Friday, July 12, 2019

Most physicists deny determinism

Quillette has an essay on determinism:
Albert Einstein disagreed. He believed everything in the universe to be pre-determined, including the result of a coin toss, and the roll of a die. Einstein and his contemporary Niels Bohr engaged in a public scholarly rivalry over their differing interpretations of quantum mechanics. ...

Today, most professional physicists believe that processes at the sub-atomic scale don’t always occur in a definite, linked sequence of cause and effect events. The future cannot be precisely known or determined from the present. Nevertheless, some intellectuals remain loyalists to Einstein’s view. ...

The quarrel over biology comes down to something very simple; determinists hope to obtain the clearest possible picture of what is currently happening and what will happen next. ... Many—if not the majority of—intellectuals do indeed believe that there’s something wrong with this, because they understand the profundity of the philosophical and cultural revolution that has occurred. ...

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many intellectuals dislike the idea that biology plays a determinative role in human affairs. With a DNA-driven view of the social world, we risk resigning ourselves to fatalism. Our future is no longer written in the stars. Now it’s written in our DNA. ...

Sam Harris has adamantly argued against the existence of free will. ... This view is actually very close to the majority of philosophers and scientists who think about such things. ...
So this is really what most intellectuals think about determinism and free will?

All scientific theories are partially deterministic. The past allows us to make predictions about the future, but never with perfect certainty. Most physicists believe that quantum mechanics precludes predictions with perfect certainty.

It appears that DNA determines a lot more than most people are willing to admit. But it does not determine everything. Identical twins are not identical.

Jerry Coyne promises to write a rebuttal. He is especially perturbed by the idea that people are better off if they believe in free will.

Isn't that obvious? The main people who do not believe in free will are schizophrenics, Moslems, Commies, and philosophers.

1 comment:

  1. Free will is an issue from the consciousness/spiritual side of man (and by extension, all living beings, though to a far lesser, almost insignificant, extent). Determinism vs. indeterminism is an issue about the nature of the physical universe---which concept does include the physical aspects of the integrated being that is man (and all living beings).

    The two aspects (material and spiritual) are two different attributes of man. Each man has both, but they still are independent of each other (i.e. are orthogonal to each other). Thus, it would be possible to have physical determinism governing the material aspects of man but also at the same time, free will for the actions of his consciousness (and I would argue, even for all his living actions qua a living being).

    On the material side, to settle the question of determinism vs. indeterminism, one has to take into account the all important distinction of a physical law vs. a physical system. Laws are always deterministic, but nonlinear systems are indeterministic. I covered this all important distinction (not grasped by many) in my blog post here: , and in the blog-post just before this.

    Funny, but often, people who deny free will also are all too willing to ascribe consciousness to purely material (i.e. nonliving physical) objects (e.g. AI machines). That's logical, given their view of consciousness.