Originally Posted by Zerbie
We can choose to take ourselves down a new road.
Yes. We can make choices.
I can choose to go to work tomorrow or I can choose to stay home and sleep all day. But my past experiences (that are nothing more than a collection of thousands of memories from the past 57 years) tell me that if I choose to stay home and sleep all day that the end result will not be to my best interests.
Fred Phelps can choose to keep picketing funerals as a protest to the acceptance of homosexuality in the US, or he can choose to stop doing that and accept homosexuality as a natural sexual orientation. But, his past experiences since his birth more than likely tell him that to stop protesting homosexuality will go against the will of God which would be a bad thing.
What many scientists now believe is that our choices and behavior are a result of everything we've learned since birth. I don't think that this means that Fred Phelps is not responsible for his actions just as I'm responsible for my actions. We all have to take responsibility for what we do. It also doesn't mean that we need to accept Fred Phelps' behavior.
However, I do think it may mean that we have little (if any) free will. If we choose to behave in a certain way it is a result of our past learned experiences, even if we choose to change our thinking. In other words, the mere act of changing our thinking is a result of past experiences.
We also have to take brain structure into consideration. Neuroscience is finding that not all brains are equal. They're discovering that some people who do "evil" things have different brains than normal people. Some of these people don't have the capacity to feel sympathy or compassion because the part of their brain that produces these feelings is much smaller than a normal brain.
I think that by his extreme behavior, there is a chance that Fred Phelps has a neurological disorder. However, my brain tells me that labeling him as a bigoted moron is a perfectly acceptable way in our society to express my anger and frustrations about his behavior. At least, that's what I've learned from my past experiences.