Re: free will and fitness

Stephanie Wilson (swilson@BIGCAT.MISSOURI.EDU)
Wed, 1 Jun 1994 15:39:37 -0500

Is there really a link between free will/determinism and
randomness/ patterned behavior?
Does either the presence or absence of free will result in randomness or
distinct patterns of behavior? Could free will and determinism both lead
to randomness? patterned behaviors? I've always equated determinism with
fatalism: that behaviors are determined by someone(s) such as God or the
Fates. Could not God determine something utterly random to happen, like
impregnating a virgin? turning water into wine? Could free will lead to
patterned behavior, like someone forming a habit of always logging onto
email as soon as they get to work? Just because it is patterned
behavior, does not mean that it has not been a conscious choice. There
could be a very good reason for a person to behave in that certain way
without it being externally determined.

As far as I can see, this is all a philosophical discussion, but it does
have relevance to anthropology if a culture's belief in free
will/determinism effects the way that culture carries out its activities
(or determines these activities). This was reflected in the Asante
tradition of believing that a wooden watertower had collapsed at a
certain time with certain people underneath it, because it was
pre-determined. It didn't matter that the people regularly sat
underneath the watertower to keep out of the hot sun or that the tower
was being eaten away by termites, the causes of the accident. At this
point, I can't remember what they believed the determining cause of the
accident was...probably angry gods or witchcraft, either of which
required some action be taken on the part of the survivors to appease the
gods or disspell the witchcraft (or the witch).

Stephanie Wilson