I ask because:
- Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens–well-known atheists–have affirmed their belief in Determinism and rejection of Free Will
- In his brief book, Free Will, Sam Harris recounts a horrific 2007 story of atrocities perpetrated by two men on a family, and concludes with this remarkable statement:
“As sickening as I find their behavior, I have to admit that if I were to trade places with one of these men, atom for atom, I would be him: There is no extra part of me that could decide to see the world differently or to resist the impulse to victimize other people. Even if you believe that every human being harbors an immortal soul, the problem of responsibility remains: I cannot take credit for the fact that I do not have the soul of a psychopath. If I had truly been in [one of the violent criminal’s] shoes on July 23, 2007—that is, if I had his genes and life experience and an identical brain (or soul) in an identical state—I would have acted exactly as he did. There is simply no intellectually respectable position from which to deny this. The role of luck, therefore, appears decisive.”
- Paraphrased,IMO, Harris was saying: “If I had been the vile criminal–‘atom for atom’ and ‘had his genes and life experience and an identical brain (or soul) in an identical state’–I would have done the same thing he did. And the only reason that I never did what the vile man did is luck.”
- So Harris’ thesis seems to be: “The only reason that I’m not Mr. X is luck.”
- I think that’s a remarkable thing to say because, IMO, “The only reason that I’m not Mr. X is because Mr. X is Mr. X and there appears to be a law of physics that says there can only one Mr. X in the universe at a time. In other words, I say: luck doesn’t have a decisive role in the fact that I’m not Mr. X.”
- Harris’ conclusion moves me to ask: What is luck that enables Harris to claim its importance in Determinism?
- And how is “There, but for luck, go I” an improvement over “There, but for the grace of God, go I”?