For my philosophy class, I am writing a paper on God and free will. I am trying to prove that free will exists, and that having free will supports the existence of God. Because of this freedom, evil and God can coexist. Therefore, God can be omnibenevolent while evil exists because of free will. I’m having a hard time finding any sources or research about this topic. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
I do not believe that you can “prove” the existence of free will. Free will, if it exists, falls more in the area of philosophy or metaphysics than physics or science. It will probably resist any kind of practical “proof.” The reality of free will vs determinism is something to be debated on a philosophical or religious level, which means proofs of the reality of free will tend to be circular.
To me, belief in free will is more intuitive than empirical. We are not simply defined by neural networks and neurotransmitters. I have a body. I am not simply a body. But how do I prove this? Human experience demands that we conclude that we have a body. The idea that we are a body is called monism. The idea that we have a body–that we exist as a metaphysical reality apart from our body–is called dualism. “I” exist and my realness is not reserved to a brain. I say that I want to go to the store and I believe that when I say this I am not speaking nonsense. If we live in a deterministic world (one in which everything we do is determined by purely measurable, physical quantities), the “I” do not exist and “I” do not make decisions about what I will do. In that case, “I” do not make choices and “I” do not have free will. “I” also cannot decide to believe in determinism.
But humans all know that we have a body, rather than us simply being a body. We also know that the conscious “me” that has a body has the ability as a conscious being to make decisions. The decisions are not made by my chemicals but they are made by me. That includes the decision to believe in determinism and not to believe in free will.
This, however, does not amount to proof. It is a statement which is consistent with reality and what I know about reality and about myself. I guess the question is which world view makes sense out of reality? Is pure determinism consistent with everything we know, or must we invoke some sort of metareality such as God or consciousness or good and evil or mind to best explain reality as we experience it.
Neuroscientists have tried to do experiments to decide if free real appears real when we analyze brain activity. A good friend, John Beggs, a physicist at Indiana University has done such experiments. There is a talk by him available from our recent Christian evidences conference last June. It is available in he membership part of the web site as well. The conclusions to such neuroscience experiments are ambiguous. Is there an “I” there between the time a question comes to our brain and the time when a decision as to how we will answer that question? If so, then we can invoke some sort of free will to explain the process of decision making. This is both a scientific and a philosophical question.
Let me make a suggestion. What you could do is a quick survey. You could ask twenty or thirty of your friends to respond to a simple question: Which is an accurate statement about yourself. 1. I am a body or 2. I have a body. Based on the response you can build a case that common human experience tells us that we are real entities apart from purely physical matter and that this “we” is capable of making choices–that what we do is not simply the inevitable result of certain molecules bumping into certain other molecules. I believe that even if you find that rare person who actually believes in philosophical monism–that there is no free will–will betray him or herself by using phrases such as “I believe…” or “I want….” or “in my opinion….” No one can live a life or maintain a belief that we do not have free will.
As for resources, the two Christian philosophers who have the most to offer on this topic are Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. Augustine provided an excellent defintion of evil which seems, in my mind, to be consistent with reality. “¨Evil arises from the corruption of a nature which is essentially good. What is called evil is good corrupted; if it were not corrupted it would be wholly good; but even when it is corrupted, it is good in so far as it remains a natural thing, and bad only in so far as it is corrupted.”
Unfortunately, Augustine did not have a good concept of free will, as he tended toward determinism in his theology.
I prefer Thomas Aquinas on free will. “God, therefore, is the first cause, who moves causes both natural and voluntary. And just as by moving natural causes He does not prevent their actions from being natural, so by moving voluntary causes He does not deprive their actions of being voluntary; but rather is He the cause of this very thing in them, for He operates in each thing according to his own nature.”
None of this amounts to proof, but they are a reasonable responseto the question of free will and of evil.
I hope this can at least get you started.