Friday, October 06, 2006


I like Scott Adams: he’s funny, smart, and unpredictable. I read his blog almost daily.

Unfortunately, he is a determinist. Worst of all, Scott believes in the most absurd type of determinism: Biological determinism (we are nothing but moist robots as he calls it).

Now, I don’t want to go into a philosophical/semantic discussion here. Of course I believe the environment, your genes, your friends and your education affect the way you behave at some level. Human beings are social creatures that can be influenced, and are ultimately (at least at this point) genetically flawed. The problem is when one believes that one or some of these factors actually determine with complete precision all your actions during your whole lifetime. Just like software determines all the possible actions of a computer.

One of the reasons why people can get away with such absurd theory is the fact that we are very complex organisms. At this point we do not fully understand how our genes work, how our environment influence us and how this all match together.

However, to try to simplify all of this by believing that we are nothing but a collection of instincts and reflexes goes against every single evidence we have about our world around us. It is worth remembering that we do have a lot of organisms in this planet that behave in such way. And to say that we are no different than them, just “smarter”, is basically to say that we are NOT as they are.

More uncompressible to me is the notion that free will is somehow “easier to accept” that it’s deterministic counter parts. Human beings long for security and predictability. All kinds of studies show that.

If there was such a deterministic force behind our existence, be it our genes our social environment or even a supernatural entity, it would be much easier to just make us ignore free will than to believe it is there.

Free will is a great destabilizing force. It is unpredictable by definition. How could any force account for people changing behaviors during a life time? How could “human progress” be accounted for? And how about all the uncountable combinations and permutations of how each one of us affect and change the other?

In my opinion determinism is nothing but a cheap cop-out. No matter what you do, nothing is your fault. Don’t worry about improving yourself or the world: things will always be the way they are. Nothing matters.

It is probably one of the more destructive philosophical propositions ever.