Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Freedom as an illusion, with physicist Brian Greene

arroba Email

“‘The feeling of intentionality is real, but you’re not the ultimate author of that process.’ Watch or listen to our interview with physicist Brian Greene…”

Brian Greene is an American theoretical physicist, mathematician and string theorist. Despite tackling some of the most ‘out there’ questions in science, Greene is able to break down his work into relatable information, digging into every area of existence imaginable, from questions of life, religion, the flow of time and the origin of the universe. This conversation will make you question everything you know about yourself – Do you have free will? Are you truly conscious? – and yet you’ll still come away feeling empowered. – New Scientist

This is also a New Scientist podcast:

A multiple bestselling author, his latest book is ‘Until The End of Time: Mind, Matter and our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe’. In this engaging conversation, Brian explains his belief that there is no definitive meaning to life, and suggests that people should focus on how incredible it is that we exist at all. Despite acknowledging that many of the questions he raises in his career will probably remain unanswered for centuries, Brian says the hope of gleaning some insight into the universe’s big unknowns is what keeps him going.

Hat tip: Ken Francis

When New Scientist’s world comes away feeling empowered by stuff like this, what does it mean for the rest of us?

For an alternative look at free will (in case you thought Dr. Greene had no opponents):

Free will and free won’t:

Can free will really be a scientific idea? (Eric Holloway) Yes, if we look at it from the perspective of information theory

Why do atheists still claim that free will can’t exist? Sam Harris reduces everything to physics but then ignores quantum non-determinism (Eric Holloway)

Was famous old evidence against free will just debunked? The pattern that was thought to prove free will an illusion may have been noise


Younger thinkers now argue that free will is real. The laws of physics do not rule it out, they say.

Also by Dr. Michael Egnor on free will:

Can physics prove there is no free will?

Does “alien hand syndrome” show that we don’t really have free will?

How can mere products of nature have free will?

Does brain stimulation research challenge free will?

Is free will a dangerous myth?


But is determinism true?

well at least not having free will explains why I believe in free will. aarceng
The very first sentence of the video refutes everything that follows in the video thereafter.
"The feeling of freedom, the feeling of intentionality, that's real. But you are not the ultimate author of that process. Your particles are merely carrying out their quantum mechanical marching orders, and you are a vehicle that allows that to happen."
Actually, it is impossible for 'feelings' about free will, or feelings about anything else for that matter, to be 'real' for neuronal illusions. You see, Brain Greene has failed to realize that not only is free will an illusion under the premises of his atheistic materialism, but his very own sense of self is also an illusion. If his materialistic worldview were actually true then it necessarily follows that his sense of self is merely an 'illusion' generated by his neurons. There is simply no way for Brian Greene to to ground 'personhood', i.e. his sense of self, within his atheistic materialism,
What Does It Mean to Say That Science & Religion Conflict? - M. Anthony Mills - April 16, 2018 Excerpt: Barr rightly observes that scientific atheists often unwittingly assume not just metaphysical naturalism but an even more controversial philosophical position: reductive materialism, which says all that exists is or is reducible to the material constituents postulated by our most fundamental physical theories. As Barr points out, this implies not only that God does not exist — because God is not material — but that you do not exist. For you are not a material constituent postulated by any of our most fundamental physical theories; at best, you are an aggregate of those constituents, arranged in a particular way. Not just you, but tables, chairs, countries, countrymen, symphonies, jokes, legal contracts, moral judgments, and acts of courage or cowardice — all of these must be fully explicable in terms of those more fundamental, material constituents. https://www.realclearreligion.org/articles/2018/04/16/what_does_it_mean_to_say_that_science_and_religion_conflict.html “that “You”, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing.” Francis Crick – “The Astonishing Hypothesis” 1994
Thus, since Brain Greene's sense of self is merely a neuronal illusion, then it directly follows that his feeling about free will, or feelings about anything else, cannot possibly be 'real' but the feelings that his illusory sense of self is having must necessarily be illusory also. Brain Greene is an illusion having an illusion, Or even a dream having a dream as Edgar Allen Poe might have put it. The obvious and fatal flaw in this line of reasoning for atheists is, of course, as David Bentley Hart put it, "illusions are possible only for conscious minds".
The Illusionist – Daniel Dennett’s latest book marks five decades of majestic failure to explain consciousness. – 2017 Excerpt: “Simply enough, you cannot suffer the illusion that you are conscious because illusions are possible only for conscious minds. This is so incandescently obvious that it is almost embarrassing to have to state it.” – David Bentley Hart https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-illusionist
That is to say, in order to avoid a self-negating worldview, Consciousness must be the primary substratum upon which everything else is dependent. As Eugene Wigner himself stated,
“The principal argument against materialism is not that illustrated in the last two sections: that it is incompatible with quantum theory. The principal argument is that thought processes and consciousness are the primary concepts, that our knowledge of the external world is the content of our consciousness and that the consciousness, therefore, cannot be denied. On the contrary, logically, the external world could be denied—though it is not very practical to do so. In the words of Niels Bohr, “The word consciousness, applied to ourselves as well as to others, is indispensable when dealing with the human situation.” In view of all this, one may well wonder how materialism, the doctrine that “life could be explained by sophisticated combinations of physical and chemical laws,” could so long be accepted by the majority of scientists." – Eugene Wigner, Remarks on the Mind-Body Question, pp 167-177.
In his claim that God in not real, or more specifically, in his claim that consciousness is not real, the atheist, unwittingly, has lost any anchor upon which he can define what reality itself really is. That is to say, in his denial of God, the atheist ends up in an ocean of fantasy and imagination with no discernible anchor for reality to grab onto.
Basically, because of reductive materialism (and/or methodological naturalism), the atheistic materialist is forced to claim that he is merely a ‘neuronal illusion’ (Coyne, Dennett, etc..), who has the illusion of free will (Harris), who has unreliable, (i.e. illusory), beliefs about reality (Plantinga), who has illusory perceptions of reality (Hoffman), who, since he has no real time empirical evidence substantiating his grandiose claims, must make up illusory “just so stories” with the illusory, and impotent, ‘designer substitute’ of natural selection (Behe, Gould, Sternberg), so as to ‘explain away’ the appearance (i.e. illusion) of design (Crick, Dawkins), and who must make up illusory meanings and purposes for his life since the reality of the nihilism inherent in his atheistic worldview is too much for him to bear (Weikart), and who must also hold morality to be subjective and illusory since he has rejected God (Craig, Kreeft). Who, since beauty cannot be grounded within his materialistic worldview, must hold beauty itself to be illusory (Darwin). Bottom line, nothing is truly real in the atheist’s worldview, least of all, beauty, morality, meaning and purposes for life.,,, Darwinian Materialism and/or Methodological Naturalism vs. Reality – video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaksmYceRXM
It would be hard to fathom a worldview more antagonistic to modern science, indeed more antagonistic to reality itself, than Atheistic materialism and/or methodological naturalism have turned out to be.
2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
Supplemental note, quantum mechanics in not nearly as friendly to Brian Greene's atheistic materialism as he falsely imagines it to be. (But, then again, what else is possible for neuronal illusions save for false imaginations?)
“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 (7:17 minute mark) https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=4C5pq7W5yRM#t=437 Reality doesn’t exist until we measure it, (Delayed Choice) quantum experiment confirms – Mind = blown. – FIONA MACDONALD – 1 JUN 2015 Excerpt: “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” lead researcher and physicist Andrew Truscott said in a press release. http://www.sciencealert.com/reality-doesn-t-exist-until-we-measure-it-quantum-experiment-confirms Quantum physics says goodbye to reality - Apr 20, 2007 Excerpt: They found that, just as in the realizations of Bell's thought experiment, Leggett's inequality is violated – thus stressing the quantum-mechanical assertion that reality does not exist when we're not observing it. "Our study shows that 'just' giving up the concept of locality would not be enough to obtain a more complete description of quantum mechanics," Aspelmeyer told Physics Web. "You would also have to give up certain intuitive features of realism." http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/27640 How Quantum Mechanics and Consciousness Correlate - video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4f0hL3Nrdas
Colossians 1:17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
1. Brian Greene is a crackpot and a charlatan who sells globalist pseudoscience. 2. A time dimension would make motion impossible. It doesn't exist. 3. Without a time dimension, nature cannot calculate the precise duration of interactions. It must rely on probability. This is why the decay of subatomic particles is probabilistic. 4. God is not omniscient and does not know where a particular electron is going to be a million years from now. He can predict the future because he has enough power to make his predictions happen. Jesus himself said that the soul (human spirit) can be known only by its actions. 5. Yes, I'm Christian. FourFaces
It's not clear, at least to me, that foreknowledge determines the choices people make. Why should God's knowledge of the future determine that future any more than anyone's knowledge of the past have determined the past? My present knowledge of the results of last year's Super Bowl doesn't determine those results. Why think that God's present knowledge of the results of next year's Super Bowl determine those results? Dick
Mmmm... So rape does not exist? When a person says he/ she does not want to have sex, he/ she only has a feeling of intentionality? So 'no' means nothing? Truthfreedom
The laws of physics cannot be explained by coincidence and chance. They exist and we must follow those laws. Mathematics, every formula that will ever be discovered, already exists and waiting for the right mind to discover them. Without intelligence creating laws and math, they cannot exist in the universe. Rather than humanize God, do what Einstein did. The more he studied the universe, the greater his belief in God became. BobRyan
It also seems a lot of the refutation of free will comes from an out dated definition of free will no uses, or really ever did. Alfred Mele a good starting place for a better definition AaronS1978
That is a misconception of God and once again people are putting God on the levels of a person God is outside of time, God will know all of your choices but if time is malleable and God is outside of time, then order of process means nothing. God can also give you the ability to make those choices at any given point in the flow of time and we would know no better. God could also go back and set things up for you to make a different choice, or have an infinite number of choices with a branch of time flowing from each choice with an infinite number of possible futures. I’m pretty sure that sounds like a very specific theory that you’re more than likely familiar with. Once again you are limiting God to your capabilities, and then refuting God based off of your inability. Another oddball misconception I’ve noticed, is apparently God has an inability to close himself off from the knowledge of our choices and give people a chance to make those choices........ It would be similar to someone not skipping to the very end of a book to find out what happened and actually reading through the book. I’m sure somebody has exercised that ability before, so I’m pretty sure God could that too. It seems so often that God can do anything except for what an atheist criticizes God for, then suddenly God can’t do it So I guess if you were God you would be a crappy God and it is a good thing you’re not God AaronS1978
You seem to be sure that sev didn't choose to do those things. How do you know that? es58
@Sev, if God knows every choice you’re going to make, then it logically follows he could write down everything you’re going to do for the rest of your life in a book and give it to me. If I was then hanging out with you and reading where the present time was in the book, and it was 5 PM, and the book said “at 5:03 PM Sev gets up off the couch and microwaves the chicken breast”, and I told you “in exactly 3 minutes you are going to get up and microwave a chicken breast” would you have any ability at all to not do that? Or would you have to do it? Then with that book I could follow you around all day and tell you exactly what you’re going to do right before you do it, and you would be helpless to do anything else. That would prove you have no free will. Jim Thibodeau
How can there be free will if an omniscient God knows what the future holds? And if that is the case then our sense of free will must be an illusion. Seversky

Leave a Reply