Ehrman says free will defenders often tell him humans would be like robots without free will (11, 12, 197, 229). Well, of course they tell him that. Rightly! And on this point Ehrman never disagrees because free will is essential to who we are.
Consider that God, if He had wanted to, could have created only creatures like otters or golden retrievers. There would certainly have been a lot less evil and suffering in the world (assuming He also made them both vegetarians). Now I like animals, but I’m glad that there are more significant beings around—human beings—that possess a much greater freedom than that.
Consider also that free will is one of the most popular themes of science fiction. For example, Bruce, in Bruce Almighty (2003), is told “don’t mess with free will.” Minority Report (2002), Pleasantville (1998), The Adjustment Bureau (2011), and Steven Spielberg’s dismal Artificial Intelligence (2001), are other examples of Sci-Fi exploring the free will concept.
One plot device has humankind create a computer/robot that begins to think on its own (that is, it becomes self-aware and exercises free will), and then said machine sets out to destroy humankind. The rest of the movie is about humankind trying to destroy the computer/robot. This is the theme of the four Terminator movies (1984, 1991, 2003, 2009) and TV show; the three The Matrix movies (1999, 2003, 2004); Eagle Eye (2008); i, Robot (2004); 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and a host of others.
Another plot device involves one being who tries to take away the free will of another being. For example, the Borg on Star Trek and the pod people in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers movie (1956 and its two remakes 1979, 2007) attempt to take away free will from humans. In the two The Stepford Wives movies (1975, 2004),1 the men of Stepford kill their liberated, free-thinking wives and replace them with realistic replicas. But with as much trouble as real spouses can be, would anyone really, I mean honestly, want a robot replacement? Isn’t a robot spouse just three steps above inflatable?
Could we really imagine wanting to live in a world in which we were surrounded only by beings that lacked free will? I can’t, and apparently Ehrman can’t either. Certainly science fiction writers have yet to do so.
Free will is essential to who we are and Ehrman is wrong about the free will defense. His book, God’s Problem, contains many more of Ehrman’s errors. We’ll examime them in future posts.
- There were also three TV sequels: The Revenge of the Stepford Wives (1980), The Stepford Children (1987), The Stepford Husbands (1996). Apparently the most poignant movie is yet to be made: The Stepford Teenagers. [↩]