Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Atomic laws are not deterministic

Evolutionist Jerry Coyne is on a free will rant again:
[Scott] Aaronson thinks there’s a real and important question in the free-will debates, but argues that that question is not whether physical determinism of our thoughts and actions be true, but whether they are predictable. ...

What I meant was “physical determinism” in the sense of “our behavior obeys the laws of physics”, not that it is always PREDICTABLY determined in advance. ...

As he says at 4:15, “My view is that I don’t care about determinism if it can’t be cashed out into actual predictability.”

This seems to me misguided, conflating predictability with the question of determinism. ...

What I care about is whether determinism be true. And I think it is, though of course I can’t prove it. All I can say is that the laws of physics don’t ever seem to be violated, and, as Sean Carroll emphasizes, the physics of everyday life is completely known. ...

What I meant was “physical determinism” in the sense of “our behavior obeys the laws of physics”, not that it is always PREDICTABLY determined in advance. ...

I’m doing my best to explain what seems obvious to me: we are material creatures made of atoms; our behaviors and actions stem from the arrangement of those atoms in our brains, and those atoms must obey the laws of physics. Therefore, our behaviors and actions must obey the laws of physics, and are “deterministic” in that sense. We are, in effect, robots made of meat, with a really sophisticated onboard guidance system. I know many people don’t like that notion, but I think that, given the laws of physics, it’s ineluctable.
I have to side with Aaronson here, and wonder what Coyne even means by "the laws of physics".

Of course the laws of physics are not violated. If they were, then they would not be laws of physics. Saying that does not tell us anything about free will.

Saying that we are made of atoms that obey the laws of physics is an odd argument for determinism. Our best theories about atoms are not deterministic.

Carroll has his own problems, as he believes in many-worlds.


  1. Whether you like Bohmian mechanics or not, it gives us a deterministic map of the world and it can be made compatible with relativity:

    Free will has absolutely nothing to do with predictability but choice. A dictionary definition: "the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate." But what is fate or necessity but determinism? Don't get the idea of free will confused with the political or personal idea of freedom. Totally different subject.

  2. Yes, Bohmian mechanics is a deterministic theory that predicts indeterminism. That is a minus, not a plus.

    Bohmian mechanics cannot be made compatible with relativistic causality.

    1. Your title is misleading: "As much as any classical theory of point particles moving under force fields, then, Bohm's theory is deterministic. Amazingly, he was also able to show that, as long as the statistical distribution of initial positions and velocities of particles are chosen so as to meet a 'quantum equilibrium' condition, his theory is empirically equivalent to standard Copenhagen QM. In one sense this is a philosopher's nightmare: with genuine empirical equivalence as strong as Bohm obtained, it seems experimental evidence can never tell us which description of reality is correct."

    2. "Bohmian mechanics cannot be made compatible with relativistic causality."

      Many suggest otherwise. That's why I posted the link. You might have a naive idea of what is meant by nonlocality.