Most of the time you can tell when you are watching an atheist’s youtube channel due to the lack of maturity and respect in the video. Take the channel, “Rationality Rules” (RR) who recently did a response to me on free will: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctbPamkfCQg
He decided to take the low road and refer to me as SP, for “Shit Philosophy.” How cute! I’ve never heard that one before. . . It is like most internet atheists have just fully accepted they cannot engage in a conversation without insults or revealing how low their maturity is. But let’s put that aside and ask if he actually gave a decent response. Well no, and typically I don’t waste my time responding to bad videos like this, but this one was too easy.
The first thing he does is he says I “demonstrably lie.” However, he never proves this. Later he admits I either intentionally misrepresent Harris, or unintentionally misrepresent Harris, which RR goes onto call “cognitive bias and irresponsibility”. However, the second category (which is a possibility) is not lying, nor could it even be held as irresponsible (without contradicting Harris, funnily enough, since it would be considered an uncontrolled unconscious cognitive activity). So how can he say it is a fact that I lied, but never actually show this? This is a minute issue compared to the huge philosophical errors he later makes in the video.
Next, he accuses me of a black and white fallacy because in the beginning of my video I note there is a debate over the existence of free will between libertarians and determinists. He claims I act as if there is only one school of determinism and one school of libertarianism, but this is arguing from silence. I never said these are the only schools of thought or denied there are various other forms. I am simply highlighting one particular debate between two different groups in a general sense. I did not go into details because the video would be over a half an hour long. Likewise, he could do a video on the general disagreements between Christians and atheists without noting the existence of Catholics or Protestants. He is assuming an awful lot in a simple statement of mine.
It is like he thinks if I do not begin my video by briefly mentioning every belief about free will out there I must not think they exist. Why is it a problem if I decide to highlight one particular debate and not deal with other forms? The fact that I am doing this doesn’t imply I am saying these are the only two views. I am merely highlighting one particular debate in the issue of the existence of free will. A black and white fallacy (false dichotomy) would only happen if I said these were the only two options, which I did not.(1)
If RR decides tomorrow to do a video on why one should reject Christianity and become an atheist, could we accuse him of committing a black and white fallacy because he has not discussed Islam or Hinduism? Of course not! His hypothetical video would only be highlighting a particular debate and it would not mean he is automatically denying there are other views out there. The fact that he confuses this basic informal fallacy shows he is not off to a good start. You can’t just throw around informal fallacies and expect people to take you seriously.
The next thing he does is start accusing me of not understanding fatalism and determinism and ironically only reveals he doesn’t understand these terms because he says, “but one minute later he conflates Harris’ views, and indeed the views of all determinists, with one specific type of determinism, called fatalism or Newtonian determinism.” Here is the problem. The reality is fatalism is not the same as Newtonian determinism. It is not really a type of determinism, in the strictest sense. Some have called it a teleological form of determinism, but they are different in what they claim and you wouldn’t put it on a chart with soft or hard determinism like it was a sub category of determinism. It is a little more complicated. This should have been obvious because the chart he just put up prior to this, which lists the various forms of determinism, doesn’t mention fatalism.
Determinism and fatalism are different in various ways and the fact that he doesn’t realize this means he has been reading too much Sam Harris and not enough of actual philosophers. Determinists believe as I said in the video, “free will is an illusion and everything we think and believe has been determined by prior causes, so we are not responsible for our actions because everything we do is simply the effect of past causes.” This is a broad definition of the various forms out there (Let me put that in there so he understands since context doesn’t seem to matter in his brain).(2)
Fatalism only makes sense if there is an author or controller of reality, which is why it usually is something more like a theistic idea. Fatalism is the belief everything is the result of the control of gods or God. To back this up, I’ll borrow this infographic from the blog, “Breaking the Free will Illusion” to show it is a huge error for RR to suggest fatalism is a type of determinism. They are not the same thing:
Source of graphic: http://breakingthefreewillillusion.com/determinism-vs-fatalism-infographic/
So basically, determinism is a belief past causes determine our choices and future; free choices are an illusion. Fatalism is the belief the world is destined by higher powers (whatever they may be) that are beyond our control and we are powerless to change outcomes. There are important differences and to say one is a type of the other is simply false. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says it like this, “Fatalism is therefore clearly separable from determinism, at least to the extent that one can disentangle mystical forces and gods’ wills and foreknowledge (about specific matters) from the notion of natural/causal law.” But unfortunately, RR continues with this confusion throughout the rest of the video. (2)
Next, RR says that Harris is not advocating a form of Newtonian Determinism. Now, this might be true, and the reason I say it is because if you read Sam Harris he never comes right out and says what he holds to. He is very inconsistent and jumps all over the place. For crying out loud, Alvin Plantinga had to explain to him (in a review of Harris’ book) that free will did not mean maximal autonomy (this was the main reason I decided to respond to Harris, which RR did not even bring up). Harris is trying to write a book on free will and couldn’t even get this simple fact straight. To point this out let me show that there are times Harris is definitely espousing causal (Newtonian) determinism:
“We can pursue any line of thought we want–but our choice is the product of prior events that we did not bring into being.” (3)
“The choice was made for me by events in my brain that I, as the conscious witness of my thoughts and actions could not inspect or influence. Could I have “changed my mind” and switched to tea before the coffee drinker in me could get his bearing? Yes, but this impulse would also have been the product of unconscious causes” (4)
“The brain is a physical system, entirely beholden to the laws of nature–and there is every reason to believe that changes in its functional state and material structure entirely dictate our thoughts and actions.” (5)
Now compare this the basic definition of Causal (Newtonian) determinism, “Causal determinism is, roughly speaking, the idea that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature.” (6)
So if the brain is beholden to the laws of nature (as Harris says) and our choices are the product of prior events that we did not bring into being (as Harris also says) then what else is causing us to act but prior material causes? It doesn’t take a lot of reasoning to infer what this means. If Harris and RR are rejecting this then they are being inconsistent. Again, if our choices are the product of prior events and we are beholden to the laws of nature then I don’t see how you can escape Newtonian determinism.
What RR does next is to continue with his error in equating Newtonian Determinism with fatalism. Again, these are not the same thing and I never said Harris was a fatalist. This would be unlikely since Harris is not a theist or even remotely close to that. One can be a Newtonian determinist and not a fatalist. When RR equates these two things he is really showing he doesn’t understand what fatalism is.
Newtonian Determinism would simply say the future is causally determined by prior causes. Fatalism is not dependent on causality, and this would have been pretty easy to know if he would have looked up the terms. The fact that he thinks fatalism is Newtonian determinism is a pretty bad error and it is pretty embarrassing. The ironic part is he spends a lot of time in the video with passive aggressive comments attacking my intelligence. To paraphrase Romans, professing himself wise he has become a fool.
Moving ahead, he then surprisingly suggests the double slit experiment doesn’t show the quantum world is indeterministic. He doesn’t go into much detail and I doubt he has watched my videos on quantum mechanics. Yes, the double slit experiment does show the quantum world is indeterministic. The wave function cannot collapse unless a measurement happens, which even Laurence Krauss admitted. The wave function may be deterministic, but our observations are indeterministic and collapse cannot occur unless a measurement happens.
Krauss says this in the debate here at 52:00: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7vEB6FXtbs
The next thing he does is quote Neil Degrasse Tyson on the measurement problem in quantum mechanics. I already addressed this in another video, so I won’t repeat myself and simply refer people there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qB7d5V71vUE
The next thing RR attempts to try and quote Harris on quantum theory and argue indeterminacy in quantum mechanics does not get you to free will. This is true and he is completely misunderstanding my point. The point is quantum mechanics shows observers are necessary to collapse the wave function, so the choice of the observer on how to measure is a crucial step in quantum mechanics. The universe is not fully deterministic, it requires outside observers for the final step in the collapse of the wave function. This is essentially what Ian Hutchinson was trying to point out to Krauss in the debate I linked above.
The point is this infers that observers are not causal determined physical processes or objects, but outside the quantum laws and are not determined like physical objects. I go over this in more detail here:
am not saying indeterminism means free will. I am pointing out the very nature of the universe infers the need for observers that are not determined or part of the world that is governed by quantum laws. No one is saying a combination of determinism and randomness gets you to free will. I explain this in the follow-up video I did on free will:
Finally, RR tries to cite the Libet experiments as evidence free will does not exist. But, once again, I already did a video where I debunked these experiments:
So he is wrong to say I didn’t address them. I simply saved them for my series on the evidence for the soul. The main reason I did this was that the debate over free will always seems to collapse to questions of philosophy of mind. The video on free will was a precursor to my series on quantum mechanics and philosophy of mind. I was sort of setting the stage and didn’t want to go into extreme detail, as I was saving this for future videos. If RR would have looked over my channel more instead of finding one video to pick apart he would have known I addressed far more than he lets on in his response video.
So to wrap this up, RR doesn’t really give a lot of evidence for determinism. He only cited the heavily debunked Libet experiments and reveals he knows very little about philosophy since he equated fatalism with Newtonian determinism. He doesn’t realize a lot of the objections he presented were tackled in other videos on my channel. So he should not be claiming I did not address these things. All he had to do was ask, but it seems to be beneath him to have a respectful conversation with me, and it is far easier to pretend you know what you are talking about than to actually do proper research.
3. Sam Harris, Free Will (Free Press, 2012), p. 40
4. ibid, p. 7-8
5. ibid, p. 11-12