2. Determinism. Lou Jost and other readers on this site have argued that behavior (and evolution) might not be deterministic because they’re affected by quantum-mechanical considerations. When I used the word “determinism” in the past, I suppose I was a bit inaccurate: what I meant was that behavior is determined by physical processes, both deterministic and quantum-mechanical, i.e., that there is nothing to our behavior beyond physics. I should have used “materialism” rather than “determinism”!They are doubting the role of quantum mechanics. There is no understanding of molecular biology without quantum mechanics, and there hasn't been for nearly a century.
Now I’m not quite convinced that quantum mechanics plays a real role in both our decision-making or in the course of evolution. Can our “choices” really be affected by nondeterministic motions of molecules? And is mutation, a crucial factor in setting the course of evolution, really affected by quantum mechanics? I remain agnostic on these issues and am doing some reading to get up to speed.
Stenger does some interesting calculations to show that neurotransmission in the brain cannot be affected by quantum-mechanical events, and so in that respect the operation of our brain is truly deterministic
I don't think it helps his argument to replace the word “determinism” with “materialism”. I guess that he trying to imply that he accepts quantum mechanics but not religion, because common interpretations of quantum mechanics are not deterministic. But they are not materialist either! Physicists even call them "spooky" to emphasize how they are contrary to materialist intuition.
I am not religious, but these attacks on religion are not grounded in legitimate science. I agree with John Horgan, who writes:
I’m nonetheless going out on a limb and guessing that science will never, ever answer what I call “The Question”: Why is there something rather than nothing? You might think this prediction is safe to the point of triviality, but certain prominent scientists are claiming not merely that they can answer The Question but that they have already done so. ...In the comments, Krauss protests that he "didn’t make any definitive claims", as if that excuses him from trying to write a scientific book on a religious subject.
But Krauss asks us to take the quantum theory of creation seriously, and so does evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. “Even the last remaining trump card of the theologian, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?,’ shrivels up before your eyes as you read these pages,” Dawkins writes in an afterword to Krauss’s book. “If On the Origin of Species was biology’s deadliest blow to supernaturalism, we may come to see A Universe From Nothing as the equivalent from cosmology.”
Whaaaa…??!! Dawkins is comparing the most enduringly profound scientific treatise in history to a pop-science book that recycles a bunch of stale ideas from physics and cosmology. This absurd hyperbole says less about the merits of Krauss’s derivative book than it does about the judgment-impairing intensity of Dawkins’s hatred of religion. ...
Science has told us so much ... But when scientists insist that they have solved, or will soon solve, all mysteries, including the biggest mystery of all, they do a disservice to science; they become the mirror images of the religious fundamentalists they despise.
"there is nothing to our behavior beyond physics"ReplyDelete
How does he prove that?
Many popular pundits seem to acquire their popularity, at least in part, by sweeping aside doubt, uncertainty and legitimate boundaries. Yet for scientists, doubt is surely fundamental.