In response to this thread on Reddit:
Free will is a necessary delusion. The big bang happened, and then we do things. If true randomness does exist it might rule out absolute determinism, but it still wouldn’t give us any more control over our decisions than if true determinism did exist. Nature + nurture + stimuli = outcome.
However, this view, while true, cannot form the basis of a society. The punishment of criminals and adoration of heroes requires the concept of personal responsibly. Therefore, we must conduct ourselves, and society, as if free will does exist–even though we know it doesn’t.
The way our true knowledge of free will comes into play is in our social policies, i.e. since we know that nature + nurture + stimuli results in an outcome, then we need to create social policy that prevents this combination from resulting in humans suffering, and effect change that modifies these variables to bring about happiness instead. As such, a secular humanist worldview is, in my opinion, best suited for this approach.
On a side note, here’s an interesting question to ask yourself about free will (if you believe in it):
At what point does physics stop and free will start?
If the answer is nowhere, then the conclusion is that despite what perception we have, all outcomes came from physical inputs. The fact that we are one of those inputs doesn’t mean we have any control over them. The act of “making a decision” does not inject anything into the system other than another physical variable, which could only have come with the proper pre-existing, physical conditions.
In other words, outcomes move through us, and we participate by foolishly thinking we made something called a “decision” at some point or another in the process. But in reality, every single input that resulted in our current state, came from a point outside of us, and the decision process now appears to be little more than a pre-action glimpse of what was going to happen anyway.1
There is only one escape from this deterministic model, and that is if our decision process injects a variable from outside of physics, i.e. if free will comes from the supernatural. Barring that, we have no true free will. But let’s keep pretending, because we go on if we didn’t. ::