Many philosophers have hovered over this topic. And that topic has yet to be fully resolved: Do or don’t people have Free Will? The texts I have read seem to prance around the topic and share subtle, strong, and opposing voices. Covering such a conundrum in a mere 800 words will be quite a feat, but let us try to mentally make our way through this metaphysical morass.
People experience the world in four dimensions. Up and down, left and right, forward and backward, and—the doozy of the bunch—past, present, and future. Humans’ view of time does have two directions like its three comrades, but contrary to the rest, we mortal humans can only travel in one direction through it. The universe works in a “cause-and-effect,” “action-reaction,” direction. Yes, it would be trippy and philosophically exciting to experience a world where the opposite held true; where reactions caused their actions, and effects led to causes . . . But we don’t. Because of that inescapable fact, we can see a predictable chain of events that leads to any given moment.
Following that logic, everything people are experiencing presently is a result of the past, including every thought and action. Determinism in a nutshell, the Big Bang (just a theory, remember, thought up by many of the greatest minds humanity has ever seen and which matches every observation of the universe people experience) set the laws of physics in motion. That eventually led to the formation of stars, galaxies, and planets. Relatively recently, around 4.6 billion years ago, the earth formed from an agglomeration of dust left over from a giant star’s dramatic death in a supernova. Once the earth cooled, and oceans formed, life arose by one way or another through panspermia or chance chemical reactions in a geothermal test-tube (or God said “Let there be!”). Fast forward a few hundred million years, and those chemical reactions have become drastically more complex. First, multi-cellularity, then, a neural system of...
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