Problem of free will visualized

6 Dec

This is a really tired old argument that theists keep bringing up and no matter how many different ways I try to explain it, they still don’t seem to get it. I thought literally drawing a little picture might help, so here’s my super advanced MS Paint art.

The problem goes like this: Some theists like to claim that their god is all knowing AND that they have complete free will when it comes to making choices in their lives. This logically cannot be true, and he’s why:

Here is a track. Starting from left to right there are two choices at every intersection with four final outcomes. (Life in infinitely more complex than this, but this track is sufficient to illustrate my point.)

Now going down this track you have three decisions to make. Left or right. At the end of your journey your path looks like the red line.

God, being all knowing, would know that was the path you were going to take. If he had a chart up in heaven keeping track, it would match the path you would eventually end up taking. (He knows everything, including the future, he knows if you’re going to go left or right and where)

Now say you want to be tricky, you’re feeling random, sporadic. You come to the 2nd of 3 intersections and while your decide to go left, you suddenly switch to go right (the green line) at the very last second! You had complete free will to make that split second change, right? Wrong.

Remember, God knows EVERYTHING. He knew you were going to try and be tricky, changing at the very last moment. Because of this, God’s chart would not look like the earlier version. Instead it would look like the one below.

You see, if God is all knowing, then you can NEVER have a situation where the chart of the actions you take doesn’t match the one he knew you’d take.

If God is all knowing, than your future is already planned out for you; you do not have free will. You can never NOT do what the all knowing God knows you are going to do.

The ability to choose is an illusion. By the simple act of his knowing, your actions are predetermined. This includes whether or not you are going to sin and go to hell. In short, God has planned for billions of people to sin and go to hell before they were ever born.

8 Responses to “Problem of free will visualized”

  1. John Barron Jr. December 6, 2010 at 6:50 pm #

    I used to think this until I realized that God’s knowledge of an event is not the same as causing the event. Your idea only works if God’s knowledge of your choice is what causes it. If God’s knowledge is not what causes your decision but it is the individual and God knows it, it does not necessarily mean it is determined.

    Almost in the same way I can place before my 10 year old a bowl of ice cream or a bowl of broccoli, I know the choice they will make, but it is by no means determined and that they had no choice to choose ice cream.

  2. thesecretatheist December 6, 2010 at 10:03 pm #

    This is the reason I was a 5 point Calvinist before I became an atheist.

  3. godlesspaladin December 6, 2010 at 10:05 pm #

    Hmmm, interesting point, though I would argue that there is a difference between understanding that there is a very high probability that your 10yr old will choose the ice cream and the absolute knowledge that comes with being God. There is still a possibility that the kid could chose broccoli, however unlikely, but it is not possible to choose something god has foreseen for you.

    Regardless if knowing is the same thing as determinism or not, it still doesn’t change fact God made billions of people knowing they would end up being tortured forever. What’s the point?

  4. thesecretatheist December 6, 2010 at 10:18 pm #

    The idea of free will vs predestination aside, if you put a bowl of ice cream and a bowl of broccoli in front of your 10 year old, tell them to eat the broccoli but know they will chose the ice cream, then beat them unmercifully you are not a good person.

  5. John Barron Jr. December 7, 2010 at 6:51 am #

    As hilariously misrepresentitive of Christian theology as that is SA, the original post is about libertarian free will. In the case of libertarian free will both options are presented without any coersion, and without any negative ramifications since there is no incorrect choice as part of the equasion.

    • godlesspaladin December 7, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

      That might not be your Christian theology, but there are millions of Christians who believe that. (But let me guess, they’re not “true” Christians then are they?)

      That’s a good point, I never included any coercion or negative ramifications. You have even less of a choice if you’re born with original sin and a nature inclined to sin. I could write up the reasons why, but I already typed up how Ayn Rand explained it so beautifully here.

  6. John Barron December 7, 2010 at 3:24 pm #

    Whether one believes the representation SA posed has no bearing on their salvation or status of being a “true” Christian. My comment had more to do with his portrayal of God’s judgment. That is not the way the Bible explains it.

    You still have choices even given the idea of original sin, it doesn’t remove your ability to choose, but rather deals with your preferences and propensity to choose the evil over the good.


  1. A response to Lucy « The Godless Paladin - December 8, 2010

    […] Without a god? Yes. With an all knowing god? No. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: