April 01, 2009

free will and all . . .

Look, I admit that I don't always know exactly how to express my notions on Free will and Quantum mechanics, but perhaps someone else does . . .

First of all, free will is a contentious issue. A contentious philosophical issue, not a scientific one. Free will is one of those things that must, dogmatically, exist. Too often, people only care about the question of whether free will exists, when they should care about what "free will" really means. And what do we really mean by free will anyway? Does that mean that we're free from outside influences? Does it mean that we are morally culpable for our own actions? Does it mean that our actions are unpredictable? Is it necessarily a supernatural force? Definitions and details abound.

Does Quantum mechanics imply free will? It depends on what kind of free will we are talking about. If we're talking about unpredictability, maybe. But if we consider the moral definitions, I don't think science has the slightest bearing on any of them. "Unpredictable <=> morally responsible" just seems like a non sequitur to me, but hey, that's a problem for philosophy, not for physics.

But first, how about classical mechanics? The universe envisioned by Isaac Newton was like clockwork. All God had to do was wind it up. The universe would proceed in a single deterministic path. Now, Newton was quite religious, if a bit heretical, but that doesn't stop more modern folks from thinking that the determinism of classical mechanics was an obstacle to religion in some way. But is it?
No way you can stop reading this until you come to the end (so to speak. . .)

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