What if one day science proves we have no free will, or free agency? As we learn more about the brain, we find out that more and more of what we do is predetermined by the brain. There are some studies that show that before we consciously make a decision to move our hand, the brain has electrical activity in the area required to move the hand. This implies that our body had already decided to move our hand, and then put the idea in our mind so we thought it was our idea!
From an article in the Atlantic
Many scientists say that the American physiologist Benjamin Libet demonstrated in the 1980s that we have no free will. It was already known that electrical activity builds up in a person’s brain before she, for example, moves her hand; Libet showed that this buildup occurs before the person consciously makes a decision to move. The conscious experience of deciding to act, which we usually associate with free will, appears to be an add-on, a post hoc reconstruction of events that occurs after the brain has already set the act in motion.
There are some that believe that a brain tumor in the UT Austin Tower shooter caused him to murder. There is also the case of a 40 year old man that suddenly developed an interest in child pornography. He had never had this interest before, and even started soliciting prostitutes. He was eventually caught and convicted. Then he started to have head pains.
From the above referenced article:
The night before he was to report for prison sentencing, he couldn’t stand the pain anymore, and took himself to the emergency room. He underwent a brain scan, which revealed a massive tumor in his orbitofrontal cortex. Neurosurgeons removed the tumor. Alex’s sexual appetite returned to normal.
The year after the brain surgery, his pedophilic behavior began to return. The neuroradiologist discovered that a portion of the tumor had been missed in the surgery and was regrowing—and Alex went back under the knife. After the removal of the remaining tumor, his behavior again returned to normal.
So was “Alex” guilty of the bad things he was doing? Should he have been excommunicated for violating the law of chastity? Or is sin only possible when there is free agency? What if there is a brain wiring problem for almost all the thing we consider morally wrong?
again from the same article:
Who you even have the possibility to be starts at conception. If you think genes don’t affect how people behave, consider this fact: if you are a carrier of a particular set of genes, the probability that you will commit a violent crime is four times as high as it would be if you lacked those genes. You’re three times as likely to commit robbery, five times as likely to commit aggravated assault, eight times as likely to be arrested for murder, and 13 times as likely to be arrested for a sexual offense. The overwhelming majority of prisoners carry these genes; 98.1 percent of death-row inmates do. These statistics alone indicate that we cannot presume that everyone is coming to the table equally equipped in terms of drives and behaviors.
The more we learn about the brain, the more we discover that much of what we do is hard wired in our brain. But then this goes against the whole gospel plan of free agency. How does the church handle these new medical discoveries?
If we believe in a final judgement with a righteous Omniscience God, then he/she will take all those factors into account. But then that leaves us on earth with our limited knowledge even less able to judge somebody, whether we sit on a jury at the courthouse, or a disciplinary council in the bishop’s office.