One area where naturalists seem to have a great difficulty in being consistent is in the area of determinism. Recently, I saw a portion of a debate where the naturalistic/atheistic/scientist-type made the claim that evolution leads to the conclusion that there is no such thing as free will. This, of course, leads to the question, "Do you really think that, or did you have to say that?" In fact, I think that a great tact to take when someone says "there's no free will" is to say, "Why are you telling me? After all, I am determined by my upbringing and genes to disagree."
Apparently, the bombastic Richard Dawkins recognizes that this is a problem, but his solution is . . . well, weak. In an entry by Evolution News and Views entitled Who wrote Richard Dawkins's new book?, American Enterprise Institute's Joe Manzari asked Dawkins how he could reconcile what appears to be a fairly strong case of determinism in his naturalistic philosophy with his claim that he wrote the book, The God Delusion. "[I]t would seem," Gage stated, "that the consistent position would be that necessarily the authoring of this book, from the initial conditions of the big bang, it was set that this would be the product of what we see today."
How did Dawkins answer? In my opinion, his answer was quite confused. Dawkins responded:
The philosophical question of determinism is a very difficult question. It's not one I discuss in this book, indeed in any other book that I've ever talked about. Now an extreme determinist, as the questioner says, might say that everything we do, everything we think, everything that we write has been determined from the beginning of time in which case the very idea of taking credit for anything doesn't seem to make any sense. Now I don't actually know what I actually think about that, I haven't taken up a position about that, it's not part of my remit to talk about the philosophical issue of determinism. What I do know is that what it feels like to me, and I think to all of us, we don't feel determined. We feel like blaming people for what they do or giving people the credit for what they do. We feel like admiring people for what they do. None of us ever actually as a matter of fact says, "Oh well he couldn't help doing it, he was determined by his molecules." Maybe we should… I sometimes… Um… You probably remember many of you would have seen Fawlty Towers. The episode where Basil where his car won't start and he gives it fair warning, counts up to three, and then gets out of the car and picks up a tree branch and thrashes it within an edge of his life. Maybe that's what we all ought to... Maybe the way we laugh at Basil Fawlty, we ought to laugh in the same way at people who blame humans. I mean when we punish people for doing the most horrible murders, maybe the attitude we should take is "Oh they were just determined by their molecules." It's stupid to punish them. What we should do is say "This unit has a faulty motherboard which needs to be replaced." I can't bring myself to do that. I actually do respond in an emotional way and I blame people, I give people credit, or I might be more charitable and say this individual who has committed murders or child abuse of whatever it is was really abused in his own childhood.
Okay . . . . So, what is he saying? Manzari sought a more concrete answer from Dawkins, and this was the final exchange:
But do you personally see that as an inconsistency in your views?
Dawkins: I sort of do. Yes. But it is an inconsistency that we sort of have to live with otherwise life would be intolerable. But it has nothing to do with my views on religion it is an entirely separate issue.
Ah, so Dawkins makes a leap of faith? He recognizes that his position is inconsistent, but he simply pretends to have free will to make life tolerable? Personally, I don't find that position particularly compelling, but then under Dawkins' view its probable that that was the only answer he could give.
(ht: The Atheist Delusion)