We will begin this section of Dismantling Scientific Determinism by discussing miracles, and then move on to a broader discussion of “cause” and “effect”.
In light of scientific determinism (which I defined in my previous post), it is reasonable and natural to ask what the point of, or even the possibility of a true, genuine miracle—a suspension of the natural, or a suspension of how people understand and organize their world by grasping abstract truths and a knowledge of probabilities—yes, what is the point and possibility of a miracle? Would not scientific determinism contradict the idea of a miracle; and would not a miracle then contradict the idea of scientific determinism? How is it that the predictable-thus-determined future of the universe’s particles can be usurped by a divine intervention?
You might say: “Easy. God can intervene in the life of man and Creation. He’s God. He can do anything, after all. Look…it’s in the Bible.”
Yes…it might be that easy.
The only problem is that it’s not.
The main problem with determinism and it’s overarching theological construct, Calvinism, is that both are extremely cohesive (notice I didn’t say “true”, just cohesive). They make so much plain, common, obvious sense from the perspective of those (which comprise most of us) who are told to accept that such matters are best left to those in positions of ecclesiastical “authority”, and the scholars of divinity. In this way, they are very good philosophies (notice I didn’t say “true”, just good; as in effective in generating followers). This makes deconstructing them hard, because deconstruction takes an enormous amount of thinking; of parsing the carefully crafted nuances, semantics, circular arguments, and premises which are, to some degree or another, almost universally accepted by all church denominations as “orthodox” (ideas such as “original sin”, election, “pervasive depravity”, God’s direct control of Creation, etc.), all of which have been organized by reformed theologians to create the extremely effective illusion of an indefatigable philosophical juggernaut. Getting to the roots and pulling them up can be done, but not without a LOT of digging.
At any rate…if we concede the possibility of a miracle, a true miracle—a divine intervention upon men and nature—then we are forced to concede that particles are NOT determined.
Let’s explore this in broader detail.
If we, as loyal and motivated scientific determinists, declare that God in His infinite power and knowledge pre-ordained the miracle upon the particle or particles in question, as part of their determined future, then we should quickly realize that what we are calling a “miracle” is not a miracle at all, but merely part of the overall universally determined equation. A predetermined act cannot be a contrary action to the rest of the likewise predetermined universe; this constitutes a logical impossibility. Miracles preclude determinism and determinism precludes miracles.
Now, with respect to the human observers of the “miracle”:
If a human response to a “miracle” is predetermined, then we run into the same logical problem we have with a predetermined “miraculous act” superimposed upon the backdrop of similarly predetermined universe. In light of all actions of man and Creation being determined, there can be no true or actual awareness on the part of an observer that a miracle is in fact a miracle at all, regardless of whether or not the observer claims that he or she “sees” the miracle. Determinism precludes this from being the case; what the observer thinks or professes is irrelevant.
So, not only is any response of an observer to a “miracle” a mere fabrication of the mind, but any response to anything at all can be nothing more than a predetermined action carried out by another predetermined object in imaginary response the first predetermined action. Within the framework of determinism there can be no true response to anything, because a response implies that the action of responding is predicated on an event. That is, without the event, there is no response.
Or, better: without the cause, there is no effect.
But since the cause is predetermined, and the effect must also be predetermined, there is in reality no such thing as cause and effect. Cause and effect is merely an illusion of the human mind. In such a case, the effect is not an effect, but simply a predetermined singular act dictated by either God or a law of nature, which is so inexorable that, as a determined act, it would not matter if the initial cause ever existed at all (and likewise, the cause would still occur even if there was no request effect). If the effect is determined, then again, it is singular, and is not dependent on anything except whatever external force has already declared it as existing by inexorably predetermining it.
So, in other words, there can be no determined effect to an undetermined cause, like a human response to a “miracle”. And thus, the converse is true: there can be no determined cause which produces an undetermined effect. If determinism is true, then they are both actions which, in reality, are completely unrelated to one another.
Now, proponents of scientific determinism will try to argue that natural law is cause and effect, it’s just that the effect is utterly predictable (I know there are caveats to this argument, but let’s keep it simple; the proponents of Calvinism who use scientific determinism as proof of divine determinism do not accept that anything is not already determined by God, the only difference is that for some redundant reason God uses the laws of nature to control, and not his Power of creation…don’t ask me how they get away with this rational larceny (thanks to John Immel who coined that phrase)). But what we are really dealing with, again, is an impossible contradiction. The law says that every effect to a cause of any particle anywhere is utterly predictable, and so the future of everything is utterly predetermined. So every single “cause” and every single “effect” must be only what it is, and nothing else, by definition. If that is the case, then what happens if one action, either a cause or effect is removed from the equation? The answer is: nothing at all. By definition, everything is already predetermined, inexorable, utterly knowable. Therefore, one must look at each action of every particle as being utterly singular; complete in itself; and completely non-dependent on any other action or response of any other particle anywhere in the universe. All of reality is predetermined by God, through the laws of nature, so the idea of either a cause or effect not existing, or not occurring, is impossible.
Here is where it gets ironic.
Because if one is a scientific determinist, the laws of nature, which are defined as cause and effect laws, actually declare that there can be NO such thing as a cause or effect. Like I said, everything is merely a singular predetermined act. And because of this, any “cause” and “effect” MUST occur, because it is a singularly predetermined act, not a cause or effect at all. You see, within determinism, you have this paradox: Cause and effect are irrelevant concepts. Without one “cause” or “effect”, by definition, everything must continue on as it is predetermined to be; thus, there is in reality no such thing as cause and effect at all.
Now, this also presupposes that it is impossible to consider a cause or effect of any particle as not occurring (hence the irony), because each cause and effect, again, is a singular predetermined act, so it is impossible that it cannot occur. All of the universe is a preset IS. Again, this means that there can be no real cause or effect of anything because a. Without a “cause” or “effect”, the rest of creation must continue to function, uninterrupted and unchanged, as if nothing was missing, because ALL is predetermined by the law or God, and b. because, by definition, if all is predetermined, then it is impossible that any act could not occur. And both of these cases mean that the concept of cause and effect is a lie.
Therefore, in light of all of that, there can be no such thing as a natural law, because natural laws presuppose actions of particles which are responses to other actions. But by their very own definition, then, scientific determinists actually deny that this is possible at all. Thus, scientific determinism is merely another way of arguing banal Calvinist predestination (for those Christians who hold to the idea; for the secular scientists, they are just fine living with impossible contradiction I suppose…which leads one to ask: how good can their science really be?)
If we agree that there is cause and effect, even if we argue that the effect is utterly predictable, then we cannot say that reality is predetermined. We agree that there is true cause and effect, and as such, there can be no determinism, because the implication then is that it is the cause and the effect which creates reality, not the natural law itself or God which has “predetermined” it. So, the idea of natural law destroys the concept of determinism. If we can say that causes generate effects which generate new causes, then predeterminism goes away. All we have is a set of natural laws which guide the existence of the universe. Objects are utterly free to do what they do, and interact, apart from the fetters of determinism, even if the laws themselves are predictable. Even if they are utterly predictable.
Laws of nature enable true and actual cause and effect, not a predetermining of the future. The fact that we can reasonably know what will happen next doesn’t make the event which happens next as already having happened. It doesn’t make the “not yet” real. And if this is true, and it IS, then we can say that if you interfere with the cause, you can reasonably know that you will have genuinely altered the effect which otherwise would have happened another way. And, lest the determinist try to cut me off here, let me say this:
To say that a person’s interfering with the first cause is merely the result of another predetermined act (the determined laws of biology, behavior, genetics, etc…which are inextricably linked with particle determinism, because if they weren’t, then human interaction with the rest of the universe must be random) takes us right back to the irrational idea of determinism. Arguing such means saying, again, that cause and effect are lies, and as such there is no natural law, and as such, there is no true cause and no true reaction or effect that you can ever predict. The future is utterly unknowable. Your ability to predict or know it is a total illusion. Because natural law is an illusion AND because even your prediction—the thought in your head—is merely a predetermined act which is limited to the present moment, and by definition can go no farther.
I submit that nothing has happened until it happens, regardless of whatever predictable results we can reasonably assume. This fact is proven by quantifiable natural laws, not refuted by them. And if we can say that there is such a thing as a true effect, and so nothing happens until it happens, we are free to reasonably assume that whatever action man takes to interfere with the laws which guide our universe, or to use them to effect his own ends, must be free, and must generate real outcomes which would not have occurred otherwise, by definition of natural law.
In summary, to make the connection between a law which allows for the reality of cause and effect and allows for the existence of Creation and man, and the inexorable determinism of the future is a logical leap that has no rational basis. It is the worst sort of “scientific” assumption imaginable, and this idea should be rejected by rational people, especially scientists, outright. The predictability of particle actions is irrelevant. The law that guides means Creation is free. And if it is free to do what it does, then we must assume that man is free to interact with it in ways which are truly random, in the sense that man can interfere with both causes and effects to help effect his own reality.
At the end of the day, scientific determinism is nothing more than old fashioned, Augustinian/Platonic divine determinism, which forms the basis for gnostic, nihilist Calvinism, which forms the basis for mystic despotism (more thanks to John Immel for this excellent term). And we are thus back to the whole free will vs. election debate all over again.
Scientific determinism in the hands of Calvinists is just one more caveat to their irrational philosophical arsenal; another impossible contradiction; another argument of purposefully obfuscated semantics; another euphemism for their Five Points. Another subterfuge; another mirror; another bit of smoke. Designed to give the illusion of their intellectual monopoly of Christian theology. In the end, it’s nothing more than the same old tired argument of “sit down and submit; anything we do to you or demand of you is God’s will, you wicked, depraved sinner”.
In the next post, we will continue this line of thinking, and reflect more on the idea of “miracles”.