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Intelligent Design: What is “Intelligence”?

Often the very obvious fact that “intelligence” as an abstract concept has a set of non-abstract prerequisites is easily overlooked. In arguments against the proponents of Intelligent Design (ID), the atheist is usually too focused on the theory of Evolution, trying so hard to defend his own position to notice he can also go for at least a cursory attack on one of the weakest points of his opponent’s argument: the definition of intelligence.

Intelligence has many definitions and philosophers haven’t really reached a consensus on which one to consider the definitive one. I reviewed a couple of them and decided my own was perhaps the most comprehensive (it is said that I’m a bit of a narcissist), but regardless of which definition one chooses to go with, the general requirements in order for intelligence to exist are implicitly or explicitly stated in all definitions.

I define intelligence as the capacity of an animate being to consciously or unconsciously observe, discern and extract laws from its environment, simulate and predict the effects of certain causes based on the extracted laws, and optionally create or prevent those causes in its environment to achieve the simulated, predicted, and desired effects.

One can easily observe intelligence in forms of life we consider more complex. We all agree humans, dolphins, monkeys, dogs, and birds are intelligent, although to different extents. But to us it is striking at first to see a dung beetle create a ball of feces and carry it to a certain location in order to lay its eggs in it, solving problems that arise during the process. Even simpler forms of life, like single cells, white blood cells for example, can be considered intelligent as they fit in the definition I provided. However, the simpler the form of life and the fainter the amount of consciousness, the more controversial the existence of intelligence in life forms. Regardless, any form of intelligence ultimately depends on environments and their laws, as all observed intelligent life forms – controversial or not – exist in an environment: our universe with its physical laws.

Intelligence exists only where conscious or unconscious predictions are made. Prediction depends on laws. Laws are found and extracted from an environment; therefore intelligence cannot exist without an environment. It is said that God actually created even the laws of physics, so when He set out to create literally everything, was there an environment whose laws He could discern? Did He even need to abide any laws in order to create? Because eventually that’s what intelligence is all about: accordance with the environment. Basically we have never seen any intelligence where there was no environment. So how is it that we are ready to declare the first cause of our world intelligent when the required conditions are not met and we don’t know what we are referring to by “intelligent design”?

It is clear one cannot end and argument with “an intelligent agent must have been the first cause” because the word “intelligent” is completely undefined in this context. One could use X instead: “an X agent must have…” and be satisfied that he answered the question of how our world came to be.

Having considered the problem in people being satisfied with using undefined words as explanations, I believe I managed to pinpoint the faulty process the laymen utilize to attempt to understand the world. I will explain the problem later.

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Wishful Thinking in Action: “the Compassionate, the Merciful”

It is common among Muslims to explain the hardships of life through a concept known as God’s “Hikmat” or “Wisdom”. The argument is that God loves all humanity and therefore whatever “good” things happen to us is due to His (direct) love but whatever “bad” things happen, is due to His wisdom; that is, God knows what’s best for us and it is His bounty that is actually revealed in the form of misery. It is argued that the hardship is in reality a “necessary” obstacle to prevent other, worse things from happening or to create an “opportunity” for us to become better and greater.

Often the parallel to a parental figure – usually a father – is drawn to demonstrate how in spite of loving us, God has to be tough sometimes to teach us something. He occasionally punishes us just as a father punishes his son to teach him how to behave in life, for his own good, of course.

What baffles me is the method through which Muslims (and the followers of all other religions by extension) reach the conclusion that God is in fact compassionate. There is no evidence-based argument relying on observation; it seems like God’s compassion is taken for granted, as a supposition assumed right from the beginning of the argument with either an atheist, or a theist following another religion.

We can all agree that good could be considered non-existent when compared to the amount of bad we’ve faced throughout history. The majority of the world’s population is hungry and disease-stricken. Wars break out every other day and natural disasters claim lives on a weekly basis. Millions of innocent people die every year and these are all clear, scientific observations.

Question is how we manage to assign such catastrophes to God’s “wisdom” instead of his evil. Isn’t it much easier to assume an evil god who “has a plan for us all” to torture and take human lives due to his innate evil quality? Isn’t it much, much easier to justify the little amount of good in the world as the result of this evil being’s Hikmat, as part of his plan to create more suffering? What happens exactly when we assume an all-powerful being – who we can all agree can end all suffering in the blink of an eye – to be merciful instead of malevolent?

Upon taking a closer look we realize the only piece of “evidence” there is, is the supposed words of the being itself. He claims to love us. He claims to only wish us good. The hypothesis of an evil god would even explain how He is lying in accordance to his evil nature, to earn our trust so he can keep enjoying the hell he creates both here and in the afterlife.

As for the example of the loving and simultaneously strict father, there is a colossal difference: Our fathers have to teach us through a carefully controlled course of educational discipline, because they are not going to be around forever to protect us against and prepare us for the hardships of life. That is, if our fathers could have power over everything forever, they wouldn’t need to put us through crushing “lessons”. They would simply use their power to grant us eternal happiness. In other words, education is only required in the absence of unlimited power, as a measure to strengthen the child in case he has no one else to rely on but himself.

In the end, the absurdity of this whole idea is clarified by the father figure example. Given the premise that God created absolutely everything – even the laws, physical and otherwise – one realizes God would have never had to “prepare” anyone for anything, as He himself has come up with the idea of a world in which people are tested. He is completely responsible for whatever this world happens to be; He is not at all like a father having to take extreme measures for the son’s own good.

Imagine a father torturing his own son to prepare him for tests he himself created. Imagine whatever test the son is forced to participate in during his lifetime is devised by the father. Tests involving mothers being tortured to death in front of their children. One month old infants dying of hunger, never having really lived. Tsunamis drowning thousands of people, volcanoes exploding and killing all the inhabitants of islands and diseases eradicating nearly half of the world’s population at one point.

Would you call that father – who could not only prevent the disasters, but avoid creating them in the first place – “compassionate” and “merciful”, or the worst possible sadist who ever lived?

Eugenics and Social Darwinism: What Hitler Failed To See

After truly understanding what human beings are looking for, some ideas emerge as outright ridiculous. The idea of “improving” humanity through different genetic methods which in extreme cases leads to mass murder and extermination of human beings deemed “unfit” by some is one of those ideas. Due to evolutionary reasons, we all consider human life to be of most importance; I want to clarify how someone setting out to take lives based on a twisted way of perceiving evolution is actually betraying evolution in the name of representing it. This is the reason evolution strikes back and destroys its self-appointed representatives.

As I explained before in the Satisfaction Hypothesis, we are all in search of what we call “satisfaction”. That is, we are all motivated to perform tasks that we understand to be useful to us. The usefulness of our undertakings is defined by how we feel about their end results. Evolution equipped us with a set of pleasant and unpleasant feelings, each rising when a certain condition is met. We don’t need to understand why we feel this way to be able to function as an animate being. We don’t need to know why we get hungry, we just eat when we are hungry and that satisfies us, guaranteeing our existence. Likewise, we don’t care why we are attracted to members of the opposite sex, we just feel like initiating contact with them. Even when we set out to find the reasons behind our feelings and characteristics, we are actually striving to quench yet another evolutionary advantageous desire: the need to understand. Evolution gave us a list of different feelings, basically defining everything we care about. If we care for the lame, deaf or blind, it’s because Evolution wanted us to care for them; that is, there is nothing to “fix”, except perhaps for the blind man’s eye.

Some mistakenly give Evolution and the process of Natural Selection the status of a deity. It is important to understand that Evolution doesn’t have any god-like characteristics, except for being the cause of our existence. No one can please Evolution, because it is just a process, like any other process in our environment. We don’t allow fire and the process of “burning” to consume our jungles, because the end result of this process is not desired; we invent methods and devices to control that process and limit it to a level we consider satisfactory. Same holds true for the process of Natural Selection. For whatever reason, we just care about our satisfaction and not its causes. If we encounter intelligent, hostile beings created by the process of Natural Selection, we don’t respect them because “the god of Evolution created them”, we defend ourselves, defend our lives and basically defend our satisfaction against them. We also defend ourselves against hostile human beings trying to harm our satisfaction in the name of Evolution. The majority of human beings sympathize with the victims of any form of genocide. Interestingly this is what Evolution itself meant for us; otherwise it wouldn’t have given us altruistic characteristics.

Now that we’ve established what is actually important to human beings, let’s consider the argument set forth by proponents of negative eugenics and used by Hitler to justify actions that the majority consider extremely horrific and outrageous, like genocide. Those in favor of negative eugenics argue that we must eliminate the weak and defective members of our societies to “strengthen”, “empower” and ultimately “advance” and “improve” the human race.  What they always fail to carefully examine is the meaning of these words. What does it mean to “improve” the human race?

Improvement in eugenics is defined as increasing the physical and mental strength of future generations of human beings, which would eventually lead to technological advancements. To reach these goals, some may decide to prevent “defective” members from procreation, even if it means killing them. Now there is the question of “why”. Why would humans want and need these improvements? The answer may now seem very clear. Improvements and technological advancements are all means of reaching higher levels of – you guessed it – satisfaction.

There is no inherent value in the definition of “improvement”. Science and technological advancements it brings about are worthless if they don’t somehow translate into increased human satisfaction. Buildings, cars, traffic lights, vending machines and future spaceships are valuable only if they can help human beings in some way. Same holds true for literally everything human beings consider valuable. Better genes are also valuable assets as they bestow on their owner – an owner with almost the same list of feelings as anyone else – more intelligence and physical strength, so he can reach higher satisfaction levels easier. More brain cells and stronger muscles are analogous to faster computers and more powerful machines and therefore have no value unless they help their sentient owner in a way.

Here is where the eugenicists’ argument fails. They claim someone equipped with better assets must be allowed and even forced to survive and those with physical defects must be eliminated; we already established that better assets are only useful if they satisfy their owners. Therefore the satisfaction of the owner is what everyone tries to protect and increase. Even Hitler was – unknowingly, I suspect – doing the same, he just failed to contemplate his philosophy long enough to realize it shoots itself in the foot.

When a sentient being is formed in our world, its satisfaction becomes important to us. When we predict that a sentient being is going to be formed, we do what we can to ensure its future satisfaction. Sometimes we may choose to prevent such a being from being formed, because we are not sure whether we can ensure its happiness or not. We opt to go for premarital counseling and blood tests to make sure our babies aren’t born with diseases hindering their happiness. We don’t do it because we want “the quality of human race to increase”; we couldn’t care less about that. What we care about is the condition of our baby, and how it is going to feel. This is a subset of positive eugenics that didn’t lose sight of humanity’s goal. These are methods that none of us finds horrific.

Most of us think the most important quality of a human being is his capacity for sympathy. Those who don’t have this capacity are the defectives that we call psychopaths; Yes, we, the true representatives of Evolution, we call them psychopaths and keep them away – not put them down – just keep them away, as Evolution made us care even for them.

Disproving “Proofs”: Miracles and Prophets

Apart from purely philosophical arguments usually provided to show how there has been a first cause for our world to exist, believers use the existence of miracles and prophets as one of the main arguments to lead us to a very personal and compassionate god who cares about all of us. To inexperienced audiences who don’t bother to get into the depths of such forms of “evidence”, and to those who actually want and need to find such claims satisfactory, miracles and prophets are more than enough to show how what they’ve always believed in is right. That is not the case, however.

Believers usually argue “how is it possible for prophets to perform such extraordinary miracles? We have no choice but to accept God is behind these miracles, and He sent the prophets with such clear signs to guide us.” Jews and Christians are armed with this argument. They say their books which are handed down to them through ages describe the prophets and their wonderful miracles. If one suggests that the Old and New Testaments contain nothing but mythological stories, they usually claim the fact that these books contain predictions of the future which have come true is proof that those who wrote the books were guided by the all-knowing God. I don’t want to get into the details of these claims; I don’t need to.

Muslims are equipped with a stronger claim. They say the Quran not only contains such predictions, but it also is a miracle in its own right. The Quran challenges everyone to bring just one Surah like one of its own. Muslims say that no one has been able to beat the Quran in this challenge; God himself promises to disappoint anyone who undertakes the challenge. Muslims also claim that the Quran contains scientific facts revealed 1400 years ago, before any man could possibly know them. They also say that the Quran has a number of wonderful features like some numeric laws discovered only recently. Although there are numerous objections to all and each of these claims, especially by the followers of the religions before Islam, let’s assume all these claims are true.

Summing up the believers’ argument, we reach the premise that holy books are either created by:

1. Man, or

2. God

Then they use the miracles and predictions (assumed to be true) to show that option #1 is unacceptable, therefore option #2 has to be the right one.

Those who are a bit familiar with common fallacies quickly recognize what is going on here. This argument contains the infamous False Dichotomy or False Dilemma fallacy. Only two options are provided, when in reality there could be many more options to explain the observed phenomena (predictions, challenges, scientific facts, numeric laws, etc.) I would like to add a third option to the list:

3. Aliens

It may seem ridiculous at first; that’s because aliens have only been shown in sci-fi and horror movies, but God has been injected into our brains as an undisputable fact since we were very young. Logically speaking, the third option actually makes more sense than the second one. I am not going to pretend to be an alien story nut; I’m just going to show you how the alien story nut’s approach is in fact equal to and even better than that of the religious believers, only as an example.

Suppose there is an alien race, perhaps 50,000 years older than humanity.  They’ve observed us for the last few thousand years and decided to conduct an experiment. They contacted some of us – those who we call “prophets” – hypnotized them, and imprinted messages on their minds. They commanded the prophets by creating an illusion of angels, to preach the message which they pretended to be from a supernatural being called “God”. They also telepathically “guided” some of us to write books about those prophets describing all the wondrous things they did.

Perhaps they wanted to know how human minds work, how it reacts to different types of evidence supporting an idea, and how it gets tricked into believing in God; who knows. Maybe they predicted events that were under their own control, and talked about those events in their books and messages. They also filled the books with some scientific facts regarding the universe before any human being knew about them. They had enough knowledge to incorporate into the books, ranging from human fetuses to the color and shape of exploding supernovas. They may not even be just experimenting with us. Maybe they are malicious beings and are actually preparing us for a plan that ultimately leads to the extermination of all life on our planet.

Although I provided some details on what the alien plans are, they were my own conjectures. As a matter of fact, we can never know what their motivation is and what they are going to do with us. We don’t know why they sent the prophets and equipped them with miracles. Maybe they talked about their reasons while still pretending to be God, but we don’t know they are lying or not.  Even if we manage to find an alien race, interrogate some of its members and find out that they are not responsible, we can never rule out the fact that there could be other alien races capable of planning all this. Even if we find all alien races in this universe, we can’t guarantee there are no other universes with other alien races, just as mischievous as we thought.

At this point I challenge believers to provide a distinguishing reason separating aliens from God. Try to find proof that holy scriptures are in fact from God and not from some other, crooked beings having a weird plan for us all. Somehow support the case of a truthful god against dishonest aliens. While I leave that to believers, I’d like to point out that I’ve been unable to do so, because of one reason: Both God and aliens dwell in the realm of “unknown”. When we know nothing about them, we can’t distinguish them from each other. When they are not available to us for testing, we can’t be sure what they can and can’t do.

Now I’m going to show you how what I call the alien alternative hypothesis is indeed scientifically stronger than the God hypothesis. Firstly, science agrees that it is possible for other intelligent beings to evolve just like we did. Science can say that because there is evidence such a phenomenon has already happened once without needing supernatural intervention; the fact that we can ultimately access and test our ideas regarding intelligent aliens, and that it is not impossible for science to eventually find the alien race behind this scheme, gives the alien hypothesis scientific superiority. Secondly, using Occam’s Razor, we can argue a lot of God’s properties are unnecessary to justify the existence of miraculous scriptures and prophets. Aliens don’t need to be all-knowing, self-sufficient, omnipotent, omnipresent, compassionate, merciful, and so on; much fewer assumptions are needed for the alien hypothesis to be as convincing as that of God’s. Therefore it is possible to produce a more acceptable hypothesis involving a fewer number of useless and truly extraordinary assumptions. Even if you – for whatever reason – don’t accept the superiority of the alien hypothesis, you can’t deny that it stands on par with the God hypothesis.

In conclusion, let’s assume all the claims made regarding miracles, prophets and holy scriptures are true. Let’s assume it is possible to consider them “evidence”. Then, let’s ask the question: “evidence for what?”

P.S. A friend recently pointed out that numerous assumptions present in the God hypothesis aren’t there only to justify prophets and miracles; they have other uses in explaining other observed phenomena and therefore the principle of Occam’s Razor can’t be used here to strip those assumptions away (I still maintain that many of those assumptions are unnecessary to explain even what they are there to explain though, but that requires a separate discussion). This argument is logically sound so I can’t say that the alien parallel hypothesis is better than the God hypothesis in regard to the number of employed assumptions. Moreover, neither the God nor the alien hypotheses are scientifically falsifiable so they are equal in this aspect as well; but the alien hypothesis is still superior in terms of verifiability; i.e. it is possible to find and physically access the alien race responsible for sending prophets and performing miracles while God can never be accessed in this manner.

The Satisfaction Hypothesis or “Satisfaction by Means of Mental Selection”

After contemplating the statement my friend made regarding why people do what they do, and having examined in depth the causes of human behavior, we formulated a hypothesis to explain the fundamental decision making mechanism shared by both humans and animals.
The idea was further explored and improved through the years and was summarized in 3 basic principles:

  1. Every human being, at the moment of making a conscious decision, chooses the option whose output, after being mentally simulated, would be most satisfactory. The process of choosing the most satisfactory option will be called Mental Selection.
  2. The factors composing what humans call “satisfaction” are based on human evolution, i.e. the basis of human satisfaction is dependent on evolutionary traits favorable to human existence. However, environmental causes (like the process of “conditioning”) are capable of drastically modifying the elements of human satisfaction.
  3. The process of simulating the result of each available option (i.e. Mental Simulation) is based on 2 factors:
    1. Available information regarding each option, and
    2. Mental capability of the decision maker to process available information and to simulate the resulting feeling of each option.

Simply put, in the process of Mental Selection, the consciousness of all human beings – without any exceptions – chooses the better option. Note that the “more ethical” option or the option held to be better by the public are not considered better here; better is the option whose sum of resulting feelings felt after the process of Mental Simulation is considered more positive or more satisfactory by the decision making individual.

In this hypothesis, mistake is the situation in which either the individual fails to correctly simulate the resulting feeling of their choice due to an unpredicted – and therefore unconsidered – factor, or the simulation is precise but the definition of what the individual considers satisfactory somehow changes after the decision is made.

Mistakes have a subjective definition in this hypothesis. Although similar parameters define human satisfaction, each person’s satisfaction is attained in a different manner. Existence of different “tastes” proves this point. A decision considered a mistake by an individual shouldn’t necessarily be considered a mistake for another.

Doubt in decision making indicates either lack of sufficient information regarding available options, so the process of Mental Simulation is not guaranteed to lead to reliable results, or presence of two or more equal options, that is, the result of Mental Simulation shows equal satisfaction value for the two (or more) highest options and the individual has no way of choosing either option. In this situation the individual either tries to gather more information or eventually decides to invoke the subconscious part of his/her mind to make an apparently random choice among those equally satisfactory options. It is interesting to point out that gathering more information or choosing randomly involves yet another choice that goes through the same process of decision making, but depending on the decision making individual, the process maybe perhaps less conscious and more habitual.

This hypothesis fully complies with causality and the theory of Evolution. In addition to producing an organ capable of understanding rules and simulating effects of perceived causes, Evolution defines the parameters comprising what animate beings consider satisfactory. Different species – including human beings – differ in definition of satisfaction as well as their mental capacity to simulate the results of choices available to them. What satisfies us – because of the reasons Evolution can perfectly explain – is to some extent different and to a greater extent similar to what other species consider satisfaction. For example, death is frightening to all animate beings and options leading to it usually fail to be chosen except in some extraordinary situations; like when the death of one individual helps the entire colony in some way. To a human being, death is never an appropriate option for solving a simple problem, but it seems appropriate to a mother trying to save her child; a phenomenon easily explained by Evolution.

Self-sacrifice for ideological goals also follows the same pattern. At the first glance it might seem that there is a paradox between such an act and what has traditionally been considered “personal benefits”; however, it must be noted that an individual’s simulated satisfaction value at the moment of decision making may in fact involve the individual’s death; the option which leads to death may indeed become the better option in extreme cases. Evolution has led to formation of altruistic properties which justify self-sacrifice in order to serve a “greater good”, that is, reaching a great satisfaction value after mentally simulating the result of choosing to sacrifice oneself to help other human beings or even ideological ideas. In summary, our satisfaction may be achieved by imagining what it’s like to die and have an impact on the world around us, or thinking of death as the beginning of a path which brings about even more satisfaction.

The process of Mental Selection has a great deal of resemblance to Natural Selection. Regardless of how the individual perceives options, always the option which produces the highest amount of satisfaction is “selected”. Other options simply fail to get selected and are dropped. Hence the title “Satisfaction by Means of Mental Selection” sounds appropriate to describe this hypothesis.

Religious Free Will: A Closer Look

About 10 years ago I began to understand why all religions try to put the lid on any form of scientific inquiry into the basis of their belief system. As I mentioned before, questions regarding the causes of our actions, and subsequently the vagueness surrounding “the problem of free will” were the first reasons why I started to notice the vast sea of paradoxes concerning the claims religions make. Here I attempt to explain the simple yet surprisingly lingering problem regarding free will.

Free will, if defined as “the capacity of human beings to choose an option among a range of choices” does exist. After all, we are all observing and doing this very thing every day. However, there are serious incompatibilities between our free will and a “fair” god who rewards and punishes human beings based on the choices they make and holds them responsible for the consequences of their actions; because every conceivable scenario regarding free will presents its own set of inconsistencies with such a judgmental god.

There are only 2 possibilities to explain how free will works. Either our free will (as the cause of our choices) is an uncaused cause, or it is in fact the effect of another cause. (You are invited to leave a third possibility in the comments section if you’ve come across one). The former possibility would immediately be a serious blow to the fundamental assumptions of all religions. It would mean an unpredictable random cause exists that follows no perceivable order at all, including an ethical code. Such a phenomenon has not been observed however; we can always find consistently ethical human beings who don’t seem to be making random decisions. In addition, from a strictly ethical point of view, no moral value can be associated with a random free will because the human being equipped with this “action generator” can’t be held responsible for the consequence of his uncontrollable actions – good or bad – that appear out of the blue. Furthermore, it would mean there can be an uncaused cause besides God, something that God has nothing to do with and just happens by itself. Needless to say, this leads us to believe that things can in fact exist without the need of a cause, i.e. a creator, which means many things – including the universe itself – may exist independent of any kind of cause, let alone an intelligent god. We seem to have no other choice but to rely on an orderly free will that does follow rules and is the effect of other causes.

If we take the second path and decide to go with the version of free will that is caused by something else, we need to follow the long chain of causality back to its source, i.e. God; we can’t suddenly stop at an uncaused cause or we’ll be stuck with the problems of a random free will again. That is to say, we have to accept that God is the one who devised the rules and set things in motion in the first place, indirectly causing all our actions, even what is going on in our heads right now. This path is also incompatible with basic principles behind all major religions. Religions are based on holding individual human beings responsible for everything they do, and giving God the right to punish and reward based on those actions. A dependent free will ultimately leads to a god who punishes human beings because of what he himself did in the first place, at the moment of Creation.

Simplified causality

A simplified schema of causality. A human being and its actions are the effect of other causes, and also the causes of other effects.

Like it or not, our observations support this second view of free will. “Why did you kill him?” is a valid question to ask a murderer. “Why did he kill him?” is valid, even when asked about a murderer who is considered mentally unstable. We have to assume that there is a cause for what every human being does, and that cause is the effect of yet another cause.

I used to think about what God keeps asking in the Quran; questions like “Why do you stray from the path of the righteous?” He supposedly asks such questions to make an ethical point, but since every rhetorical question – regardless of its fragile, implicit point making function – has a legitimate answer, I couldn’t help but try to find a clear, satisfactory answer to this rhetorical question. Why do we stray? Why don’t we believe in him when he has allegedly sent so many prophets to “guide” us? Or when he “sacrificed” his “son” to have an excuse to forgive our sins?

Considering what we discussed, if we take the religious premise of a supreme being to be true, we have no choice but to accept the fact that this being has something to do with whatever we do, including our disobedience. My frequent failed attempts to explain human behavior through such paradoxes made me change the premise and form the basis of what I now call The Satisfaction Hypothesis.

Where It All Began

It all began with one of our friendly philosophical discussions, this time on why humans punish humans for a crime like murder, between me and my good friend P. B. back when we were both Muslims. As a matter of fact, it was P. B.’s pure genius that made the thin and delicate discovery of the reason why a man kills another, or commits a crime that humanity regards as a “sin”. It was right there, in the sentence he uttered:

…maybe because the guy thinks he’s doing the right thing.

So simple; as simple as an apple falling on your head. At first we didn’t  fully grasp the profound meaning of what my friend had accidentally stumbled upon. We both stopped. There was a moment of deep focus and contemplation for me, when I realized my friend was doing the same. He repeated the sentence with a sense of shock and awe this time:

The guy thinks he’s doing the right thing!

I can’t paint a perfect picture of how it feels to put in place the first piece of a giant puzzle that could explain and refute a lot of inconsistencies promoted by religious dogma as pure “fact”, in a society where you are preached meaningless contradictions and paradoxes 24/7 coming out of every media outlet. It’s like playing a game of “Mine sweeper” when you manage to guess an empty spot revealing so many mines around you, giving you a perfect opportunity to start discovering and diffusing them all.

Suddenly a light was shed on a lot of things; suddenly a lot could be explained by a single sentence. It was like I was taken out of the religious bubble, looking at it from above, seeing people inside looking so small, going around in circles in a confused manner. For a moment I felt we had a big secret and it was so enormous we couldn’t share it with anyone, because if we did, we could get into a lot of trouble. I’m talking torture and death sentence. We had solved the mystery of Free Will, and proved the fact that such a thing, in its religious sense, does not exist.

The idea that became the basis of our explanation for human behavior considered human beings (and other animate beings later on) as sort of “machines” that followed what they deemed satisfactory. Just like a computer system, these machines are guided by only two factors: their metal power and analysis capabilities (which now we refer to as IQ), and the information the machine has access to. A few years later, when I really got into philosophy and science I realized how the hypothesis we formed based on that single sentence was so incredibly compatible with what Charles Darwin had observed 150 years ago. I will explain that hypothesis in detail later.