part of the planet Jupiter? No? I’m not surprised. This is not something that is taught by our scientists today. In fact, it is an idea that was first proposed by Immanuel Velikovsky in the 1950′s and 1960′s. His work was denounced by scientists of his day, including Carl Sagan, but has gained more attention recently with the work of Dave Talbott, author of the Saturn Myth.
Why is this important? The Lord has said that he would return to the accompaniment of many catastrophic and cataclysmic changes in the heavens and the earth. I believe we are fast approaching that time, perhaps in my lifetime. I am very interested in understanding what the signs of his coming are that I should be looking for so that I may be prepared. I know, just live righteously and don’t worry about the signs of the times, right?
What do you think? Should we try to understand the signs of the times and the Last Days?