“Free will is an illusion. Our wills are simply not of our own making. Thoughts and intention emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control. We do not have the freedom we think we have. 

“Free will is actually more than an illusion (or less), in that it cannot be made conceptually coherent. Either our wills are determined by prior causes and we are not responsible for them, or they are the product of chance and we are not responsible for them.“

~ Sam Harris, 

Oh, there is the rub. “we are not responsible for them”. 

“Moral responsibility

“The belief in free will has given us both the religious conception of “sin” and our commitment to retributive justice. The U.S. Supreme Court has called free will a “universal and persistent” foundation for our system of law, distinct from “a deterministic view of human conduct that is inconsistent with the underlying precepts of our criminal justice system” (U.S. v. Grayson, 1978). 

“What does it mean to take responsibility for an action?”

~ Sam Harris 

What motivates an individual to harm another? 

Some individuals are dangerous, for whatever reason, and present a risk to others. Actions taken, for whatever reason, reveals the kind of person one is. The motivation for action may lie deep within the subconscious mind, and it is the thought that resides in the person that gives meaning to the name. 

Ed Lindaman, my mentor, stated “who you are gives meaning to your name”. Meaning comes from the conscious and unconscious mind. We can’t see into the mind of another; the only evidence we have is observable behaviors.

~ Ed Lindaman  




"Dispensing the illusion of free will allows us to focus on the things that matter - assessing risk, protecting innocent people, deterring crime, etc.”

~ Sam Harris , Free Will 


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Comment by Freethinker31 on August 12, 2014 at 2:10pm

@Future   I wonder if it is possible that some Atheists transfer  their love and loyalty from God and Jesus to  well renowned authors and speakers of  Rational Thought....I am  referring  to  Sam Harris  and  Christopher  Hitchens.....They may be well respected  and  offer  mostly  true  theories,but I bet they would be the first to admit  they are not  Perfect ...It would  be a mistake  to follow  anyones theories  carte blanche, To err is human.....As Atheists  and Rational Thinkers, we of all people, should not follow  anyone blindly....We do have Free Will..IMO

Comment by Future on August 12, 2014 at 12:56pm
Some, like Sam Harris, claim it is all predetermination on a neural level. While there might be some science to vaguely support that, it is impractical and potentially reckless to promote such a concept, since we are no where near having the scientific ability to make accurate predictions on who may be a risk, and we probably never will be. Imagine telling the proud parents of a newborn baby that their child will eventually be responsible for the death of some innocent people, based on some algarythmic projection in a supercomputer. Where do you go with that?
Comment by Andrew Bradford Hoke on August 12, 2014 at 11:37am
I suppose we are discussing free will as opposed to pre-determination. Is that right?
Comment by Freethinker31 on August 12, 2014 at 11:25am

@Future....I totally  agree, comparing  humans  to  octopuses is  nonsense...We, as Humans, are the only species who can reason and  make rational decisions  for ourselves...Free Will therefore can not be compared to a non human......

Comment by Future on August 12, 2014 at 7:10am
Joan, you are conflating instinct with free will. Yes, the octopus needs to eat, but if given options on what to eat, the octopus is as unpredictable as you or I am when we're standing in Baskin Robins deciding amongst 31 flavors. My favorite flavor is mint chocolate chip, but I've also randomly picked any other flavor on a given day, for no other reason than "that sounds good".
Comment by Joan Denoo on August 11, 2014 at 11:22pm

Freethinker31, Each one of us has an appetite for something. Some like westerns, others like car chases, many like nature adventures. Who knows from where the appetite comes. Maybe it was something enjoyed as a very small child with a grandparent or anyone. Perhaps it was during a hard time with a challenge that seemed overwhelming at the time. 

At one of the boys' ranches we had a cook who was about 5 feet tall, weighted well over 300 pounds, and made everything taste good. Boys generally were not allowed in the kitchen, except ... she was the best counselor we had. A boy would be bullied at school, or have problems with some class assignment and be upset, or things just didn't well for him. He would sneak into the kitchen and sit on a tall stool where he would spill his heart out to her. She gave him forbidden cookies and milk, and she gently calmed the boy until he could start thinking of alternatives that he could try to keep his self-respect and reputation. 

She was one of those persons that I now call a "cookie person". A good listener, a gentle prodder, and the best chocolate chip cookies maker. With a person such as she, a boy had an anchor on which to hold as he grew into manhood. She was solid, loving, caring, compassionate and a builder of good men.

Except for one. He was a black kid, raised by a single mom with no dad in sight. He hated everybody and everything. He was on our cook's stool very often. I have written about him before, the boy who began to write about his anger and then his fear. I took his writings to an English professor and set up a meeting. The professor told him what a good write he was and recommended Peri Thomas's book, "Down these Mean Streets." The kid was on his way to growing into a fine young man, got in with a bad crowd after leaving the ranch and was killed while robbing a grocery store. 

Life is what happens. No grand plan. No one watching over us. No one answering prayers. We are each a part of the flow of living things crossing over the Earth in our turn, no grand house to go to after life ends. Death is what happens. 

Comment by Joan Denoo on August 11, 2014 at 11:04pm

Michael Penn, the James family lived in Ireland, farming the Irish soil for the benefit of the British aristocracy. The rule was, they could eat none of the food they produced on the land or drawn from the sea, under penalty of death. The potato was a new crop to Europe, from the Americas, and was considered poor peoples food. The Irish could eat it with no penalty. Potatoes are a healthy food, one can survive on it alone, with some nutritional deficiencies. So, with food in their bellies, they had children, lots of children, lots of Roman Catholic children. 

The potato blight hit northern Europe, including Ireland. The potato crops failed and the Irish ate their seed stock. The English landowners were still pulling huge amounts of foods off the Irish soil for use by the English, but they did not consider the plight of the Irish. The famine hit - hard - and people starved to death. About a third of the nation starved, about a third left Ireland for places around the globe, and about a third remained. 

Families from one village left Ireland and went to Arkansas in the 1840s. Included in that group was the James family and the Whitehead family. The Whitehead family settled in Siloam Springs, Benton, Arkansas, USA, They fought on the side of the Confederacy during the Civil War and lost their land and holdings at war's end. The James family was a bitter bunch, out to get back what they considered was stolen from them, both in Ireland and in U.S. They robbed banks, stole horses, and murdered in the process. 

My grandfather was born in 1885. His mother was Cherokee and she didn't like the negative influence the James family had on her family and she had a strong will and was used to using her power. They left Arkansas for a town with streets paved with gold. It turned out the gold was wheat. Tekoa, Washington, a small faming community in the Palouse rolling hills of eastern Washington state. 

Both the James and Whitehead families had lost dearly because of political disputes. The hate and revenge were potential for both families, but my great grandmother came from a different culture in which women had and used power in their tribes. She knew the defeat of the Cherokee and the Trail of Tears. She could see a vision that others could not see. The force of her character changed the dynamics of our family from one of revenge to one of facing reality, envisioning a preferred future and moving toward that vision. God had nothing to do with it. Some would say she had free will. I say she had good sense. 

Comment by Freethinker31 on August 11, 2014 at 10:34pm

@Andrew....So nice  that someone else in here agrees that we do have some Free Will...As I said  in  small day to day decisions,our own mind can decide what we want or need to do...What influences our  character may  be  something  we were  exposed  to in our past..

Comment by Andrew Bradford Hoke on August 11, 2014 at 9:52pm

Free will has something to do with control. Do we have it or not?

I like to think that we are not automatons who act in the only way that we can. I think this question is very much tied to fate and what will be.

I adore the unpredictability of life, and I believe we do have free will.


Comment by Joan Denoo on August 11, 2014 at 9:43pm

Future, does an octopus grab its prey because it likes to lunge. No, the cephalopod mollusc lunges because it is hungry and want something to eat. It has evolved to find its food the way it does, it did not create the process, it is programmed into the creature. 

Does a fox raid the henhouse because he has free will to go after fresh meat and a chicken in a henhouse is an easy target. His tastebuds and his agility make catching a bird an easy way to satisfy his hunger. Does the farmer's dog chase off the fox because of free will? I don't think so; it is just what farm dogs do.

Does a person take a drink of water or eat food because of free will? No! it is because the cells need nourishment and water in order to stay functional and hunger and thirst direct one to satiate those needs. He or she eats and drinks too much because it tastes good and feels good, even if it causes harm to the various systems of the body. Nature has a way of making things taste good and feel good for those who live on the Savannah, where such things are scarce. We live in an age when we have the appetite beyond what our bodies need to stay healthy and so we make ourselves sick. 

That is the point ... we do things because they feel good or taste good, and because we want to, not because they are good for us or we should do them. Being mentally healthy, mature, adults we know we have to curb our appetites to do what is good and decent, healthy and life affirming. I have thought of killing a person before, in fact it was a toss up whether it would be murder or suicide. However, the wiser part of my nature tuned in and I stopped the thought and action. I have thought of throwing every dish in my cupboard at a person ... nope, not a good idea. I have thought of running my car into a bridge abutment ... it is a long term solution to a short term problem. 

Our bodies send us messages telling us of some need; we respond to them and use our judgment to curb an unhealthy appetite. Some just respond. It is that extra step that results in good or bad outcomes. It is not free will; that is just a device religion dreamed up to get god off the hook for bad things happening. It is a construct. 


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