Free Will vs. Determinism Moot Point in Social Sciences
Posted on August 26, 2016
The whole “free will-determinism” question is an empirically meaningless question that scientists and progressives and sensible conservatives and jurists ought to drop.
1.If some one commits a terrible sex crime, it doesn’t matter that he might be a machine that could not help itself. As conservatives point out, we need to lock him up to prevent future crimes, and to cure him if we can.
2. As liberals point out, upbringing and social conditions make a huge difference in how either the machine or the freely choosing human being turns out. We need to change social conditions to prevent people from, for example, being molested at an early age and imprinting on molestation as a means of sexual outlet.
Hence “free will” never comes into the social calculus.
Now I grant there are complexities. For example, people whose brains are thoroughly messed up might not respond in any useful way to punishment. We do need to relate the treatment for crime to the nature of the criminal. Hence mens rea is not an irrelevant concept.
Empirically, it is also the case that people who emphasize the machine model tend to be more rational, progressive, and consequentialist about criminal justice. However there is no good reason why someone who either believes in free will or doesn’t cannot be a forgiving Christian who focuses solely on rehabilitation rather than punishment. Granted that liberal Christians are likely to take bigger risks than conservative Christians, e.g. in letting a felon out early, but that is more a difference in risk aversion than in belief in free will.