Sunday, December 30, 2007

FAQ 7 - Isn't free will an illusion?

(Click here for the complete Imagining the Tenth Dimension FAQ list)

7. Isn't free will an illusion, and isn't everything about our universe inevitable?

This hard line view of our reality is called Hard Determinism, and more people have been taught to embrace this grim viewpoint than I would ever have suspected. Is every choice I make, every action I take, already pre-determined? If it were, how could I prove otherwise? No matter what I think, do, or say, no matter what random event causes good or bad fortune to come my way, a hard determinist can declare that it's all just a mechanistic outcome of processes that were set in motion at the very beginning of the universe and which will continue until its end.

"Free will" is discussed in entries like You Are the Point, What's Around the Corner, The Past is an Illusion, The Spacetime Tree, The Fifth Dimension is a Dangerous Idea, The Flipbook Universe and Monkeys Love Metallica.

This Hard Determinist approach is sometimes also tied into the Anthropic Viewpoint: even if the potential for all those other universes where other probabilistic outcomes and choices might have come to be is acknowledged, there are scientists who will tell you that those universes are irrelevant, because they in no sense of the word ever really came to "exist": they were, and remain, only as unrealized potential. Click here to read an interesting debate as to whether the "other universes" of the multiverse should be thought of as real or not. This debate is between two well-respected experts in the field of quantum mechanics who I quote from regularly, Seth Lloyd, and David Deutsch.

The Forest gives us another way to visualize how our free will ties into this.
Beer and Miracles ties together unlikely probabilities and free will.
You are the Point provides another way to visualize free will as part of the quantum observer process.
Here are some blog entries about The Anthropic Viewpoint, Determinism, Randomness and Bohmian Mechanics, and the Flatlanders concept as it relates to the choices we make.
This entry is about the choices and we make and the stories we tell ourselves.

Things get even more mind-boggling when we start exploring theories about reverse causality, the idea that choice made "now" doesn't just affect our path into the future, but could also cause shifts in the "then" that came before. Related entries include:
Local Realism Bites the Dust
Our Non-Local Universe
The Flexi-Laws of Physics
Alien Mathematics
Changing Your Genes
You Have a Shape and a Trajectory
The Biocentric Universe
Poll 44 - The Biocentric Universe Theory
Placebos Becoming More Effective?

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