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!

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Comment by Arcus on July 2, 2011 at 10:38am

@Chris: I think we disagree on an axiom (theism vs atheism), which is of course pretty much impossible to resolve since we both probably have weighed the arguments for at least 20-30 years. As long as you don't base neurosurgery on the knowledge gained from the Bible alone, I think we can compromise and agree to disagree. :)

@Atheist Exile: Admittedly my terminology is a bit weak, but I hope the essense of what I was going for is clear. I can give myself a psychosomatic migraine through sheer willpower which is untreatable by triptanes. In addition I have managed a few times to cure one using social consumption of alcohol, thc and/or nicotine. Though I doubt I could manage something as massive as schizofrenia without the aid of modern medicine. It is one of the reasons why Nash is one of my greatest heroes and his (and von Neuman's) game theoretical mathematics fascinates me - it is pure behavioral analysis. Add a bit of Freudian psychoanalysis and intercultural analysis, and you can understand how I percieve much of the world around me (I'm an expat plomped down in a culture very different from my own, it's a handy trait).  

Comment by Chris Townsend on July 2, 2011 at 1:21pm

@ Atheist Exile - "And I see you STILL haven't cited your sources." = Are you talking about sources for credible theories and peer reviewed research speaking to pseudo-randomness and such?  


If so, then you obviously have not been reading the links that I have put up in this discussion.  I gave you...what...5, 6, 7?? wiki articles that speak to many of the major physics theories regarding this and all the info you could want to know...look at the sources for those wiki articles...that is how many more???  


I gave you a peer reviewed research article on computational randomness and pointed you to the quote by the authors in the conclusion where they themselves said that it was impossible to prove randomness and so at best all we can truly settle for is the idea that things appear random, but they most probably are not.  


So, I have actually offered you many many sources to back my statements of the obvious.  When I stop and think about it, realize that you have not offered one single source for your assertions besides some guy's name.  So, to flip the script...


"As most modern physicists know, he was wrong." = Could you please link to some sources with these modern physicists?  


I truly believe I have sufficiently proven the credibility of my claims.  If I need to hold your hand and slowly walk you through every source I provided then I will.  If not, then please quit wasting my time with this unproductive drivel and move onto another thread.

Comment by Atheist Exile on July 4, 2011 at 3:09am

For Christ's sake, Chris, this is my last post to you until you quitting feigning ignorance and actually provide the source citations I've already requested twice.  I'll even repost those requests so you'll have no excuse for claiming ignorance . . .

Comment by Atheist Exile on June 20, 2011 at 1:10am
Hi Chris,

Would you cite your source for your assertion that the randomness in quantum physics was "later learned to have not truly been random at all" please?  That's news to me.

It doesn't matter to self-determinism if randomness does or does not exist.

Now, here's my second request . . .

Comment by Atheist Exile on June 21, 2011 at 1:14pm
Hi again, Chris,

I was referring to the same thing I referred to when I asked you to cite your sources.

Here's the assertion you made:

"Remember, that usually when it comes to our current understanding of any scientific observation at a given time that is initially contributed to "randomness" (ie- sub-quantum fluctuations) is later learned to have not truly been random at all."

You didn't cite you source and I'm confident you can't . . . but I could (embarrassingly) be wrong.  I'm certainly just a layman where quantum theory is concerned.

Just to show my goodwill, I will provide the citations you request -- even though you STILL haven't provided the citations I requested . . .

According to Wikipedia: in modern physics, "there is universal agreement that quantum mechanics appears random".  However, there is still debate (Copenhagen versus Many-worlds interpretations) over how measurement affects observation.

In my prior post, I referred to Michio Kaku's conviction that quantum randomness is a real property of reality and that those who attempt to invoke Einstein's distaste for it (God playing dice with the universe) need to face the fact that Einstein was wrong.  "Get over it" was his response to them.  Here's the video (click the link, then watch the video in the right side-bar of the home page) I was referring to in that citation.

And here's what other scientists have had to say about the topic . . .

Quantum mechanics gives us fundamental, unavoidable indeterminacy  ~Murray Gell-Mann

In relativity, movement is continuous, causally determinate and well defined, while in quantum mechanics it is discontinuous, not causally determinate and not well defined.  ~David Bohm


Writing about Alain Aspect's 1982 experiment to test Bell's Inequality, Paul Davis had this to say:

"The results left no doubt: Einstein was wrong. Quantum uncertainty can not be avoided. It is an integral feature of the quantum world and can not be reduced to something else. Naive representation of the reality of particles with well-defined properties in the absence of observations on them have failed the test. Aspects had hammered the last nail in the coffin of physics based on common sense."



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