The death of determinism

You could have predicted I would write this. The ad copy for FreeDomain Radio (“The largest and most popular philosophical discussion in the world!“) reads like this:

Powerful ideas for all lovers of personal and political freedom – Freedomain Radio is the largest and most popular philosophy show on the web, and was a Top 10 Finalist in the 2007, 2008 and 2009 Podcast Awards. Topics range from politics to philosophy to science to economics to relationships to atheism – and how to achieve real freedom in your life today. Passionate, articulate, funny and irreverent, Freedomain Radio shines a bold light on old topics, and invents a few new ones to boot!

You would think a forum like this (the world’s largest, mind you!) would have freewheeling discussions on about every philosophical concept under the sun!

And you would be completely wrong.

No matter how well behaved you are, if you step outside Molyneux’s narrow view of the universe, prepare to be banned.

Case in point, a very recent thread on Determinism that offers yet another window on the strange nature of the FDR “community.” Determinism, very loosely stated, is the idea that everything that happens is a result of cause and effect and if you knew all of the physical laws operating at any time, then theoretically you could predict what people will do.

And of course there are lots of off-shoots and side theories and what not, but the most important thing to know is that Molyneux has decided that it is all stuff and nonsense and NO MEMBER shall start a determinism conversation with another member on the forum, even if they’re very polite and no animals are harmed.

As far as I know, we didn’t have any defections this time like we did with Allison’s last card, but the thread did inspire two heartfelt, separately posted public apologies from chastised members. (Remember, their “crime” was discussing an idea.)

[Post-publication oopsie! I've been corrected that the determinism thread DID result in a defection from a member named Paul. (Paul, we hardly knew ye!) He asked that his account and all posts get deleted but his last message lives on briefly here. FDR Liberated regrets this error. Well, not really. I was pretending to be a real journalist for a second.]

One of the first interesting things about the thread is a Philosopher King who shows up four posts in. He seems to think, as far as I understand, that determinism is a topic well worth talking about.

Actually, what he really seems to be doing (as Liberating Minds administrator Conrad pointed out) is debating Molyneux by proxy. He’s not really taking on Molyneux but he is challenging Molyneux’s position without invoking Molyneux in any way. Perhaps, in such a restrictive environment, debate-by-proxy is the best one can hope for.

Later, on Page 1, another PK openly wonders if they are discussing a “banned topic,” offering to delete his post if so.

But it isn’t until five posts into Page 2, that an “enforcer” PK shows up, someone who has voluntarily taken on the role (for whatever reason) of ensuring compliance with Molyneux’s wishes. Perhaps it is out of fear, but no one seems to be curious and empathetic about the “enforcer” PK’s motivations.

After that, the thread begins to subside, ending with the determinism-interested PK offering to start an e-mail conversation so they can talk in secret.

The conversation itself was very interesting, but I couldn’t help being more interested to see once again just how “unfree” FreeDomain is when it comes to ideas, forcing some PKs to keep their explorations secret and inspiring other PKs to become self-appointed watchdogs who snarl at anyone who steps out of line.

These are libertarians, right?