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At Mind Matters News: Does science disprove free will? A physicist says no

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From Michael Egnor: Marcelo Gleiser notes that the mind is not a solar system with strict deterministic laws:

One of the most disturbing implications of materialism in modern science is the inference that science disproves the existence of free will. Of course, this is not actually the case, but even the mistaken denial of free will has profound and very disturbing implications for our social structure, our criminal justice system, and our way of government. People who are assumed to lack free will are ultimately little more than cattle to be herded and, as philosopher Hannah Arendt, has observed, the denial of free will — and the denial of individual responsibility that follows on it — is a cornerstone of totalitarianism. At Big Think, physicist and philosopher Marcelo Gleiserpoints to the fallacy that physics and neuroscience disprove free will:

News, “Does science disprove free will? A physicist says no” at Mind Matters News

[T]he mind is not a solar system with strict deterministic laws. We have no clue what kinds of laws it follows, apart from very simplistic empirical laws about nerve impulses and their propagation, which already reveal complex nonlinear dynamics. Still, work in neuroscience has prompted a reconsideration of free will, even to the point of questioning our freedom to choose. Many neuroscientists and some philosophers consider free will to be an illusion. Sam Harris, for example, wrote a short book arguing the case.

Marcelo Gleiser, “Do the laws of physics and neuroscience disprove free will?” at Big Think (November 10, 2021)

Gleiser points out a third mistake — misinterpretation of neuroscience research in free will:

This shocking conclusion [that free will is an illusion] comes from a series of experiments that revealed something quite remarkable: Our brains decide a course of action before we know it. Benjamin Libet’s pioneering experiments in the 1980s using EEG and more recent ones using fMRI or implants directly into neurons found that the motor region responsible for making a motion in response to a question fired up seven seconds before the subject was aware of it. The brain seems to be deciding before the mind knows about it. But is it really?

Marcelo Gleiser, “Do the laws of physics and neuroscience disprove free will?” at Big Think (November 10, 2021)

[No. It wasn’t.] More.


Takehome: Apart from simple laws governing neurons, we have no clue what laws the mind follows, though it does show complex nonlinear dynamics.

Note: Another physicist disagrees. See: Can physics prove there is no free will? No, but it can make physicists incoherent when they write about free will.It’s hilarious. Sabine Hossenfelder misses the irony that she insists that people “change their minds” by accepting her assertion that they… can’t change their minds. (Michael Egnor)

2 Replies to “At Mind Matters News: Does science disprove free will? A physicist says no

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    “The mind is not a solar system with strict deterministic laws. We have no clue what kinds of laws it follows, apart from very simplistic empirical laws about nerve impulses and their propagation, which already reveal complex nonlinear dynamics.”,,,
    Benjamin Libet’s pioneering experiments in the 1980s using EEG and more recent ones using fMRI or implants directly into neurons found that the motor region responsible for making a motion in response to a question fired up seven seconds before the subject was aware of it. The brain seems to be deciding before the mind knows about it. But is it really?
    The experiment has been debunked, which actually is far from surprising.”

    In fact, besides advances in neuroscience debunking the atheist’s (mis)interpretation of Libet’s work, it is now also shown, via advances in quantum mechanics, that free will must actually precede the existence of the deterministic laws of nature.

    As the late Steven Weinberg, who was an atheist, put it, “In the instrumentalist approach (in quantum mechanics) humans are brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level.,,, the instrumentalist approach turns its back on a vision that became possible after Darwin, of a world governed by impersonal physical laws that control human behavior along with everything else.,,, In quantum mechanics these probabilities do not exist until people choose what to measure,,, Unlike the case of classical physics, a choice must be made,,,”

    The Trouble with Quantum Mechanics – Steven Weinberg – January 19, 2017
    Excerpt: The instrumentalist approach,, (the) wave function,, is merely an instrument that provides predictions of the probabilities of various outcomes when measurements are made.,,
    In the instrumentalist approach,,, humans are brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level. According to Eugene Wigner, a pioneer of quantum mechanics, “it was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness.”11
    Thus the instrumentalist approach turns its back on a vision that became possible after Darwin, of a world governed by impersonal physical laws that control human behavior along with everything else. It is not that we object to thinking about humans. Rather, we want to understand the relation of humans to nature, not just assuming the character of this relation by incorporating it in what we suppose are nature’s fundamental laws, but rather by deduction from laws that make no explicit reference to humans. We may in the end have to give up this goal,,,
    Some physicists who adopt an instrumentalist approach argue that the probabilities we infer from the wave function are objective probabilities, independent of whether humans are making a measurement. I don’t find this tenable. In quantum mechanics these probabilities do not exist until people choose what to measure, such as the spin in one or another direction. Unlike the case of classical physics, a choice must be made,,,
    http://quantum.phys.unm.edu/46.....inberg.pdf

    In fact Weinberg, again an atheist, rejected the instrumentalist approach precisely because “humans are brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level” and because it undermined the Darwinian worldview from within. Yet, regardless of how he and other atheists may prefer the world to behave, quantum mechanics itself could care less how atheists prefer the world to behave.

    Specifically, Anton Zeilinger and company have recently, as of 2018, pushed the ‘freedom of choice’ loophole back to 7.8 billion years ago, thereby firmly establishing the ‘common sense’ fact that the free will choices of the experimenter in the quantum experiments are truly free and are not determined by any possible causal influences from the past for at least the last 7.8 billion years, and that the experimenters themselves are therefore shown to be truly free to choose whatever measurement settings in the experiments that he or she may so desire to choose so as to ‘logically’ probe whatever aspect of reality that he or she may be interested in probing.

    Cosmic Bell Test Using Random Measurement Settings from High-Redshift Quasars – Anton Zeilinger – 14 June 2018
    Abstract: This experiment pushes back to at least approx. 7.8 Gyr ago the most recent time by which any local-realist influences could have exploited the “freedom-of-choice” loophole to engineer the observed Bell violation, excluding any such mechanism from 96% of the space-time volume of the past light cone of our experiment, extending from the big bang to today.
    https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.121.080403

    Thus regardless of how Steven Weinberg and other atheists may prefer the universe to behave, with the closing of the ‘freedom of choice’ loophole in quantum mechanics, “humans are (indeed) brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level”, and thus these recent findings from quantum mechanics directly undermine, as Weinberg himself put it, the “vision that became possible after Darwin, of a world governed by impersonal physical laws that control human behavior along with everything else.”

    Another experiment from quantum mechanics that backs up the claim that free will must precede the deterministic laws of nature is “Quantum Entanglement in Time”.

    As the following article states, “According to the famous words of Albert Einstein, the effects of quantum entanglement appear as “spooky action at a distance”. The recent experiment has gone one remarkable step further. “Within a naïve classical world view, quantum mechanics can even mimic an influence of future actions on past events”, says Anton Zeilinger.”

    Quantum physics mimics spooky action into the past – April 23, 2012
    Excerpt: According to the famous words of Albert Einstein, the effects of quantum entanglement appear as “spooky action at a distance”. The recent experiment has gone one remarkable step further. “Within a naïve classical world view, quantum mechanics can even mimic an influence of future actions on past events”, says Anton Zeilinger.
    http://phys.org/news/2012-04-q.....ction.html

    And as the following 2017 article succinctly states, “a decision made in the present can influence something in the past.”

    Physicists provide support for retrocausal quantum theory, in which the future influences the past
    July 5, 2017 by Lisa Zyga
    Excerpt: retrocausality means that, when an experimenter chooses the measurement setting with which to measure a particle, that decision can influence the properties of that particle (or another particle) in the past, even before the experimenter made their choice. In other words, a decision made in the present can influence something in the past.
    https://phys.org/news/2017-07-physicists-retrocausal-quantum-theory-future.html

    As is obvious, “Quantum Entanglement in Time” completely undermines the Atheist’s claim that the prior state of the material particles in our brain somehow determine what our thoughts are, or what our thoughts will be. (i.e. determinism).

    Moreover, I hold that the fact that free will must precede the existence of the deterministic laws of nature should not really be all that surprising for us to find out.

    The reason why we should not be all that surprised to find out that free will is built into the laws of nature at their most fundamental level is that one of the necessary Judeo-Christian presuppositions that led to the founding of modern science itself was the necessary presupposition that the universe was ‘contingent’ upon the will of the Creator.

    As Stephen Meyer explained in this recent podcast,

    “That was a huge concept. The historians of science call that ‘contingency’. The idea that nature has an order that is built into it. But it is an order that is contingent upon the will of the Creator. It could have been otherwise. Just as there are many ways to make a timepiece, or a clock,,, there are many different ways God could have ordered the universe. And it is up to us not to deduce that order from first principles, or from some intuitions that we have about how nature ought to be, but rather it is important to go out and see how nature actually is.”
    – Stephen Meyer – 5:00 minute mark – Andrew Klavan and Stephen Meyer Talk God and Science
    https://idthefuture.com/1530/
    Stephen Meyer sits down with talk show host and bestselling novelist Andrew Klavan,,, the pair touch on the Judeo-Christian roots of science, how fine tuning in physics and cosmology point to intelligent design, etc.. etc..

    And given that Christianity holds that our own immaterial minds are themselves to be considered a (finite) reflection of the Mind of God, (indeed, Christianity holds that God Himself “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life”,)

    Genesis 2:7
    And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

    ,, then experimentally finding that free will must precede the existence of the deterministic laws of nature should not really be all that surprising for us to find out. These findings from quantum mechanics, (that establish that free will is literally built into the universe at the most fundamental level), literally fits hand in glove with exactly what Christians have presupposed to be true beforehand.

    1 Thessalonians 5:21
    Test all things; hold fast what is good.

  2. 2
    EDTA says:

    It wasn’t that long ago that there was discussion here about those mind studies about free will being disproven. Ah, found it! https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/09/free-will-bereitschaftspotential/597736/

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