Is There Free Will Or Is Everything Really Predestined?

Destiny | Source

It was 5 am in the morning when I came across a request to write about free will or predestination. I thought that it's an interesting topic to mull about and accepted the request without even thinking.

I sat down in my easy chair, gazed out into the night and pondered about the different approaches I could take.

I thought about identical twins. There have been documented cases of such twins separated at birth and reunited decades later. When their lives were compared, there were uncanny similarities, down to even the names of their wives.

I can argue that this is predestination at work, with the whole course of their lives already charted out at the time of their birth. But I can also argue that identical twins seem to have a psychic connection, and that it is through this connection that they can lead near identical lives, although they might be physically apart and might not even know of the existence of the other twin.

I can be scientific about it and start off with Newton's classical universe. Every particle in Newton's universe is 100% predictable, and since we are made up of those exact same particles, it follows that every single thing we do have been predestined from the very moment of creation.

But I will continue with the discovery of the quantum properties of microscopic particles, which effectively gives "free will" to those particles - and we are in control once again.

I thought about God. If he created this world such that every single thing is predestined, then won't it be a fruitless exercise, since the outcome is already known right at the beginning?

And I fell asleep.

I dreamt of wild billy goats roaming the streets. There are people on the streets who risk being attacked and go about their business as usual. There are others who stay behind their fences. And there was even one guy who has a special metal casket-like container that he can hide inside.

Not sure how this dream relates to free will or destiny, but it certainly is about the difference between living your life and merely existing, and is definitely worth a mention in a hub about free will. I mean, even with all the free will in the world, if you choose to merely exist, then it would really be such a supreme waste of free will. :)

Anyway, back to free will and predestination.

Nobody can prove free will or predestination conclusively. It is a great mental exercise to consider the possibilities, but at the end of the day, all such inquiry will end with a question mark.

If everything is predestined, then nothing matters. Every single thought in your head, every one of your actions, is not you but predestination. You have absolutely no control.

If you have free will, then you and only you are responsible for the mess or distinction you make out of your life. And at the end of it, there might be somebody holding you accountable.

Kinda makes you want to get up and get going, doesn't it?

Maybe the request should be renamed, "If there is free will, what should you be doing with your life?"

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Comments 30 comments

Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

Neat hub, Billy goats and all!

If everything is predestined, then nothing matters? I'm not sure I can agree with that, as it is "how" we would achieve a predestined end that would then be of importance, not "whether" we achieve it or not. I don't think that it's incompatible with free will, either: I mean, you can have the free will do decide whether or not to perform a certain action. That does not negate the possibility that the action was predestined -- that this is what you were destined to choose of your own free will. But what do I know?

wandererh profile image

wandererh 7 years ago from Singapore Author

Did a bit a reading - and there is A LOT of material out there - and it seems that predestination can be defined in 2 ways.

The first way is more religious, in which an individual is predestined to do a certain thing. But that individual has a choice, he can decide to do what he is predestined to do, or follow another path. I think that is the predestination that you were talking about.

There is a second way, more commonly referred to as determinism, in which everything that happens can be predicted with 100% accuracy. That would be true of Newton's classical universe, in which free will is but an illusion.

I was referring to the second way when I mentioned that nothing matters if everything is predestined.

Personally, I believe in a combination of free will and predestination. We are born into our circumstances, that is predestination. We can go with the flow, or choose to rise above our circumstances, that is free will.

Anyway, nobody really knows. So your opinion is as valid as anybody else's.

Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

I think what wandererh is saying is that if your life was predestined, then it would not matter what you did, or didn't, do, your life would turn in a particular direction reguardless. So nothing matters in that reguard. If you made what would be considered the "wrong" choice, or just sat and did nothing, you would still end up where you were predestined to be. Perhaps you are thinking a bit in terms of Homer's the Odyssey as far as the journey goes. Even so, Odysseus was placed at the right place at the right time for what was suppose to happen, reguardless of his own wants and desires. No free will, despite his trying. No true choices, just hypnotics and trances, and predestined choices (which would not really be ones own in the first place, just seemingly so.) The how is irrelevant, except to possibly make a good story. Well, that's my take on it anyway.

Nice hub. Interesting thoughts. We all go around and around in our minds about this topic, just as you did. Nice job of portraying that. I liked the dream tye in too.

Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

Oh, great comments from both of you, Wander and Frieda, helped me a lot. Yeah -- in a Newtonian universe, predetermination could exist, no matter what. I guess though that the spontaneity of chaos theory has finally put the Newtonian model to rest, though, and so I particularly like your conclusion, Wanderh, when you say that we can go with the flow or choose to rise above our circumstances. Neat connection to Homer, Frieda, as I was starting to think about Greek tragedy, where the protagonist such as Oedipus tries to avoid his fate (of his own free will) but by doing so walks right into the pre-determined situation he wanted to avoid.

wandererh profile image

wandererh 7 years ago from Singapore Author

Frieda - the billy goats really stood out. They had these crazy eyes, like they were on drugs or something. And there were these brave souls walking on the streets, keeping a wary eye out for the goats. I just had to find a way to work that dream into this hub. :)

Teresa - If I may, I think in a Newtonion universe, even with the discovery of chaotic phenomenon, would still be 100% predetermined.

Chaos theory states that extremely small differences in the input conditions could result is a large variation in the output.

It is, in fact, our inability to replicate exactly the input conditions, or measure accurately those input conditions, that result in some phenomenon being relatively unpredictable.

If the input conditions were exactly the same each time, the output would also be exactly the same.

What do you think?

DarleneMarie profile image

DarleneMarie 7 years ago from USA

Great Hub!  I like the analogy of your dream with the wild billy goats and the difference between living your life and merely existing.

wandererh profile image

wandererh 7 years ago from Singapore Author

Thanks, Darlene! I think the billy goats were the best part of this hub. :)

Lgali profile image

Lgali 7 years ago

good hubs

wandererh profile image

wandererh 7 years ago from Singapore Author

Thanks! :)

Darrell Roberts profile image

Darrell Roberts 7 years ago

Hi Wandereth,

Thank you for the hub. I agree at the end of the day I will never know. The question should really have been did we choose to exist. If the answer is yes then we have free will, if no then we do not have free will and nothing at all matters.

I run into people and they tell me that we came from the "spritual world" and we were embodied to have a material experience because that was our desire.  That would mean that ultimately we "the spirit/soul" do have some kind of free will to make that choice.  Then when we get here to earth and we have to negotiate with everyone else.

Thank you for sharing you dream. It was interesting.

Best wishes.


wandererh profile image

wandererh 7 years ago from Singapore Author

Science is nowhere close to finding out whether we have free will or not. And maybe that is something we will never know.

I guess we just have to choose to walk the streets (billygoats and all), or stay safe in our own homes.

Since, ultimately, the destination is the same, I choose to brave the streets with the billygoats. :)

Tien Kai 7 years ago

Free will suggests that decision making involving thinking is autonomous. Yes many things have autonomy, but what we define as autonomous is only systemic of what existed before it to give a thing that has autonomy its abilities. To be free is a matter of experience, and it is an experience that is "in the eye of the beholder." What this means that the question of free will is an "eye of the beholder" - speculation. The reason being, that as you exist in an entire matrix of all that is known to be "real"; your reality can never-ever be "freely autonomous" - that my friend is a different reality altogether and one of fancy and of gods. Oh, predestination is a hypothesis that is as gigantic and as miniscule as the "universe" is unfathomable. In other words, predestination is real only in the sense that all probabilities can be known - by you. And that my friend, is impossible to know, because then, you would "gnosis" existence itself. Now alas we arrive at what is missed by everyone who contemplates this; there is a peculiar psychology behind this question that is really too deep for this topic, but, I will say this: the extra-natural is superfluid with the energies of your unique existence, what you do ultimately relies on the foundation of what made you to be - no matter your "choices." This is the ancient understanding of fate and of destiny and why certain "things" no matter how hard you try (at least you think you try) cannot be avoided. Your difficulty is deliberately trying to know what is in fact an integral part of your being. The probability of you making deliberate choices to alter it, is as likely as you altering the universe with a thought. Read me soon.

wandererh profile image

wandererh 7 years ago from Singapore Author

Hi Tien Kai, I can't say I understand what you are trying to put across. But I will keep an eye out for your hubs and maybe I will understand more.

Tien Kai 7 years ago

Hey wandereth! how about this. Free will is like saying "I have the ability to do what evr I want - in reality." This means that doing whatever you want "freely" creates your own destiny. What are you Wandereth? What are you that you should have the ability to defy the very nature of your existence? That is that you do not exist "in" reality Wendereth as a being that has its own reality. You are an integral part of reality. reality is so monumentally "everything" and integrated that all manner of whatever things you feel you are doing "freely" will never amount to anything that has not been already factored into the very nature of your existence. What I am trying to "put across," is that "free will" is a question involving an illusion of "personal reality" that seems to "you" distinct and seprate from "everything else" and it is not. There is a psychological reason why human beings can "think" that they are seprate from nature, and, it is one of the major reasons why the world suffers from so much synthetic manufacturing and fabrication of artificial "things." In other words, when one thinks that they are separate from nature, they will produce things that are nature's antithesis because of this thought process. This is somewhat Buddhist, a little Taoist, and some Native American, but it is mostly my orientation to get people to see that they spend too much time thinking and not enough time feeling. Predestination is simply a rationalization of what is natural to happen. For example, all things die Wandereth; would you consider that a predetermined path? You will do a million things and make a million choices in you life. Should that allow you to live forever if you so choose? The gift of choice, is no more than whatever that you can do as an integral part of the way that you exist. Choice as an absolute characterization of a "reality" is a delusion of the choice rationalization as a concept in your head. What that means is that, concepts seems to defy reality don't they? Take the word "infinity;" can you or any human being for that matter, actually literally experience some "thing" that is infinite? Wandereth; the answer is a very "de-finite" NO - you can't! "infinity" "exist" as a concept now - doesn't it? But where does it exist if it can be said to have an existence at all? You ask the question you do about "choice" and "free-will" because you don't understand that these "things" are concepts. For just like infinity you cannot experience either the reality-choice or the reality-free-will. You see you are missing the point of being able to live as a human being. Feel the reason for being - simply you.

Ryan 7 years ago

Free Will and Predestination are IDENTICAL. I know that seems at first to be illogical but you'll notice that if you every try to argue either one you get NOWHERE. It's because one cannot exist without the other. In his autobiography, Winston Churchill likened it to the wings of a butterfly, at one moment they were a deep russet brown, and at the next moment they were a brilliant vivid blue. The color you see depends entirely on the angle at which you happen to have caught a glimpse of the creature!

wandererh profile image

wandererh 7 years ago from Singapore Author

Hi Ryan, would love it if you can explain further. I know that it's really difficult to argue free will or predestination, but I don't see how that can make them the same thing.

wahab malik 6 years ago

I think that everything is predestined. God created this universe so that he can be recognised. Then on one side he

created Adam and gave him heaven then God him self throws Adam out of heaven on earth. then if we think about this then what is it. We are being punished becouse of Adam. What kind of justice is this. And also if u look at the story Ibraham on one sid God throws Ibraham into fire and then he him self makes the fire cool and pleasant for Ibraham. Then think for a moment what is it free will or predestined..........................................predestined.

wandererh profile image

wandererh 6 years ago from Singapore Author

Not sure of your logic, wahab, but I would sure hate to have everything predestined. I mean, if everything that will happen has already been written in a "Book of Life" somewhere, and it cannot be changed, then all of our struggles, hopes, dreams, fears, etc, does not matter one bit. Life becomes pointless. :(

jim4digits 6 years ago

Freewill can be defined as the acting upon the the any of the choices within a closed system.(all systems are closed in this case) Wherein habit, upbringing, or some other mitigating may incline a person to consistantly act in a certain way this is not an example of predestination. Life cannot be predestined except in very general ways(i.e. 'we're all gonna die') Life cannot be free unless we accept it as such and chose to live it as such.

wandererh profile image

wandererh 6 years ago from Singapore Author

Let's say that I go to a casino, played a few games and walked out. My friend, Abe, went to the casino and became a gambling addict.

Assuming that everything else is the same, that is, we come from the same background, our values are the same, etc, does that mean that Abe has less willpower than I have?

Most people will say yes to that question but I think it is impossible to know. We cannot tell how easy it was for me to walk out as compared to Abe.

So, when you say that "Wherein habit, upbringing, or some other mitigating may incline a person to consistantly act in a certain way this is not an example of predestination.", you might want to consider that stopping the behavior would require different levels of commitment for different people.

This might be a form of predestination in that some people might act in a certain way because they cannot help themselves.

Just my 2 cents. :)

Nate Dog! 6 years ago

I Really Think The Predestination Shit Is Seriously Wrong And Such A Bullshit to Believe In Cuz If U Take A Look @ Jesus Why Does He Need To Come If Some Of Us Are Predestined To Hell And Some To Heaven ....Please For The Love Of Christ Predestination IS Wrong And Will Weaken Our Self Not To Preach The Gospel To unbelievers

wandererh profile image

wandererh 6 years ago from Singapore Author

Hi Nate Dog, I don't know if the answer to predestination is that simple but I do choose to believe that we all have at least some form of free will. :)

Jatt 6 years ago

Wandereh, you stated that " then all of our struggles, hopes, dreams, fears, etc, does not matter one bit. Life becomes pointless. "

Not if it it on those struggles that we are to be judged it doesn't. Then those struggles become everything rather than pointless. Maybe everything is pre-destined, but it is the STRUGGLE that creates karma for our next life. For example, two people are destined to fail an exam. They both will fail it yet if one revises harder, he creates better karma for himself going forward than the guy who doesn't revise at all and fails.

Just my two cents worth.

wandererh profile image

wandererh 6 years ago from Singapore Author

Jatt - I do agree with what you said about the struggle or the journey also being important. And I have always valued the journey, even if the destination is not what I had expected.

And when I said "then all of our struggles, hopes, dreams, fears, etc, does not matter one bit. Life becomes pointless.", I was talking about predestination in the scientific sense and not in religious sense.

paulinekhoo profile image

paulinekhoo 5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Every single person is created unique for identity, purpose and destiny: that is our pre-destination. We have our strengths, talents and weaknesses. If you are working on an area and, most researchers say, that you can only improve 2 points out of 10, then I'd say that you would work in your area of your strength. For example, if you were working in an area of your strength (7 out of 10), then after working on it for some time, you would end up a 9. If, on the other hand, you were working in an area of weakness, then what was a (3 out of 10) now only ends up as a 5. Identity, purpose and destiny works together with your desires of the heart, hopes and dreams. Your strengths and talents will usually be inline with your hopes and dreams. You have a free wil to choose either way.

Sometimes, our identity, purpose and destiny can be distorted from our created being because of the external cultures that we are born into. Also, what you make out of your identity, purpose and destiny is free will. You can take it as far as you want, or you can relax and take it easy. Remember, to carry heavy loads, only true identity, true purpose, and true destiny will do the job. No one knows you better than God Himself. So out of a personal relationship with God (through Jesus Christ) you come to know Jesus. When you know Jesus, you start to know yourself. Jesus said "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me." and also "The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. I have come to give you life, and life more abundant."

Hope this helps,


Pauline Khoo

wandererh profile image

wandererh 5 years ago from Singapore Author

paulinekhoo - In truth, we probably can never really know the real truth about free will and predestination. I would think that it is a mixture of both in that there are things we can't, or would find almost impossible to, change, and there are things that are within our power to change. Of the things that are within our power to change, we have the free will to choose whether or not to change.

Merrygoals profile image

Merrygoals 5 years ago from, Thousand Oaks, Ca.


I find your piece on free will both intelligent and enchanting; glad to meet up with a philosopher of interest. I think--responding to your article--that that the way two electrons respond to each other non-locally, that there are limits to our own free will in that we are in a relationhip with everything else.

On the other hand, I also believe that free will is a given since how we project the world to be, the world becomes--for us! In any case, I enjoyed your writing and wanted to respond.

Jack Marlando/Merrygoals

This, I beleive, this an important observation since we are the created, creating at all times. And so, in this regard, I do not accept the existential view that we are the totality of our expriences but rather I believe we are the result of the choices we make--which indicates free will.

wandererh profile image

wandererh 5 years ago from Singapore Author

Hi Jack,

You flatter me. I'm in no way a philosopher but just a guy who likes to think a little about life and the world around him.

I definitely agree with you in that the world is what we make it to be. We can choose to look at things the positive or negative way, just like we can choose to be encouraged or discouraged by a setback. And perhaps, in that way, we actually create our own reality. :)

Joshua 5 years ago

..... The theories you explored in this article were exactly the ones I was contemplating. It did, however, make me consider if God exists. Because if God is so powerful, then based on how a particle's behaviour can be predicted, He should be able to predict all the future events from that, which does not explain who bad things happen. So we either have no God, or a God who hates... What do you think?

wandererh profile image

wandererh 5 years ago from Singapore Author

Joshua - Just like we can write a computer that can do exactly what we want it to do, we can also write another program that can learn, adapt and evolve. In the same vein, perhaps God created a universe in which he himself cannot predict the outcome.

Or, like you said, the alternative is a god that created a universe knowing all the bad things that will happen in it. But then again, perhaps something is bad only in our eyes. Perhaps, in the bigger picture, everything will work out.

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