When I positioned the seat of my pants against the seat of a chair and started typing, was this predestined to happen? If I had writer’s block or simply decided that I wanted to work outside, would that have changed this moment in time? Or was my writing already cast in stone and I had no option other than to sit down and wrestle with this article?
Predestination is a thread that runs through theology, philosophy, and science. Religions have struggled with the question of whether everything has already been predetermined by God. Some religions answer that God knows everything that will happen in our lives, but God permits us to make our mistakes. Some say that believers and sinners are all predestined for those roles, while others say that only believers are predestined, leaving the others to choose during their lives.
Some pre-Kantian philosophers saw the past, present, and future as being rolled up into one huge eternal “present” from God’s perspective. If God is orchestrating life from moment to moment, then everything is predestined to happen just as ordered by God. Many of the pre-Kantian philosophers were more like scientists who examined predestination based on their experiences and what they understood a posteriori. Kant’s theory was based on the innate, a priori, knowledge. In effect, our behavior has a predisposition, but is not predestined. We have a propensity to do the right thing, but we still have the freedom to make decisions. God has given us both a conscience and the freedom to choose our paths in life.
Scientists have examined the control within our universe, which arguably is a form of predestination, but again I refer to it a predisposition. For example, gravity and orbits may cause planets to circle our sun, but there are many variables that come into play as to how the solar system is positioned today. And millions of years from now, it will look different. The propensity for planets to orbit the sun does not preordain their future positions in the solar system. The delicate balance of order and chaos within our universe can be upset to create an entirely different future. Scientists can guess what the future might be, but they can never be assured that they are correct because the future is not predestined. Quantum mechanics, by itself, assures us that there are many possibilities of what the future will hold for us.
Science helps us understand one aspect of predestination within our universe. The theory of conservation of mass and energy which states that the sum total of mass and energy within our universe will always be the same is another way of saying that our universe is predestined to having a finite amount of mass and energy. And it might even be argued that our universe is predestined to respond infinitely, perhaps alternating between the Big Bang and the Big Crunch forever. Even though mass and energy may transform back and forth, the total will always remain the same.
This might be interpreted to mean that our universe has an edge that retains all the mass and energy within it. In other words, we live in a closed universe. If this were true, then the creator would have had to create outside that boundary. The creation would have inserted mass and energy inside that closed system, so that it would only have had a predisposition and not a predestined universe. The proclivity to do certain things in our universe does not eliminate chance, choices, and selection.
So, when I asked if I was predestined to write this article, the answer is a resounding “no.” I may have had an inclination and a propensity to write it, but I made a decision to do so and took the action, independently of any outside forces.