I’m having a little bit of difficulty focusing on anything, here. Last night I finished reading The Great Gatsby and now my mind is awash with the Next Great Choice for Value-Based Entertainment. What shall it be?
The Open Society and Its Enemies?
Outdated DHTML for the World Wide Web Circa Y2K?
Teach Yourself SQL in Ten Minutes and Use the Rest of Your Free Hour Shredding This Book into Thin Strips to Build a Shrine out of Paper Maché?
How-to Use Macromedia Flash 5: Now twice as heavy as the manual for Flash 4, and five times that of Flash 3?
A Developers Guide to Flash and XML: Pretend you’re fluent in two languages you don’t understand and fake your way across Europe?
Mountaineers – The Freedom of the Hills and the Depths of Depression Brought on by Immobility?
M’eh. Whatever. One of these days Dane Corp., LLC will be walking ‘gain and they’ll all be sorry. They’ll be so sorry. Especially once my home plague-breeding kit arrives in the mail and I can start getting some real work done.
At their most basic, autonomy and determinism will be defined by our concept of causality. Pure determinism claims that, in some way or another, the course of our lives has already been decided for us and we are powerless against it. Determinism can be governed by whatever force or entity you want. Perhaps it is a Deist watchmaker God that created the whole darned universe in one fell-swoop fifteen billion years ago, and now He is merely watching the show and eating some divine popcorn or pretzles or Milk Duds and shuffling His feet on divinely sticky floors. In this model, the entire casual course of history (as well as the future) was decided at the moment the universe was created.
Or perhaps an intervening God is calling the shots, a rowdy little fellah who built the universe way back when, but finds himself intervening at particular intervals as things unfold. The rate and degree at which God intervenes is a hot religious debate of hotness and religicity, and can be viewed as a continuum that exists from the non-intervening Deist god to a God that intervenes at every second of every day.
The notion of relative time really puts a monkey wrench in this one… if a man is travelling at close to the speed of light, time nearly stands still for him when compared to his twin brother on earth. Does this mean that God will intervene more often with his life than with his brother’s? Or does God’s influence transcend time? Transcendence conveniently sidesteps the issue, but in turn complicates how God’s influence would affect the lives of creatures that do exist in time.
A moderate view (and one I believe most religious people would claim to adhere to, but please, tell me if I’m way off on this as I am not a religious person and don’t quite know how these things are wired up) would be that God intervenes only for major junctions in our lives: whether to get married, move to another state/country/continent, chicken or beef, dedicate our lives to science, donate our bodies to science, etc. But then, if this is indeed the case, you still run into the problem of time versus God’s intervention. If God isn’t always intervening, through perceivable time there will be a period where his intervention increases, peaks and decreases, like a killer wave ripe to be torn up for surfin’. Or, God’s intervention may not be wave-like but binary and absolute, with exact starting and ending points.
So then. What of our twins, one on earth and one traveling near the speed of light? Does one get more of God’s attention than the other? That hardly seems fair, but fairness isn’t necessarily part of the game. For the purposes of our discussion we won’t get into the morality of playing God, and where his responsibilities lay in a fair distribution of divine intervention for all. For the twins one could argue that each gets as much intervention (as much determinism, as much fate) as his life allows. If twenty years pass for the light-speed twin but only a minute passes for the Earth twin, they get twenty years and one minute of God, respectively.
However, this introduces a troubling anthropic dilemma. If time passes only as we perceive it passing, and God distributes his intervention respectively, then that means human perception is determining the influence of God. As far as fate goes, God doesn’t interact with the universe just for the sake of interacting with the universe, but in order to to push and prod people along their intended path. Because the intervention necessarily involves humans, though, it occurs along the perceived human time-scale, not along some ethereal, universal time. The most interesting upshot of this consequence is that human perception is determining determinism.
So here’s what we’re left with, as far as determinism goes. If you ask the Deist, God wound up the universe long ago and is now merely a passive observer. The deterministic consequence of this model (if we are to deny the existence of free will) is that everything, all of history, our lives and the future, was casually determined at the creation of the universe. If you ask an absolute interventionist, God is always influencing our lives. This is effectively the same absolute determinism as the Deist, only here it requires God’s constant attention. If you take the middle ground, that God lets us roam until those critical junctions and then steps in to show us the way, you run into the problem of reconciling human time and perception with God’s changing degree of influence.
And next week, maybe we’ll find time to say somethin’ or two about causality.