Thursday, November 16, 2023

The Return of the Determinists

Physicist Lawrence M. Krauss writes:
The Return of the Creationists

How can we expect political sense or reason from people who cannot distinguish empirical reality from ancient myth?

I have spent so much of the past few years publicly bemoaning the anti-free-speech craziness — driven mostly by the Left — at American universities and scientific institutions, that I had almost forgotten that, in the not-too-distant past, the most severe threat to rational discourse and policy came from religious fundamentalists.

The pendulum is not yet swinging back, but there are worrying signs that it might. Last month Mike Johnson was elected Speaker of the US House of Representatives, a role that puts him third in line to the presidency. That Johnson’s political and social views are extremely right wing, and that he was a strong supporter of Donald Trump’s efforts to invalidate the results of the 2020 election are well known — but, even more worryingly, he espouses a fundamentalist Biblical literalism, which informs all his views on policy issues.

I remember scientists getting hysterical about Creationism, but now that the dust has settled, where was the harm?

Why would he be worried that Johnson wanted a fair election? Trump merely used lawful processes to challenge the election procedures that were rigged against him.

Johnson’s ideological intransigence may hamper an effective response to foreign conflicts, including those in Israel and Ukraine, and the government’s ability to meet looming deadlines on borrowing. And the fundamental problems that will more profoundly affect American health, welfare, and national security in this century all call for technological solutions based on the real world, not an imagined one. Can a Speaker of the House who treats the Bible as a scientific document rationally address the real challenges the United States faces today?

We can only hope that he heeds the admonition of St. Augustine, who wrote two millennia ago, “We must be on our guard against giving interpretations which are hazardous or opposed to science, and so exposing the word of God to the ridicule of unbelievers.”

It was more like 1600 years ago. St. Augustine was a big defender of free will, among other things.

But Krauss has recently come out as firmly in favor of determinism and firmly against all forms of free will.

If you do not believe in free will, then what is the point of trying to analyze how someone else makes decisions? No one makes any decisions. Everything is determined from conditions eons ago, and there is no point getting excited about it. Nothing you or anyone decides will make any difference on anything.

Krauss says someone who believes in the Bible cannot rationally face today's challenges. I say that anyone who believes in determinism is much worse.

A determinist cannot possibly have a rational opinion about anything. He is just a preprogrammed bot, like ChatGPT. Yes, he can impress us with his expertise, but he is incapable of human judgments.

I do not know how much Johnson accepts Biblical dogma. But Krauss accepts the much more pernicious dogma of determinism.

Whenever these physicists and rationalists talk politics, they don't sound at all rational to me. They are all Trump-haters and anti-Republican, but they can never articulate any way in which Pres. Biden has been better than Pres. Trump.

For example, Krauss says his big issue has been "anti-free-speech craziness". It is the Biden administration that got a judge to issue a gag order against Trump publicly arguing for his innocence. It is currently under appeal. Trump faces five trials, and they are nearly all for him making statements that have always been considered to be within his free speech rights. So if free speech is your issue, and you are rational, then you will almost certainly support Trump.

The current trial is for Trump exaggerating some property values. But Trump has a free speech right to exaggerate all he wants, unless he is cheating someone out of money, and no one has alleged that. The next trial is will be for having a business record of paying a lawyer without detailing why. Again, he has a free speech right to abbreviate his records all he wants, unless there is some sort of illegal fraud going on, and no one alleges that. The third trial will be Trump saying that the election was stolen, and the fourth trial will be for Trump asking Georgia officials to do a recount. The fifth trial will be for retaining copies of White House documents.

Anyone who believes in free speech must side with Trump. Even the left-wing ACLU has sided with Trump against the gag order.

But Krauss says he has no free will, so he could not support Trump even if he wanted to.


  1. As I recall, many a 'scientific' physicist or scientist has played around with the idea the universe is artificial, some sort of computer simulation, due to the very improbable requirements and conditions for life to even be remotely possible. I believe much of the intent hidden in the Many Worlds interpretation theory is an attempt to dilute this high improbability by throwing our universe into a basket with an infinite number of other universes to choose from to make an argument that goes something like: "Well, our universe is very unlikely, BUT since there are an infinite number of them to choose from, it's bound to happen."

    I'm scratching my head as to why ancient beliefs that the universe was created are somehow so terrible and bad, when positing the universe is a simulation is not, especially considering the limited data earlier people had...compared to the pedigreed pinheads now who really don't have the same excuse.

    Science at the end of the day, is a story, based on the best we know or can tell or make up from the data available up until that moment. MANY scientific-y sounding ideas have turned out to be complete crap, even if they were aesthetically 'beautiful' and taught for decades in high energy physics courses at university (I'm looking at YOU Super Symmetry and Super Silly Strings).

    As to Krauss's denying free will, Please remember that much like autistic scientists who posit the universe is a static two dimensional surface, and then boldly go make graphs looking at it (from a distance no less) moving and deforming in three dimensions, Krauss removes himself from the equation (there being no free will) when he makes his pronouncements. Simply realize that super smart people who know more than you are not held to whatever restrictions of existence they propose for everyone else, whether those restrictions be economic, political, or scientific.

    You can confabulate absolutely anything (static two dimensional universes, Many Worlds Interpretation, Singularities with infinite mass, etc.) when the observer is NOT bound by the rules of whatever is postulated and can somehow observe said postulated entity outside of time. This isn't even remotely a valid scientific perspective for an observer and should always be discarded on principle, but oh well.

  2. Per Turley, the NY law does not require that anyone lost money or that anyone was a victim. Very unique, very dumb, and being used unfairly to target DT.

    1. Yes, but that conflicts with free speech rights to say whatever he wants, as long as it is not hurting anyone. It will be interesting to see a higher court address that issue.

    2. Agree that law is very problematic and could be struck down. But the suit seems to be valid. Preposterously unfair, of course.

    3. The suit is valid if you agree with one political party finding obscure and absurd laws to prosecute political enemies.

    4. I only mean that Trump faces actual legal risk. I agree that it is a ridiculous law.