Do we fear determinism for the same reason we fear atheism?

A rambling post today. Fuzzy brained and foot loose!

 

  I was recently thinking about the concept of free will. It's an idea that has always bothered me, like a tickle at the back of the throat. I firmly believe in cause and effect. I firmly believe in the laws of physics and what they imply. So without an outside force, it makes sense that everything is controlled very directly by these laws. Including us. The logic behind it is fairly simple. I'm guessing it's the complexity of existence and the relative simplicity of our minds that makes choice such a plausible illusion. But an illusion is what it must be.

 

   This used to scare me. Deep down, I do not actively enjoy the idea of being so mundane and effectually predictable. Trapped. And in my mind, nothing special. Accepting that there's nothing beyond death was easy. Accepting the fact that I am a huge equation was much harder. After all, I chose what I valued and valued choice for itself.

 

  I spent a long time letting the idea sink past my emotions and into my more rational core. Eventually I decided that it didn't matter. How I make a choice, be it simply chemical predetermined or an active and separate process, matters much less than what my choice does. If my actions make the world better in some way my goal has been accomplished. And thinking back on this fear now, I can understand the desire to reject the idea of determinism altogether. Anything that removes our safety nets and makes us feel small tends to be met with the same resistance. Science gets the brunt of this reaction, but determinism falls right in with plenty of people.

 

   So with all this in mind, I wonder what other people think on the subject. Is it frightening to think of yourself as an eventuality? Has anyone come across anything contrary to the idea of determinism? Do we perhaps agree? Thoughts, please!

Views: 277

Tags: determinism, fate, free, will

Comment by Arcus on June 20, 2011 at 11:51am

I wouldn't search physics alone for answers to the question of free will/determinism. Neuroscience will probably provide better answers since it's also within the realm of behavioral sciences.

My thought is that "life" can possibly be defined as the ability to consciously manipulate the laws of physics. We are physically constrained by them, but not our consciousness.

Comment by Chris Townsend on June 20, 2011 at 12:43pm

Hi Atheist Exile,

 

I will give a practical example that is not entirely based on quantum mechanics (it somewhat is), would be our understanding of electronegativity and quantum level particles that has led us to our current models vs historical man.  Let us consider lightening striking, for instance.  It is easy for me to imagine from the literature pre-20th century that most people believed that lightening striking is completely random.  We have since come to learn that it is not random but could be predicted if one could accurately measure the density of electronegative pouches within a cloud formed from the charge separation and then determine the path of least resistance from that point to the earth.  So, in this sense, it was once believed to be random but now we know that it is in fact not random.  If one takes a moment to consider this idea, I am sure you can think of several more similar examples :)  

 

We should also remember that in science, models are based upon mathematics and mathematics are universal, hence, we can often expect to see similar mathematical models applied across levels of reality.  One example of this that translates to any complex non-linear system is the Butterfly Effect which stems from Chaos Theory (the application of which crosses many disciplines).  Just take a few moments to read through the wiki articles that I linked and put that in context with my initial post and hopefully that should appease your interest and be proof enough.  

 

The only point I was making was that too often, an initial observation that appears to be random, eventually turns out to have been acted upon by unseen/unknown/unmeasurable forces at that time.  

 

I have listed some other theories that lie in various positions within a spectrum of relevancy to this idea of pseudo-randomness and IMO are very interesting:

 

String Theory but more precisely how it relates to Quantum Entanglement and the "Many-Worlds Interpretation" Postulate.

 

Our measuring of these systems (our reality): The EPR Paradox, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and the Schrodinger Equation (specifically, it's relation to Path Integral Formulation).

 

Also, a brief look at Quantum Chromodynamics might also provide some decent foundational understanding when considering the above ideas.

 

So, measurable vs unmeasurable, predictable vs unpredictable, random vs non-random vs pseudo-random.  We must always keep each of these perspectives in mind and consider every angle of reality :)

 

I hope that suffices...clear as mud???  haha

 

@ Mo - The ignorance that emanates (on so many levels) from that statement...well, it makes me embarrassed for you...dude, grow up...

Comment by Chris Townsend on June 20, 2011 at 1:02pm

@ Arcus - Neuroscience and physics both are great approaches, as well as cellular molecular biology and biochemistry to name a couple more :)  

 

The idea that consciousness is simply energy and that all energy is inherently linked, therefor the idea of a universal consciousness is not such a far-out notion.  

 

Check this: Consciousness, Physics, and the Holographic Paradigm

 

Also, and interesting study that is somewhat related: Global Consciousness Project

 

And considering the inter-relation and inter-dependancy between energy and matter, is it really so crazy to speculate that there might be something to altering the external world via internal/conscious effort?  Maybe...maybe not...something to think about though :)

 

Comment by Arcus on June 20, 2011 at 1:03pm

"we can often expect to see similar mathematical models applied across levels of reality.  One example of this that translates to any complex non-linear system is the Butterfly Effect which stems from Chaos Theory (the application of which crosses many disciplines)."

Mathematics only apply to the one reality we know. However many disciplines studies this one reality is therefore unrelated to mathematics being applicable across several realities. There's no evidence for other realities than ours, though it's not theoretically impossible as far as I know. Lastly, believing another reality interfering in ours is absolutely without evidence.

Comment by Chris Townsend on June 20, 2011 at 1:19pm

Arcus,

 

"Mathematics only apply to the one reality we know. However many disciplines studies this one reality is therefore unrelated to mathematics being applicable across several realities."  = I agree with you.  

 

Reread - "we can often expect to see similar mathematical models applied across levels of [the one] reality."  Sorry if that was confusing.  

 

"There's no evidence for other realities than ours, though it's not theoretically impossible as far as I know.  Lastly, believing another reality interfering in ours is absolutely without evidence."  Actually, it is quite theoretically possible.  I would encourage you to read up on M-theory which suggests that our reality (still one reality) is composed of as many as 11 dimensions.  Maybe, we should delineate between "reality as we know it" and "reality as it exists beyond what we currently understand".

Comment by Arcus on June 20, 2011 at 1:23pm

I'm actually reading a very enlightening article regarding the subject now regarding free will at least being heavily constrained by brain chemistry. 

Alan T. Williams does not appear to be a physicist or a scientist, and I'm not spending time reading the link since he is as unqualified as I am to have a valid opinion on the matter.

What would you consider a "level" of an intertwined reality?

Comment by Kirsten on June 20, 2011 at 3:32pm
I step away for the weekend and come back to lots of responses; nice!

Reading through this, I only have a few comments.

As to determinism = no point in talking about it: why would it matter..? Even if I'm just a pre-written part playing out the lines, it doesn't *feel* like it to me. That's what makes this so incredibly interesting.

As a human, I have feelings, and that is what allows me to live beyond my genetic desire to reproduce. Because I know that is the why of my existence. Self replication leads to self replication. So determinism doesn't seem any worse to me than that fact.

Also; if quantum randomness is true and not just part of a larger and undiscovered pattern (I'm thinking this is more likely, but I am no physicist), what part does that play in human cognition? Does it upscale to directly allow for free will, or partial free will, or have no measurable effect at all? I'm guessing it will be a while before they can do more than say it's possible, maybe.

I'm sticking with "knowable" reality as far as this question goes. Otherwise epistemology is going to rear it's glorious head and turn all our thoughts to mush. Heck, maybe you're all just my dream! Or whatever. I'll let you know how my learning to fly by will alone goes. =p
Comment by Chris Townsend on June 20, 2011 at 3:54pm

Interesting article :)  In my doctoral level Neuroscience class we covered in great detail anatomy and neurochemistry and how these inter-relate and the manifestatons of various states of each.  There is much that we do know and so many of these observations and theories are well documented within the scientific community.  I would suggest doing some searches on neuroimaging and anatomical variations in people with specific personality traits (like ones mentioned in your article).  It is surprising what we do know...and what we do not...lol 

 

In addition to Kluver-Bucy Syndrome, you might want to look into Phineas Gage's story.  We learned much about the role of the frontal lobe from his case.  

 

Personally, on a separate note, I am particularly fascinated with the amygdala and the hippocampus.  :)

 

As far as the link to Alan T. Williams' site.  I agree that we do not know what his credentials are, however, I felt comfortable linking it because his presentation of the theoretical science is solid and he has decent sources (presented at the bottom of this page) as well as an obvious thorough knowledge of the scientific theories as they relate to the topic at hand.  Much like a Wiki article, I liked it because it was a good one-stop spot for the information we were discussing.  I trusted your ability to weed out anything that he might present as his personal theory formed from the accepted theory he presents. He presents well-known theories by "credible" peeps and the page is a great launching point for further researching on the web from sources you may trust regarding those theories.

 

"What would you consider a "level" of an intertwined reality?" - Well, the first thing that comes to mind is more of an intertwining of dimensional levels, but I didn't intend that in my initial statement.  I should have more accurately stated, "we can often expect to see similar mathematical models applied across scientific disciplines and their study/exploration/qualification/quantification of [the one] reality."

 

I really do try to communicate well...hahaha...just keep pressing me if ever I am ambiguous in what I present.  I don't mind clarifying as needed  :)

 

@ Kristen - "Even if I'm just a pre-written part playing out the lines, it doesn't *feel* like it to me. That's what makes this so incredibly interesting."  Check out the role of the amygdala and how it relates to all of this.  Like Arcus was saying, this is the aspect of this conversation in which you may be specifically interested.  Try searching terms like, "role of amygdala", "free will", "consciousness", "neuroimaging", "origin of emotion", "pathological manifestations" etc, etc...you might find some interesting stuff.  If you still can't find much, let me know and I will be happy to see if I can't find some cool stuff for you.  :)

 

"Also; if quantum randomness is true and not just part of a larger and undiscovered pattern (I'm thinking this is more likely, but I am no physicist), what part does that play in human cognition? Does it upscale to directly allow for free will, or partial free will, or have no measurable effect at all? I'm guessing it will be a while before they can do more than say it's possible, maybe." =  Great questions!  And, I am also guessing that it may be a while...lol...

Comment by Arcus on June 20, 2011 at 4:54pm

"Well, the first thing that comes to mind is more of an intertwining of dimensional levels"

That is quite unrelated to reality. It is still within the same reality, it's just a different field in the reality. Perhaps your other non-intertwined reality which operate by the same divinity is typing the same thing to another version of me in the same place but the temperature is -298 Kelvin? ;)

Comment by Chris Townsend on June 20, 2011 at 6:02pm

"That is quite unrelated to reality. It is still within the same reality, it's just a different field in the reality." = You do realize you contradict yourself in this statement.  A different field within the "same reality" would naturally be related to that same reality.  I think we already agreed that there is only one reality despite its composition. Anyways, you are quite entitled to your perspective if that is how you see it.

 

"...your other non-intertwined reality..." = Not sure where in our conversation you are getting this from.  I thought we agreed that there was only one reality and I never suggested there is another "non-intertwined reality".

 

"...which operate by the same divinity..." = Not really sure why you are bringing the word "divinity" into this conversation, much less, suggesting this "divinity" is mine since I have not alluded to any such preposterous notion.  

 

"...-298 Kelvin?" = Ahh, well...not really sure what you are getting at with the reference to absolute zero, however, I can say that for the sake of this thread, I am more than happy to relegate our future interaction to the same state as every particle which finds itself existing at this temperature. 

 

Feel free to clarify your above statement if you think it will be productive, no worries if not.  :)

 

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