London Atheist Activist Group (friendly community) Message Board 1. MAIN FORUM - (non-Islam) › Is atheism compatible with the believe in fate and destiny or pre-determinism

Is atheism compatible with the believe in fate and destiny or pre-determinism

Georgi L.
London, GB
Post #: 1,876
As this is a whole another subject in its own right, this discussion has been copied here from the comments in our upcoming meetup "Why I'm an atheist"

Serah wrote:

is atheism compatible with the believe in fate and destiny or pre-determinism, I would be interested to know other atheists view in this.

Jason replied:
It's a fascinating topic to be sure. Perhaps we could follow up on Dean's "Freewill and Determinism" talk with another to put the other side. Dean's "determinism is true and freewill is an illusion" position may be the majority view now among atheists. They would say yes, the future is fixed by the initial conditions, everything is as it must be and could not possibly be otherwise. Not fixed by some intelligence, we're atheists after all, but fixed by the random initial conditions. I really feel this is not the whole story. Maybe I'll be able to gather my thoughts enough to explain why at some point.

Fiona Hamilton added:
The problem is if there is no freewill and everything is predetermined by the original conditions even if we think and act as if we have free will we have only gotten to that position because we have been predetermined by the original conditions to be in that state if determinism is true. Basically we can never really know so the best thing I think is to believe in free will. If I have been predetermined to think that way then so be it.

At least in believing that I have freewill I we feel more happy and optimistic than if I believe I have no choice in the matter. If freewill is an illusion then at least I am happy if that illusion. If freewill is not an illusion then I am happy in the truth. Either way I live a happier life!

There again if freewill is true and a person believes in determinism then they haven't been predetermined to think that way they just chose to. If freewill is true why chose to give your power away by believing in determinism?

And again when I think about if we really cannot know because we can never recreate our lives in a control group to see how our lives would have turned out if we had not had the original conditions we have had. The only nearest comparison we can have is to compare our lives to others who had similar conditions to us.

As you may have guessed this is a topic close to my heart because I was a Therapeutic Foster Mother to children from abused backgrounds. The input I said to them and taught them to believe is that they did not need to be prisoners of history and could map out their own future regardless of their origins and they have turned out to be fine, fulfilled and happy people. Of course they had they input of of lot of other people also therapists etc and if cannot be known how they would have turned out without that input.

But I really do feel just as a human being living, to my knowledge, only one life life that I have choice in my life. Not total choice but at least some. To me to live as a determinist one may as well give up the ghost. If a person really believed that wouldn't it be depressing? Well it would to me!
Georgi L.
London, GB
Post #: 1,877
At least in believing that I have freewill I we feel more happy and optimistic than if I believe I have no choice in the matter. If freewill is an illusion then at least I am happy if that illusion. If freewill is not an illusion then I am happy in the truth. Either way I live a happier life!
Hi Fiona, I don't know if as a species we are anywhere near discovering the truth of this matter, and I do get what you're saying I think, (and don't disagree as such), however I would say that the statement above sounds dangerously close to how religious people view god belief. "it gives me comfort so where's the harm".

But if one is living one's life from a POV of illusion, then what's the difference if that comfort comes from the faith virus, a faith in freewill, or indeed from heroin?

GBS of course said most things better than anyone else "The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality."
user 65942292
London, GB
Post #: 14
Don't waste your time trying to decide whether pre-determinism is real. Can you really bring yourself to even ask yourself whether the scale of the data required is within our power to cover? I mean, you would need to know how the entrails of every single atom in the whole universe behaved a millisecond of a millisecond ago plus how they are behaving now and then you would have to make a decision based on God knows what as to how they are likely to behave a millisecond from now in order to test your hypothesis. And you would have to be able to have the behaviour of the entrails of all the 1000000000000000000000000000000000000000­0000000000000000000000000000000000000000­0000000000000000000000000000000000000000­0000000000000000000000000000000000000000­000000000 x 1000000000000000000000000000000000000000­0000000000000000000000000000000000000000­0000000000000000000000000000000000000000­0000000000000000000000000000000000000000­00000000000000000000000 atoms in your mind AT THE SAME TIME. Not achievable by our species I'm afraid.
London, GB
Post #: 226
Some interesting points there Fiona. I think this is a subject that is actually very close to everybody's heart, given the way it can drive such high emotion when it comes up, regardless off whether that is in an explicitly philosophical context or implicitly in an everyday conversation about the morality, the law, personal responsibility, appropriate punishment etc.

Having suggested a follow up to Dean's excellent "Freewill and Determinism" talk back in March, it looks like I have volunteered myself to put such a talk together. So I will resist temptation and keep my powder dry, but just to say that I think my conclusions will be more agreeable to you than those of Dean and his hard-determinist chums (which are, in short, that determinism is true so freewill must be false). The view I will try to defend is that determinism is true but this does not imply that we must, to use your phrase, "give our power away". I don't say this as some kind of accommodationist sop so that people can hold on to a cherished illusions, which is the cliched criticism of "compatibilism", Rather I take the view that this is the more useful and powerful description of the way things really are.

I will try to fix a date for this soon and will definitely try to set it up so that you can make it.
A former member
Post #: 5
I would really like that and if you want to contact me you can on (removed by organiser) This is very close to my heart because Atheism and the Scientific Method has basically saved my life and I am only now getting into the deeper understanding of things concerned with it. I have been studying AtheismScholar today which has really helped me understand a lot. I did not ever realise that Atheism was such a huge field.

As to faith in Heroin well I went on the Wallace weekend last weekend in Bristol and Halsway Hall and because of cannabis enjoyed a lovely walk on the Saturday. Not getting at you Georgi but I need to think about what you said. But drugs do have a part in things as I have realised since being in constant physical pain.

For those of you out there who are opposed to drugs think about it next time you are in the pub and/or smoking - you are being drug users. Sorry I know a bit off topic but if we are on a search for truth then let us tell it as it is.

Thank you for taking me into consideration with the dates of your talk.

I look forward to to it and if Steve is reading this thanks for all your help and everyone at the Wallace weekend - you were so kind - and with no agenda i.e. you didn't want to introduce me to Jesus as my personal saviour smile

So I'm off topic wtf I am amongst friends!

Georgi L.
London, GB
Post #: 1,880

I've taken the liberty of removing your email address, for your safety. Email addresses can be picked up by bots and the like, and wouldn't want you to get targetted. Everyone can email anyone else through the site (if you haven't specifically switched off this facility).

As for the subject (and tangents,lol!) - I'm all for legalising cannabis, and probably other drugs too. (the problem is much stronger and harmful skunk has only come about (as I understand it) because cannabis wasn't legal. So governments have made the problem, essentially. It certainly needs an adult discussion and politicians to get their heads out of the sand. Prohibition, like we have, only makes the crooks rich and encourages crime. Even Portugal is more advanced than we are, on this subject, and treat drugs as a medical issue rather than a criminal one. Giving safe, regulated drugs to help people get off the habit, rather than banging them up. Thus driving out the middle men who cut the drugs with all kinds of nasties that really probably do more harm than the drugs themselves in many cases. But I fear we are still a long way off, again because our political system doesn't reward forward thinking, but rather those who do little and don't raise their head above the parapet.

Hope you have a peaceful weekend.
Andy S.
user 8457357
London, GB
Post #: 194
Without opening this can of worms, the non-prophets radio show discussed this a few years ago and if you have two hours or so to spare and are actually interested, it makes for some good listening


London, GB
Post #: 228
Don't waste your time trying to decide whether pre-determinism is real....Not achievable by our species I'm afraid.
I think you are right to focus on predictability and the practical limits of our knowledge Andre. To all those who say "But in principle, if one knew the initial conditions with a sufficiently high degree of precision..." my response is, knock yourself out. When you can do that and actually make reliable long-term predictions about my future, let me know. These feel like real choices that I am making, and while I understand that I may not be totally free, for all practical purposes I am free enough thank you.

And I don't think it's just going to turn our to be our species. It's just "whistling in the dark" but my guess is that the universe is maximally compressed from an information density point of view, i.e. the complete description of any given volume of the universe takes at least as many bits as that volume could possibly contain; it is it's own most succinct description. So the universe cannot contain a description of itself that is accurate enough to completely predict how it will behave because there just couldn't be enough room. If that's the case then all predictions are necessarily of limited resolution, both in terms of detail and far-sightedness in time. Enough to be useful of course or we would not exist, but completeness is going to be simply impossible. The future may well be predetermined, but I think that it will keep surprising anyone/anything lucky enough to observe it.
user 65942292
London, GB
Post #: 15
Jason, when it comes to the universe, every human utterance is bound to be an euphemism, and I love the one you've come up with: maximally compressed.

On the subject of free will, Christopher Hitchens has provided us with the only relevant insight available to human minds: when asked whether he believed in free will, Hitchens said that he had no choice.
A former member
Post #: 6
"On the subject of free will, Christopher Hitchens has provided us with the only relevant insight available to human minds: when asked whether he believed in free will, Hitchens said that he had no choice."

I think this quote is totally spot on. It may be an interesting subject to debate but for all practical purposes whether free will exists or not we have to act as if it does. For a society for function, aside of those times when we do not hold people to be accountable for their actions through insanity, brain damage etc we do hold people to be the agent of their actions. We may have been pre-determined to think like this but I also agree, as a species we will probably never find out

With regard to acting as if we have free will or not because it makes a person feel better I do not really think this is an act of faith. At least not how I used the concept therapeutically. I think it is widely recognised now that how we think, including how we think about ourselves and our self concept of ourselves affects our behaviour. Indeed this is the basis of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), and other more complex therapies.

Before applying this therapy on my clients, (my foster children), I underwent the therapy myself and found it did work. Therefore my application of it was based on evidence. And it worked for them also.

I was tired of hearing in psychological circles that people abused as children were "ruined for life" etc. The problem is keep telling someone that and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Keep telling someone that they are a victim, are condemned always to act like a victim and voila! There you have it - they will continue 9 times out of 10 to behave like one. I wanted to change that around and did. Based on evidence.

I tested out religion also. I used to have faith which was easy to do when things were going fairly well for me but then a very traumatic event happened to me and I started to question things. And no - there was no evidence for religion. I tested prayer and that didn't work. I went for "spiritual healing" and that didn't work. (Apparently I didn't have enough faith so it was my fault after all LOL!) So I saw based on evidence that religion and "spirituality" didn't work. However legal pain killers and cannabis, (which should be legal I believe), do work.

As for heroin I wouldn't even go there but there is every evidence that it does work as a pain reliever -hence morphine. As to people using it to make themselves feel better emotionally then again like religion it is giving your power away because you are giving power to an external agent to make yourself feel better and not focusing on changing your thoughts which is an internal loci and in my opinion and evidenced based life is the real source of power.

Though I add a proviso to this. Merely changing your thoughts cannot cure deeply entrenched physical pain as some "New Agers" have tried to tell me about my own physical pain, (which I have more or less sorted out myself over the last three years using the Scientific Method and the Internet and my own brain - the NHS doctors couldn't find anything physical and kept wanting me to go and see a Psychiatrist! Eventually after three years research I used my own money to go and see a top podiatric specialist and he found out the culprit - an inoperable tumour in my foot that had formed around damaged nerve tissue where my broken bones had been mended during an operation - voila!). I also include in my definition of physical pain, brain damage and mental health issues that caused by physical damage, lack of serotonin etc.

One "New Ager" was saying that she could cure any pain simply by changing someone's thoughts so I offered her a challenge. Could I put an axe through her head just to test the claim and see if she could control the pain? I really cannot understand why but she did not take up my offer!

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