Last year I took a group of high school students to UC
Berkeley to interact with skeptics. After spending an evening with S.A.N.E
(Students for a Non-religious Ethos), I found myself in a conversation with an
undergraduate student about the existence of free will. She told me that she
recently embraced determinism and rejected free will.
In response to my query about why
she changed her mind, she appealed to genetics, background
forces, and environmental factors. In other words, she believed there is no
free will because external forces determine beliefs. What she didn’t realize
was that the justification she offered for her belief in determinism undermined
her deterministic beliefs. She believed that she had evaluated the evidence and
embraced the position—determinism—that is most logical. And yet if determinism
were true she would have been incapable of evaluating evidence and freely
following the logic because all her
choices were already set. Logically speaking, her position was self-refuting.
In other words, she sawed off the branch she was sitting on.