Free Will

SkepSun #167 (12_06_2015)

Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker fill us in on the news out of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  We’ll hear Dan’s “Salt Lake City Blues,” and then they’ll talk with Utah attorney Mark Naugle about how he has helped more than 3,000 people leave the Mormon Church, mainly as a result of the LDS church’s position on same-sex couples.

We’ll hear a track from atheist rapper Greydon Square called Stockholm syndrome followed by a Skeptoid by Brian Dunning that looks at the psychological condition the song references.  Is “Stockholm Syndrome” really a thing? We’ll also use the song as a springboard for another conversation. Does Greydon Square’s comments about Islam and Muhammed in the song make him an “Islamophobe”?  Hehment Mehta has a look at that term and what it means.

Sinclair Lewis said “When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” Trumansburg blogger Gordon Bonnet wonders disquietingly whether we haven’t already begun”the gentle smooth slide to being governed by the worst people in the world.”

Finally, in hour two, Luke Muehlauser interviews Tom Clark of the Center for Naturalism. What are the implications of accepting a worldview premised on the idea that existence in all its dimensions and complexity is a single, natural realm, not split between the natural and the supernatural? What happens to human free will and moral responsibility?  Would a society that rejects the reality of so-called “contra-causal free will” be a degenerate one or healthy one?


Worldview Naturalism: not so bad once you try it. cartoon=xkcd

SkepSun #131 (03_22_2015)

After reporting on the success of FFRF’s national ad featuring Ron Reagan on CNN, Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker announce FFRF victories stopping prayer and bible reading in public schools in Texas and Maryland. They celebrate the birthdays of nonbelievers Elton John, Stephen Sondheim, Keira Knightly, Richard Dawkins, and freethinking feminists Matilda Joslyn Gage and Gloria Steinem. Then they talk with journalist and author David Seidman about his new book, What If I’m an Atheist: A teen’s guide to exploring a life without religionAfter Freethought Radio, Gordon Bonnet of Skeptophilia has a look at privilege in our society and at some people who don’t seem to get it. Then, in hour two, in a continuation of our subject from last week, we hear two, local, free will skeptics make their case.  First, Cornell Professor Derk Pereboom argues that  free will is an illusion, but not to worry: this doesn’t undermine the core elements of morality, value and meaning in life.  Then Greg Caruso of Corning Community College contends that we’d have a more humane society if we gave up the notion of free will in a recent TEDx talk entitled “The Dark Side of Free Will.”

Cornell Professor of Philosophy and Free Will Skeptic Derk Pereboom

Cornell Professor of Philosophy and Free Will Skeptic Derk Pereboom

SkepSun #130 (03_15_2015)

On Freethought Radio, Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor report  state/church victories around the country; but there is some bad news: the Supreme Court sides with Catholic university to deny birth-control coverage and Wisconsin moves to expand school vouchers for mainly religious schools. After hearing the song “None of the Above,” Annie Laurie interviews Dan Barker about his new book, Life Driven Purpose: How an Atheist Finds MeaningThen we return to one of our favorite topics on SkepSun for the rest of the show: free will. Do we have it?  Are we free?  Are we determined?  Or both? One naturalistic school of thought accepts that we live in a deterministic universe and yet still have free will, in fact the only kind of free will worth wanting. This is called “compatibilism” and one of the most prominent compatibilists is Daniel Dennett, Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. We’ll hear a lecture he gave at Edinburgh University in 2009 defending this viewpoint. Next week we’ll hear from a couple of local incompatibilists.

Are we free?  Are we determined?  Or both?

Are we free? Are we determined? Can we be both?



SkepSun #69 (12_15_2013)

It’s the most wonderful time of year…for nativity scene violations! Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor report on complaints to the FFRF about creche scenes erected on public property and then talk with Tom Cara, director of FFRF’s Metropolitan Chicago chapter, about the large atheist ‘A’ and the “nativity of the Bill of Rights” his group erected in downtown Daley Plaza. On the second half of the show, they interview Linda LaScola, one of the founders of the Clergy Project, and co-author of the new book (with Daniel C. Dennett) about clergy who have abandoned faith, Caught In The Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind. – See more at:

After Freethougtht Radio we ask where does morality come from and in what do we nonbelievers say our ethics are grounded?  If there is no God or gods, is everything permissable? We’ll hear from two prominent thinkers on this subject on today’s show.  First evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker, professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University in a talk he gave at MIT in 2010. Pinker discusses the probable evolutionary origin of our sense of right and wrong and defends a compatibilist view of free will.  Then we’ll hear from the moral philosopher perhaps best known for his arguments for widening the circle of moral responsibilty to include other species, Peter Singer from Princeton University.  Singer talks to Massimo Pigliucci and Julia Galef on the Rationally Speaking podcast about consequentialist ethics and animal welfare.


The FFRF’s banner in Pitman, NJ, countering another placed by the Knights of Columbus that urges people to “Keep Christ in Christmas.”  See the story here.

SkepSun#63 (11_03_2013)

It’s the first of two live WRFI Fall fundraiser editions of Skeptical Sunday.  Dr. Gregg D. Caruso of Corning Community College is our guest in the studio in hour two and our topic is Free Will. What is it, do we have it, if we don’t what then? Dr. Caruso says Free Will is an illusion, but not to worry, understanding it for what it is could bring benefits to society.

But first we get started with Freethought Radio. It’s Annie Laurie Gaylor’s birthday and we listen to a 1980 interview of Annie Laurie Gaylor talking about the harm of religion to women. They also celebrate the birthday of Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin, our guest on last year’s fundraiser show, by playing the punk-rock tune “God’s Love.” Then they talk with Jesse Galef, Communications Director of the Secular Student Alliance, about the challenges and rewards of forming new freethought clubs on high-school campuses.

Thank you to everyone who pledged to WRFI during the show. The rest of you will have another opportunity next week when my in-studio guest will be ex-Muslim Demir Barlas.

For more on Gregg Caruso, go here


Philosopher Gregg D. Caruso, PhD: Free Will skeptic and “hard-enough” determinist.