Free Will versus Genes and Social Environment

Some ask: How can we be said to possess free will if our genes dictate so much. Worse, it’s very rare or impossible for people to radically transcend their society. And man requires society to be healthy and successful. So how can we be held accountable for our actions?

The answer is simple but important to note: Our chosen environment is chosen, too. Environment influences our decisions, but this is no secret. When we decide to rebel against convention, we must also decide to physically relocate to where our decisions will stick. And in the digital age of a global village, physical relocation is not as vital.

Again, you don’t get to decide whether you will be influenced and tempted or not, but you do get to decide who gets to influence you. The environment isn’t “set”!

  1. We are granted legs to travel forth.
  2. We are granted lobes to close our ears.
  3. We are granted lids on our eyes
  4. We are granted brains to selectively interpret different input, and assign lesser importance to various stimuli.
  5. And so on.

(Besides, the environment is less than 100% influential.)

Even our particular time period is not forced upon us. You can always decide to elevate your mind and speech to “belong” to a previous, better generation. That’s what books are for.

As for genes, it’s a matter of will, not ability. Hashem decreed how intelligent we will be, not how we employ our faculties. As the Gra famously said, one can be a Mohel, robber, or Shochet.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.