People know that I am a big promoter of determinism/causality. Everything that happens must have a cause or it does not happen. However, there are some people who look at the world and come to the conclusion that things are not deterministic because humans are unable to predict all events. They talk about unpredictability, uncertainty, probability, chance, luck, randomness, etc. Because I am extremely annoyed at this misunderstanding, I wish to put it to rest using sex as an example.
We know that humans reproduce by having sex. The sperm from the father must enter the egg inside the mother. However, we are unable to predict exactly what sperm will enter which egg at which specific time. Just because we cannot predict it with great accuracy does not mean that there is no cause for pregnancy. We know the cause of it but it is still outside of our ability to predict when it happens and what the gender of the child will be based on the chromosomes.
We also cannot predict what desires our children will have and all the experiences they will have in their life. I was born on May 15 1987. At that point, no one could have predicted that I would be writing what you are reading now. However, just because you are unable to predict what I will do does not mean that the process of my life is any less deterministic. At the point of my conception, all the genetics that determined what skin and hair color I have was already set. Additionally, it was already determined that I would have certain preferences in the food I eat and music I listen to.
However, not all of it was determined by genetics alone. The experiences in my life and things other people have done to me certainly changed the way I look at the world. You could in theory change the person I am today if you had a time machine and could travel back and change certain events.
For example, if someone had kidnapped me as a baby and taken me to live on a deserted island, I may never have learned to use the English language with the capacity I can today. In so doing you would have prevented all of my writing. The simple truth is that where we are born, what we are taught, and the daily experiences we have are huge parts of what makes us who we are!
I fully understand that I don’t have a free will and that everything is deterministic because nothing happens uncaused. However, this in no way keeps me from doing what I want. I just have the philosophical understanding that I did not “choose” to want the things I do. So ironically, I am free to do what I want, but I am not free to do what I don’t want to do. The only time I would do something I don’t want is because it is required to attain or maintain something that I do want.
So in a sense, life is basically a movie where everything is predetermined, but at the same time there is uncertainty because humans simply don’t KNOW what will happen. It is a lack of knowledge that confuses us and why some things in life are called random. This is completely compatible with determinism or causality. Everything has a cause and therefore our decisions are entirely determined by what events we want to cause!
So to sum it all up, I put ketchup on my potatos because it tastes good. Some people look at me and wonder why I “chose” ketchup instead of mustard or mayonnaise. They don’t understand that mustard does not taste as good as ketchup to me and that this is predetermined by my genetics. They also don’t know that mayonnaise contains egg yolks and therefore conflicts with my vegan diet which is caused by my philosophy about the equality of chickens and humans. If they understood these things, they would know exactly why I use ketchup.
But someone who understands me can also predict which of two politicians I will vote for, what religion(or lack thereof) I will believe, and that I do not want them to waste money buying me a tombstone after I am dead.