Essentially if all things have a cause (quantum counts) then everything we do and/or are is hypothetically possible to trace back to either the Big Bang or a consequence thereof. This means that we are not people making decitions but physical reactions in a biological framework.

What are the implications of this if true?
Is it true?
How would it be falsifiable?
What are the contrasts to the deterministic view?

Tags: determinism, fate, philosophy

Views: 521

Replies to This Discussion

No two pieces of popcorn are alike is what I always like to say.

Anyway, your argument amounts to basically this: the complexity of things prevents us from analyzing and understanding the determinism which is there, and that this is where free will hides. In our ignorance. But in the gross everyday (non quantum) world, as far as we know, every process we can analyze reveals deterministic physical laws. The complexity of analyzing some things in no way implies "freedom" elsewhere.

We would never make a claim that a non-human process is somehow exempt from known physical laws simply due to the difficulty of analysis. The introduction of a human mind doesn't really change things so that free will magically appears.

The biggest problem with free will is that it's a muddy concept to start with. If you try to work up any kind of rigorous definition of it, I'm pretty sure you'll find the concept evaporating into meaninglessness.

Valid point. I thought about what I had said there later and felt that I did not follow through with it enough, applying those general concepts in nature to human nature. Doing so may still not make a difference to you. It sounds kind of like you are saying that if we are a product of nature, a result of the Big Bang and of evolution, then all that we are and experience is kind of a grandiose parlor trick. That despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage. My feeling is that a deterministic perception might liken a person to a rat in a maze, actually. There is one set of travel and twists and turns that will lead the rat to, for example, a food reward. I feel like, by comparison, the maze a human consciousness occupies is one with countless possible goals and possible routes beyond number as well. In addition I think that these are always varying at least to some degree from one instant to the next. I feel as though to the extent that we consciously endeavor to shape the course ahead, to the extent that we consciously do so as individuals, that we do not follow a simple preordained course. So to you that may still mean that we are rats in mazes. I feel like it has an element of autonomy and self determination though. Even the rat in the simple maze is vastly more complex and in flux than the fairly inviolable circumstances set before it, but the rat itself on its own has, I think, a great measure of autonomy as well.

I'm a determinist. I don't tout predetermination, preordination, or anything preceded with "pre." The future hasn't happened yet. As others have pointed out, quantum events might interrupt deterministic chains. But the response to such an interruption would be determined by Newtonian/Einsteinian physical laws, and doesn't in any way salvage free will.

The words "parlor trick" seems to imply a magician...God? I often describe God as a magical sorcerer, but only to make fun of the concept of God.

Citing complexity doesn't help the argument for free will. Any complex situation can, in principle, be analyzed down to simple components. Of course, it's difficult or impossible to do such an analysis, but even if we could, it would just make clear the determinism of nature.

Science—actual science by scientists—has demonstrated that choice are made in the preconscious mind, not in the conscious mind. That alone should tell you that there is no free will because no conscious thought or deliberation is involved. You aren't free because the conscious "you" has to live with decisions made unconsciously.

Even if, on the quantum level, events are not deterministic, if a quantum event has an effect on the gross Newtonian/Einsteinian level, that effect enters a deterministic world.

The biggest problem with the idea of free will though is this: what in the world does "will" mean? Probably the most potent meaning is embodied in movies like Poltergeist, Firestarter, or Carrie, where someone can make something happen remotely due to the strength of their thoughts or intentions.

We also use the word "will" in "will power," but there it's just a synonym for stick-to-it-iveness, grit, or determination. But that isn't what we mean by the "will" in "free will," either.

People are set on defending free will, a concept in search of a meaning.

Hello, Isaac. Chaos is mathematical, yes. I think of many of its implications, though. I feel as though in western culture a linear perception is deeply engrained in us while some aspects of chaos theory reveal some very different aspects to it all. And for myself I do feel that an element of randomness allows beings like us, if we are to be considered machines, to be spontaneous, which is where I think free will might be a real thing. If we were linear programmed machines we would have very limited courses. True and false, yes and no, left and right. As extremely complex "machines" imbued with random elements I feel that we can choose to lash out in any conceivable direction. I am not sure if that translates for you or if it eludes to how free will becomes possible but maybe it at least better shows you my line of thought on it.

All chaos theory means is that a seemingly innocuous action in one place can set off a chain of events with a seemingly (or measurably) greater consequence, in at least temporary apparent conflict with the notion that entropy rules the universe. But entropy is a global concept having no implications for local interactions. It's a trend.

And once again I remind you: randomness doesn't give us free will any more than determinism does. For "will" to have meaning, you need to believe in spiritual entities (souls) having miraculous powers to override the laws that govern everything else. If you believe the world is material in nature, not spiritual, then you're kind of stuck with physical laws.

I guess, I have a concern with the difference between 'what we think' and 'what is'. If what we 'think' is in one to one relationship with 'what is', I could understand a claim to certainty, but it seems clear that we do not. So I hold the door open to 'free will', and even the existence of some transendental conscience, but I could be just waiting for a toe to cut off sometime during the wait...LOL

Okay, define "will." programs with simple instructions and no random variables can lead to complex and beautiful patterns.

There's no better example than such fractals as The Mandelbrot Set.

Mike doesn't seem to get that randomness doesn't get him anywhere. He has yet to define "will" for us as well.

The notion of metaphysical freedom is unfortunately not clear.  Philosophers have been arguing this point for thousands of years. 


Epicurus believed that we were created from tiny "atoms" that behaved in regular and lawful ways, but were capable of the occasional "swerve" ie. acting on their own.


This is a quote from "Metaphysics The Elements" by Bruce Aune:


"According to him (Arthur Eddington) the fundamental laws governing the behavior of basic physical entities are irreducibly statistical and certain quantum transition involving those entities are inherently unpredictable and therefore undetermined by antecedent causes or conditions." (p. 188)


"According to the conception of metaphysical freedom, espoused by many contemporary philosophers, it is only when people act as "unmoved movers" that they truly act freely." (p.189)

Here's a rather tongue-in-cheek look at this idea. I read a while ago.


its a good read.

 Some deterministic ideas might be falsifiable if there was some deterministic model of prediction for human behavior, if given a set of controlled conditions, and pre-conditions such as mental state, genetics, memories, etc.  That particular model of behavior could be falsifiable, but determinism could not be falsifiable.  It could be argued under most conditions that there was some unobservable affector/s that causes any action.  It might require knowledge and observation of every force in existence to disprove determinism, similar to another theory this community is well aware of.


Support T|A

Think Atheist is 100% member supported

All proceeds go to keeping Think Atheist online.

Donate with Dogecoin


Discussion Forum

bad faith in the real world

Started by Keith Konecny May 23, 2013. 0 Replies

Blog Posts

I am tired

Posted by Philip Jarrett on April 18, 2014 at 12:09am 4 Comments


  • Add Videos
  • View All

Services we love

We are in love with our Amazon

Book Store!

Gadget Nerd? Check out Giz Gad!

Into life hacks? Check out

Advertise with

© 2014   Created by Dan.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service