Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Bad News (if true) for Some Arminians

A few Arminians have staked their view of "free will" on the idea that what separates us from the animals is our ability to make rational choices: to wit that this is the "image of God" referred to in Scripture.

Now, with the enormous caveat that the entire study may be rigged, I present the following interesting article which - if true - would be devastating to that Arminian claim (link).

I'm sticking with my claim that "image of God" is authority, as discussed here (link). If you want to argue about what the image of God is, please direct your comments to the combox of that post, rather than this one - so as to keep things tidy.



GeneMBridges said...

The obvious objection that Arminians overlook, of course, is the disanalogy between God's "libertarian free will" and ours and the obvious equivocations that result when they apply their view to man.

"Henry" on Tblog is s prime example, for he tried to assert this same argument.

God can choose from any number of goods without external constraint. That's God's "libertarian" freedom. He can't however violate his own ethical attributes. So, as we know,He has no "libertarian" freedom.

But how is this an exemplar for man's freedom? At most it would apply to the prelapsarian state. But the controversy over "free will" relates to the post, not prelapsarian state. The Arminian needs a supporting argument to make the connection.

Then, of course, they'll admit to human "libertarian" freedom as the ability not only to choose between goods but good and evil.

So, on the one hand, they impose an ad hoc restriction on God and not on man. There's the disanalogy and the equivocation.

The obvious assumption behind their argument is the definition of "constraint" or "defeater" in external terms, but libertarian action theory applies to both external determination and internal determination. Suddenly the standard definition of libertarian action theory disappears when discussing God and then it reappears when talking about man's internal agency.

Turretinfan said...

Brother Gene,

That is indeed the problem. If you go beyond simply the ability to choose - the analogy starts to break down, either by making man super-divine, or by making God sub-divine.


Turretinfan said...


Thanks for your comment, but you seemed to have overlooked the instructions toward the end of the post about where you should post comments if you want to dispute the "image of God" issue.

If you'd like, repost your comments regarding the image of God in the combox of that post.


Anonymous said...

I'm no expert in experimental procedure but I do have some background in it, having majored in psychology and taken some classes directly related to conducting such experiments.

It seems the researchers are making hasty generalizations. This is very common as evolutionary psychologists are all too eager to close the human-animal gap.

As one commentator points out, humans have a very complex set of beliefs that factor into how decisions are made. We don't know the noetic structure of Chimps and therefore have no way of correlating the two. This fact alone makes such experiments dubitable at best. An experiment's validity rests upon the experimenter's ability to control unknown variables and this appears to be a key variable with no control. For example, the humans in the experiment no doubt knew that they were in an artificial environment with artificial consequences, such knowledge very likely affected their behavior in the experiment. However, did the chimps have such knowledge?

As two other commentators points out, perhaps the chimps have no concept of fairness or perhaps they are to greedy to pass up any trade. One can make an assessment of why any particular human passed up a trade (by asking him the reasons) but one can only guess why a chimp did not pass up the same trade.

Furthermore, it seems to me that there is an ambiguity of "rationally" floating around. A child may at times make a *wiser* choice then me simply because he has not been tarnished by my greed, jealousy, or does not have some other belief that I share. This does not, however, mean that the child has a better ratiocinative structure than I do. Perhaps, if the child shared my belief system, my choice would have indeed been the more rational one, despite it resulting in a wrong choice.

- JB

Turretinfan said...


Obviously there are many issues with the experiment, hence my haste to heavily qualify the alleged outcome, even in the post title.

I agree that the underlying motivation for the experiment was likely improper.

The rationality of the choices is a relatively objective: they are using standard terminology from economics.

The devastating conclusion of the article was that chimps make generally rational choice, not the "more rational" aspect.