Let’s discuss free will for a second. The problem is as follows:
If the world is completely material, and everything in it (including our mind) arises out of this world, how can free will exist? What could possibly give rise to such a thing in a world of matter interacting with other matter according to the laws of physics?
It appears therefore, that if there is free will, and it cannot arise out of a material world, then either:
a) The world is not completely material, or
b) Free will arises from something that comes from outside this world.
If we consider this from the perspective of the simulation hypothesis (which we’ve been referring to as rational deism in previous articles), it makes no sense to consider “a” since there can be nothing immaterial in a simulation — matter is precisely what is being simulated. We are therefore left with the possibility that something must originate outside the simulation, and this is what gives rise to the freedom to make willful decisions.
This leads us, oddly enough, to the ancient idea of mind-body dualism — namely, that our bodies (including our brains) arise from within this world; but our minds (or souls, or personas, or essences, etc) are injected into our bodies from the outside.
Let’s first examine the most common counter-arguments to this idea:
We know that damaging various parts of the human brain affects the human mind; therefore, the mind must be an emergent property of the brain.
This is true, of course. But likewise, damaging your computer’s CPU will affect the operating system that runs on it; this does not prove that the operating system arises out of your computer’s CPU — in fact, we know for a fact that the operating system was written by someone else and you downloaded it into your computer’s memory storage system.
We know that animals with a smaller brain exhibit some qualities that may hint at mind-like functions; therefore, as brains evolve to be more complex, mind-like functions emerge from it.
This is also true, of course. But likewise, the microcontroller in my microwave exhibits some properties that may hint as the existence of a primitive operating system running on it. Not only does this fact not prove that my computer’s operating system must have emerged from within my computer; it doesn’t even prove that my microwave’s operating system has evolved from within the microwave, or that my computer’s operating system must have evolved from my microwave’s operating system.
Other objections exist, of course, but they are typically masking the more uncomfortable unspoken objection — if something does not emerge from within this world, where does it come from?
The answer is, of course, we don’t know. But we can probably assume that if this world was created by someone, for some purpose, then the interface to “download” certain properties into the characters in it must be a feature of the design.
Imagine it as an immersive multi-player video game where all the attributes of the characters emerge from within the game, but the minds controlling the characters are plugged into the game while floating in a spaceship somewhere.
Of all the variations of the simulation hypothesis, this version — the one where minds are downloaded into the brains of characters in the simulation — is the only one that actually explains free will.