If God is all knowing and powerful; if God created every living (and non-living) thing; if God already knows what the future holds, then is it possible for human beings to have free will? Free will assumes that humans are able to make choices in accord with their own desires. But how is this possible? If we were created by God, if God knows every thought and movement we will make, are we following “our” free will or are we really following some “invisible script” that really is, in essence, the will of God? Are we puppets of God’s free will and we only fool ourselves into thinking that we are the ones who are in control?
The question of the relationship between God’s foreknowledge and free will goes back to at least St. Augustine (See: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/augustine/ ) and probably earlier. To put it in in slightly different terms, the question becomes, “Who is in control here? Me or God?” From an A.D.D. perspective the question becomes “What dictates the contours of our lives? The God-like certainty of ‘science’ with its inexorable predictive rules (backed up by data) or is it “free will,” that is, an inner-force that can act independently of (or in spite of) the predictive rules, that in a more modern parlance can be generically labeled as “positive thinking”? This is, in essence, the underlying issue raised in a recent blog post at ADDERWorld. [note 1] The A.D.D.er is faced with the challenge of reconciling, on a daily basis, the less than sanguine scientific findings concerning A.D.D. with the need for a more positive outlook concerning one’s life chances. (I examined this issue in Science versus the A.D.D. Self) Are we mere puppets subject to the very real, but invisible, tugs and pulls of the inexorable rules of A.D.D.? Is it possible to accept the science AND remain hopeful? The answer, I believe, is yes. (Notice I said “I believe.” I have no scientific evidence for this.) What we need to do is understand what the science is telling us and where we fit “within” the science.
In the diagram below, the upper portion represents the A.D.D.er. For each A.D.D.er there is an impermeable boundary of A.D.D. characteristics. Within the boundary there is a lot of variability. Over a period of time, as represented in the graph in the lower portion of the diagram, the boundary can move. However, the boundary never disappears. It remains.
The boundary is “the science.” We cannot transcend science and we cannot completely ignore the boundary it describes. (Let me REEMPHASIZE this point. The science does not set the boundary; the science DESCRIBES the boundary.) The dots within the boundary are where we live our lives as seen within a short time horizon. The boundary itself can move over time and the movement is caused by positive thinking. [note 2]
It is this boundary movement (if such movement is, indeed, real and not illusory) that represents the potential for substantive changes in an A.D.D.ers life. The challenge is how to move a boundary that cannot be removed. To accomplish boundary movement, where should the A.D.D.er focus most of her time and energy? On movement within the boundary or the movement of the boundary itself? This, in turn, raises a number of other questions. What if she cannot move the boundary at all (or cannot move within the boundary)? What is the cause of such failure? If we ignore “the science” then are we left with a moral argument, that is, a character flaw? Herein lies the danger of restricting focus to the movement of (and within) the boundary and not paying heed to the limits set by the boundary itself. If one does not fully acknowledge the circumscribing effect of the boundary, then success or failure could become a measure of character. [note 3] (“Yes, Virginia, you DO have A.D.D. but still, you didn’t try hard enough to overcome your shortcomings.”) Is there a point at which an A.D.D.er should give up and simply say, “I’ve pushed the boundaries as far as they can go”? Should this be after five unsuccessful attempts to move the boundaries? Should this be after five decades of unsuccessful attempts to move the boundaries? Should the A.D.D.er simply never give up, never surrender? [note 4]
I don’t have the answers to these questions. Perhaps the only “right” answers for the A.D.D.er are the ones that she can live with on a daily basis. Perhaps the right answers – even if they DO contradict the science – are not going to be found within the science but within the heart. [note 5] Perhaps we need to simply live a (potential) logical contradiction: our foreknowledge of the circumscribing effects of A.D.D. does not completely negate the power – and very real effects – of positive thinking. And perhaps this contradiction is really the essence of the human condition, a condition where “freedom” exists within a set of predefined (and potentially movable) boundaries. [note 6]
- At this point in the post (or even at the beginning), you may have asked yourself, “Why the discussion about God and Free Will?” The answer is simple: when we substitute “science” for God and “positive thinking” for free will, we are faced with the same questions. Thus the discussion about being positive in the face of the god-like rules of science is a discussion that human beings have been having for quite some time. ↩
- For now I will ignore the issue of “what is positive thinking?” Further, there is a hint here at a sort of mind-body dualism: a case where the non-corporeal (positive thinking) has an effect on the corporeal (the boundary). (Perhaps it is all corporeal?) And it truly is a question mark as to whether there can even be such movement of the boundary itself. Perhaps this is another case of Adult Delusional Disorder that we even think we have such capabilities. Nonetheless anecdotal data seems to indicate such a possibility. On a completely different note, it should be obvious that one could substitute the term “economic class” for the boundary and thereby see the variability within the boundary as representing where you end up within your economic class. The boundary “movement” could, in simplistic economic terms, be seen as the rising and falling tide of capitalism.↩
- This conclusion, by the way, is one that the A.D.D.-deniers would say is the REAL cause of the problem.↩
- As Commander Taggart would say.↩
- This is, at bottom, the message of Hutchinson’s blog.↩
- As Karl Jaspers had once said, “I am what the times are.”↩