Perhaps I should expand on my thoughts a little bit.
First, to clarify the two types of fate on my mind a bit further. There may be other conceptions of fate, but these are the two that are most relevant, I believe.
1) Fate is when every state of the universe, which includes the state of all objects within the universe, is completely determined by the immediately preceding state of the universe. At any given time, there is only one possible state of the universe. There is no free will, volition, or even randomness. If one had the necessary information, they may be able to predict every future state of the universe.
2) Fate is when the state of your life is beyond your control. You may believe this because everything is following a divine plan, or you might have a naturalistic account of the world that does not include free will.
The second is what I think is mostly being discussed here, and I think it is more tenable than some others seem to. Take, for example, jeff's example of getting hit by a bus.
You begin with the question: Why did you get hit by a bus? Well, you didn't see it. Why didn't you see it? You were looking elsewhere. Why were you looking elsewhere? Because your attention was drawn to something else. You can keep going backwards and propose causes for each preceding event, constructing a story wherein there is actually no need to propose what is sometimes called contra-causal free will.
There is additional evidence against free will from neuroscience. Starting with Benjamin Libet, and recently confirmed by John-Dylan Haynes, we have seen that on a simple question such as "Choose to move your left hand or right hand", your response can be predicted from your brain state with fMRI as much as 6 seconds prior to your having consciously made the decision. A potential implication of this research is that consciousness is like a shallow reflection of deeply deterministic and strictly causal processes which drive your every decision, in such a way that "you" (your consciousness) are not making a decision in the way we often explain it. You're not driving the bus; you are the bus.
Granted, this implication is not yet confirmed. Many neuroscientists and philosophers of mind argue that there is an important distinction between low-level processes and higher-level thinking. They argue that there is little similarity between choosing left vs right and choosing between, say, competing economic interests. Simple thinking like left vs right underlies the more complex thinking, wherein free will does actually reign supreme. However, when I take a broad historical perspective, it looks to me like a case of free will retreating to ever smaller quarters, explaining ever fewer states of mind.
Also, on the second type of fate from a religious perspective, it seems comforting to some to believe that there is some ultimate cosmic reason why things are happening the way they are ("It's all for the best"). However, that seems like wishful thinking until I really have reason to believe otherwise. It's a bit too Panglossian.
Last edited by Ligeia; 09-28-2011 at 12:46 PM.