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Australian philosopher, literary critic, and professional writer. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ah haz read John Shook's book

I've just finished reading John Shook's The God Debates. I'll be writing a full review here in the next couple of days, but my general verdict is a positive one: it's not for everybody, but it's actually very interesting. It's not so much about theology, except towards the end, as about philosophy of religion, and it does provide a nice, readable, potted introduction to the field, including some good discussion of the more avant-garde and slippery arguments that might get trotted out against you in an actual debate with a well-prepared believer who has been reading Plantinga and the like.

The final chapter is fascinating, though I'm not how much of it I'm buying. Shook analyses no less than twelve basic views of the world that he thinks are at work in contemporary societies. That's a lot more than Philip Kitcher, about whom more later today, who only identifies five. Clearly, there are many ways that this cake can be cut, but I do think that both accounts are worth reading to remind ourselves that there are more dimensions to this than just religious/non-religious. In fact, the important distinctions that I'd want to make would probably be different again from either Kitcher's or Shook's.

I don't think that it's simply a matter of religious views versus non-religious views. Some people whose views are not especially religious, and may even be atheistic, are still wrong about the world at a fundamental level - for example, though they don't believe in God they may believe in contra-causal free will. Some people who are religious may have no totalitarian or apocalyptic impulses, and may not even believe in anything supernatural. They may simply be honouring a tradition and treating their holy book much as they'd treat Homer or Shakespeare. (Of course, these are not the majority!)

For practical purposes, it's still worth producing critiques of religion - and let's not forget that religious leaders and organisations often promote very destructive ideas and behaviour. But in theory, at least, the line between what deserves strong criticism and what does not can't be aligned precisely with the line between religion and non-religion. It's more complicated than that, and it's interesting to see some alternative ways of looking at it - even if, in the end, I don't buy the particular typologies on offer.

Anyway, Shook's book isn't bad at all, is very accessible given that some of the subject matter gets tricky, could be used in various courses at undergraduate or even senior high school level, is worth a read if you have the money or can get your library to order it in, and doesn't badmouth "New Atheist" leaders. I'm still wondering why he wrote his recent Huffington Post article as he did; nothing about the book itself made that approach necessary, so he created a fair bit of ill-will against himself without being under any pressure to do so.

30 comments:

Robert N Stephenson said...

The issue come down to who is moderate and who is not and what is considered moderate in the first place:

Religion will be with us my the next few thousand years just by following its growth chart - it is still growing, and morseso than any time in history. So to stand up and say, don't believe because I tell you so, just won't wash.

The anti religious arguments are complex and dismissive when pushed and until their is a viable alternative that doesn't mean we adopt pure hatred and victimization as weapon the idea of atheism will alway remain just an idea. It doesn't matter if tit is right, truthful, logical or even reasonable - atheism is not offering an alternative, and if you have studied human history well the human animal does nedd something to believe in - a hard wired trait.

The question is what is atheism trying to prove? It is a self confessed belief systemn that does not have a god, so why the interest in God?

Do you seriously bet upset tnat the person who cooked your rstaurant meal was Catholic and thr man take wine orders is Muslim? I know I don't care less that the man at the post office is atheist, I just want some stamps.

To date most of the atheist argument and posts I have read through have a tendency to simply state 'look at me. I'm clever' and yet in close xamination of the text nothing substancial is actually said - infact there are a lot of word often written around could be and maybe positions. If you want to convince people you need to not only do better than that, you have to be simple, direct and positive

Neil said...

Minor point: I hear a lot about contra-causal free will, from people outside free will. But I have never encountered anyone, philosopher or not, who believes in it. I know people who think agents are causes (eg, Tim O'Connor), people who think that causation of action is indeterministic (eg Robert Kane) and people who think that reasons are not causes at all (contemporary followers of Anscombe). I also know lots of experimental work on the folk, which produces evidence that some of them for all into these categories (as well as good old-fashioned compatibilists). But no contra-causal free will.

The more important category of atheists who have bizarre worldviews are the spiritual folks. I happened to see a Wheeler Centre event yesterday, where Amanda Lohrey said she didn't believe in god, but energy has to go somewhere, so that shows that we can't just die. That is so deluded on so many levels that it is hard to know where to start (clearly thermodynamics wouldn't be a bad place to begin).

Russell Blackford said...

To me, "agent causation" is contra-causal free will. Yes, if you take out people who argue for agent causation the field decreases a lot.

As for people with nutty or pernicious worldviews but are atheists ... well, there's all those Randian Objectivists for a start.

Gerald said...

(sorry, a bit late today...)

"I'm not how much" -> "I'm not sure how much"?

recycle comment after use ;-)

Neil said...

To me, "agent causation" is contra-causal free will.

Sorry, Russell, you are just flat out wrong.

Badger3k said...

Why Shook did it? Several possibilities. One, he could believe that and was simply being honest. Two, he could have been building "street cred" with accomodationists, perhaps to try to sell his book. Third, he could have been doing it just to say "These people don't know the arguments, but with my book, you can!" - another marketing ploy. Or it could be a combination of them.

Robert - atheists aren't trying to prove anything (in general, of course) - we are saying, we do not believe what you believe because you have no evidence. If any theist can provide evidence of whatever variety of god they believe in, then we can move the discussion. First, though, you have to define exactly what you mean by "god". (As an aside, atheism isn't trying to prove anything either, nor is it a belief system. It's a lack of belief).

We have an interest in the myriad forms of god for various reasons. I have an interest since belief in supernatural twaddle is in direct opposition to critical thinking, which I value. It also promotes belief without evidence, which I also oppose. Theists are also responsible for much of the troubles in our world (opposition to homosexuals, women, contraception, spreading AIDS in Africa, numerous religious "us vs them" conflicts the world over, torture and death of people the world over, damaging the education of millions in the US, opposition to stem cell research, anti-vax nonsense - hell, the list goes on and on.

Does it matter if the cook is Catholic - no (unless he's cooking something against his religion and screws it up), but it does matter if he votes to deny equal rights to someone just because he is told his god is against it. That matters.

Neil said...

Sorry, I really shouldn't get worked up about this. It's not important in the scheme of things. It's just my life's work, is all....

More constructively: on O'Connor's view, event causes work to structure the options between which agents choose; on Clarke's view, event causes are nomologically linked to agent causes. Everyone agrees that agents choose for reasons, and most philosophers, including agent-caustionists, think that reasons are causes. Calling this contra-causal free will is as accurate as calling Kantians consequentialists.

Russell Blackford said...

Maybe. Or maybe I'm using my terms non-standardly from the point of view of someone like you has (I fully concede) more expertise in this area than I do.

But when I used the expression "contra-causal free will" I meant to encompass all theories that (1) are incompatibilist, (2) are non-deterministic, and (3) (unlike say Derk Pereboom's "hard incompatibilist" account) do actually claim that we have free will. As far as I know, people like O'Connor fall into that camp, but I'm open to correction. Perhaps there's a subtlety I'm missing here, so share your expertise.

If so, or if you have a better general term for that sort of theory, let me know; I'm always happy to learn something. Just, "You're wrong" isn't very enlightening, though. Sheesh.

The point I was trying to make in the post was that atheists divide on such things as the existence or otherwise of free will of some incompatibilist kind. Do you dispute that?

Neil said...

No, I don't dispute the claim that atheists divide on this question. I do dispute the claim that holding an indeterministic view of free will is irrational. Mark Balaguer convinced me of that. I recommend his recent book. It finishes with a very sophisticated review of the neuroscience, demonstrating that it is an open question whether the relevant brain events are determined.

RichardW said...

"But in theory, at least, the line between what deserves strong criticism and what does not can't be aligned precisely with the line between religion and non-religion."

Certainly. People have all sorts of irrational beliefs, and some of those can be useful. I'm more concerned about how people behave than what they believe.

Russell Blackford said...

Yes, Neil, but on O'Connor's view, as you've explained here, there is nothing that determines which way the agent chooses once those prior events have set things up. As far as I can see, that means that there is a further event which is uncaused (and it's not merely something antecedent somewhere, such as some quantum event that has fed into the structure of the system and its inputs prior to the choice taking place). There is a kind of causal gap in the total set of events that we see (and again, not just because some quantum indeterminacy happened somewhere at some stage).

You have a situation where a system, such as a human brain and body, with a set of inputs could equally choose one way or the other - to phi or to psi - as an exercise of free will. Let's say the choice goes one way - to phi for example. But if the whole set-up (the system and inputs) were exactly repeated, with nothing changed, including any quantum events, the choice could go the other way.

That's a picture of a choice - the choice between phi-ing and psi-ing - happening without a cause. And it's also supposed to be an act of free will when the system makes that choice.

Now, maybe I'm getting something wrong about the theory, but if so you need to tell me what. And even if I have it right, I'm prepared to accept that "contra-causal free will" may have a more technical meaning than this within the literature. Zeus knows, I often criticise people for using philosophical terminology in what I consider non-standard ways, so I'll take my medicine if I've done that.

But I still don't see how classifying what we're discussing as a form of contra-casual free will theory is at all like calling a Kantian a consequentialist.

Russell Blackford said...

By the way, I don't reall accusing anyone of being irrational. Wrong on a fundamental matter, yes, but we can all be wrong on fundamental matters. I'm probably wrong on some fundamental matters, though if I am I don't know which ones. It doesn't mean I'm irrational.

Neil said...

On O'Connor's view, there is nothing that is contra (event) causation, because the only events that agents can cause are those that are consistent with indeterministic event causation. So there is nothing 'contra' causal. There is also nothing uncaused, since the agent is a cause.

What explains why, with all prior processes held fixed, the agent might choose X or Y? Agent causation! Your objection seems to boil down to finding agent-causation mysterious. Well, it is mysterious! But then so is event causation. In Clarke's book, he cautiously concludes that it is probably too mysterious to be countenanced. But the conclusion is caution because, as he says, event-causation is pretty mysterious too - no one has a good understanding of causation (it is a driving force? Is it a Humean constant conjunction?) In the 18th C Reid argued that event causation was derivative epistemically from agent causation: we get the idea of event causation by extrapolating from agent causation, which is the only kind of causation we experience.

You say people are fundamentally wrong to hold that brain events are undetermined. But the jury has to be out on that question - unless you can point to a flaw in Balageur's review of the science.

Russell Blackford said...

Okay, okay but who denies that agents cause events in that sense? However, note that it is nothing about the agent (dispositions of character, neurological wiring, etc.) that causes the ultimate event - the choice that gets made between phi-ing and psi-ing. These things could all be the same and yet the event might go one way or the other.

I can't imagine anyone who admits to believing in "contra-causal free will" who doesn't still think that agents cause events in some sense. If someone says that evil came into the world because Adam freely sinned, but all the responsibility lay with Adam, none with God ... that person is not denying that Adam caused the event of biting the fruit. The point is that there's a sense in which the causation stops with Adam - Adam somehow acts in a way that transcends or breaks the causal sequence of "God creates Adam with certain dispositions, neurology, etc" "Adam considers eating apple" "Adam chooses to eat apple". There's some sense in which this causal sequence is broken so that the eating of the apple is not God's responsibility for creating Adam with those dispositions and that neurology. The point is that there is a causal gap between the dispositions/neurology and the event. God is safely on the other side of that causal gap.

This is the sort of thing that people seem to have in mind by "contra-causal" or "libertarian" free will, at least in my experience and reading, and I don't see how O'Connor's theory doesn't fall within in it (whether or not he wants to deploy it in a theological context). If even the sort of theologian I discuss in the previous para says that Adam caused the event, so there is a cause for it, you might say that this person doesn't believe in contra-causal free will either. But there is still a causal gap involved in the story. Aren't you saying something that amounts to the claim that "contra-causal free will" is a misnomer and we should use some other vocabulary such as "libertarian free will"? One way or other, there are these theories with causal gaps between the agent's neurology, dispositions, etc., and what the agent actually does, and O'Connor's theory still seems to be one of them.

Perhaps your view would be clearer to me if you gave me an example of someone who actually does, in your view, have a contra-causal free will theory.

Russell Blackford said...

Dammit, Neil, I had a glitch and Blogger somehow deleted your comment while posting my response twice. Grrrr.

Apologies for that - your comment was actually helpful so I certainly didn't want to lose it. You can probably remember what you wrote so can you answer anyway. The main point you seemed to be making was that the theory is not contra-causal because the agent causes the event. I say that's not the point: no one that I know of denies that agents cause events; the issue is whether there's a causal gap within the story as in the stories about Adam's Fall.

Russell Blackford said...

Ah, your comment was still in the system. Yay, so forget that last from me. All is well.

Neil said...

A contra-causal power would be a power to act *against* the causal laws. That is the point of calling it contra, right? There is no causal gap on mainstream libertarian views (Searle has a theory on which there are 3 causal gaps, one of which is bridged by something like an agent causal power, but that's idiosyncratic). Agent causation is a constrained power: a power to choose from options which are given probabilities above zero by event causes. The causal chain flows without pause or break. The agent causal power is the power of an agent *as a substance* to cause events; to throw the weight of the substance behind one of the events with a non-zero possibility. Of course, there are libertarian views which reject agent-causation. On Kane's view, for instance, all causation is event causation (libertarian views that do not countenance agent causes have been developed by Mele and Ekstrom too). On these views, it is even clearer that there are no causal gaps. Moreover, they don't postulate any kind of causes that are not required by mainstream physics.

Russell Blackford said...

Neil, I don't understand this. I understand that there's a point in avoiding the "contra" in that we're not talking about going against causal laws. I always thought that really we are talking about causal gaps - stepping outside the causal sequence, or having a gap between, say, Adam's dispositions and neurology and his choice to eat the apple. That's the point of using free will in a theodical setting, where these debates often take place. Milton, say, wants to create a gap between God's creative acts and Adam's choice to sin ... because Milton wants to justify the ways of God to man.

I think you've persuaded me not to use the term "contra-causal". Perhaps I'll just stick with incompatibilist free will. I dunno.

What I don't understand, though is how the theory we're discussing does not have a causal gap. It seems that once Adam, say, is faced with the choice to phi (eating the apple) or to psi (turn down the temptation to eat the apple) nothing about his brain state or dispositions, or anything else (values, principles of choice, pro-attitudes ...) about him, determines whether he will phi or psi. That is a causal gap. And if this is not the situation, why doesn't the theory simply collapse into compatibilism or even hard determinism? If there are no causal gaps but Adam has free will, we have a compatibilist theory.

I do think it's mysterious, but that's not the point of my comments here. I'm not even trying to defend my own view - compatibilism - which would take a book. My point is that I classify a theory like O'Connor's, as I understand it and as you've explained it, with theories that have causal gaps in them because ... well, on your explanation it still seems to have a causal gap in it.

Sorry if I'm being thick, but I just can't see how there's not a causal gap between Adam's brain state, dispositions of character, and anything else about him that exists at the point of time immediately prior to his choice to phi or psi .... and what is actually the outcome.

And if there's no causal gap between these things and the choice he makes, then why is this not a deterministic theory? If the causal gap I'm referring to doesn't exist, then something about Adam's dispositions, neurological state, or whatever did, after all, cause him to phi rather than to psi.

Neil said...

Russell, you seem to be committed to a position according to which indeterministic causation is gappy. But as many philosophers have argued, indeterministic causation is just like deterministic except it is indeterministic. Think of causes as things that raise the probability of events. A deterministic cause raises the probability of an event to 1; an indeterministic cause raises the probability of an event above zero but below 1. The only gap is an explantory gap; we lack what Lewis called a constrastive explanation of the subsequent event (that is, an explanation of why X *rather than* Y). But that's not a causal gap. The response of most philosophers of physics and causation has just been to say that some kinds of contrastive explanation for some events can't be given (we can explain why the particle went through the slit *rather than* taking up yoga, but not why it went through the slit *rather than* hitting the surrounding partition).

Russell Blackford said...

Okay, but this is becoming a matter of semantics. It seems to me that my understanding of the theory is correct and it's only a question of how we label it.

As I said, I'm happy to adopt your terminology as far as I can, especially to the extent that it's the terminology of most philosophers and physicists. It's a problem when people use non-standard terminology because it can cause confusion - though I doubt that much confusion was caused in this case. I've taken Sam Harris to task for this in another context, so I'm not eager to commit the same sort of mistake.

But the fact remains that there's a gap on O'Connor's account, whatever you want to call that gap, and it has something to do with the inability to say why the system caused some event, i.e. phi-ing taking place, rather than the other event, psi-ing taking place.

It seems natural to me to say that there is no cause provided on such a model for the occurrence of the phi-ing (given the other possibility that is salient).

If we had some probabilistic theory about how events like phi-ing come about 30 per cent of the time with a system being states like A, it might be different. That does seem to be a probabilistic causal explanation such as physicists might be content with (though my impression is that physicists are also sometimes content to say that some quantum events are just uncaused). It might not work very well in theodicy (after all, God would still be creating these systems that have a substantial and assignable probability of sinning etc.), but at least it would be an advance in explanation. But we don't have anything like that.

Without something like that, saying that the system or the "agent" caused the phi-ing seems like hand-waving. The system could equally have caused psi-ing.

Neil said...

The point, Russell, is that the gap is one which we have to countenance. Our physics commits us to it. Leibniz advanced the principle of sufficient reason against undeterminisn. He was wrong; the principle would be intellectually satisfying but the world ain't like that. Given that the principle can't be satisfied but physical explanations remain perfectly sound, the incompatibilist can't be accused of offering inadequate explanations. (by the way, this has been useful for me- I found myself mire sympathetic to libertarians for setting out their case, which I knew beforehand but had never set out. I remain what I call a pessimistic compatibilist: there is no free will but the causal structure of the universe has nothing to with it).

Russell Blackford said...

Okay, okay, I guess we're running out of steam here, but I'm glad you're finding the discussion the useful. So am I so I'll have at least one more go at what's bothering me. I'll need two comments cause what I want to say is quite long.

We agree that there is a gap, according to this theory, which is the main point that I was trying to establish.

Now there's a further issue about whether we just have to accept a gap like this. Well, perhaps it will turn out to be so - there's an empirical question as to whether the human brain is an indeterminate system.

But we shouldn't be too quick, in the absence of compelling scientific data to draw that conclusion. When I find some time, I'll read the book that you keep recommending to me. But I'd also like to know what actual neuroscientists think of the book. Do they believe, having read the book, that the human brain is an indeterminate system in this way or that some sort of powerful case has been put that it must be?

Irrespective of that, the thing is: it's pretty worrying to think that the human brain might be something like an electron or a phton when the latter behaves in some way or other and physicist say there is no cause for it acting in that way rather than the other way it could have acted (there are no hidden variables that decide it). In the latter case, at least we can say that the electron has some statistical probability of phi-ing rather than psi-ing, but we can't even say that about Adam's brain when he chooses to eat the apple (or Belinda's when she chooses to cheat on her exam, or Carolyn's when she chooses to take money from the till, or David's when he chooses to drive over the speed limit).

In the case of human beings, it looks at first glance as if we do, indeed, have hidden variables, or not so hidden variables, that bring about the outcome. Unlike the photon or the electon, the brain has an internal physical structure. It also has a psychological structure that supervenes on the physical structure - so, Adam has certain dispositions of character, pro-attitudes, principles of choice, values, etc., which supervene on the internal structure of his brain and which came about through some causal process that moulded his brain (perhaps he was created in that way by a god or perhaps it's a result of his genetic potential expressed in an environment that has involved certain intra-uterine conditions, certain socialisation, etc.).

Now, Adam, with this internal structure to his brain and certain supervening psychological properties (perhaps his love of Eve and his unwillingness to be separated from her) chooses to eat the apple. His choice flows from and is caused by the fact of this physical and psychological structure.

Except, that the theory we are discussing proposes that he might just as well not have eaten the apple, even though his physical and psychological structure caused him to eat it! If we replayed the tape, with nothing changed about the internal structure and inputs that caused him to eat the apple, we might see him not eat the apple!

Russell Blackford said...

But we shouldn't be too quick, in the absence of compelling scientific data to draw that conclusion. When I find some time, I'll read the book that you keep recommending to me. But I'd also like to know what actual neuroscientists think of the book. Do they believe, having read the book, that the human brain is an indeterminate system in this way or that some sort of powerful case has been put that it must be?

Irrespective of that, the thing is: it's pretty worrying to think that the human brain might be something like an electron or a phton when the latter behaves in some way or other and physicist say there is no cause for it acting in that way rather than the other way it could have acted (there are no hidden variables that decide it). In the latter case, at least we can say that the electron has some statistical probability of phi-ing rather than psi-ing, but we can't even say that about Adam's brain when he chooses to eat the apple (or Belinda's when she chooses to cheat on her exam, or Carolyn's when she chooses to take money from the till, or David's when he chooses to drive over the speed limit).

In the case of human beings, it looks at first glance as if we do, indeed, have hidden variables, or not so hidden variables, that bring about the outcome. Unlike the photon or the electon, the brain has an internal physical structure. It also has a psychological structure that supervenes on the physical structure - so, Adam has certain dispositions of character, pro-attitudes, principles of choice, values, etc., which supervene on the internal structure of his brain and which came about through some causal process that moulded his brain (perhaps he was created in that way by a god or perhaps it's a result of his genetic potential expressed in an environment that has involved certain intra-uterine conditions, certain socialisation, etc.).

Russell Blackford said...

Now, Adam, with this internal structure to his brain and certain supervening psychological properties (perhaps his love of Eve and his unwillingness to be separated from her) chooses to eat the apple. His choice flows from and is caused by the fact of this physical and psychological structure.

Except, that the theory we are discussing proposes that he might just as well not have eaten the apple, even though his physical and psychological structure caused him to eat it! If we replayed the tape, with nothing changed about the internal structure and inputs that caused him to eat the apple, we might see him not eat the apple!

Now, you might want to say that "contra-causal" is not the correct word for this, but apart from the fact that it's mysterious why he eats the apple in one case and declines to eat the apple in the other case when we replay the tape ... it's at least weirdly causal. The very same internal structure that caused phi-ing can still be there, and yet the result when we replay the tape is psi-ing.

Maybe neuroscientists and physicists will establish one day that that's just how it is - for whatever reason (maybe the brain is like an evolved Schrodinger's cat apparatus, dependent on quantum effects for its macrolevel outputs). If that's how it turns out, empirically, that's how turns out. But if so this is going to be a weird theory of free will. It can turn out that Adam had all the dispositions of character and all the neuro-structure for declining to eat the apple - yet, for no reason that we can specify, not even something probabilistic about the state of his brain (or not something we can ever specify) he ate the apple rather than declining it!

My explanation marks in this comment signify my incredulity about analogies with Kant and consequentialism, and I guess, my urging that you don't kind of swallow this theory too quickly or underestimate just how mysterious it all is. I agree that causation is mysterious in any event, but this theory, with its nasty gap between system structure and outcome, and between outcome and anterior conditions of the system, seems to compound the mystery.

[actually took me 3 comments - oops]

Russell Blackford said...

And I really mean "indeterministic" not "indeterminate", but the above was all written quickly. Apologies for any other such slips.

Neil said...

Here's the difference between us, I think. You think that if the explanation offered by libertarians is all we can offer, then there is something inexplicable about (some) actions, whereas I think that the explanation is a perfectly good one. Where we agree, I think, is that we don't need the libertarian story to be true in order to be free. You think it subtracts from freedom (this view is known as Hobartian compatibilism; perhaps we should rename it Novacastrian compatibilism), whereas I think it fails to add to freedom.

Russell Blackford said...

Okay, cool. Good discussion!

RichardW said...

I found this discussion very interesting. Thank you. But I'm afraid I ended up none the wiser. Despite further reading on the internet (e.g. the relevant SEP entries) I can still make little sense of what agent-causationists are saying. They seem to use words like "agent" and "reasons" in a way that is incomprehensible to me. I suppose that's because I take a "naturalized" approach to philosophy. When I see such words I'm not willing to merely read them intuitively. I insist on looking deeper and asking, for example, "what is an agent?". And then I see an agent as a physical body/brain and motivations as brain states (as apparently does Russell). This approach seems the one most compatible with current scientific knowledge and methods. And it seems to render agent-causation accounts incomprehensible.

This started off as a discussion about terminology. It would be useful to have a term for views which attempt to preserve our intuitive feelings about free will. If "contra-causal free will" causes problems (and I've never felt comfortable with it) then what alternative would be better? I think it will have to be vague, because the concept in question is vague. Perhaps "strong free will" would do.

Russell Blackford said...

I wonder whether Jerry has been following it.

RichardW said...

A further thought. Some of the discussion here seemed to centre on a difference over the meaning of "not caused". Suppose that atomic decay really is fundamentally stochastic, and that the decay (or not) of an atom in a given period is not predetermined by any antecedent states. I suspect an agent-causationist would say that the decay was caused (by properties of the atom) but not predetermined. I think Russell would want to say it's not caused, because it's not predetermined. But then I think Russell is using "not caused" as a synonym for "not predetermined" while the agent-causationist is using it to mean something more.

If my interpetation is correct, it would be better to focus on the word "predetermined". But if (as I think the agent-causationist would say) the agent's choice (to phi rather than psi) was not predetermined (and therefore not predetermined by any property of the agent), then it seems hard to see how the choice can be attributed to the agent. I think that's the fundamental objection to strong free will, and it seems to apply to any model of the mind (monist, dualist, emergentist, etc). We might agree that some property of the agent made each outcome possible (as in the case of atomic decay). But that still leaves the actual choice between the two outcomes unattributable to anything (including the agent).