on atheism, determinism and other stories

The holiday season has come to an end, for me, that is. I had a good break. I will be resuming work shortly. I hope all of you have been well.

I have a feeling this post maybe slightly lengthy, but bear with me. Thank you.

In the burden of proof, the author is trying to make a case that atheists have a burden of proof to dispense and or they should shut up. We shouldn’t, as non believers, speak of non belief. Let the theist tell us what their god is, where it is and maybe, just maybe, we can talk.

The author of why did god give man freewill? has jumped many guns to arrive at their answer. There is implied in the post a god, that this god created or had a role in the being of human persons and finally that this god has endowed said humans with freewill. The post is also trying to excuse the believers god from responsibility in the shit that goes around. God has to be made to appear good at all costs. The author also appears to know the nature of god and among other things tells us their god is humble!

In the denial of freewill and its grave conclusions, the author has gone off the rails.

The author of deterring determinism believes he has made a proper case against determinism. He writes

a critical examination of the determinism arguments reveals crippling flaws, and solid philosophy, scientific evidence, and common sense all undeniably affirm that people have free will.

and we only can hope there is evidence to support such assertions. I haven’t read Skinner and I don’t know if he is the most famous determinist but what Ambrose quotes, such as,

Skinner believed that most people think they have free will only because they are unaware of all the external factors influencing their thoughts and actions. He argued that people who break the law only do so because their environment and past molds them to behave in that particular way.

have been said or written by many others writing before him. The author is encouraged to read the works of Jean Messlier, Schopenhauer among others.

Ambrose makes an outlandish claim, without any basis in fact, that

All arguments for determinism are greatly crippled by a lack of trustworthiness.

where is his evidence for this. He argues that since determinists argue our actions are caused, we can’t believe our convictions. I am at a loss how these two issues relate.

He then writes

Another problem with the arguments against free will is the general lack of proof determinists have to defend their position (Augros). Determinists have a crushing burden of proof, and they have been unable to live up to it thus far. They must prove, not only that human behavior is influenced by external factors, but they must also prove that external factors are the only influence.

How would Ambrose want his bar met? Has he thought of an experiment or a mathematical formula with values that we can feed into an equation and viola, determinism is proven. Short of this, I think, it is enough for the determinist to demonstrate by argument alone the influence of external factors in human behaviour.

Contrary to what Ambrose is saying here

Free will allows for influences to exist. Nobody will deny that there are many different temptations, motivations, and attractions behind different choices

with freewill, influences wouldn’t matter. A person can act as they so wish. Influences only make sense in a determinist universe.

Again why would freewill allow limitations? All a person would need is more freewill and they be good. With enough freewill, one can choose to be the Crown prince of Saudi Arabia or even the greatest sports person, all other influences be damned.

In a case of comparing of apples to oranges, Ambrose decides for his evidence, to compare humans to non living things. It would have helped his case if he were to maybe compare humans with apes or donkeys. There is  no need to refute this particular argument.

Ambrose then tells us because famous philosophers and pseudo-philosophers have argued for freewill, it must be true. He also claims because the belief has endured, it must be true. Against this, I will say determinism must be true because famous philosophers have argued it is and it too, has endured in the human psyche.

Having failed to show any of the fatal flaws of determinism, Ambrose then tells us determinism in unreasonable; under it there is no reason to punish wrongdoers. It is only under it that punishment for rehabilitation would make sense. The determinist argues that training has influence on behaviour and rehabilitative measures would qualify as these influences. It makes no sense under freewill to punish anyone. All they need is more freewill and they should be good. Education has no part in behaviour.

If all our actions have causes, is there need for rewards? Does it matter? Or do they only matter in a freewill universe? I say rewards makes more sense in a determinist universe since they form part of the influences that would make others strive for recognition for acts of valor.

I am not sure when he writes

the soldier sacrificing himself for his comrades has no choice but to do so, and he should not be praised for his noble actions.

he sees the influence of training hidden in the label soldier. Is he blind to their training among other things?

I will argue, in conclusion, that none of the the posts above have made a convincing case for their positions. The authors chose either to attack atheism and determinism [ I think in the hope of arguing against a naturalistic universe] but have failed to do so.




About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

35 thoughts on “on atheism, determinism and other stories

  1. ladysighs says:

    I love scrolling down your post and reaching the “in conclusion” part. lol
    I congratulate myself and pat myself on the back. 🙂 Glad you had a nice break.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. David K says:

    From Burden of Proof:
    “It could also be argued that if one is challenging a recognized consensus of a culture or a discipline, the burden of proof would be on the challenger. For instance, if a person challenges a theory of science in which there is a consensus that a theory is correct the burden of proof would be on the one challenging the consensus, e.g. the big-bang theory. The scientific community does not accept that it has the burden of proof to prove to every individual in the culture that what it says is, in fact, the truth. The burden of proof is on the one questioning the consensus.”

    Ironic that he used the old argumentum ad populum and a theory to craft his argument. If we are using similies, can we equate his belief in god as a theory? Just because the majority of the population believes in something, it does not make it true.

    Liked by 1 person

    • fojap says:

      When I read that, I couldn’t help thinking that it might depend on how tightly you draw the boundaries around the “culture.” In my own environment, I’d say that the “consensus” is that there is no god or gods who intervene in human affairs, but there might be an chi-like “energy” that permeates the universe and some people might choose to call that “God.” That is not my view, but it is the general consensus such as I can see it.

      It’s also important that the “scientific consensus” is formed by scientists practicing in a given field.

      I always feel that the “burden of proof” is from the person who wants something from the other. If I, as an atheist, want someone else to abandon religion, the burden of proof is on me. If someone wants me to believe in their religion, the burden of proof is on them.


      • makagutu says:

        I agree with you that if I were to say belief in gods is irrational, I have to at least show cause why. The believer who wants me to accept their god has to, at least, show cause why


    • makagutu says:

      Does custom make something right? I doubt it.


  3. entropy says:

    If you were to go out from the assumption of determinism prohibiting free will, you antogonize the two. In that case, where does ‘free will’ originate? In other words: if determinism is exhibited in material (matter), what stuff is ‘free will’ made of? And if free will could be exhibited in material, either the laws of cause-and-effect are limited, or free will has to be redefined! 🙂

    There should be sound definitions of the two at some point, IMHO.


  4. Hariod Brawn says:

    Has your protagonist read of Benjamin Libet’s work in the 1970’s – see: ‘Time-on’ Theory – and the plethora of subsequent studies? If he has, he doesn’t read very well, or prefers to confirm his own biases in the face of proof to the contrary. Freewill must connote conscious volition, or it is neither free nor will.


  5. I gave out freewill as a Christmas gift this year. I bought the freewill (well, I bought it, so I guess it wasn’t free, but I gave it out as a free gift) at a thrift store for 17.95. It came in a red package with the words “freewill inside” written on it. I opened it up and found it had 14.6 freewills inside it. They looked like grape bubble gum. I gave them out to people and asked them to use them, freely. Nothing happened. No one was any freer than they were before I freely gave them the freewills I bought at the store. My quest for proof that free will exists continues to produce no fruit. I’ll let you know when anything I find or read even remotely convinces me otherwise. Happy New Year, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. john zande says:

    Are you truly expecting to one day read something convincing?


  7. Very interesting debate and thoughts. I’m not sure if this dichotomy between determinism and free-will can ever be satisfactorily resolved. From my own subjective viewpoint, external factors definitely affect people’s personal choices. But, are those external factors so deterministic that they preclude all personal choice?

    I wonder if an experiment could be done. For example, give a time-consuming task having numerous possible solutions to 1000 culturally diverse volunteers and seclude them individually in isolation. Then, compare the results. Determinism could be inferred if the pattern of solutions corresponded to the differences between cultures. Conversely, free-will might be inferred if no such patterns emerged. I suspect that the actual results would be inconclusive.


  8. Ambrose Bean says:

    You clearly didn’t read my arguments very thoughtfully. You went in with a particular agenda, and you picked out bits and pieces of my writing that you thought you could disprove in some way. As it turned out, all you did was hash up a few points that are really very weak once someone realizes what my article was actually arguing. The end result is a very easy rebuttal for me! Read the article for real, address my arguments, then maybe you can actually back your opion with something solid.


  9. mistermuse says:

    I think looking for “proof” that there is (or isn’t, for that matter), a God is a waste of time in the sense that there is no proof either way. Though there is no doubt that all religions are man-invented, that doesn’t prove that there isn’t a creator – an impersonal creator never (for reasons unknown) revealing itself to its creation (if I were such a creator, I’d lay low too, because how could I justify the horrendous suffering I have both caused and condone).

    Atheists, of course, have every right to what they believe, but I believe agnostics have the more tenable and deep-down honest position…because in the end, we JUST DON’T KNOW.


    • Ambrose Bean says:

      You cannot prove a God in a scientific way, but there is still evidence. Sure you can’t have an experiment where you end up with “God” in a vile. It is like consciousness or energy. We’ve never seen it, and we can’t “prove” that it is real. But there is good evidence to say that it is. Read Aquinas’s proofs.


    • makagutu says:

      To say there is no proof either way is misleading. What a god is is not known in a way that a proper discussion can be has.
      To say also that there could be an impersonal creator is assuming too much. Do you mean it created all from nothing or that it used what was? Did it create space and time or this were?

      Liked by 1 person

    • powellpowers says:

      By the way, there is a floating pink elephant that happens to be transparent and mass-less.

      You can’t see it. But I assure you it’s there. You can’t detect it using our current method of science because it is extra-terrestrial and created by supreme higher technology of the 6th dimension.

      Is there an elephant? I’m not sure if the “deep-down honest position” should be “we just don’t know”

      There are many ways you can debunk me.


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