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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Malpass

Free Will During Free Fall

Last time, we were pretending to be skydivers in a free fall, poised to pull our ripcords and deploy our parachutes. Wasn't that an exhilarating thought experiment? Couldn't you imagine the wind rushing by your face? Couldn't you just feel your heart beating in your chest?

Today let's pick up our skydiver thought experiment just after everybody has pulled their ripcords. Remember, we have complete faith in our parachutes. This is great fun!

But's wrong. My parachute isn't deploying! " need to panic, Will." I tell myself. "I'll use the reserve chute." I quickly locate the reserve chute ripcord. I pull it, and just as the reserve chute begins to deploy, the main chute also pops out and twists around the reserve! They're tangled together and neither will fill with air!

Readers, I was having such a nice time during free fall, but now I realize this is the WORST THOUGHT EXPERIMENT EVER! Why did I place my total faith in this parachute system that has now failed me? (Editor's note: Parachute malfunctions are extremely rare. Skydiving is a safe activity. However, Will's thought experiments are not always safe. Proceed with caution.)

As I prepare for my rapidly impending doom, a well-proportioned, muscular dude wearing a red cape flies up from below to greet me. He matches my descent speed and says, "Would you like me to rescue you?"

Is that a bird? Is that a plane?

Hmm. There's something vaguely familiar about this guy, but I don't really know him. Should I trust him? Already once in this thought experiment, I placed my trust in something that ended up letting me down. It's hard to trust again. I want to think about it awhile.

I think it's always our decision where we place our trust, isn't it? We always get to make our own faith choices. Frankly, it might be one of the few absolutes we actually encounter in this reality. We have FREE WILL, don't we, friends? Nice!

The trees, buildings, and farm animals below are starting to look pretty big, pretty solid. (Hey, are those llamas?) "Okay, fit dude. I accept your offer of rescue—but it was my decision, understand? I have free will, my highly-implausible, gravity-defying, new best buddy."

The next day my story makes Yahoo's Trending Now feature for 37 minutes! When you click on the link, though, all you really get is a bunch of stuff about the guy in the red cape and some newspaper reporter he's been dating. Whatever.

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