Physicists take sides: Sabine Hossenfelder thinks superdeterminism enables quantum mechanics to kill free will; George Ellis disagrees:
One of the most interesting science writers of our era is John Horgan, who has managed to infuriate so many of the right people (to infuriate) while giving the rest of us something to ponder. In a recent column in Scientific American he takes on the question of whether quantum mechanics (quantum physics) rules out free will.
Einstein’s suggestion that the moon “would feel thoroughly convinced that it was traveling its way of its own accord” doesn’t really resolve anything because the moon isn’t thinking anything at all. For that matter, few ponder whether particles, viruses, or termites have free will. The problem is making arguments against free will coincide with human experience. Nor can we simply say, “People just want to believe they have free will”. Sometimes we want to believe that. But other times (when we are looking for excuses).
We don’t want to believe that.
Horgan sides, somewhat tentatively, with free will. He notes that humans are more than just heaps of particles. Higher levels of complexity enable genuinely new qualities. What humans can do is not merely a more complex version of what amoebas can do — in turn, a more complex version of what electrons can do. Greater complexity can involve genuinely new qualities. A philosopher would say that he is not a reductionist.
But that also means that mental phenomena are a reality. Materialists won’t stay comfortable with that for long. We haven’t heard the last of this debate.News, “At Scientific American: Does quantum mechanics kill free will” at Mind Matters News (March 16, 2022)
Takehome: Horgan’s arguments against superdeterminism work quite well but they require a world in which the human mind really exists. Is he prepared to go there?
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.
Does “alien hand syndrome” show that we don’t really have free will? One woman’s left hand seemed to have a mind of its own. Did it? Alien hand syndrome doesn’t mean that free will is not real. In fact, it clarifies exactly what free will is and what it isn’t.
But is determinism true? Does science show that we fated to want whatever we want? Modern science—both theoretical and experimental—strongly supports the reality of free will.