Then Who Made the Snake?
Is There Free Will or Not?


Leonard Zwelling

         It is a given in our society that men and women have free
will. It’s clearly in both the New and Old Testaments for it is the basis of
both forgiveness and atonement. It is the foundation of the criminal justice
system. It is one of the criteria by which we call ourselves civilized. Men and
women have before them choices. Even the most religious of us with profound
beliefs in the primacy and ultimate power of a Supreme Being called God, also believe that when we
humans do bad things, that bad behavior was a choice. Despite what Flip Wilson
said, we operate under the belief that the “the Devil made me do it” is not going to
fly as an excuse in a court of law. If it does, then that usually indicates insanity, temporary or otherwise, was putatively operational when a crime
was committed.

course, the concept of a “hate crime” strays from that a bit as it allows
unequal punishment for identical acts if in the case of one who perpetrated a
crime, it is beyond a reasonable doubt that personal bias played a role in the
crime committed. I happen to believe that this is hogwash because if someone
kills someone or burns down a church, I have no interest what was in his or her
heart or head at the time the crime was committed. Prove the individual guilty
beyond a reasonable doubt in front of a jury of his or her peers and the
punishment should be independent of the individual’s belief system.

we really care why those guys flew the planes into the World Trade Center
Towers or the Pentagon? The concept of a hate crime should not be necessary in
a fair criminal justice system. If the current system is unfair, let’s work on
that, not on our own choices of what constitutes prejudice. That’s what got us
in trouble in this area in the first place for every slur perpetrated today
against blacks, gays, immigrants, Muslims, or Jews was once accepted in
“civilized” society somewhere.

that, free will, I mean, as always, gets us to MD Anderson.

Len has lost his marbles this time.

with me.

is no more vilified figure on Holcombe or in Pickens than Dan Fontaine. The
erstwhile chief lawyer, consigliore, and current Executive Vice Poobah in Chief
has done a masterful job of driving his bus (and backing it up a few times)
over one opponent after another for 15 or more years at Anderson. As one of his
prime early backers, I should know. I have Dan’s pickup’s tire tracks on my
back along with his Michelins on the backs of Adrienne Lang, David Callender,
Tom Burke, Ray DuBois, Lynda Chen and perhaps even John Mendelsohn (who
knows?). (Can Leon Leach be far beyond the range of Dan’s headlights?)

faculty view Dan as the ultimate bête noire, even a Judas in his use of
expediency, regulation and money to plow away anyone he views as his
competition. And he’s good at it. The stack of bodies, like cordwood, including
my own, represent ample evidence of Dan’s rapacious nature. Some view him as
the snake in the Garden of Eden that was once MD Anderson. Before Dan,
everything was great. After Dan, everything is doodoo.

is simply untrue. To make this leap requires absolving the faculty of free will
(I told you I would get to this) and there not being a greater power in the
Garden than that of the snake. I believe that the faculty have retained their
free will and that there is power above Dan. Neither the faculty nor the last
two Presidents have exerted their free will to stop the progress of the snake
to becoming the Lizard King (former title was Jim Morrison’s).

snake was not the sole cause of man’s fall from Eden. God created the snake and
man could have said no to the Forbidden Fruit.

has changed. The snake still derives his power from the Boss not exercising His
(or Her) free will and man and woman not exercising theirs.

Deisseroth, the brilliant Stanford psychiatrist who makes mice do things by
flashing light on their neurons, may yet prove that free will is an illusion. Karl
may demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that our behaviors are all subject to
pre-existing biochemistry, genetics  and
the actions of the environment on our neuronal gray and white matter. The Devil
may not have made you do it, but your genetic and life programming might have.
Until Karl proves that (and he may), we live in a society that operates under
the principle that we are responsible for what we do and that if we do bad
things, we had the choice not to do them. If we do them anyway, that should have
no bearing nor be an excuse for how the evildoer came to do the deed. I have
seen some powerful rationalizations for bad behavior. But as long as we believe
in free will, none will be accepted beyond self-defense or choosing from a host
of bad alternatives (e.g., killing someone raping your wife, but not someone
desecrating a building).

President DePinho and the faculty at-large have ways to deal with the current situation
of the putative snake in the previous Pink Palatial Garden of Eden. That they
have refused to is their choice—freely—thus, it can change. Everyone gets to
decide for him- or herself. Everyone!

Garden can resort to its previous idyllic state. All that needs to happen is
Man and Woman and President say no and the snake will go elsewhere.

Leonard Zwelling