Intelligent Design Mind Naturalism

At Physics Central: How human beings can have free will as complex, purely physical systems

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The Open Door, William Henry Fox Talbot (British, Dorset 1800–1877 Lacock), Salted paper print from paper negative
the open door/William Henry Fox Talbot (1800–1877)

From Stephen Skolnick at Physics Buzz:

At the intersection of physics and philosophy, there’s a question that’s weighed on the minds of great thinkers for centuries: Is there truly such a thing as free will? When we make a choice, are we fundamentally any different than a calculator “choosing” which segments of its display to light up when the = button is pressed?

The question has its roots in the acceptance that humans are, for all our astounding complexity, purely physical systems. Once you drop the notion that we’ve got an intrinsic, metaphysical soul that sits behind the eyes and pulls the levers, the question of why we make the choices we make becomes urgent…if only philosophically.

Funny no one thought of that before…

So to our demon, the universe is perfectly predictable, and—being parts of that universe—we are, as well. At first, maybe this thought is existentially horrifying; we’re all just machines, making the choices we’ve been programmed to make. The infinite branching possibilities of choice are illusory—the present has always been inevitable, and the future, while it still depends on the choices we make, is already written. This line of thinking is a threat to the feeling of control that’s central to most people’s notions of the self, and many reject it out-of-hand, because a lot of things can start to unravel once you accept it.

But if you can, it grants a kind of enlightenment, full of absolution, wonder, and humility. When we see someone make bad decisions, we have to realize that, given what they were in life, there’s no other choice they could have made.

Your destiny is an echo of the big bang. Your story has been written since the beginning of time—and possibly before, since the universe owes its shape to something. Where does the story go from here? The choice, paradoxical as it may be, is yours. More.

Actually, it is not paradoxical. It is just nonsensical.

Laszlo Bencze comments: “The obvious contradiction here is fairly simple: laws do not produce freedom of any sort. Laws are constraints. Laws allow for predictions. Freedom is unpredictable. Freedom is not constrained. So to claim that the laws of physics (or anything else) result in free will is to state a contradiction.”

But that doesn’t matter so long as the nonsense keeps within the dictates of naturalism.

See also: Neuroscience’s failing attempts to measure free will

Philip Cunningham on determinism vs free will “George Ellis stated much the same thing when he noted, in Einstein’s denial of free will, that if Einstein did not have free will in some meaningful sense, then he could not have been responsible for the theory of relativity – it would have been a product of lower level processes but not of an intelligent mind choosing between possible options. … ”

How can we believe in naturalism if we have no choice?

and

Post-modern science: The illusion of consciousness sees through itself

13 Replies to “At Physics Central: How human beings can have free will as complex, purely physical systems

  1. 1
    groovamos says:

    Physicists don’t have any choice but to be of the opinion that their opinions are superior to the opinions of philosophers and other non-scientists. They have been robbed of choice by the outcome of billions of years of particle dynamics.

  2. 2
    Latemarch says:

    “You have no free will,” said Satan. The conclusion being that you are not responsible for the sins that you have committed.
    Perhaps the second great lie. It is not unlike the first “You will not surely die.” Gen. 3:4

    It will be desperately embraced like a drowning man will clamber over his rescuer just to get one more breath of air.

  3. 3
    critical rationalist says:

    Satan supposedly knows that God exists, yet rebells against him. So, why does God need to worry about violating our free will by revealing himself to us?

    Does Satan not have a choice but to rebel against God?

  4. 4
    LocalMinimum says:

    “Your destiny is an echo of the big bang.” – Has anyone here yelled into a dark, empty cave and received a rich and edifying lecture back?

  5. 5
    ppolish says:

    There is no such thing as a free lunch – or a free will for THAT matter. But like evolution and lunches – will is guided. Who/what/where is the guide? Oops? Oops a cheeseburger hahaha. Oops on a gluten free bun. Oops I’m a moran.

  6. 6
    Latemarch says:

    CR@3:
    I’m assuming that you are responding to me.

    Given your response maybe I didn’t make myself clear.
    “You have no free will,” lied Satan. Is that better?
    It is a most destructive lie because by believing it you think that it absolves you of all responsibility.

    Most people can’t live as if they have no free will. That way lies nihilism, depression and self destruction. Trying to live a lie does that. That’s a clue as to where the truth resides.

    I believe that Satan has free will. Knows God exists and still rebelled.
    I believe that we have free will.

    I do not understand your statement about how God revealing himself to us would violate our free will. I don’t see that I said that. I don’t even see that I implied that or how you could derive that from what I’ve said or from the OP. Maybe you’d like to expand on that.

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    A few notes:

    Albert Einstein vs. Quantum Mechanics and His Own Mind – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxFFtZ301j4

    Steven Weinberg in an article entitled ‘The Trouble with Quantum Mechanics’, states free will’s primary role in quantum mechanics as such, “if we regard the whole process of measurement as being governed by the equations of quantum mechanics, and these equations are perfectly deterministic, how do probabilities get into quantum mechanics?,,, 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,,,

    The Trouble with Quantum Mechanics – Steven Weinberg – January 19, 2017
    Excerpt: The trouble is that in quantum mechanics the way that wave functions change with time is governed by an equation, the Schrödinger equation, that does not involve probabilities. It is just as deterministic as Newton’s equations of motion and gravitation. That is, given the wave function at any moment, the Schrödinger equation will tell you precisely what the wave function will be at any future time. There is not even the possibility of chaos, the extreme sensitivity to initial conditions that is possible in Newtonian mechanics. So if we regard the whole process of measurement as being governed by the equations of quantum mechanics, and these equations are perfectly deterministic, how do probabilities get into quantum mechanics?,,,
    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://www.nybooks.com/article.....mechanics/

    Moreover, at the 7 minute mark of the following video, Anton Zeilinger, a leading experimentalist in quantum mechanics, weighs in on free will in quantum mechanics and states “we know that it is wrong to assume that the features of a system, which we observe in a measurement exist prior to measurement.”,,, what we perceive as reality now depends on our earlier decision what to measure. Which is a very, very, deep message about the nature of reality and our part in the whole universe. We are not just passive observers.”

    “The Kochen-Speckter Theorem talks about properties of one system only. So we know that we cannot assume – to put it precisely, we know that it is wrong to assume that the features of a system, which we observe in a measurement exist prior to measurement. Not always. I mean in a certain cases. So in a sense, what we perceive as reality now depends on our earlier decision what to measure. Which is a very, very, deep message about the nature of reality and our part in the whole universe. We are not just passive observers.”
    – Anton Zeilinger –
    Quantum Physics Debunks Materialism – video (7:57 minute mark)
    https://youtu.be/4C5pq7W5yRM?t=500

    Determinism vs Free Will – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwPER4m2axI

    Moreover, it is important to point out that although free will is often thought of as allowing someone to choose between a veritable infinity of options, in a theistic view of reality that veritable infinity of options all boils down to just two options in the end. Eternal life, (infinity if you will), with God, or Eternal life, (infinity again if you will), without God.
    C.S. Lewis states the two ultimate options that we all have to face as such:

    “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.”
    – C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

    And although, as was shown in this following video,,,

    Multiverse Mania vs Reality – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQJV4fH6kMo

    ,,, atheists have no compelling evidence for all the various parallel universe scenarios that they have put forth. Christians, on the other hand, do not suffer from such an embarrassing lack of empirical support for their beliefs in heaven and hell but can appeal directly to Quantum Mechanics, Special Relativity and General Relativity to support their belief that God upholds this universe in its continual existence, as well as to support their belief in a heavenly dimension and in a hellish dimension.

    Quantum Mechanics, Special Relativity, General Relativity and Christianity – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKggH8jO0pk

    Moreover, when the agent causality of God is rightly let back into the picture of modern physics, as the Christian founders of modern science originally envisioned, then Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead provides us with an empirically backed reconciliation between quantum mechanics and general relativity into the much sought after ‘Theory of Everything’. This following video goes over some of the evidence surrounding that claim:

    Gödel, Infinity, and Jesus Christ as the Theory of Everything – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1Jw5Y686jY

    Verse:

    Colossians 1:15-20
    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

  8. 8
    JessieHenshaw says:

    I think there’s lots of room in physics, which mostly defines limits, for “free will” if you include local improvisation. One could see those as is pretty much the same thing. There are also various kinds of very sensitive “Lagrange points” where large changes in direction are possible with very small prompting, so that skilled navigators steer for those where they find what amounts to “free will”… Then there are the totally mysterious origins of growth as nature’s rapid organizational process, where some miniscule innovation unleashes tremendous complex system development. All of these seem to allow quite unobservable scales of creativity to bring about organized change at large scales. Might that be what we’re looking for?

  9. 9
    Barry Arrington says:

    Jessie @ 8:

    I think there’s lots of room in physics, which mostly defines limits, for “free will”

    Physics says Everything — with a capital “E” — is determined by physical law. Particles in motion randomly bumping into each other cause all events. Please explain how, if that is true, physics allows “lots of room” for free will.

  10. 10
    JessieHenshaw says:

    No, not really. Physics definitions are actually AVERAGE LIMITS of possibility, with greatest upper bounds and least lower bounds. It therefore doesn’t define INDIVIDUAL pathways in-between, which leaves a lot of room for INDIVIDUAL developmental processes like we see all over the place.

  11. 11
    bornagain77 says:

    Jessie, tell it to Weinberg:

    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://www.nybooks.com/article.....mechanics/

    i.e. Are humans the result of physical laws of nature, or is there something inherent in man that is not the result of the physical laws of nature?

  12. 12
    Latemarch says:

    jessie@10

    No, not really. Physics definitions are actually AVERAGE LIMITS of possibility, with greatest upper bounds and least lower bounds. It therefore doesn’t define INDIVIDUAL pathways in-between, which leaves a lot of room for INDIVIDUAL developmental processes like we see all over the place.

    Ahh, Bayesian statistics the lifeblood of free will! Heh!

  13. 13
    critical rationalist says:

    I believe that Satan has free will. Knows God exists and still rebelled.
    I believe that we have free will.

    So, if God created everything, is still involved and want’s us all to be saved, then why doesn’t he explicitly reveal himself to all of us? Where is he today?

    If we have free will, then the appearance of God wouldn’t be a barrier to salvation because supposedly Satan also has free will, knows that God exists and still rejects him,

    So, what gives?

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