Thursday, 5 July 2007

Evolution, Randomness and Intelligence in Nature

Quantum Physics
and Free Will

During the seminar the most discussed issue was the relationship between quantum physics and free will.
Is free will possible in a completely deterministc world?
Is quantum randomness compatible with free will?

See the presentation "The Quantum World"


Daan said...

Just to get started: I am not quite clear on why exactly thinking presupposes freedom, except of course that Kant says so. Could anyone help me out on this? Thanks!

Ponci said...

I think that definitely thinking presuppose freedom. To understand it, you have perhaps to change your mind about the concept of freedom. Freedom is not only the capability to make a choice. In a way, the choice is only a consequence of the freedom. Basically freedom is the capability to stand back from the reality or "to distance oneself from the reality". Jacinto Choza calls this fundamental freedom "ontological freedom". Actually if you are not able to stand back from the reality, you cannot know things in a universal way. You know always this table or that table, but you never will be able to understand what tables are in general, i.e. you cannot coin any universal concepts. A fortiori, without this ontological freedom you cannot coin abstract concepts either. Therefore, you cannot think either, even if your thinking is so mathematical that theoretically it doesn't require any kind of choice. From this point of view, the ontological freedom is the base of all other kinds of freedom: freedom of choice, freedom of thinking, politically freedom (prison…), freedom of expression, etc.
I hope that I made myself understood. I'm not used to write in English.

Daan said...

Thank you very much! I didn't know about ontological freedom, I suppose I should read up on it...

Lorenzo said...

I have another question about what Antoine said in the presentation:
If you are trying to prove something, then you are implicitly assuming freedom.
I think I didn't understand this.

Then maybe a consequence could also be, that freedom is impossible to be proved, because if you want to prove its existence you are already assuming it. Is it right?

Antoine said...

I think Lorenzo is right. The very attitude of proving something to some person A assumes that A should adhere to the arguments by his own, and not by force, i.e. assumes freedom. This is especially true regarding personal rights. When someone tries to provide arguments for defending his rights or supporting some claim, is presupposing that he is free and the others are free. Notice that you cannot define yourself as thinking individual skipping the biological species you belong to, because you cannot define yourself without defining your body, and this immediately requires defining your relationship to the other individuals of the species homo sapiens.

Nevertheless, to our aim, possibly it is not profitable to enter a discussion of principle about whether freedom can be proved or not. The interesting point is, that if you are for freedom (as Kant apparently was) you cannot assume that science is deterministic (as Kant apparently assumed). I would like to propose to define ourselves as a club of thinkers for freedom, who try to describe the world coherently outgoing from this fundamental choice.

Notice that the fundamental option: for or against freedom, is already a consequence of freedom. But you can use your freedom to destroy it, as you can use your life to commit suicide.

Ponci said...

Dear Antoine, I think that I understand your reasoning when you affirm « if you are for freedom (as Kant apparently was) you cannot assume that science is deterministic ». Nevertheless, these to sentences are not logically connected. Could you please make your reasoning more explicit? It would be fascinating if you manage to explain us this important issue. I can help you asking a question: why are you not able to conceive a world described by a deterministic science (from Galileo to Einstein, the science was considered as a deterministic system), but in which people think that they are free and assume that freedom is not an delusion. I wait for your answer with great interest. Please, try to explicit all the presupposition of your Weltanschauung.

Lorenzo said...

Dear Jean-David,

I think your question could be resumed by this one:
"Why can't we think a world of freedom with a deterministic science?"
I'll try to answer this very interesting question.

Reading a book written in this October by my informatics Professor ("Sieben Wunder der Informatik", Juraj Hromkovic, 2006), I was very happy to see page 17.
He explains how and why Informatics was born, and he says that the main idea was the "Gedankenexperiment" of the Daemon: a hypothetical being able to read all the informations in the world and capable to connect them together predicting the future.
Men are not able to do that because of the limitation of our brain, which cannot contain so many information. But this Daemon could.
This works perfectly if we see all the phenomena as by-other-phenomena-generated effects. In other words if we see the world as a chain Cause->Effect->Cause->Effect->... , the deterministic view.

Now he says: "Ich persönlich halte aber diese Vorstellung gar nicht für optimistisch, weil sie bedeutet, dass die Zukunft schon bestimmt ist. Wo bleibt dann Platz für unsere Aktivitäten? Wir können gar nichts beeinflussen." ("I personally see this view as a pessimistic one: indeed it means, that future is already decided. And where do we have place for our activities? We can't decide anything.")
And why?
You can see a decision as a chain of events in my brain (and maybe also in the world around me). If you want to see freedom in this chain you are obliged to introduce in one of these steps an event which doesn't respect the physical laws, so that the result has been changed because of your freedom. But this step would have a cause which wasn't in space-time (because if it was, the result is the same as the one predicted by knowing all the phenomena in space-time, and your freedom would not be proved) and a cause outside space-time is not visible, so it's not a phenomenon, so the chain of cause of the final event is also made of non-observable causes. But this is no more determinism.

I think you cannot see freedom acting in the world but in this way, which completely excludes determinism.
I think you cannot see determinism and freedom in the same world.

Now we have finally found the possibility to choose between the two ways...
... and you can freely choose...

Lorenzo said...

I can ask an other question:
Do you all agree with the conclusion that determinism doesn't exist?

And do you agree with the idea that freedom is possible in the scientific world?

I'm waiting for answers and "attacks"...

Daan said...

I have to say that this was one of the more complicated presentations, but very important!

Am I right that in the end there are only two options. Since there seems to be coordination between particles, (each in themselves random) and material interaction has been excluded, either:
- all causality breaks down
- there is causality but of a non-material, i.e. spiritual nature?

That's all the options we have, right?

Lorenzo said...

You're right Daan, these are the two possibilities.
Even if I disagree with the idea of "many worlds" I have to tell something about it.
This theory was developed by Prof. Hugh Everett, and says that every time you can choose between two ways, two different worlds are created, so that all the possible choises are realized.
It's a quite strange theory, but in fact not so different from the first option you gave. In particular with this view of the world there's no place for freedom.

The second theory, very interesting and really new, is the 't Hooft theory.
He says that at the sub-quantum level correlations can be explained in a deterministic way.

Maybe someone can explain this theory, because I think it's very ...correlated... with this discussion.

Welcome to Science and Beyond

They say inspiration is elusive, but sometimes it comes by email... I would appreciate the opportunity to share my popular writings with you via email. Thanks for your interest. Daan.