Free Will

You will see many discussions regarding free will. The question is, do you have it, or are we in some giant computer program. The problem is that classical physics is deterministic, and you will often see claims that Newtonian physics demands that the Universe works like some finely tuned machine, following precise laws of motion. And indeed, we can predict quite accurately when eclipses of the sun will occur, and where we should go to view them. The presence of eclipses in the future is determined now. Now let us extrapolate. If planets follow physical laws, and hence their behaviour can be determined, then so do snooker or pool balls, even if we cannot in practice calculate all that will happen on a given break. Let us take this further. Heat is merely random kinetic energy, but is it truly random? It seems that way, but the laws of motion are quite clear: we can calculate exactly what will happen in any collision and it is just in practice the calculations are too complicated to even consider doing it. You bring in chaos theory, but this does nothing for you; the calculations may be utterly impossible to carry out, but they are governed solely by deterministic physics, so ultimately what happens was determined and it is just that we do not know how to calculate it. Electrodynamics and quantum theory are deterministic, even if quantum theory has random probability distributions. Quantum behaviour always follows strict conservation laws and the Schrödinger equation is actually deterministic. If you know ψ and know the change of conditions, you know the new ψ. Further, all chemistry is deterministic. If I go into the lab, take some chemicals and mix them and if necessary heat them according to some procedure, every time I follow exactly the same procedures, I shall end up with the same result.

So far, so good. Every physical effect follows from a physical cause. Therefore, the argument goes, since our brain works on physical and chemical effects and these are deterministic, what our brains do is determined exactly by those conditions. But those conditions were determined by what went before, and those before that, and so on. Extrapolating, everything was predetermined at the time of the big bang! At this point the perceptive may feel that does not seem right, and it is not. Consider nuclear decay. We know that particles, say neutrons, are emitted with a certain probability over an extended period of time. They will be emitted, but we cannot say exactly, or even roughly, when. The nuclei have angular uncertainty, therefore it follows that you cannot know what direction it is emitted because according to the laws of physics that is not determined until it is emitted. You may say, so what? That is trivial. No, the so what is that when you find one exception, you falsify the overall premise that everythingwas determined at the big bang. Which means something else introduced causes. Also, the emitted neutron may now generate new causes that could not be predetermined.

Now we start to see a way out. Every physical effect follows from a physical cause, but where do the causes come from? Consider stretching a wire with ever increasing force; eventually it breaks. It usually breaks at the weakest point, which in principle is predictable, but suppose we have a perfect wire with no point weaker than any other. It must still break, but where? At the instant of breaking some quantum effect, such as molecular vibration, will offer momentarily weaker and stronger spots. One with the greatest weakness will go, but due to the Uncertainty Principle that the given spot is unpredictable.

Take evolution. This proceeds by variation in the nucleic acids, but where in the chain is almost certainly random because each phosphate ester linkage that has to be broken is equivalent, just like the points in the “ideal wire”. Most resultant mutations die out. Some survive, and those that survive long enough to reproduce contribute to an evolutionary change. But again, which survives depends on where it is. Thus a change that provides better heat insulation at the expense of mobility may survive in polar regions, but it offers nothing in the equatorial rain forest. There is nothing that determines where what mutation will arise; it is a random event.Once you cannot determine everything, even in principle, it follows you must accept that not every cause is determined by previous events. Once you accept that, since we have no idea how the mind works, you cannot insist the way my mind works was determined at the time of the big bang. The Universe is mechanical and predictable in terms of properties obeying the conservation laws, but not necessarily anything else. I have free will, and so do you. Use it well.

8 thoughts on “Free Will

  1. We are free to be more liberated if we freely decide what our freedom will be submitted to…

    Free Will, the eternal debate. We have it… sort of. In truth, we are free to set up our Free Will, to some extent. I write an essay on the “Fake Left Financed By Plutocratic Conspiracy”, Facebook comes in, and “an administrator” discreetly removes it. My free will to use my isegoria, their Free Will to extinguish it.

    We are free to direct some conditions to free ourselves, or not. One could elect to read the New York Times, where even now, under a new president, Biden, 50% of the articles are Trump Derangement Syndrome certified… Or one could read me (say), where a different flavor of the universe is found. In any case what we are exposed to create neural networks and those are what ideas and emotions are made of. The point is that when they are made, they are there, just like the Colosseum, and it would take a lot of effort to put something else in place. It is the hardest work. Minds have huge inertia. Is something with inertia free? It neither comes for free, nor is its trajectory changed for free.

    Emotional inertia is always there. Many intellectuals nowadays need their fix of Trump hatred, just as they need Morning Joe (insider joke: a pluto media, NBC has a morning show animated by the Harvard connected daughter of the guy who attacked Afghanistan in 1979, under Carter, and her husband, named Joe; this is very popular among pseudo-intellectuals; they love to hate be it Afghanistan, or “low lives” they despise…). This is emotional inertia: hatred is the gift which keeps on giving.

    But where does the spark come from? The pure gesture? The free act? When there is a need for the spark of Free Will? Quantum Field Theory postulates the existence of a universe of virtual particles coming in and out of existence. Experiments show that this seems true; direct fluctuation experiments using gravity wave detectors confirm it. No doubt those interact with our minds, which are Quantum objects.

    Better: Quantum physics rests on Quantum Entanglement: all objects in displacement are Quantum waves, spread all over. Are our minds static or dynamic? If the latter, as they obviously are, they are spread out all over, and the object of interference from Alpha Centauri… Taking this into account, some recent experiments on nonlocality in Quantum Physics were driven by signals coming from quasars at the opposite ends of the observable universe… Free Will? Only in a Free Universe? Not really, Free Will, in the end is about controlling the “Butterfly Effect”: little expositions, similar to, or identical to what some fundamentalists in Quantum Physics call “weak measurements” are what much of our minds billow from. They have to be freely controlled if we want to augment our freedom of will.
    We are free to be more liberated if we freely decide what our freedom will be submitted to…

    • Quantum Field theory is interesting in that somewhere it encompasses some truths, but for me it cannot be correct unless they can find a way of explaining why the vacuum energy has no inertial effect. When you try to use it to calculate the cosmological constant, the error is about 120 orders of magnitude. At the risk of sounding like Douglas Adams, that is a little disturbing, especially since they make a lot of fuss by saying QFT alone is consistent with Einstein’s relativity, so they have an internal contradiction.

      As for free will, if I were [resestined to disagree with QFT, so be it. However, since all the societal “forces” that have impinged on my life and career suggest I should have ignored QFT, my feeling is that my perverse nature made the voluntary decision to ignore those forces. If we assume determinism, then there has to be a stronger force, which is what? I elect free will. Also, I have felt free to ignore the NY Times, but I suppose that is a poor example.

      • As far as QFT is concerned, the valid part of it does not really depend upon having a serious theory of the vacuum. It just assumes the vacuum behaves like a harmonic oscillator at each point… Other parts of Quantum Physics assume different vacuums… The whole thing is massively unfinished…
        The cosmological constant computation has to do with pressure which contributes to the energy-momentum tensor in GR. All these computations assume lots of things…

        My point on free will is that it has inertia… And even pressure, in analogy with GR.
        The NYT clearly has only one will: to please its owner… The freedom of a barnacle…

  2. Reblogged this on Patrice Ayme's Thoughts and commented:
    We are free to be more liberated if we freely decide what our freedom will be submitted to…

    Free Will, the eternal debate. We have it… sort of. In truth, we are free to set up our Free Will, to some extent. I write an essay on the “Fake Left Financed By Plutocratic Conspiracy”, Facebook comes in, and “an administrator” discreetly removes it. My free will to use my isegoria, their Free Will to extinguish it.

    We are free to direct some conditions to free ourselves, or not. One could elect to read the New York Times, where even now, under a new president, Biden, 50% of the articles are Trump Derangement Syndrome certified… Or one could read me (say), where a different flavor of the universe is found. In any case what we are exposed to create neural networks and those are what ideas and emotions are made of. The point is that when they are made, they are there, just like the Colosseum, and it would take a lot of effort to put something else in place. It is the hardest work. Minds have huge inertia. Is something with inertia free? It neither comes for free, nor is its trajectory changed for free.

    Emotional inertia is always there. Many intellectuals nowadays need their fix of Trump hatred, just as they need Morning Joe (insider joke: a pluto media, NBC has a morning show animated by the Harvard connected daughter of the guy who attacked Afghanistan in 1979, under Carter, and her husband, named Joe; this is very popular among pseudo-intellectuals; they love to hate be it Afghanistan, or “low lives” they despise…). This is emotional inertia: hatred is the gift which keeps on giving.

    But where does the spark come from? The pure gesture? The free act? When there is a need for the spark of Free Will? Quantum Field Theory postulates the existence of a universe of virtual particles coming in and out of existence. Experiments show that this seems true; direct fluctuation experiments using gravity wave detectors confirm it. No doubt those interact with our minds, which are Quantum objects.

    Better: Quantum physics rests on Quantum Entanglement: all objects in displacement are Quantum waves, spread all over. Are our minds static or dynamic? If the latter, as they obviously are, they are spread out all over, and the object of interference from Alpha Centauri… Taking this into account, some recent experiments on nonlocality in Quantum Physics were driven by signals coming from quasars at the opposite ends of the observable universe… Free Will? Only in a Free Universe? Not really, Free Will, in the end is about controlling the “Butterfly Effect”: little expositions, similar to, or identical to what some fundamentalists in Quantum Physics call “weak measurements” are what much of our minds billow from. They have to be freely controlled if we want to augment our freedom of will.
    We are free to be more liberated if we freely decide what our freedom will be submitted to…

  3. Much has been pondered by claiming that Classical Physics is deterministic… That is not quite the truth. Classical physics, which is driven by Partial Differential Equations, is deterministic… As long as the initial conditions are 100% known. As this is clearly impossible, it is not deterministic, and never was…

    Quantum Physics is driven by a variety of equations. Schrodinger equation (many low energy particles), Dirac equation (electrons), the equations of QCD (quarks, gluons), Maxwell equations (low energy photons), etc… the Schrodinger equation is a HEAT equation with… complex time. This is indicative that there is a hidden thermodynamics of (subquantum?) particles… That thermodynamics of this Subquantum Physics, in turn, would drive minds…

    • Yes, I tried to show the limitations of classical physics determinism. The Schrödinger equation, as originally written before mathematical formalism took over, is simply a statement of the conservation of energy, in which the manifestation of the action is in discrete quanta. I don’t think we understand how the mind works.

      • Indeed, understanding how minds work would require knowing how physics works… And we do not…. Although, as in any time in the past, the lesser among us have persuaded themselves that we have a complete understanding of physics.

        Lord Kelvin had talked about “two little black clouds”, alluding to the UV catastrophe/blackbody radiation and the non detection of motion through the ether… Now we have at least 5 large problems: still no explanation of inertia, whatsoever; dark matter, dark energy, the transition between quantum and classical, and more generally all the weird foundations of Quantum Physics (entanglement, tunneling) and their relation with the rest of physics, for example relativity… and, of course, the question of the feeling of consciousness (which relates to Free Will).

  4. Patrice, the issue of the cosmological constant is that if, to use your words, “It just assumes the vacuum behaves like a harmonic oscillator at each point” is that a harmonic oscillator assumes energy, the so-called zero point energy (and Feynman gave a statement of how much energy there was in some simple volume) and if Einstein’s GR is correct, that energy must have an inertial and gravitational effect – which is what is used to “calculate: (or erroneously calculate) the cosmological constant.

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