Monday, October 15, 2012

HIRI: Free Will by Sam Harris

I recently listened to the audio version of Free Will by Sam Harris.  Here's How I Heard It: (HIHI?)

What I Liked:  The mental stimulation this book provided.  Don't listen to this when you're half asleep.  There is a definite need to be quick thinking and on your toes as the content comes at you.

What I Didn't Like: A few times Harris used some word play to make his point stronger than it actually was.  Two such statements, as an example: "We know we can perform an experiment such as this, at least in principle"  "Imagine a neuro-scanning device..."  Both times he is making the case that we can prove people aren't in control of their own choices.  But he only quickly uses the word "imagine" or phrase "at least in principle" and then the rest that follows is given as a fact.
Another minor dislike was that because I listened to the audio version I was unable to check his sources (or know if he had sources) for any claim he made.  Considering the type of book that it was, I'll probably look into some of his claims and sources down the road.

Where I Land: The premise of the book is that there is no such thing as free will.  I have to admit that Harris makes his point very strongly.  However, coming at this book with a Biblical worldview, I already believed these two truths: 1) God is in complete control of everything (therefore there isn't free will)  and 2) People have the freedom to make their individual choices (therefore there is free will).
I believe both of these seemingly incompatible truths because the Bible teaches both of them.  How they resolve each other is something I may not know this side of heaven, or maybe it is only known to the all-knowing God.  While Free Will gave me a lot to think about, in the end, it merely supported (in some sense) truth #1.  Truth #2 is still equally strong in my mind, continually supported by the Bible and by my everyday experiences.


  1. It appears you are comfortable with a glaring paradox here. I would suggest two old treatments of the subject:

    The Freedom of the Will - Jonathan Edwards
    Bondage of the Will - Martin Luther

    1. Grant. Thanks for the comment... I'm only comfortable with the paradox as it seems Scripture presents both truths.

      Adding those books to my reading list, although it may be awhile before I get to them.