After finishing off with my project on the free-will debate, I have been thinking a lot about its implications in the real world. If there really is no free-will and if we do not have any free choices then what is the meaning of responsibility in this context? If a person is passing under a railway bridge and if it collapses and kills him, do we put any moral responsibility on the bridge? True, we can hold the bridge responsible for being the cause of his death but we do not put any moral blame on it. On the other hand, if a person murders another person than we punish the culprit because we put a moral blame on him. We consider the murderer as a consciously free being, capable of making choices that may affect the outcome of his action, who could have otherwise decided not to kill. This is the difference that philosophers or theologians and even scientists till this century have considered- Human beings are free to choose while the other inanimate things are not.
But if there is no free-will, then there is no significant difference between that collapsing bridge and that murderer. Both are acting in accordance with the laws of causality that built and control them. What can a murderer do? All of his thoughts and actions are a result of the cumulative forces of his brain and the external environment.
The murderer is his brain. Brain is a hardware. Every hardware has a capacity to store and process data. Hardware works on the basis of the software installed by ‘’someone else’’ in them. Here software is the analogy of all the information that the brain has processed and stored. All of this information comes from external sources, namely the other people and the environment. An individual’s brain (hardware) is not responsible for the actions of external sources. Therefore, it can be inferred that an individual’s brain is at the whim of the behavior and nature of his external. A person develops his brain from the genes that that he had begotten from his parents. So, if that person commits a murder, I will say that his environment and his parents are more responsible for that crime than the person himself.
Because our actions are nothing but reactions on any set of internal (bodily) or external (social, environmental) stimuli and those reactions are expressed after the information is processed by our software that are themselves limited by our hardware (brain), therefore we need to install good software in our brains. Software that make our hardware (brain) more and more efficient and effective.
Let us take the analogy of a computer. Let us take two computers A and B. ‘A’ has got an Intel Pentium 4 processor with 320 Gb memory. ‘B’ has got Intel core2 duo and 1 Tb memory. For a given set of information, which computer will work better? Surely it would be B. Which computer will be able to record more information, yes it will be B again. Aha! And which computer will be able to do this mathematical equation: (2*2=)?
Well, it will be none. Why? – Because none of them have got a software to understand the given language of math and the rules of how to do a multiplication. If A has got that software (calculator), it will be able to do the calculation and Computer B will sit in the corner looking like a fool. But if both the computers have got the same software then B will be able to do the operation more swiftly than A.
Now, let us say that both the computers have to forcibly record some visual information in the form of JPEG image. Computer B will be able to store 1000 pictures of 1 Gb quality each. To store the same number of pictures, computer A will have to decrease the quality of images. To store the same number of images, i.e 1000, computer A will have to tone down the quality of images to 320 Mb – A loss of 68% in quality and details. That means when computer A will try to recall any particular image, there will be a lot of information missing.
This is what happens with a human being. There are intelligent people and there are less intelligent people. There are people who have better memory and processing power than others. There are people who can recall things better in a more detailed form than others. Just like a computer.
If we agree on the above arguments than we human beings are no special than our computers. Though we will all argue that we are better than them. But seriously, it took us billions of years to become what we are now. Computers have been around from less than the last 5 decades.
Let’s come back to that murderer now. If we agree that the murderer is only a pawn of his external environment then how can we punish him? It seems like he is just a victim of his environment. He wouldn’t have been the same if his upbringing was done in a different place with different set of inherent genes having more favorable set of variables.
Think about this: A boy born in Iraq during the Gulf war. His parents are killed by the American Army. He is brought up by the twisted Islamic preachers of his area. He is taught to hate Americans. Then, when he grows up, he blows himself in a busy street of New York. Christians come on their radios and in their churches, Evil and devil they call him. But was that boy really at fault?
That boy was programmed in that manner from his childhood. He was nothing but an innocent child, just like any child in the world. He would have been acting different if he was adopted in his childhood by an American, British or Indian Family. But he was so unlucky.
Now, I am not advocating that punishments should be totally withdrawn from the justice system. Punishments can act as an excellent deterrent. If Human brains are like computers then these computers have only evolved to protect their carriers i.e. the human brains will always act in ways to protect themselves from destruction. So in case we threaten them with incarceration and death, most of the people will act according to the law. That is what we have been seeing in our system.
What this free will debate tells us new is that we shouldn’t ever act with a feeling of vengeance. The other person is not a culprit, he is a victim. I will develop my thoughts more on this topic. Till then, you guys give your suggestions