Over on another post I received some comments from a reader who calls himself ImmigrationFacts, I include below the full exchange.
Blank State! Unfree Will! We are animals afterall!
No, non of these things are true.
People are born ignorant, we do not possess knowledge, however we do possess instincts and preferences. One thing I have always found interesting is how babies react to men. Some babies love men and others find them the scariest creatures in existence. No knowledge, maybe instinct but definitely a preference. If babies have a preference how can they be blank states?
They cannot be, it is simply wrong, I would go so far as to say it is absurd!
Now I agree that people are much more influenced than they think, they take more notice of popular opinion, personal opinion and advertising then they think. But there is a very good reason for people to do that, in most cases it helps them to fit in and it normally has no cost. It is a sort of stereotyping, a shorthand that even when wrong is rarely disastrously wrong. However that does not mean that every action is done without conscious thought. If that were true then individuals could not operate as individuals, but people do.
However, if we have no free will then how do we think and how do we carry out actions?
The argument made here is a good one, that we do not have full control of our faculties, which is true, thats why it's good. However it has been taken to it's illogical conclusion.
We are biological creatures, we have instincts that we do not need to think about to carry out, it is hardwired into us, an automatic response. If you have ever fallen over you will have experienced this. If you have ever been tongue tied then you would know that not everything is automatic. Many of the things that we do in life need both thinking and action, it's not enough to know what to say you also have to say it.
Sometimes we think thoughts that we don't like or we act in ways that aren't the "real us". Why don't we do that all the time? If we have no free will how do we have self control? If we have no free will how can there be a real us? If we have an unfree will or a partial will does that mean we are automations? Or that some other force or will controls us?
That there are limits to free will is true, that we are not always in total control is also true, but to think that we have little to no control is not true. Who robbed the bank, me with my free will or me with my unfree will? Thats the argument of children and the guilty.
Are people animals?
We are certainly biological and we are much in common with animals. We share 99% of our DNA with chimpanzees, we also share 56% of out DNA with fruit flys. In other words, DNA, the basic building blocks of life are really basic. However it is not the things that make us similar that define us but the things that make us different. Did you know that if a human child 9 years of age was the oldest human on Earth that that child would be the most intelligent creature on the planet?
We are much more than animals, we are even in a biological sense so much more complex than them that we are unique. Maybe in the universe there are other creatures as intelligent, or even more intelligent than us. Unless they are also human then we would remain unique. Our ability to solve problems, to make and use tools, to think, to build societies, cultures and civilizations, to know that the future is real and not simple another day. To call humans animals is to misunderstand both animals and humans. I would also add something that history has taught, when people begin to think that people are animals then people start being treated as animals. We treat animals as animals because that is their nature, but it is not ours.
I hope ImmigrationFacts does not feel picked on, I wanted to give a more complete answer than a blog comment can make.
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