Thursday, July 2, 2015

Free Will

Sometimes, you really do not have a choice...

It always amazes me when people talk about some emotional impact that causes them to change their opinion about a deity.
They never seem to realize that it's themselves, not the real world, around which their belief rotates. They'll claim that they have a choice about their belief, and that validates the "purity" of their choice.

But "Free Will" is not a religious concept. It does not depend on the existence of any deity, because "choice" is exercised between options apparent to the decisor regardless of origin - theoretical, "theological" or otherwise. You might be interested to know that in every case studied with logical rigor, what appears to be a chain of choices is actually predetermined.

How do you think magicians know where you're looking?


There are a few misconceptions about the real world to clear out of the way.

First: the world is not truly random. If you were flipping a coin, the "universe" consists of only three possibilities: "heads", "tails", or the edge of the coin. In the real world, elements behave according to the laws of gravitation, magnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces at a minimum.

What this means is that the world is not truly random. A truly random universe cannot have a law of physics.
And it means that "order" does not require guidance of any kind.

Second: the universe offers a realm of possibilities which is very large. Extremely large. Mind-bogglingly, staggeringly large. Take a number you think is big (but don't make a noise about "infinity" - it doesn't mean what you think it means), and double it. The actual mechanism is the interplay of the four fundamental forces noted above. In this world, it is still possible for there to be two fingerprint sets which are the same, two retinal patterns which are the same, and two Taj Mahals, one of which was spat out of an active volcano intact - because a) the Taj Mahal was assembled according to the laws of physics, b) the laws of physics do not depend on humans to exist, and c) all of space and all of time describes the venue in which that act can be played. That we cannot point to this having happened does not preclude it. That the consequences of discovering this event are nil does not invalidate the principle.

Third: the nature of the choices we make differ in magnitude. Yes, you can make a choice which has no consequence. You can make one which does have a consequence. You can make choices up to the point at which your abilities interfere with your means of making a choice. For instance, you can't choose to step outside and just jump to fly to the moon. That's not a choice because of the requirements natural laws make for you to travel.

Fourth: when you look at something, you are viewing processes at their current level of completion.
This confuses people fond of noting that if they had done something different, the result, they say, would be different, too. This is not really the case. The alternatives are: different path, different result; different path, same result. That second part is suppressed, because people want to think they've figured out what went wrong so they can avoid such a mistake as they perceive from happening again. Look at a game of solitaire for an example. More than one sequence of play produces a solution, and more than one sequence produces a stoppage.
This principle even applies to process which do not involve you, or which differ with respect to your level of participation.

Fifth: the interference of an outside force can change the consequences of your decision(s), raising the magnitude of uncertainty beyond what is apparent.

In short:
  • Free will has limits. 
  • Free will is independent of religious affiliation. 
  • Some of what you choose is insignificant. 
  • Other people's decisions can affect you. 
  • Order is a result of the combination and permutations of existing forces.

And, of course, you're not really getting a "do over!" for anything. The stream will have moved on.