Consistent Skepticism: the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker of Popular Thought

Contemplating today, again, the nature of Materialism in its many-faceted glory. It all boils down to one essential little tidbit of logic, namely: if you want evidence, the list of things you’re going to have to throw out include, not just the usual suspects of religion and superstition, but the more comforting illusions of free will and person hood, and all their logical children: autonomy, argument, persuasion,  heroism. To start.

But logical consistency has rarely burdened the proponents of Materialism.

Have you noticed how the world looks flat? All evidence and experience readily available to us testifies that the world is a motionless plane. Only by means of a series of rather special and esoteric observations and reasonings are we convinced that the earth is round and whirling through space. Nonetheless, we use this one piece of knowledge as a sure shibboleth of intelligence and right thinking: only an ignorant fool thinks the world is flat.

Similarly, have you noticed how it appears that we are regularly exercising free will? All evidence and experience readily available to us testifies that we are free to make choices, from chocolate or vanilla all the way up to if and whom to marry and whether to risk our lives for others. Yet once we look as hard at free will as we look at the flat earth, we realize that it is impossible for us to be free in any meaningful sense. We can be chaotic, or random, but not free – it is unnecessary and meaningless to posit a power outside of billiard-ball level materialistic cause and effect for our own actions when we readily accept such causality for all other things that take place in the world. Free Will is as much mystical nonsense as the Trinity.

So, if we really want to play the materialistic game, we’ve got to chuck free will, which means, among other things creativity, heroism, morality, honor and so on – what could these things mean, if they are simply the result of inevitable mechanistic causality flavored with a little chance and chaos?