Free Will and Randomness

Going Wrong
Intuitive Learning - The Results
The Failure of Intuition
The Monster Study and Intuition
Success, Failure, and the Need to Succeed
Free Will and Randomness
Occam's Razor
PEMDAS - And Other Atrocities
Math Lessons
For Further Reading

Randomness is the property of having no prior causes. An event is random if it is not the result of any other events.
Free Will is an individual's ability to make a decision that is not completely the result of prior events.
Both randomness and Free Will are hypothetical properties. And both are widely debated among the scientific, mathematical, philosophical and theological communities.

Most people, however, are not concerned about either. They don't recognize the relevance either of these have to their lives and -- possibly -- their afterlives.
Consider the following: If every decision we make is the result of prior events, then our behavior is preordained. From the moment of our conception, every atom, every molecule is creating a matrix of data, imperatives, and behaviors that determine each subsequent event. By birth, we are physiologically launched into our futures. Every choice we make is the result of the interaction of DNA and the environment. We have no choice but to be exactly what our preconditions are making us be.
And in that sense, we are blameless. We may be dangerous or helpful, but whatever we are, it is not by choice. Like volcanoes and sharks and the wheat in the fields, we are merely what we are. Others may be attracted toward us or repelled by us, but we have no moral responsibility any more than do volcanoes, sharks and wheat ... if there is no such thing as Free Will.
Theologians argue that Free Will exists and that we have a moral responsibility for what we do. They contend that with any decision we face, there is some element that is different than prior experiences and perceptions and which allows us to freely make a decision for which we ourselves must accept responsibility.
Until recently, there has been little if any rational basis for taking such a posture.
The implications of Free Will collide with the basis of most scientific thought. In order for a human's decision process to not be dependent on prior events, it most be possible for something to happen that is independent of causation. That is, it most be possible for random events to occur in the universe.
This is a scary thought for scientists and most people in general. It suggests that a heavenly body in orbit might randomly leave that orbit -- the moon, for example, might without cause suddenly head directly toward the earth.
And -- if randomness is possible -- that could happen. It's the grammatical nature of the meaning of the word could in the previous sentence that is the center of controversy. For many people, could translates into would. For some people, could in this context translates into it might happen but it's not very likely that it will.
In truth, could is virtually meaningless, especially in the context of randomness. The very idea of randomness eliminates predictability (or seems to) and that would mean that we have no idea of likelihood since we have no basis for predicting.
The reader might see the threat that randomness poses to one's sense of security in the physical uniververse. How can we ever feel safe if we have no idea when the earth might open up under our feet?
And yet most of us do feel secure as we walk down the street, even though it is possible even in a non-random universe that the earth might open up under our feet at any moment. Because even in a totally causative universe, the mathematics of completely predicting an outcome dependent on a huge number of prior events is beyond any calculus we have. We have concepts such as Chaos Theory that embrace this impossibility, but using such concepts to make predictions is not absolutely reliable.
Still, while the idea of random physical events may be terrifying, the idea that we ourselves are unable to make a decision freely is almost equal terrifying, perhaps more so. We want to be unpredictable beings living in totally predictable universes.

The coin now appears to have come down on the side of unpredictability, randomness. As scientists study subatomic particles, more and more is there evidence that some of these particles appear to be random in nature. There appear to be particles that "exist" in a state of readiness. That is, they don't yet have identity and whatever identity they will take will depend on the nature of the observer. More precisely, they don't exist until we look for them.
Whether or not such behavior has been truly observed is still debated. The implications have hardly been explored. Mostly, scientists are still stuck in the physical world. Few people, even scientists, understand that the implications of randomness have a direct impact on moral philosophy.
If subatomic behavior can be random in any way at all, then the atoms in our brain are themselves unpredictable and a behavior can be distinct from prior causes. In other words, Free Will at least has a theoretical basis

It is a difficult subject to discuss. Discussion is linguistic and language is fundamentally a logical structure, however imperfectly realized. Once randomness is thrown into the pot, there is no apparant basis for extrapolating consequences. Concepts such as likely and unlikely have no linguistic meaning.
Actually, all of us live in such a world. An event may only have a one-in-a-thousand chance of happening, but it is possible that it will happen and once it happens, it has happened.

Let's put it differently.  Consider the situation in which there are a thousand slips of paper and a thousand people, each one of whom will receive and keep exactly one of those slips.  One slip has a circle drawn on it; the rest are blank.  Every person has a 0.1% chance of being given the slip with the circle.  No one is likely to get it ... but one person will.  And once that one person has received the slip with the circle drawn upon it, that event will be unchangeable.  It may have had a one-in-a-thousand likelihood in advance but it is 100% afterwards.
This is the universe we live in.  When we attempt to make it predictable by trying to lay mathematics over its events, we are engaged in an impossible task.  Mathematics cannot perfectly describe anything other than itself. 
And that implies that the universe is and will remain unpredictable.  For all practical purposes, randomness exists.
And Free Will is a possibility.