Free-Willism, AIDS, and Blame

Thu, 2 Jun 1994 17:17:57 CDT

B. Blackwell suggested that unsafe sex by people who know better is a
good example of something that is "certainly" a case of free will. I
naturally fail to see how invoking "free will" helps describe or explain
the behavior, so I assume the underlying motive is to place blame rather
than to advance science. J. Steele noted, contra Blackwell, that it
would make sense to interpret AIDS deaths as increasing rather than
decreasing a population's fitness--a remark which, while plausible, is
uncomfortably reminiscent of E. Scrooge's declaration that if poor
people would sooner die than go to the workhouses, let them do so and
thereby reduce the surplus population. Well, my point is that as a
determinist, I do not believe that examples come from thin air, or that
they might just as well have been other than the ones actually given;
and in light of anxiety over the tragic spread of AIDS, bringing up
unsafe sex as an exemplar of free will could not help but sound, to me,
like an attempt to place blame. Prompted by a private post,
however, I want to concede that neither Blackwell's nor Steele's post
was phrased in a judgmental fashion; and I apologize for having implied
otherwise. --Bob Graber