The Case for Free Will
Reflections and ruminations from respected Unity reverends
Is anyone truly free? Do humans have free will? If so,
freedom in some sense is possible. If not, freedom is
an illusion. Religion and philosophy are littered with
arguments on both sides.
Some theologians argue that God’s omnipotence
requires all human actions to be strictly determined by
God’s will, meaning there is no free will. Others argue that
God’s justice requires humans to be responsible for their
Some philosophers and scientists argue that all events,
including human actions, are strictly determined by the
laws of physics—no free will. Others argue that we do
not have enough evidence to conclude that all things are
strictly determined by physical laws—humans may have
So many arguments, pro and con, exist about free
will that I believe one more couldn’t hurt. So here I am
proposing a case for free will, for real freedom to manifest
possibilities in our experience.
Suppose we assume that all events, including human
behavior, are strictly determined by physical laws. If
that assumption is true, then in theory every human
thought, action, and event is inherently predictable. If
any human thought is inherently unpredictable, then
humans have free will.
Now imagine this experiment: A scientist hypothesizes
a law that will predict all human choices. She then
extensively researches and interviews a group of people
to find out everything possible about their lives and
preferences. To test the theory, the scientist then asks those
people to choose a number between zero and infinity.
Knowing almost everything about the participants, would
it be possible to formulate a law to predict which numbers
will be chosen?
There are an infinite number of numbers. The scientist
needs a law capable of calculating someone choosing the
last number in an infinite series. Since there is no last
number in an infinite series, no law can predict the last
number. Since no law can predict all choices of numbers
between zero and infinity, human thought and behavior are
not strictly determined by physical laws. Therefore, humans
have free thought and free will.
Of course, some human behavior can be predicted in
terms of probabilities, but probable behavior is not the
same as strictly determined behavior. A prediction based
on probabilities can be wrong. That’s why someone can
win a lottery even when the chance of winning is one in
We are free to choose from limitless possible thoughts
and actions, and free to create and choose experiences.
Our choices can be based on many factors: feelings,
whims, imagined consequences, logic, short-term pleasure,
long-term goals, and so on. Yet ultimately we are free to
choose how much weight to give to each factor.
At any moment you can alter the course and
circumstances of your life by free choice.
All choices have consequences, and it is wise to consider
them. It is extremely difficult to identify all possible
consequences. After all, humans are free and therefore
their responses to their choices are unpredictable (in case
you hadn’t noticed).
What do you want to manifest in your life? You are free
to choose from all possibilities, to focus your attention
and intention on manifesting those ideas in your life.
When you are receptive to creative possibilities, you
are communing with an infinite realm of thought, the
infinite mind—“the mind of God.” Your creative process
is therefore an emanation and extension of divine power.
REV. JIM GAITHER, TH.D., IS DIRECTOR OF
ACADEMIC AND STUDENT AFFAIRS AT UNITY
WORLDWIDE SPIRITUAL INSTITUTE. HE WAS
ORDAINED IN 1979 AND HAS BEEN A REGULAR
CONTRIBUTOR TO UNITY MAGAZINE SINCE 1981.