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Has Hard Determinism been proven false by science?

 
 
Reply Tue 2 Mar, 2010 09:49 pm
By Hard Determinism I mean the determinism of LaPlace or his demon, where given sufficient knowledge of initial conditions and sufficient knowledge of the laws of nature all states of the universe past and present (there is only one possible future and was only one possible past) could be known to an entity with sufficient computational ability.

I say hard determinism is false- that the preponderance of evidence is that on a quantum scale nature operates according to stochastic probability and that quantum indeterminacy ultimately will result in unpredictability regarding macroscopic events as well.

I would also include chaos theory and fractals as evidence that our reality can result from process that fundamentally does not conform to hard determinism.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 5,100 • Replies: 13
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Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Tue 2 Mar, 2010 10:00 pm
@prothero,
prothero;135121 wrote:

I say hard determinism is false- that the preponderance of evidence is that on a quantum scale nature operates according to stochastic probability and that quantum indeterminacy ultimately will result in unpredictability regarding macroscopic events as well.

I would also include chaos theory and fractals as evidence that our reality can result from process that fundamentally does not conform to hard determinism.


I think hard determism is arguably unprovable from an ontological angle. Even if Nature is mathematical in a similar way that man's transcendental number is mathematical, we could never prove it. And even if it were, we could not prove that we had calculated all the "laws' of Nature or that we were even completely aware of them. As Wittgenstein said, we cannot see outside our human form of life. Determinism is a hard sell.
0 Replies
 
ughaibu
 
  1  
Reply Tue 2 Mar, 2010 10:15 pm
@prothero,
prothero;135121 wrote:
By Hard Determinism I mean the determinism of LaPlace or his demon, where given sufficient knowledge of initial conditions and sufficient knowledge of the laws of nature all states of the universe past and present (there is only one possible future and was only one possible past) could be known to an entity with sufficient computational ability.
Any scientific theory which appeals to real numbers, is incompatible with determinism. An uncountable infinity of real numbers are uncomputable, so the demon can not make its calculation unless the world is discrete.
prothero;135121 wrote:
I say hard determinism is false- that the preponderance of evidence is that on a quantum scale nature operates according to stochastic probability and that quantum indeterminacy ultimately will result in unpredictability regarding macroscopic events as well.
No-go theorems imply that if scientists have the freedom to perform experiments, then determinism is false. For example: http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0807/0807.3286v1.pdf In other words, soft determinism appears to be mathematically refuted, committing determinists to denial of free will and a digital ontology. What I'd like to know, is what they think determinism offers in exchange for denying so much else?
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Mar, 2010 04:21 pm
@ughaibu,
ughaibu;135140 wrote:
Any scientific theory which appeals to real numbers, is incompatible with determinism. An uncountable infinity of real numbers are uncomputable, so the demon can not make its calculation unless the world is discrete.No-go theorems imply that if scientists have the freedom to perform experiments, then determinism is false. For example: http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0807/0807.3286v1.pdf In other words, soft determinism appears to be mathematically refuted, committing determinists to denial of free will and a digital ontology. What I'd like to know, is what they think determinism offers in exchange for denying so much else?
From Princeton University and the math department no less.
A suggestion that fundamental particles have degrees of freedom and determinsm is false. You do not know how inspiring a panpsychist finds such stuff. The fundamental properties of mind may be found all the way down to the core of nature yet. Reality may be fundamentally perceptive not innert and insensate after all.
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StochasticBeauty
 
  1  
Reply Sat 6 Mar, 2010 01:00 am
@prothero,
In short yes.

What most people don't know thus are unable to acknowledge is that nothing is certain even laws.

In econometrics and physics you learn a lot about stochasticism and gaussian probability. this probability goes into every outcome of nature. this may help explain the variation found in nature as well.
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Sat 6 Mar, 2010 01:28 am
@StochasticBeauty,
DETERMINISM

Quote:
Modern perspectives

[edit] In biology

Although it was once thought by scientists that any indeterminism in quantum mechanics occurred at too small a scale to influence biological or neurological systems, there is evidence that nervous systems are indeterministic,[15] and it has been argued that "[classical] physical determinism is out: the future is not fully determined by the current facts".[16]
[edit] Cause and effect

Since the early twentieth century when astronomer Edwin Hubble first hypothesized that redshift shows the universe is expanding, prevailing scientific opinion has been that the current state of the universe is the result of a process described by the Big Bang. Many theists and deists claim that it therefore has a finite age, pointing out that something cannot come from nothing. The big bang does not describe from where the compressed universe came; instead it leaves the question open. Different astrophysicists hold different views about precisely how the universe originated (Cosmogony). The philosophical argument here would be that the big bang triggered every single action, and possibly mental thought, through the system of cause and effect.
[edit] Generative processes

Some proponents of emergentist or generative philosophy, cognitive sciences and evolutionary psychology, argue that free will does not exist.[17][18] They suggest instead that an illusion of free will is experienced due to the generation of infinite behaviour from the interaction of finite-deterministic set of rules and parameters. Thus the unpredictability of the emerging behaviour from deterministic processes leads to a perception of free will, even though free will as an ontological entity does not exist.[17][18]
As an illustration, the strategy board-games chess and Go have rigorous rules in which no information (such as cards' face-values) is hidden from either player and no random events (such as dice-rolling) happen within the game. Yet, chess and especially Go with its extremely simple deterministic rules, can still have an extremely large number of unpredictable moves. By this analogy, it is suggested, the experience of free will emerges from the interaction of finite rules and deterministic parameters that generate infinite and unpredictable behaviour. Yet, if all these events were accounted for, and there were a known way to evaluate these events, the seemingly unpredictable behaviour would become predictable.[17][18]
[edit] In mathematical models

Many mathematical models of physical systems are deterministic. This is true of most models involving differential equations (notably, those measuring rate of change over time). Mathematical models that are not deterministic because they involve randomness are called stochastic. Because of sensitive dependence on initial conditions, some deterministic models may appear to behave non-deterministically; in such cases, a deterministic interpretation of the model may not be useful due to numerical instability and a finite amount of precision in measurement. Such considerations can motivate the consideration of a stochastic model even though the underlying system is governed by deterministic equations.[19][20][21] A truly non-deterministic event is independent of the time and observer, thus it is called intrinsic random event.
[edit] Arguments

Compatibilism is the acceptance of both Free Will and Determinism. The negation of determinism is called Indeterminism.
[edit] Quantum mechanics and classical physics

Main article: Superdeterminism
Since the beginning of the 20th century, quantum mechanics has revealed previously concealed aspects of events. Newtonian physics, taken in isolation rather than as an approximation to quantum mechanics, depicts a universe in which objects move in perfectly determinative ways. At human scale levels of interaction, Newtonian mechanics makes predictions that are agreed with, within the accuracy of measurement. Poorly designed and fabricated guns and ammunition scatter their shots rather widely around the center of a target, and better guns produce tighter patterns. Absolute knowledge of the forces accelerating a bullet should produce absolutely reliable predictions of its path, or so it was thought. However, knowledge is never absolute in practice and the equations of Newtonian mechanics can exhibit sensitive dependence on initial conditions, meaning small errors in knowledge of initial conditions can result in arbitrarily large deviations from predicted behavior.
At atomic scales the paths of objects can only be predicted in a probabilistic way. The paths may not be exactly specified in a full quantum description of the particles; "path" is a classical concept which quantum particles do not exactly possess. The probability arises from the measurement of the perceived path of the particle. In some cases, a quantum particle may trace an exact path, and the probability of finding the particles in that path is one. The quantum development is at least as predictable as the classical motion, but it describes wave functions that cannot be easily expressed in ordinary language. In double-slit experiments, photons are fired singly through a double-slit apparatus at a distant screen and do not arrive at a single point, nor do the photons arrive in a scattered pattern analogous to bullets fired by a fixed gun at a distant target. Instead, the light arrives in varying concentrations at widely separated points, and the distribution of its collisions with the target can be calculated reliably. In that sense the behavior of light in this apparatus is deterministic, but there is no way to predict where in the resulting interference pattern an individual photon will make its contribution (see Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle).
Some have argued [22] that, in addition to the conditions humans can observe and the laws we can deduce, there are hidden factors or "hidden variables" that determine absolutely in which order photons reach the detector screen. They argue that the course of the universe is absolutely determined, but that humans are screened from knowledge of the determinative factors. So, they say, it only appears that things proceed in a merely probabilistically-determinative way. In actuality, they proceed in an absolutely deterministic way. Although matters are still subject to some measure of dispute, quantum mechanics makes statistical predictions which would be violated if some local hidden variables existed. There have been a number of experiments to verify those predictions, and so far they do not appear to be violated, though many physicists believe better experiments are needed to conclusively settle the question. (See Bell test experiments.) It is possible, however, to augment quantum mechanics with non-local hidden variables to achieve a deterministic theory that is in agreement with experiment. An example is the Bohm interpretation of quantum mechanics.
On the macro scale it can matter very much whether a bullet arrives at a specific point at a specific time; there are analogous quantum events that have macro- as well as quantum-level consequences. It is easy to contrive situations in which the arrival of an electron at a screen at a certain point and time would trigger one event and its arrival at another point would trigger an entirely different event. (See .)
Even before the laws of quantum mechanics were developed to their present level, the phenomenon of radioactivity posed a challenge to determinism. A gram of uranium-238, a commonly occurring radioactive substance, contains some 2.5 x 1021 atoms. By all tests known to science these atoms are identical and indistinguishable. Yet about 12600 times a second one of the atoms in that gram will decay, giving off an alpha particle. This decay does not depend on external stimulus and no extant theory of physics predicts when any given atom will decay, with realistically obtainable knowledge. The uranium found on earth is thought to have been synthesized during a supernova explosion that occurred roughly 5 billion years ago. For determinism to hold, every uranium atom must contain some internal "clock" that specifies the exact time it will decay.[citation needed] And somehow the laws of physics must specify exactly how those clocks were set as each uranium atom was formed during the supernova collapse.
Exposure to alpha radiation can cause cancer. For this to happen, at some point a specific alpha particle must alter some chemical reaction in a cell in a way that results in a mutation. Since molecules are in constant thermal motion, the exact timing of the radioactive decay that produced the fatal alpha particle matters. If probabilistically determined events do have an impact on the macro events-such as when a person who could have been historically important dies in youth of a cancer caused by a random mutation-then the course of history is not predictable from the dawn of time.
The time dependent gives the first time derivative of the quantum state. That is, it explicitly and uniquely predicts the development of the wave function with time.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/math/6/8/7/68788b0ab56629c800e772dc047fb4cf.png So if the wave function itself is reality (rather than probability of classical coordinates), quantum mechanics can be said to be deterministic. Since we have no practical way of knowing the exact magnitudes, and especially the phases, in a full quantum mechanical description of the causes of an observable event, this turns out to be philosophically similar to the "hidden variable" doctrine[citation needed].
According to some[citation needed], quantum mechanics is more strongly ordered than Classical Mechanics, because while Classical Mechanics is chaotic, quantum mechanics is not. For example, the classical problem of three bodies under a force such as gravity is not integrable, while the quantum mechanical three body problem is tractable and integrable, using the Faddeev Equations. This does not mean that quantum mechanics describes the world as more deterministic, unless one already considers the wave function to be the true reality. Even so, this does not get rid of the probabilities, because we can't do anything without using classical descriptions, but it assigns the probabilities to the classical approximation, rather than to the quantum reality.
Asserting that quantum mechanics is deterministic by treating the wave function itself as reality implies a single wave function for the entire universe, starting at the origin of the universe. Such a "wave function of everything" would carry the probabilities of not just the world we know, but every other possible world that could have evolved. For example, large voids in the distributions of galaxies are believed by many cosmologists to have originated in quantum fluctuations during the big bang. (See cosmic inflation and primordial fluctuations.) If so, the "wave function of everything" would carry the possibility that the region where our Milky Way galaxy is located could have been a void and the Earth never existed at all. (See large-scale structure of the cosmos.)
[edit] First cause

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/fe/Unbalanced_scales.svg/45px-Unbalanced_scales.svg.png
The neutrality of this article is disputed. Please see the discussion on the talk page. Please do not remove this message until the dispute is resolved. (January 2010) Intrinsic to the debate concerning determinism is the issue of first cause. Deism, a philosophy articulated in the seventeenth century, holds that the universe has been deterministic since creation, but ascribes the creation to a metaphysical God or first cause outside of the chain of determinism. God may have begun the process, Deism argues, but God has not influenced its progression. This perspective illustrates a puzzle underlying any conception of determinism[citation needed]:
Assume: All events have causes, and their causes are all prior events. There is no cycle of events such that an event (possibly indirectly) causes itself.
The picture this gives us is that Event AN is preceded by AN-1, which is preceded by AN-2, and so forth.[citation needed]
Under these assumptions, two possibilities seem clear, and both of them question the validity of the original assumptions:
(1) There is an event A0 prior to which there was no other event that could serve as its cause.(2) There is no event A0 prior to which there was no other event, which means that we are presented with an infinite series of causally related events, which is itself an event[dubious - discuss], and yet there is no cause for this infinite series of events. Under this analysis the original assumption must have something wrong with it. It can be fixed by admitting one exception, a creation event (either the creation of the original event or events, or the creation of the infinite series of events) that is itself not a caused event in the sense of the word "caused" used in the formulation of the original assumption. Some agency, which many systems of thought call God, creates space, time, and the entities found in the universe by means of some process that is analogous to causation but is not causation as we know it. This solution to the original difficulty has led people to question whether there is any reason for there only being one divine quasi-causal act, whether there have not been a number of events that have occurred outside the ordinary sequence of events. Others[citation needed] argue that this is simply redefining the question.
Another possibility is that the "last event" loops back to the "first event" causing an infinite loop. If you were to call the Big Bang the first event, you would see the end of the Universe as the "last event". In theory, the end of the Universe would be the cause of the beginning of the Universe. You would be left with an infinite loop of time with no real beginning or end. This theory eliminates the need for a first cause, but does not explain why there should be a loop in time.
Immanuel Kant carried forth this idea of Leibniz in his idea of transcendental relations, and as a result, this had profound effects on later philosophical attempts to sort these issues out. His most influential immediate successor, a strong critic whose ideas were yet strongly influenced by Kant, was Edmund Husserl, the developer of the school of philosophy called phenomenology. But the central concern of that school was to elucidate not physics but the grounding of information that physicists and others regard as empirical. In an indirect way, this train of investigation appears to have contributed much to the philosophy of science called logical positivism and particularly to the thought of members of the Vienna Circle, all of which have had much to say, at least indirectly, about ideas of determinism.


---------- Post added 03-06-2010 at 02:35 AM ----------

Superdeterminism

Quote:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
...Superdeterminism is a theoretical escape route from Bell's theorem, which states that a local hidden variable theory cannot reproduce the predictions of quantum mechanics.
Bell's theorem assumes that the types of measurements performed at each detector are chosen independently of each other and of the hidden variable being measured. But in a truly deterministic theory, this would not be the case. Although the experimenters might believe they are making a free and independent choice, their choices are really predetermined by the laws of physics. Since the types of measurements at each detector can be known in advance, the results at one detector can be affected by the type of measurement done at the other without any need for information to travel faster than the speed of light.
Bell acknowledged the loophole, but argued that it was improbable. Even if the measurements performed are chosen by deterministic random number generators, the choices can be assumed to be "effectively free for the purpose at hand," because the machine's choice is altered by a large number of very small effects. It is unlikely for the hidden variable to be sensitive to all of the same small influences that the random number generator was.[1]
Bell discussed superdeterminism in a BBC interview:[2][INDENT] There is a way to escape the inference of superluminal speeds and spooky action at a distance. But it involves absolute determinism in the universe, the complete absence of free will. Suppose the world is super-deterministic, with not just inanimate nature running on behind-the-scenes clockwork, but with our behavior, including our belief that we are free to choose to do one experiment rather than another, absolutely predetermined, including the "decision" by the experimenter to carry out one set of measurements rather than another, the difficulty disappears. There is no need for a faster than light signal to tell particle A what measurement has been carried out on particle B, because the universe, including particle A, already "knows" what that measurement, and its outcome, will be.
[/INDENT][INDENT] The only alternative to quantum probabilities, superpositions of states, collapse of the wave function, and spooky action at a distance, is that everything is superdetermined. For me it is a dilemma. I think it is a deep dilemma, and the resolution of it will not be trivial; it will require a substantial change in the way we look at things.
[/INDENT]
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Mar, 2010 08:49 pm
@prothero,
You'll get no argument from me, but I do wonder why anyone thought it was feasible in the first place. I suppose it is the extreme end of 'philosophical naturalism' - that everything in the cosmos is determined by natural laws which are ultimately computable.

But it is simply not, and has never been.

Allow me the opportunity to rehearse a related line of argument. You do sometimes wonder what science will and won't consider. In the unending arguments over natural selection, but also in other areas such as nature of mind, you come up against the 'burden of proof' argument quite a lot.

But it seems to me that in some of these matters, science actually argues from a conclusion to premises rather than visca versa. For example, regarding the role of chance in evolution: the debate starts with view that Darwin's laws are adequate, cogent and sufficient to explain all of the phenomena of life. These principles are sufficiently lacking in precision to accommodate an enormous range of data, so they are practically impossible to disprove. Whereas if you say 'what if there are underlying laws of form that determine the likelihood of particular outcomes (which was a common belief prior to Darwin) - and these are a factor, in addition to random mutations'. Of course, the existence of such forms is impossible to observe. So the idea itself is not scientifically admissible. If a proposition of this kind can't be proven, then it is not scientific. It won't be considered.

This raises all kinds of questions about what science will and won't consider. Of course, LaPlace's original hypothesis attempted to settle this once for all by arguing that everything was determined by material causes, but I think, and many think, this was nonsense from the outset. This is just the way science throws its weight around. There are many other examples.
Night Ripper
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Mar, 2010 08:58 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;138065 wrote:
I suppose it is the extreme end of 'philosophical naturalism' - that everything in the cosmos is determined by natural laws which are ultimately computable.


Unfortunately these mysterious laws that control everything sound rather supernatural. Just because I can predict the movement of the planets doesn't mean they have to move that way. It's just the simple fact that, however they move, as long as it's in a regular pattern, they can be described.

Even if I could predict the position of every atom in the universe, it doesn't mean that those atoms have to move that way.
north
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Mar, 2010 09:45 pm
@Night Ripper,
its a matter of balance

if something is out of balance , whether it micro or macro then the determinism of this action(s) is undeterminate
pagan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 01:18 pm
@north,
Mostly i don't go with the anti free will of determinism (i recognise others do not see them as mutually exclusive, but i do) ....... but sometimes i do enter that narrative for specialist convenience. eg chess Smile

My understanding is that given the philosophical divide wrought by the differences between general relativity and quantum mechanics, that many scientists would like to go back to einstein and reestablish determinism into the philosophical ascendency. There is a greater sense of loss felt in science for objectivity undermined by probability waves used by a non passive measurer ..... as compared to objectivity undermined by the impossibility of the gods eye view.

Since it is always a matter of disproof in science, i think they would prefer that the latter reaches a state of being not disproved.
Egregias
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 01:35 pm
@pagan,
That determinism is false does not imply that a theory of free will is true, or even intelligible. That God may play dice affords me no freedom.
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 02:50 pm
@Egregias,
Egregias;138359 wrote:
That determinism is false does not imply that a theory of free will is true, or even intelligible. That God may play dice affords me no freedom.
No perhaps not but at least it makes it possible that it is not physics that steals your freedom. For if there is a little freedom in the foundation there may be a little freedom elsewhere.
The difference between no freedom and a little freedom is all the difference in our world.:perplexed:
Egregias
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 03:07 pm
@prothero,
prothero;138368 wrote:
No perhaps not but at least it makes it possible that it is not physics that steals your freedom. For if there is a little freedom in the foundation there may be a little freedom elsewhere.
The difference between no freedom and a little freedom is all the difference in our world.:perplexed:

Really, everyone acknowledges that we have free will in the sense of the ability to act upon our wishes. I don't really understand what this additional freedom from determinism is good for, or indeed what it would be like, how we could recognize it. Without some predictability, our actions wouldn't ever give the hoped-for result.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 04:48 pm
@prothero,
I would suggest that freedom is only possible in the light of awareness. Why? Because in the absence of awareness we are mainly driven by conditioned desires. We tend to repeat the same patterns of behaviour over and over again with no insight into why. In that condition, our actions are indeed determined by our habitual tendencies. If we become self-aware this is the first step to spontaneous action which is not determined by past attitudes.
0 Replies
 
 

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