We live in a world of cause and effect and theres no way of thinking about cause and effect that allows us to say that the buck stops here[pointing to his head].
If we fully understood the neurophysiology of any murderers brain, THAT would be as exculpatory as finding a tumor in it. If we could see how the wrong genes were being relentlessly transcribed, if we could see how this persons genome and entanglement with other people and ideas and events throughout life had sculpted the microstructure of his brain so that it was guaranteed to produce violent states of mind and violent behavior, the basis for placing blame in the sense that we usually do would disappear.
The problem is we have a subjective experience of free will, but it cant be mapped onto physical reality ... If you pay attention, you can see that you no more decide the next thing that you think than the next thing I say ... Thoughts just emerge in consciousness. We are not authoring them. That would require that we think them before we think them. If you cant control your next thought and you dont know what its going to be till it arises, where is your freedom of will?
If you pay attention to how thoughts and intentions arise and how decisions get made moment to moment, I think you can see that theres no evidence for free will, that actually our experience in life is compatible with the truth of determinism.
Where is the freedom in doing what one wants when ones wants are the product of prior causes which one cannot inspect and therefore could not choose and one had absolutely no hand in creating? From my point of view compatibilism is essentially the dictum that a puppet is free as long as it loves its strings.
You cant honestly take credit for your unconscious mental life.
The truth is we feel and presume an authorship over our own thoughts and actions that is illusory. How can we be free as conscious agents if everything we consciously intend was caused by events in our brain which we did not intend and over which we had no control?
The idea of punishing people because they deserve it doesnt make much sense. When we see crime in terms of cause and effect, we become more prudently focused on mitigating harm, assessing risk, deterring crime...all of the variables that govern the well-being of people. So, adopting this perspective reduces hatred and Increases empathy and compassion ... If you want to be like Jesus and love your enemies or at least not hate them, one way of doing it is to take a larger picture of scientific causality into account. Suppose we had an easy cure for evil. We would use it or be immoral for not using it. Our urge for retribution is an artifact of our not seeing the true causes of human behavior."
Gods justice is purely a matter of retribution...Without free will, Gods justice is insanely sadistic."
Religious people often fear that a better scientific understanding of humans and human behavior would dehumanize us when, in reality, it would humanize us. What could be more dehumanizing than the view that most of the people most of the time by virtue of the fact that they were born in the wrong place to the wrong parents, given the wrong theology, exposed to the wrong intellectual influences were,, crucially responsible for the fact that they didnt believe in God or believe in the wrong God, and, therefore, as a result deserve to be burned in fire for eternity?
Baby steps. Investigating the unconscious may be the most difficult frontier. We have just begun.This reminds me of the scientist who, when the first good pictures of Mars were available, mapped out the remains of cities, and even an interstate highway system. Taking small bits of evidence and assuming he knows everything - that's our Sam.
Was there any specific part of Harris' thesis that you wanted to critique? I find it very constructive and life affirming.