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
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.