Misunderstandings about determinism

Why Evolution Is True

I’m giving a talk on free will at the Imagine No Religion 5 meetings in Vancouver in June (the event appears to have sold out already). As you might imagine, it’s a complicated task. But one of the things I want to cover are the misunderstandings people often have about physical determinism, which include these:

Determinism leads to fatalism.

Determinism leads you to act badly, including cheating and criminality.

Determinism means that nobody should be punished for anything, as they had no choice in what they did.

Determinism means that we can predict in practice everything that will happen. (Determinism doesn’t mean that we humans always have all the information we need to predict things, and of course some things are fundamentally unpredictable if they’re affected by quantum phenomena.)

(By the way, if you’ve encountered other misconceptions, please note them in the comments.)

But by far the most common misconception I’ve…

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