5   One Modern Pessimism
      This chapter and the one following it exist to show that the ideas in
Covenantal Theology are powerful and useful, in ways that current
Catholic theology can not be. We begin with long quotes from a very
modern book.
Read what Mr. Marvin Minsky has to say to you (on
the remainder of this page) very carefully:
1. [Minsky M (1986). The society of mind. New
York: Simon and Schuster, pp. 306-7. Mr.
Minsky is a famous MIT-based cognitive
scientist, and The Society of Mind is a famous
book. Emphases are original.]
We each believe that we possess an Ego, Self, or Final Center of Control, from which we choose what we shall do at
every fork in the road of time. . . . Whence comes this sense of being in control? According to the modern scientific view,
there is simply no room at all for "freedom of the human will." Everything that happens in our universe is either completely
determined by what's already happened in the past or else depends, in part, on random chance. Everything, including that
which happens in our brains, depends on these and only these:
A set of fixed, deterministic laws.                          A purely random set of accidents.
. . . We like to give names to what we do not know, and instead of wondering how we work we simply talk of being "free."
Perhaps it would be more honest to say, "My decision was determined by internal forces I do not understand." But no one
likes to feel compelled by something else. Why don't we like to feel compelled? Because we're largely made up of
systems designed to learn to achieve their goals. But in order to achieve any long-range goals, effective difference-
engines must also learn to resist whatever other processes attempt to make them change those goals. . . . So, though it's
futile to resist, we continue to regard both Cause and Chance as intrusions on our freedom of choice.
. . . To save our belief in the freedom of will from the fateful grasps of Cause and Chance, people simply postulate an
empty, third alternative. We imagine that somewhere in each person's mind, there lies a Spirit, Will, or Soul, so well-
concealed that it can elude the reach of any law -- or lawless accident.
I've drawn the box for Will so small because we're always taking things out of it -- and scarcely ever putting things in! This
is because whenever we find some scrap of order in the world, we have to attribute it to Cause -- and whenever things
seem to obey no laws at all, we attribute that to Chance. . . . Does this mean that we must embrace the modern scientific
view and put aside the ancient myth of voluntary choice? No. We can't do that: too much of what we think and do revolves
around those old beliefs. Consider how our social lives depend upon the notion of responsibility and how little that idea
would mean without our belief that personal actions are voluntary. . . . But if we suspected that such choices were not
made freely . . . we might become impelled to wreck the precious value-schemes that underlie our personalities or
become depressed about the futility of a predestination tempered only by uncertainty. Such thoughts must be suppressed.
No matter that the physical world provides no room for freedom of will . . . We're virtually forced to maintain that belief,
even though we know it's false -- except, of course, when we're inspired to find the flaws in all our beliefs, whatever may
be the consequence to cheerfulness and mental peace.

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