Monday, August 18, 2003

Is Man Determined or Free?... Thoughts From "The Matrix: Reloaded"

I recently saw Bruce Almighty which was entertaining at times, but overall a mediocre movie. Anyway, it jarred my thinking to a few months back after I saw The Matrix: Reloaded about the issues of whether man is determined, what is free will, and predestination. Bruce Almighty interestingly provided a simplistic yet smart and concise perspective on the issue of how God can predetermine and control the universe while allowing for man’s free will. Morgan Freeman plays God who bestows upon Jim Carrey’s character all his powers, but he cannot affect a person’s freewill. Later on in the movie, Carrey’s character truly learns about this limitation, but I won’t spoil it for anyone.

Severals weeks before watching this movie and after The Matrix: Reloaded, I was listening to an excerpt by Stephen Hawking on his lecture at Cambridge University on whether man is determined or free.

As you might know, Stephen Hawking is our modern day Einstein. He is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University. This is an academic chair first held by Isaac Barrow, and then in 1669 by Sir Isaac Newton. His intellectual capacity and power can be rarely matched. His assistant once told of time when he was dictating volumes of notes and on the 46th page he recognized that there was an error 20 pages before and corrected it. Since the beginning of his academic career, Hawking has researched and studied about the laws which govern the universe.

At the lecture he concluded, ““Is man determined? Yes! But since we do not know what is determined, he may as well not be.”

To explain determinism, the PBS website explains:

“A far-reaching term, which most widely states that all events in the world are the result of some previous event, or events. In this view, all of reality is already in a sense pre-determined or pre-existent and, therefore, nothing new can come into existence. This closed view of the universe sees all events in the world simply as effects of other prior effects, and has particular implications for morality, science, and religion. Ultimately, if determinism is correct, then all events in the future are as unalterable as are all events in the past. Consequently, human freedom is simply an illusion.”

So if you remember from The Matrix: Reloaded, the Merovingian (wine drinking French-wannabe, trafficker of information, and had Monica Bellucci as his wife:) was a determinist in the purest sense. He was preaching causality... everything is cause and effect so human freedom is nonexistent, especially within the matrix.

This is where Bruce Almighty describes determinism in a Christian context better than PBS since they assume determinism is expressed in the "Calvinist doctrine of predestination, wherein those elected to a divine eternity and those condemned to an eternal hell are already established prior to birth" and assume the lack of free will in this Christian doctrine. I believe the PBS definition related to Christianity is incorrect. Foreknowing does not imply forecausing. Calvinist doctrine and mainstream Christian thinking allows for the dual existence of pre-determined salvation and human free will. This doctrine is similar to the Oracle's viewpoint in The Matrix: Reloaded.

"Candy?" asks the Oracle.

"You already know if I'm going to take it," states Neo.

"I wouldn't be much of an oracle if I didn't."

"But if you already know, how can I make a choice?"

"Because you didn't come here to make a choice, you've already made it. You're here to try to to understand why you made it."

(Neo takes the candy)

"I thought you would have figured that out by now," says the Oracle.

"Why are you here?"

"Same reason. I love candy."

So I guess you really shouldn't call the Oracle's perspective determinism. Let's say Calvinist or "Free Choicer" (excellent explanation by The Old Oligarch on May 28, 2003 Matrix Essays blog).

Back to Hawking, he continued by stating his fear for the long-term survival of our species, “My only fear is this. The terror that stalks my mind is that we have arrived on the scene because of evolution. Because of naturalistic selection, and natural selection assumes natural rejection, which means we have arrived here because of our aggression. And my hope is that somehow we can keep from eating each other up for another 100 years. At that point science would have devised a scheme to take all of us into different planets of the universe and no one atrocity would destroy all of us at the same time.”

Ravi Zacharias, a Christian apologist, commented on Hawking’s lecture, “Hawking was unavoidably caught on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, if there is no God he could feel the hold of determinism from which evolutionary theory could not escape—out of flux, nothing but flux. What followed from that deduction was even more troubling. For on the other hand, if evolution held true, he could not further ignore the aggression and violence through which man has evolved. Therefore, Hawking offered mankind’s only hope—that the savior of technology would come riding on the wings of science to rescue us from the clasping teeth of determinism.”

“We have educated ourselves into imbecility.” – Malcolm Muggeridge

Zacharias quoted Muggeridge and went on to explain how even the greatest of minds in the world today should not ignore the logical and rational existence of God. Basically, Zacharias was criticizing determinism and how flawed it is and a more logical explanation is having God govern and control the laws and powers of the universe.

Continued... deeper into the matrix.