Is there a conflict between science and human rights?

Science defines you as a robot.  The laws of cause and effect leave it no alternative but to do so.  And that definition, if accepted, would leave us with no human rights.

Is there a better way to interpret science?  Are we automatons, or are we autonomous, sovereign individuals who can break free from natural law?  What are the political, social, and cultural implications?

This commentary will, using everyday language, challenge the arguments of science, which would describe you merely as a biological mechanism, one with no God-given rights to life and liberty.

The scientific laws of cause and effect are familiar to us in our everyday experience.  If we see a baseball flying through the air, we assume that it was thrown or hit – that is to say, its motion has a cause.  Dominos provide a good illustration when we stand them up in a line.  Topple the first domino, and it causes the second one to fall, which forces the next one, and so forth, until all the dominos in the chain have fallen.

This is a vast oversimplification, but it is valid for the purpose here.  The science of quantum mechanics complicates the matter, but causation remains at the heart of physical science.  It can be said of the physical universe (as it can of socialism) that everything is either mandatory or forbidden; nothing is optional.

What has this to do with human rights?  Simply this: If you are nothing more than your physical nature, the arrangement of atoms that constitute your body, then the immutable laws of nature govern everything about you.  Your every thought, word, and deed is determined for you, not by you.  You are, in effect, one of the dominos, however much more complex the case may be.  Such a person would have no inherent rights.

That is the definition of a robot.

Of course, each of us experiences himself as a living, conscious creature who can exercise free will.  These three attributes are unsolved mysteries of science, at least as mysterious as the exotic phenomena known as dark matter and dark energy.

As to the first attribute, life, most scientists might scoff at the notion that it is not well understood by science.  The science of biology has done much to define life.  But it has incorrectly defined life only as its chemical process.  It has defined life as an effect of the universe, not a cause.  Life, however, is so intricately intertwined with all the phenomena of nature that it should be seen as a fundamental reality of nature, no less so than quarks and space-time.  The precise fine-tuning of the universe defines it as a mechanism for generating and supporting life, civilization, and technology.

Consciousness is the second of the three great mysteries of human nature.  While medical science can observe and measure the outward signs of consciousness, no known physical laws of nature can account for the inward experience.  To adapt the famous saying of Descartes, I am conscious, therefore I am.  One can no more define inward consciousness in physical terms than one can define the quality of color to a person who has been totally blind since birth.  Science says that consciousness emerges from complexity, but the evidence provided by the double-slit experiment (quantum physics) arguably suggests that conscious experience may govern physical nature.

Volition, or free will, is the final nail in the coffin of physical determinism.  It is not simply that science cannot explain free will; it is that physics actually denies the possibility that volition can exist.  Free will, science tells us, is an illusion.  It says that you only think you can make autonomous decisions.

If free will exists, and it does, then it can break the immutable chain of cause and effect.  It is as if the dominos could refuse to fall, despite the forces of nature.

Free will is, then, a supernatural power.  Whereas life is misunderstood, and whereas consciousness is not understood, free will is, according to science, utterly forbidden.  It provides the word "optional" to the chain of cause and effect.

This commentary will not change the mind of those who see themselves as nothing more than helpless robots who are witnesses to their own lives but not participants.  Indeed, if none of us has free will, then none of us can choose his beliefs – they are forced upon him.

One has to question, then, what good does such a dismal persuasion (the physicalist one) do?  What will be the consequences?  One shudders to imagine them.

Science defines you as a robot.  The laws of cause and effect leave it no alternative but to do so.  And that definition, if accepted, would leave us with no human rights.

Is there a better way to interpret science?  Are we automatons, or are we autonomous, sovereign individuals who can break free from natural law?  What are the political, social, and cultural implications?

This commentary will, using everyday language, challenge the arguments of science, which would describe you merely as a biological mechanism, one with no God-given rights to life and liberty.

The scientific laws of cause and effect are familiar to us in our everyday experience.  If we see a baseball flying through the air, we assume that it was thrown or hit – that is to say, its motion has a cause.  Dominos provide a good illustration when we stand them up in a line.  Topple the first domino, and it causes the second one to fall, which forces the next one, and so forth, until all the dominos in the chain have fallen.

This is a vast oversimplification, but it is valid for the purpose here.  The science of quantum mechanics complicates the matter, but causation remains at the heart of physical science.  It can be said of the physical universe (as it can of socialism) that everything is either mandatory or forbidden; nothing is optional.

What has this to do with human rights?  Simply this: If you are nothing more than your physical nature, the arrangement of atoms that constitute your body, then the immutable laws of nature govern everything about you.  Your every thought, word, and deed is determined for you, not by you.  You are, in effect, one of the dominos, however much more complex the case may be.  Such a person would have no inherent rights.

That is the definition of a robot.

Of course, each of us experiences himself as a living, conscious creature who can exercise free will.  These three attributes are unsolved mysteries of science, at least as mysterious as the exotic phenomena known as dark matter and dark energy.

As to the first attribute, life, most scientists might scoff at the notion that it is not well understood by science.  The science of biology has done much to define life.  But it has incorrectly defined life only as its chemical process.  It has defined life as an effect of the universe, not a cause.  Life, however, is so intricately intertwined with all the phenomena of nature that it should be seen as a fundamental reality of nature, no less so than quarks and space-time.  The precise fine-tuning of the universe defines it as a mechanism for generating and supporting life, civilization, and technology.

Consciousness is the second of the three great mysteries of human nature.  While medical science can observe and measure the outward signs of consciousness, no known physical laws of nature can account for the inward experience.  To adapt the famous saying of Descartes, I am conscious, therefore I am.  One can no more define inward consciousness in physical terms than one can define the quality of color to a person who has been totally blind since birth.  Science says that consciousness emerges from complexity, but the evidence provided by the double-slit experiment (quantum physics) arguably suggests that conscious experience may govern physical nature.

Volition, or free will, is the final nail in the coffin of physical determinism.  It is not simply that science cannot explain free will; it is that physics actually denies the possibility that volition can exist.  Free will, science tells us, is an illusion.  It says that you only think you can make autonomous decisions.

If free will exists, and it does, then it can break the immutable chain of cause and effect.  It is as if the dominos could refuse to fall, despite the forces of nature.

Free will is, then, a supernatural power.  Whereas life is misunderstood, and whereas consciousness is not understood, free will is, according to science, utterly forbidden.  It provides the word "optional" to the chain of cause and effect.

This commentary will not change the mind of those who see themselves as nothing more than helpless robots who are witnesses to their own lives but not participants.  Indeed, if none of us has free will, then none of us can choose his beliefs – they are forced upon him.

One has to question, then, what good does such a dismal persuasion (the physicalist one) do?  What will be the consequences?  One shudders to imagine them.