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# Sabine Hossenfelder: Free will is compatible with physics

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From Sabine Hossenfelder, author of Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray, at her blog Back(re)action:

It occurred to me some years ago, however, that there is a much simpler example for how reductionism can fail. It can fail simply because the extrapolation from the theory at short distances to the one at long distances is not possible without inputting further information. This can happen if the scale-dependence of a constant has a singularity, and that’s something which we cannot presently exclude.

With singularity I here do not mean a divergence, ie that something becomes infinitely large. Such situations are unphysical and not cases I would consider plausible for realistic systems. But functions can have singularities without anything becoming infinite: A singularity is merely a point beyond which a function cannot be continued.

I do not currently know of any example for which this actually happens. But I also don’t know a way to exclude it.

Now consider you want to derive the theory for the large objects (think humans) from the theory for the small objects (think elementary particles) but in your derivation you find that one of the functions has a singularity at some scale in between. This means you need new initial values past the singularity. It’s a clean example for a failure of reductionism, and it implies that the laws for large objects indeed might not follow from the laws for small objects. More.

Note her qualification:

It will take more than this to convince me that free will isn’t an illusion, but this example for the failure of reductionism gives you an excuse to continue believing in free will.

Of course, the critical question isn’t whether Hossenfelder does or doesn’t believe free will to be an illusion. Daniel Dennett believes consciousness to be an illusion. It’s a high stakes game.

The point she makes that is worth noting is that the laws of physics don’t rule out free will. But that is just a well for the laws of physics because, if Dennett is right and consciousness is an illusion, then the “laws of physics” probably are too. The concept of evidence has been rendered powerless.

Her explanations are admirably concise and free of question-begging.

See also: Sabine Hossenfelder: Particle physics now belly up. As it happens, her book is a solid string of 1’s at Amazon

Neuroscientist: Free will is an illusion but we should believe we have it

Neuroscientist debunks hype about no free will, etc.

GP, Mike Pence and Free Will

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

Do the defects of real numbers open the door to free will in physics?

and

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

tarmaras as to:
A Dilemma for Reductionism - Ashish Dalela The reductionist reduces free will to rationality. The rationalist then reduces reasoning to computing. The computer scientist then reduces computing to a logical machine, which the physicist reduces to atoms and molecules, which a mathematician reduces to a mathematical theory (about Hilbert Spaces), which reduces to the idea of functions, which reduces to an ordered set of numbers. Now we have done all the reducing we know how to do today, and we are faced with the problem of how to order an unordered set of objects. This ordering itself needs a method which cannot be decided rationally, and must be chosen. -----
It might interest you to know that 'the problem of how to order an unordered set of objects' shows up in quantum mechanics. Specifically, in regards to (quantum) contextuality we find that, in the quantum world, the property that you discover through measurement is not the property that the system actually had prior to the measurement process. What you observe necessarily depends on how you carried out the observation.,,, and,,, Measurement outcomes depend on all the other measurements that are performed – the full context of the experiment. Contextuality means that quantum measurements can not be thought of as simply revealing some pre-existing properties of the system under study.
Contextuality is ‘magic ingredient’ for quantum computing – June 11, 2012 Excerpt: Contextuality was first recognized as a feature of quantum theory almost 50 years ago. The theory showed that it was impossible to explain measurements on quantum systems in the same way as classical systems. In the classical world, measurements simply reveal properties that the system had, such as colour, prior to the measurement. In the quantum world, the property that you discover through measurement is not the property that the system actually had prior to the measurement process. What you observe necessarily depends on how you carried out the observation. Imagine turning over a playing card. It will be either a red suit or a black suit – a two-outcome measurement. Now imagine nine playing cards laid out in a grid with three rows and three columns. Quantum mechanics predicts something that seems contradictory – there must be an even number of red cards in every row and an odd number of red cards in every column. Try to draw a grid that obeys these rules and you will find it impossible. It’s because quantum measurements cannot be interpreted as merely revealing a pre-existing property in the same way that flipping a card reveals a red or black suit. Measurement outcomes depend on all the other measurements that are performed – the full context of the experiment. Contextuality means that quantum measurements can not be thought of as simply revealing some pre-existing properties of the system under study. That’s part of the weirdness of quantum mechanics. http://phys.org/news/2014-06-weird-magic-ingredient-quantum.html
And as Anton Zeilinger states in the following video, “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 (7:17 minute mark) https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=4C5pq7W5yRM#t=437
Thus the 'axiom of choice' is built into quantum mechanics and reveals itself through, as Ashish Dalela found in his line of reasoning, how we choose to order our measurements. As Ashish Dalela noted, "This ordering itself needs a method which cannot be decided rationally, and must be chosen." As to Hossenfelder's observation that
It occurred to me some years ago, however, that there is a much simpler example for how reductionism can fail. It can fail simply because the extrapolation from the theory at short distances to the one at long distances is not possible without inputting further information.,,, Now consider you want to derive the theory for the large objects (think humans) from the theory for the small objects (think elementary particles) but in your derivation you find that one of the functions has a singularity at some scale in between. This means you need new initial values past the singularity. It’s a clean example for a failure of reductionism, and it implies that the laws for large objects indeed might not follow from the laws for small objects.
It might please Hossenfelder to know that her intuition that "the laws for large objects indeed might not follow from the laws for small objects" is now proven. Specifically, the failure of reductive materialism to be able to explain the basic form of any particular organism occurs at a very low level. Much lower than DNA itself. In the following article entitled 'Quantum physics problem proved unsolvable', which studied the derivation of macroscopic properties from a complete microscopic description, the researchers remark that even a perfect and complete description of the microscopic properties of a material is not enough to predict its macroscopic behaviour.,,, The researchers further commented that their findings challenge the reductionists' point of view, as the insurmountable difficulty lies precisely in the derivation of macroscopic properties from a microscopic description."
Quantum physics problem proved unsolvable: Gödel and Turing enter quantum physics - December 9, 2015 Excerpt: A mathematical problem underlying fundamental questions in particle and quantum physics is provably unsolvable,,, It is the first major problem in physics for which such a fundamental limitation could be proven. The findings are important because they show that even a perfect and complete description of the microscopic properties of a material is not enough to predict its macroscopic behaviour.,,, "We knew about the possibility of problems that are undecidable in principle since the works of Turing and Gödel in the 1930s," added Co-author Professor Michael Wolf from Technical University of Munich. "So far, however, this only concerned the very abstract corners of theoretical computer science and mathematical logic. No one had seriously contemplated this as a possibility right in the heart of theoretical physics before. But our results change this picture. From a more philosophical perspective, they also challenge the reductionists' point of view, as the insurmountable difficulty lies precisely in the derivation of macroscopic properties from a microscopic description." http://phys.org/news/2015-12-quantum-physics-problem-unsolvable-godel.html
And as to Hossenfelder's observation that "It occurred to me some years ago, however, that there is a much simpler example for how reductionism can fail. It can fail simply because the extrapolation from the theory at short distances to the one at long distances is not possible without inputting further information." It might further please Hossenfelder to know that her intuition that "the extrapolation from the theory at short distances to the one at long distances is not possible without inputting further information" is confirmed, at about the 41:00 minute mark of the following video, by Dr. Jonathan Wells. Dr. Wells, using a branch of mathematics called category theory, demonstrates that, during embryological development, information must somehow be added to the developing embryo, ‘from the outside’, by some ‘non-material’ method.
Design Beyond DNA: A Conversation with Dr. Jonathan Wells – video (41:00 minute mark) – January 2017 https://youtu.be/ASAaANVBoiE?t=2484
To provide further evidence for information coming into the developing embryo ‘from the outside’, it is also important to note that quantum correlations somehow arise from outside spacetime, in the sense that no story in space and time can describe them,,,
Looking beyond space and time to cope with quantum theory – 29 October 2012 Excerpt: “Our result gives weight to the idea that quantum correlations somehow arise from outside spacetime, in the sense that no story in space and time can describe them,” http://www.quantumlah.org/highlight/121029_hidden_influences.php
And these quantum correlations which somehow arise from outside spacetime, are now found in molecular biology on a massive scale. In every DNA and Protein molecule,,,
"What happens is this classical information (of DNA) is embedded, sandwiched, into the quantum information (of DNA). And most likely this classical information is never accessed because it is inside all the quantum information. You can only access the quantum information or the electron clouds and the protons. So mathematically you can describe that as a quantum/classical state." Elisabeth Rieper – Classical and Quantum Information in DNA – video (Longitudinal Quantum Information resides along the entire length of DNA discussed at the 19:30 minute mark; at 24:00 minute mark Dr Rieper remarks that practically the whole DNA molecule can be viewed as quantum information with classical information embedded within it) https://youtu.be/2nqHOnVTxJE?t=1176 Quantum criticality in a wide range of important biomolecules – Mar. 6, 2015 Excerpt: “Most of the molecules taking part actively in biochemical processes are tuned exactly to the transition point and are critical conductors,” they say. That’s a discovery that is as important as it is unexpected. “These findings suggest an entirely new and universal mechanism of conductance in biology very different from the one used in electrical circuits.” The permutations of possible energy levels of biomolecules is huge so the possibility of finding even one (biomolecule) that is in the quantum critical state by accident is mind-bogglingly small and, to all intents and purposes, impossible.,, of the order of 10^-50 of possible small biomolecules and even less for proteins,”,,, “what exactly is the advantage that criticality confers?” https://medium.com/the-physics-arxiv-blog/the-origin-of-life-and-the-hidden-role-of-quantum-criticality-ca4707924552 Darwinism vs Biological Form - video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyNzNPgjM4w
Thus in conclusion, the reductive materialistic framework of Darwinian evolution is found to be grossly inadequate for explaining how any particular organism might achieve its basic form. Moreover, to state what should be glaringly obvious, since neo-Darwinian explanations are grossly inadequate for explaining how any particular organism might achieve its basic form, then neo-Darwinian speculations for how one type of organism might transform into another type of organism are based on pure fantasy and have no discernible experimental basis in reality. Whereas, on the other hand, Theism, especially with these recent breakthroughs in quantum biology,,,
Darwinian Materialism vs Quantum Biology - video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHdD2Am1g5Y
,,,is found to be very well supported in its claim that God has formed each of us in our mother’s womb. Verses:
Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Psalm 139:13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
bornagain77
Reductionism is baseless - singularity or not and there’s no conflict between physics and free will: 1. No, we do not know the laws. We just know instances of those laws and we have been wrong in the past about those laws. 2. The laws cannot be known with certainty from as many discrete observations as you want 3. We know with certainty that 100% determinism fails ever since quantum mechanics effects were first observed. This invalidates your: “what you do tomorrow is already encoded in the state of the universe today”? 4. In the equation Outcome due to X% Determinism + Y% Quantum Indeterminacy + Z% Free Will + K% Unknown where X+Y+Z+K = 1, We Do Have Free Will if Z > 0 no matter how small Z is. You’re on mission impossible trying to demonstrate Z = 0 5. You’re not thinking through the implications of you being just a probabilistic automaton. 6. As I explain http://nonlin.org/free-will the default view on Free Will should be ‘FW is true’ because we feel it in us and in the actions of all other. 7. We clearly see the difference between inert objects that do not have Free Will and alive organisms that do. You can include in the first category the most advanced AI and the dead (formerly alive), and in the second the simplest bacteria and slime mold. Nonlin.org