Physics, free-will and individuality.

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posted on Oct, 6 2008 @ 06:28 PM
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We can safely assume that free will doesn't exist, right?

Like, if you look at it from a religious point of view, god knows everything, so our destiny is set in stone.

We know that the world operates according to some fundamental physical laws, and these laws govern the behavior of every object in the world.

But look at yourself. We're just physical systems too, right? We're just complex arrangements of carbon molecules.

We're mostly water, and our behavior isn't gonna be an exception to these basic physical laws. So it starts to look like whether its God setting things up in advance and knowing everything you're gonna do or whether it's these basic physical laws governing everything, there's not a lot of room left for freedom.

You think about individuality for example, who you are. Who you are is mostly a matter of the free choices that you make.

But, if everything is governed by those rules, where is the room for choice?

Think about how it happens. There's some electrical activity in your brain. They send a signal down into your nervous system.

It passes along down into your muscle fibers. They twitch. I saw, reach out my arm. It LOOKS like a free action, but every part of the process is governed by a physical law, chemical laws, electrical laws.

So now it just looks like the big bang set up the initial conditions, and the whole rest of human history, and even before, is really just the playing out of subatomic particles according to these basic fundamental physical laws.

We think we're special. We think we have some kind of special dignity, but that now comes under threat. I mean, that's really challenged by this picture.

What picture you may be thinking? The idea that everything is governed by those laws.

But if you look at the details, it's not really going to help because what happens is you have some very small quantum particles, and their behavior is apparently a bit random.

They swerve. Their behavior is absurd in the sense that its unpredictable and we can't understand it based on anything that came before. It just does something out of the blue, according to a probabilistic framework.

But is that going to help with freedom? I mean, should our freedom be just a matter of probabilities, just some random swerving in a chaotic system? That starts to seem like it's worse. I'd rather be a gear in a big deterministic physical machine than just some random swerving.

So we can't just ignore the problem. We have to find room in our contemporary world view for persons with all that that entails; not just bodies, but persons. And that means trying to solve the problem of freedom, finding room for choice and responsibility, and trying to understand individuality."

So really, if everything is governed by those laws, then where is the room for individuality.

What is stopping us from saying that every 'person' on earth is all part of one consciousness, but each of us is experience different views.

Thoughts?

[edit on 6-10-2008 by Nyte Angel]




posted on Oct, 6 2008 @ 09:45 PM
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No one has anything to say to this?

Come on ATS I want your thoughts!



posted on Oct, 6 2008 @ 11:27 PM
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No, physical laws do not limit your ability to consciously think and perform an action. F=Gm1m2/r^2 prevents me from floating freely, but as of yet, there is no physical law that limits my ability to freely think. Physical laws may limit the extent of which you can perform an action, but not your ability to choose an action.



posted on Oct, 6 2008 @ 11:29 PM
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haha did you watch that movie Waking Life? Because I swear they say almost exactly the same thing in that movie.



posted on Oct, 6 2008 @ 11:31 PM
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Originally posted by theendisnear69
haha did you watch that movie Waking Life? Because I swear they say almost exactly the same thing in that movie.


Heh, never heard of it. Is it worth watching?



posted on Oct, 6 2008 @ 11:42 PM
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I agree with you. Free will seems to be a touchy subject, some really want to believe they have free will but it isn't the case. Even looking at the influence of genetics and upbringing, you'll realize that you'd didn't have any choice in the matter.



posted on Oct, 6 2008 @ 11:54 PM
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How can you have free-will if everything on a sub-atomic level works according to physical laws you have no hope of altering? Or are we altering the actions of sub-atomic particles by exercising our free will? Or am I completely misunderstanding physics (which is certainly possible.. if an explanation as to how I'm so very wrong can be given I'd appreciate it)?

Hey, Nyte Angel, what if it's not just people but the whole universe that's one consciouness?



posted on Oct, 7 2008 @ 12:12 AM
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Originally posted by ghaleon12
I agree with you. Free will seems to be a touchy subject, some really want to believe they have free will but it isn't the case. Even looking at the influence of genetics and upbringing, you'll realize that you'd didn't have any choice in the matter.


No choice on physical features, maybe, but that doesn't apply to consciousness. You can't assume that becuase genetics predetermines height and bone structure, that something else predetermines what you will think.



posted on Oct, 7 2008 @ 12:38 AM
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Originally posted by SlightlyAmazing
How can you have free-will if everything on a sub-atomic level works according to physical laws you have no hope of altering? Or are we altering the actions of sub-atomic particles by exercising our free will? Or am I completely misunderstanding physics (which is certainly possible.. if an explanation as to how I'm so very wrong can be given I'd appreciate it)?

Hey, Nyte Angel, what if it's not just people but the whole universe that's one consciouness?


One big misunderstanding I've noticed with subatmoic particles is the effect of observers. People think that only conscious beings can be observers when it comes to observers affecting subatomic systems, but this is simply not the case. Pseudoscience likes to pick up on this and make bull# claims. Anything that reacts to something (IE, photons) is an observer, and it is not limited to only conscious thinking. All conscious beings in the universe could die right now and the universe would still carry on.

Also, on the subatomic level, there are no absolutes, only the probability of something happening.

Hope this clears some things up.



posted on Oct, 7 2008 @ 03:28 AM
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I agree with the OP. The evidence is overwhelming.

The physical determinist argument is pretty convincing. Even though quantum indeterminacy is borne out by experiment, it seems that, at a macroscopic level, the uncertainty averages out; decoherence occurs deterministically. Other theoretical possibilities exist, but this is how the world really works.

On a human level, all rational individual actions must be the effective outcome of three factors: genetic inheritance, personal history and current circumstances. Any act that is not influenced by one or more of these factors is by definition random.

And in the unlikely event that there really is a God, well then, all bets are off and Calvin's vile principle of 'election' must hold true.

The conclusion is unavoidable. The OP is correct. Free will does not exist. Yet we must (because we can only) behave as if it does.

Makes you want to chew your foot off, doesn't it?

Flagged thread.



posted on Oct, 7 2008 @ 01:05 PM
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There is a paradox here I think that transcends time. When you talk about "god," "the ultimate," surely you must have already transcended time because "he" must have "created" time at some point, no?

The paradox this allows is that "free will" both exists and doesn't exist, depending on which state of consciousness you are embodying. Are you "god" or are you a human? It really does make a difference, because you cannot approach the ultimate consciousness in this body and yet your body is descended from the same ultimate light (it is now widely accepted that even matter is essentially condensed EM or more primitive energy, ie light, etc.).

You are detached from your true self, and basically "playing" something as meaningless as a game, but that you could make into a work of the most beautiful art. Yes, you can make decisions and choices. Yes, there are also beings that can look down at us and see exactly why we are making these "decisions," even on a pretty deterministic chemical or quantum level perhaps. But the same applies to them, and so on, and so on, until you eventually do have to be "god" to embody everything that is happening and be everything on every level.

The more you know, the more conscious you are of all the decisions you make, and why. Thereby you are more capable of doing more unpredictable things from other beings' perspectives. This includes "waking up." But of course as just stated there is a theoretical limit to this knowledge which is not any particular thing but "god," an all-permeating awareness.


Imagine if you are watching a line of ants continuously marching, as they autonomously do, but then you see one ant who has broken file because of a realization, and it stops and first watches the other ants, and then turns and stares you in the face as you watch on. That ant is enlightened (or "mentally challenged" to the other ants
), and you might as well be an embodiment of "god" to that ant. Yet the ant can't be expected to do all the same things humans do even if it has become more aware, because we are in a different places. If the ant could, that would truly be a miracle from descended from graces "above" ourselves. Simple awareness of its mindless marching activity would be a miracle enough! In the same way masses of humans horde onto interstates every day for mind-numbing day jobs.


This is the same kind of paradox as when two different people observe the "same thing" and yet by necessity must observe completely different things because they are viewing from two different angles and at slightly different time-delays. Who's experience is more "objective"? Ultimately they both are as real and non-real as the other. This is a paradox and yet it is also very often a truth.



Douglas Hofstadter wrote a book called "Godel, Escher, Bach" in which he talks about indeterminism, Godel's proof of incompletion in all of our higher mathematics, contradictions, paradoxes, and what he called "strange loops" in physics that consciousness tends to embody. He stated there should be a new kind of number for what Godel proved, just like when "imaginary numbers" were invented, to embody the paradoxes created in some mathematical situations. Paradoxes can be truths in themselves, even mathematically (that is what "in-determinism" is). They tend to be the doorways for decision-making on this plane because so many people can only see things either one way or another, and don't realize the opposites are also true.


The more opposites you realize are also true, the more unpredictable you become in your behaviors.

[edit on 7-10-2008 by bsbray11]



posted on Oct, 7 2008 @ 10:51 PM
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Originally posted by Astyanax
I agree with the OP. The evidence is overwhelming.

The physical determinist argument is pretty convincing. Even though quantum indeterminacy is borne out by experiment, it seems that, at a macroscopic level, the uncertainty averages out; decoherence occurs deterministically. Other theoretical possibilities exist, but this is how the world really works.

On a human level, all rational individual actions must be the effective outcome of three factors: genetic inheritance, personal history and current circumstances. Any act that is not influenced by one or more of these factors is by definition random.

And in the unlikely event that there really is a God, well then, all bets are off and Calvin's vile principle of 'election' must hold true.

The conclusion is unavoidable. The OP is correct. Free will does not exist. Yet we must (because we can only) behave as if it does.

Makes you want to chew your foot off, doesn't it?

Flagged thread.


Not to be rude, but how many physics and biology courses have you actually taken? All I see is people making assertions with nothing to back themselves up. This is not even on par with pseudoscience, becuase pseudoscience at least tries to present some scientific evidence.

You can't just say that since physical systems have equations to calculate their outcomes, that brains have equations to calculate exactly how they will respond to things. You could factor in variables and make an educated guess on what a person may think in reaction to something, but that's about it.

[edit on 7-10-2008 by Syntax123]



posted on Oct, 7 2008 @ 11:12 PM
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Great thread. Strangely, I spent a good part of the day thinking about this exact subject off and on. So I am surprised to see this post -- it is kind of a coincidence for me.

#

First, I've argued against free will existing in a number of threads. Now I find a thread that agrees with my previous position. So I will argue FOR free will, just to be a bit contrary I guess.


We are definitely governed by physical law. However, it may be that free choice exists outside the physical laws of the universe we currently know. It may be a function of some special laws -- a direct contradiction to all the other physical laws, which must strictly follow cause and effect.

I think this is possible, because of this strange and inexplicable quantity that distinguishes us from rocks and computers -- it is consciousness and the ability to FEEL stuff.

Conscious entities may be in a special class, governed by special laws that do not apply to astrophysics or quantum mechanics. There is no position or momentum or mass associated with conscious thought, but it clearly exists.

It may be that free will is at the core of consciousness. We know very little about conscious thought, how it works, how physical beings are somehow imbued with this special quality. It exists only in our heads and apparently nowhere else.

Maybe free will and conscious thought are the same, or at least inextricably linked together.

[edit on 7-10-2008 by Buck Division]



posted on Oct, 7 2008 @ 11:27 PM
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I will let my previous post stand, but on review, I think there is an easier way of explaining what I mean:

Maybe there is a spiritual world that is separate from the physical world, and the operating laws of that spiritual world are different than those of the physical world. Maybe the physical world is strictly governed by cause and effect, but the spiritual world permits free will and choice.

I think that nails exactly what I am saying. We are wandering around in this physical world, totally dictated by what has happened. Yet we seem to be able to make choices. Quite different from rocks, which have choice except to forever reside where cause and effect has placed them.

Edit: Maybe what I am calling the spiritual world is the "one consciousness" that the OP talks about. I think they are roughly the same thing.

[edit on 7-10-2008 by Buck Division]



posted on Oct, 7 2008 @ 11:40 PM
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Originally posted by Syntax123

Originally posted by Astyanax
I agree with the OP. The evidence is overwhelming.

All I see is people making assertions with nothing to back themselves up. This is not even on par with pseudoscience, becuase pseudoscience at least tries to present some scientific evidence.


I think you dismiss Astyanax a bit too quickly there Syntax. Determinism is a well established philosophical viewpoint, not pseudoscience at all. (Yes, determinism is arguable, but hasn't been proven to be wrong -- yet.)

en.wikipedia.org...

And what Astyanax is saying (if I understand correctly) is that the indeterminancy at the quantum level doesn't really affect our macro existence.

I've seen that argument before, about randomness at the quantum level disproving determinism. So Astyanax makes a valid point by stating it may be at too low a level to apply to anything, after averaging out its effects.

Take a close look at what is being said here. I know it sounds flakey, but it really is rock solid.

Edit: To fix those quotes -- I always mess that up.

[edit on 7-10-2008 by Buck Division]



posted on Oct, 8 2008 @ 12:50 AM
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I think you dismiss Astyanax a bit too quickly there Syntax. Determinism is a well established philosophical viewpoint, not pseudoscience at all. (Yes, determinism is arguable, but hasn't been proven to be wrong -- yet.)

en.wikipedia.org...


The burden of proof lies on the person who makes a claim. If you make the claim that determinism is true, then you have to back it up. Here's an example of why that way of thinking is flawed logic:

Person A: I think that flying purple elephants on Pluto control the planet.

Person B: Prove that they do.

Person C: You can't prove that they don't, so it's still a plausible theory!


And what Astyanax is saying (if I understand correctly) is that the indeterminancy at the quantum level doesn't really affect our macro existence.


There are no physical laws that prove human thought, and consequently, human action are calculable and determined. Just becuase there are physical laws that make something like trajectory calculable and determined doesn't mean that they apply to human thought.


I've seen that argument before, about randomness at the quantum level disproving determinism. So Astyanax makes a valid point by stating it may be at too low a level to apply to anything, after averaging out its effects.


Show me the physical laws that make determinism to be true, and I'll put forth an argument. So far, it's just another philosophical theory perpetuated through the misunderstanding of physics.


Take a close look at what is being said here. I know it sounds flakey, but it really is rock solid.


Not from what I've read so far. I know I sound like a prick, but these forums are filled with people who make absolutely ridiculous claims and it's making me edgy.

[edit on 8-10-2008 by Syntax123]

[edit on 8-10-2008 by Syntax123]



posted on Oct, 8 2008 @ 03:51 AM
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Absolutely Ridiculous Claims

It may be worth pointing out that what we are discussing here is neither physics nor biology, but philosophy. The subject on the table is causal determinism.

Let's commence with causality. Evidence for it hardly demands scientific citation; causality is all around us. In fact - and this may surprise a layperson who has dined not wisely but too well on the cargo-cult offerings* of 'quantum physics' - events in the macroscopic world always show a classical-relativistic, not quantum, character, and are, as far as we can tell, implacably deterministic. Nevertheless, all events are the outcome of wave function collapses.

This poses a bit of a problem for quantum theorists. The simplest explanation for it lies, as I have argued elsewhere on ATS, in the incompleteness of quantum mechanics, which in its current form is incompatible with general relativity. You don't have to accept my word that it is incomplete; any theoretical physicist of your acquaintance will tell you the same, and you will find the question much discussed, for example in Lee Smolin's highly acclaimed book The Trouble with Physics.

There are, however, other explanations on offer. The most popular one right now is probably decoherence, to which I earlier referred.


What happens to a quantum particle in the real world is that each of its component states gets entangled (separately) with different aspects of its environment. As seen in the page on Quantum Entanglement, when particles become entangled you have to consider them as one single, entangled state (you use the tensor product to calculate the resultant state). So each component of our quantum particle forms separate entangled states. The phases of these states will be altered. This destroys the coherent phase relationships between the components. The components are said to decohere.

You'll find more information on quantum decoherence here. Don't miss the essays.

Of course, decoherence doesn't cut it with everybody. Here's a physicist with a fascinating alternative viewpoint. He identifies himself as a compatibilist, incidentally; compatibilism may be a way out of the straitjacket of scientific determinsm for some, although we may be jumping the gun a little here.

Decoherence is merely a way to explain how the probabilistic world of subatomic particles (or rather, probability functions representing these particles - the only reality particles or anything else actually have in quantum mechanics) collapses into the deterministic world of our experience. But there's more to it than just this: from deep within the theoretical labyrinths of particle physics now comes a suggestion that if humans have free will, then subatomic particles ought to have it too. Meaning - sorry, cargo cultists - not that photons can change course at will, but that human beings can't.

Right: that should just about cover the physics aspect. Let's now turn to biology; in particular, neuroscience.

Twenty years ago, the outcomes of studies by Benjamin Libet [2] began to suggest that the brain detected and responded to stimuli before actually becoming conscious of them. Further work by him and his colleagues tended to confirm this, and further to show that even so-called 'conscious decisions' are in part made and implemented before the decision-making brain is conscious of them.

Now, using brain scans, a group of researchers from the Max Planck-Institut has borne Libet's conclusions out.


Many processes in the brain occur automatically and without involvement of our consciousness. This prevents our mind from being overloaded by simple routine tasks. But when it comes to decisions we tend to assume they are made by our conscious mind. This is questioned by our current findings.

If you're a subscriber to Nature Neuroscience, you can read the paper here.

Studies like these obviously call free will into question. In fact, they cast doubt on the existence and role of consciousness itself, invoking that philosophical equivalent of the Phantom of the Opera, the homunculus in his box at the Cartesian theatre. For some idea of tonight's programme, see here.

These reports from the frontiers of neuroscience also raise strange problems in morality and ethics, as this essay in the Economist points out. Sadly, you'll need to be a subscriber to read it, unless you can find the original print edition; still, this introductory excerpt gives the flavour.


IN THE late 1990s a previously blameless American began collecting child pornography and propositioning children. On the day before he was due to be sentenced to prison for his crimes, he had his brain scanned. He had a tumour. When it had been removed, his paedophilic tendencies went away. When it started growing back, they returned. When the regrowth was removed, they vanished again. Who then was the child abuser?

His case dramatically illustrates the challenge that modern neuroscience is beginning to pose to the idea of free will...


The typical conservative's response to this sort of thing - fear and revulsion - is exemplified by this essay by Tom Wolfe

However, some people aren't quite so fearful or unimaginative. We call ourselves naturalists. We believe that it is possible to live a happy, moral and productive life without the benefit of free will or even the concept of a self.

You can read more about people like us at this site. Though this page is probably a better place to start thinking about naturalism.

* * *


By the way, Buck Division, thanks for putting in a good word for the old Astyan-hack.

 
*For this useful adjective in the context, I am indebted to the late Richard P. Feynmann, whose Nobel Prize was - as I am sure Syntax123 recalls - awarded for his work in quantum electrodynamics.



posted on Oct, 8 2008 @ 07:22 PM
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Well, alright then. I'll let you people believe in your philosophy if it makes you feel better. If I have time, I'll look through the other links you posted and see if there's any science (my big interest) involved. I have only come across pseudoscience when it comes to philosophy, but we'll see, I guess.



posted on Oct, 9 2008 @ 05:33 PM
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reply to post by Syntax123
 


What makes you believe there is no science involved in what I posted?



posted on Oct, 9 2008 @ 05:38 PM
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Originally posted by Syntax123

Originally posted by theendisnear69
haha did you watch that movie Waking Life? Because I swear they say almost exactly the same thing in that movie.


Heh, never heard of it. Is it worth watching?



It is a great film.

Watch it here "waking life"





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