The Discoveroids Don’t Like Determinism

This one at the creationist blog of the Discovery Institute is definitely going to give you a brain ache, so you’ve been warned. The thing is titled Determinism: A “Bizarre Position” Held by Scientists “with Great Confidence”, and it has no author’s by-line. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

On a new episode of ID the Future [Ooooooooooooh! A Discoveroid podcast!], biophysicist Cornelius Hunter continues discussing determinism, which he describes as a “bizarre position” held “with great confidence” by scientists such as the German physicist Sabine Hossenfelder. [She’s not relevant to anything the Discoveroids say, but here’s Wikipedia’s write-up on Sabine Hossenfelder.]

We don’t blog much about Cornelius Hunter. One of our last efforts was three years ago: Discoveroid Cornelius Hunter Disproves Evolution. He’s one of their “fellows,” and their bio page on him proudly reveals that he teaches at a bible college. Very impressive!

Cornelius’ podcast is about determinism — a word which has multiple meanings. The Discoveroids begin by telling us:

It’s bizarre, says Hunter, because if it’s true, then the universe’s initial conditions and the laws of nature produced the particular works of Beethoven and Shakespeare willy nilly.

Wowie — that is hard-core determinism — no free will at all. Is that what Cornelius is attacking? Why? Does he think all Darwinists believe that kind of determinism? This is bizarre! The Discoveroids tell us:

If it’s true [i.e., if Discoveroid-style determinism is true], then all one says or thinks — right or wrong, true or false — was determined some 13.8 billion years ago. [Does anyone believe that?] But if that’s the case, then there are no reasonable grounds for concluding that one’s belief in determinism is true.

Cornelius is certainly a brilliant thinker. After that the Discoveroids tell us:

And like David Hume’s argument against miracles, determinism makes a false dichotomy between natural law and free will.

Wikipedia’s article on David Hume mentions his argument against miracles, but we don’t see that it helps what Cornelius is trying to say. The Discoveroids wrap it all up with this:

The take-home lesson, according to Hunter: be cautious in listening to “experts” speaking outside their fields. … Download the podcast or listen to it here. [Link omitted!]

So there you are. Cornelius opposes determinism, but he embraces the Discoveroids’ intelligent designer, whose supernatural activities determine everything. We can’t figure it out — can you?

Copyright © 2020. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

20 responses to “The Discoveroids Don’t Like Determinism

  1. Let’s see if I can annoy anybody here by pointing out that Jerry Coyne embraces precisely the kind of determinism that Cornelius Hunter is attacking, and that I would up to a point join him in that attack.

    But SC, I don’t understand your last paragraph. Was I wrong to think that you realised that God doesn’t control everything because He had to give us free will because otherwise how could be the case that everything that’s wrong in the world is our fault and not His?

  2. Cornelius says “the laws of nature produced the particular works of Beethoven and Shakespeare willy nilly.” As in perhaps, oh let me see “a 747 created in a tornado” ? The mental gyrations necessary to say something lie this , and believe it, must be very tiring when a National Geographic special comes on TV. I imagine the resounding sound of millions of creationist flipping channels whenever anything alluding to science comes on the tube.
    Thats the only way they could possibly navigate this increasingly complex , science based world, everyone else lives in.

  3. @Och Will, that’snot what Hunter says. It’s what Hunter says that determnists say. And for determinists like Coyne,he’sright.

  4. Paul Braterman says: “But SC, I don’t understand your last paragraph.”

    I was thinking that the evolution of species is allegedly pre-determined by intelligent designer. When you shift topics to sin, then you have to shift your definition of determinism. Words mean whatever you need them to mean in each situation. It’s the creationist way.

  5. chris schilling

    Wouldn’t Bible prophecies be a kind of predeterminism, if evangelicals believe God fulfils them to bring about his divine plan or will?

    And, just a few days ago ICR’s Jake Hebert was advising YEC missionaries to pray for divine guidance, finishing with “May God give you wisdom as you seek His path for you.”

    That sounds a bit like “determinism”, too. Maybe Hunter the fanatical Christian should rail against this, and welcome a little more randomness into his world view.

    Fat chance!

  6. @SC, I fear you will never make a theologian. Firstly, determinism refers to events being preordained by natural causes, which can’t possibly be true because if it was true, God could perform any miracles. Secondly, God has given humans free will, which means that as a result of His decision they are able to choose, whether or not what they choose is what He wants. It’s all perfectly logical, in a horrid kind of way

  7. Michael Fugate

    Sabine Hossenfelder on Free Will

    Like anything else – what exactly do creationists believe is determined?

  8. Michael Fugate

    Going off of that, how can Natural Law be determined? How do I observed nature to find moral truths?

  9. Paul Braterman says: “SC, I fear you will never make a theologian.”

    That really hurts.

  10. Robert van Bakel

    I am a determinist. Based on who my parents were, which country I grew up in, what religion I was indoctrinated to (and later abandoned: also because of deterministic un-freewill realities), what my school was like, and teachers, what I read, or did not read etc, etc, etc.
    Who is NOT a determinist? Or better; Who is not the product of determinism?
    What I find fascinating is that the ultimate ‘determinists’ are religious. In particular Calvinists and Wahabi Muslims.
    For them, before you were born it was known if your fate was goddish or hellish.
    Naturalistic determinism, that is what you become as the result of your life, and LESS than free-will choices, seems clearly true.

  11. Oregon painter

    Google trinity radio he has released a fair amount of material on libertarian free will vs determinism lately for those interested. He holds to old earth creation….but rarely addresses science in his apologetics (philosophy his strong point) and recently had a debate with Dan barker on determinism. For myself I do not see the connection between determinism and creationism….though personally I hold that determinism probably is correct but do not find it unsettling….from our vantage point everything is still undetermined….I can’t predict how myself or any one else will ever respond before hand to any decision in life….In essence though the script was determined at the moment of the Big Bang…for all of us that script is still an unknown and hence undetermined.

  12. Today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Which tells us that Mary was an exception to the inheritance of Adam’s sin. If God could make one exception. why not a billion?

  13. Dave Luckett

    One theological argument for determinism descends from God’s omniscience. God knows everything, so He knows the future, too. That is, not only does He know your every thought and act, He knows what you will think and do. Hence, your fate is predetermined, and you don’t actually have free will, because you cannot act contrary to God’s knowledge.

    I have never bought this, because to my mind it relies on a false assumption: that the future is itself determinate. God knows it, of course, if so. But what if the future is not determinate? Are we not limiting God by assuming that? What if God knows not only one future, but all the possible futures, all completely and perfectly? Is that not a greater omniscience? Since all things of God are infinite, is not such omniscience axiomatic?

    So, you may have free will, after all. Your every act, even your every thought, changes the future.

    It would follow that since God knows all the possible futures, that some consequence of a free-will action may be unacceptable to Him. In such a case God may intervene to prevent that consequence, without preventing the action. That does not trespass on free will. He might also intervene to create some consequence that accords with His will. God therefore does intervene in His creation. Such interventions may, and probably usually are, in accordance with the laws of nature that He ordained. But some might be outside the order of nature. Such an intervention is called a miracle.

    God therefore may enact miracles as He wills, and free will of humans is not affected.

  14. Dave Luckett

    TomS: Why not a billion exceptions to original sin? Why only one (or two, counting Jesus Himself)? Same reason there was only one Incarnation, not a billion. Only one was required.

    I find more interesting the question, why was even one Incarnation required. But that opens an entirely different can of worms.

  15. “because if it’s true, then the universe’s initial conditions and the laws of nature produced the particular works of Beethoven and Shakespeare willy nilly.”
    Interestingly enough it’s some hardcore protestants who believe in this kind of hardcore determinism. It’s called predestination. They usually reject common descent as well.

    “be cautious in listening to “experts” speaking outside their fields.”
    BWAHAHAHAHA!
    Like IDiots, specifically including Corny Cornelius himself.

  16. @PaulB: “Jerry Coyne embraces precisely the kind of determinism ….”
    You don’t annoy me, because 1) this is correct and 2) JAC is even worse at philosophy than Richard Dawkins and that says a lot. My favourites are (I paraphraze) “nobody wants to consider free will for animals” (why not?) and “nobody wants to go into quantummechanics when talking about free will”. His argument boils down to

    1) Free will is only for believers and other dualists;
    2) I am not a dualist;
    3) Hence free will is impossible.

    “Firstly, determinism refers to …..”
    Your understanding of determinism is not everybody’s understanding, like our dear SC already pointed out: “a word which has multiple meanings”.

    @Robert vanB: “Naturalistic determinism”
    If I remember correctly physics is totally naturalistic. In physics determinism doesn’t apply to “who”, but to “what” – like an apple falling on Newton’s head.
    That kind of determinism has been refuted – or rather replaced – by quantum mechanics. Radioactive atoms aren’t determined to decay on any particular moment in time. The same for particle-antiparticle pair production. According to modern physics probabilism is the foundation of our natural reality. It seems to be possible to combine determinism with probabilism, but that looks meaningless to me.

    @OregonP: “on libertarian free will vs determinism”
    Similar to PaulB I side with Corny Cornelius to some extent: this is a false dilemma, typically for the USA, so it seems to me. In western Europe hardly anybody cares.

    @DaveL: “One theological argument for determinism ….”
    I never bought this either, for a very simple reason: as an unbeliever I don’t care.

    Anyhow, determinism – and especially the question if free will is a meaningful concept (it’s at least as ill-defined as determinism) has become a scientific issue. The model of the human brain developed by neurobiologists will decide. Philosophers and theologians should shut up. They’ve had their fun but are irrelevant now.
    Jerry Coyne many years ago crowed that scientists could correctly predict human decisions before those humans became aware of those decisions themselves in 70% of the cases. First those scientists haven’t made any progress since then. Second he should have normalized this score to a scale from 0 to 1. As a score of 0% means complete determinism as well (scientists get everything wrong) 70%, when normalized, means a score of 0,4. That’s not impressive at all.
    In this sense there is room for a naturalistic version of free will. That doesn’t deny environmental influences etc. at all, on the contrary. Such influences affect the probability, all circumstances being equal, that a random individual like Robert vanB decides X instead of Y. The analogy is loaded dice. They may increase throwing 6, but don’t exclude other outcomes.
    Realize that determinism (in the sense of causality) implies an extreme case of probability (namely values 0 and 1) and much of the discussion of determinism becomes badly outdated.

  17. Michael Fugate

    It is interesting, but not surprising, that Hunter is an engineer BS 1980, MS 1982, PhD 2001. His PhD was on protein folding with an advisor in Bio/Chemical Engineering. Soon after he published 3 papers with his advisor in 2002 and 2003 and then went dark.
    Biola lists him as an adjunct in Apologetics for their Masters of Arts in Christian Apologetics and in Science and Religion. He must have picked up some theology degrees somewhere along the line. Or maybe he doesn’t need one to teach apologetics?

  18. I apparently have no free will as I keep finding myself here.

  19. Michael Fugate

    It’s the Big Bang’s fault.

  20. Michael Fugate

    Speaking of Biola – I was glancing back at their connection to The Christian Scientific Society: The Truth, Wherever It Leads
    Not big on irony these guys…
    https://www.christianscientific.org/schedule-for-the-upcoming-october-24-meeting-on-is-the-natural-world-good-or-bad/