I did an earlier piece on determinism, also trying to defend it, although through different means. This piece, rather than refuting determinism’s main opponent, strives to incorporate it into the unified theory below.
Determinism has been refuted by the scientific community on the claim that quantum physics effectively discounts the classic model of causation, which was the very foundation of determinism. However, with proper knowledge of the state of a relatively simple closed system, we can still predict the future state of the system through extrapolation of natural law on the conditions of the system, within a precise tolerance. Indeed, the quantum probabilities of given phenomena at the subatomic level throw a sort of monkey wrench into the integrity of causation, however in most cases the level of influence that these probabilistic phenomena exhibit to causation is negligible. As the complexity of the system increases, however, the effect of quantum uncertainty eventually becomes more tangible over time. Although I stand on no ground to be quantizing these concepts, I suspect that the degree of influence that quantum uncertainty bears on the system we are a part of on earth is not negligible, however, at the same time it is not so drastic that trying to predict the future state of affairs in our would be impractical. This is to say that I believe that determining the future is still entirely possible using classic causational determinism. However, there is a degree of tolerance that must be taken into consideration. The idea of tolerance in this case is similar in concept to the idea of tolerance in an empirical sense; however, for our purposes, tolerance cannot be that simple. This is because we are not talking about a range of number values, but rather we are dealing with a range of possible states of the universe. This idea may be difficult to wrap your head around, but basically I’m saying that among an infinite number of possible future states of the universe, an omniscient being from another universe (capable of defying the Heisenberg uncertainty principle by knowing the absolute state of the universe without changing it) can tell you the probability that any one state will turn out to be the actual future state. Obviously the range of tolerance increases as we focus on points in time which are further and further forward of the present time.
Now I will relate these ideas back to the phenomenon of precognition. Precognition has been documented since the dawn of man, and usually takes place in dreams. Even in modern day society, people experience this phenomenon. It is generally discounted as coincidence, or rather, as something we will never understand, and is thus mentally “benched”, which is to say that as a whole it receives very little consideration as a legitimate occurrence. My hope is that in light of the ideas presented above, the means by which this phenomenon manifests itself may be demystified; a testament to the legitimacy of this “supernatural” event. I cannot currently propose an argument for how we are capable of perceiving the deterministic timeline of events, but the way I propose to legitimize precognition is by looking at reports of precognition, and the common denominator among them. One will find through research that when people have a precognitive dream, when the circumstances come to fruition, there are almost always subtle differences in the way they do so. An example would be the conversation from your dream taking place in real life, but the word choice being slightly altered, and the conversation taking place in a different part of the room. Generally, however, the gist of the precognitive dream is realized. This could perhaps be because you perceive one of the possible future states of the universe and take the relevant information from that perception into your subconscious, whereby it manifests in the dream. However, why would your mind choose any one possible future state over another? If it already knows all the possible states that it can choose from, then it probably knows the probability of each of these states being the actual state. Then, it would only make sense for your mind to choose the outcome of the highest probability. Coincidentally, this happens to be the state that would be reached by the classical model of determinism, wherein causation remains untarnished by quantum uncertainty. The degree to which the precognitive manifestation and the real-world manifestation differ represents the degree to which quantum uncertainty muddled up the would-be, ideal future state determined by basic causation. That’s all my thoughts on the matter, for now. I have not yet had the privilege to take a formal course on quantum mechanics, and as such, I apologize if I made a misunderstood assumption of the semantics of quantum uncertainty. I just came to a series of revelations earlier today, and this piece is their culmination. Thanks for reading! Any thoughts?
@snaysler, Interesting take on it.. Doesn’t come close to trumping A. Watts’ explanation that he provides in his audio lecture series “Out of your mind: the nature of consciousness”. Not many people are aware of it.. Which is a shame. It’s 14 hours, but I highly highly highly recommend. It can be interpreted as the ultimate determinism argument. Among other things. Its like $130 or something.. Torrent?? :)
Check it out please. You will not regret it.
@snaysler, This is pretty spot-on. I actually came to this forum to post about determinism and philosophy (I’m a physicist with a heavy philosophy leaning) and found your post.
I really think that people need to care more about this type of stuff. If you consider the consequences of determinism, it would turn the universe into a directly causal chain of events; a result of an extremely immense physics problem moving forward in time according to the laws of nature. The thing is, what does this say about things like Free Will, The Spirit vs The Mind, and Morality? Personally I tend to think it would mean no free will (of the kind we fantasize about), the death of the spirit and the dominance of the brain, and the demolition of morality. Understand, this isn’t something I want to think or hope will make my world a better place to live, just something that I can’t avoid concluding once you apply the tenants of determinism.
So to go more in depth, every second would be purely a function of the previous second. I could look at a situation and tell you exactly what would happen next. That means you could analyze all the atoms in your body, telling you exactly how you’re going to think, feel, and act in any subsequent moment.
Now, this would mean that the entirety of history exists simultaneously. Once the play button was hit, each subsequent moment was inevitable and unambiguous. In terms of god and religion and whatnot, I don’t like a god that acts within the timeline, but it seems to me that it’s certainly plausible that a god outside space/time could have set in motion the initial state of the universe, thus creating every subsequent moment simultaneously. I’m still an atheist though.
But back to precognition. I think the explanation you’re suggesting about an extremely clever subconscious doing a sort of prediction is certainly plausible. Have you read the book “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell? I think he hits on a very key aspect of human nature, that we can do amazing things without conscious effort in a matter of split seconds. It’s the reason we’re better than computers. And precognition is fascinating. Growing up, I would sometimes get moments where it suddenly struck me that I had seen this exact situation before, in a dream perhaps a month earlier. Sometimes they were as long as a year ago. My mother is a spiritual person, and always said I was psychic or an old soul or something along those lines. Being a man of science, I understand it’s more likely I am either mistaking the recalling of memory for the creation of memory, or that the details in my dream were different. I think that once you take into account probability and how frequently we dream, it’s reasonable to say that on a fairly reliable basis we dream correctly – that is, we predict future circumstances somewhat accurately. (Not to say dreams are predictions, but you can’t deny that they are situations, which may or may not eventually come into being).
I’m kind of rambling a bit, but I have a lot of thoughts about this kind of stuff and I’m trying not to leave any of the key ones out.
The last thing is the effect quantum mechanics has on the whole thing. I would like to think I understand quantum mechanics better than most physicists as they come, but that might just be arrogance who knows. Not to say I understand the WHY of it, but certainly the HOW.
The consequence of quantum mechanics is that the timeline no longer has a direct causal structure – that outcomes each have probabilities assigned to them. I don’t think this is necessarily a problem for determinism however. For although I can’t predict what will happen in any particular situation, I can tell you all the possible things that could happen. In other words, I can compose the wavefunction, but I might not be able to tell you how it will all collapse down in particular for you. There’s even a debate in physics about whether wavefunction collapse happens at all. Rather, consider schrodinger’s cat as you encounter it both alive and dead. The cynics would say you only observe one outcome and that’s the only reality that exists; I would say you observe all outcomes and exist in all states simultaneously. There is both a you that encountered an alive cat and one that encountered a dead cat. The consequence of this philosophy would be that there’s one gigantic universal wavefunction which contains the entire universe in all the possible states it can exist in simultaneously. To this end, determinism kind of still works, right? I can still predict what the universal wavefunction will look like as I move forward in time assuming I know its previous state.
@tayrex, You seem like the kind of person I would love to talk to in person some time. Just by reading what you wrote, you sound a fair deal similar to myself. Is your name Tayler, too? Just noticed the “tay” in your username, haha. I’m also an Old Soul, not sure whether soul age is real for sure, but that’s what I am apparently. I’ve also been told I’m psychic by other psychics, and have had actual psychic experiences which have required me to change my atheistic, scientific outlook just a bit. I never really put much attention towards that stuff, however.
Thanks for the post! I love it when people show interest in the things that I am passionate about :)
I’ve not read Blink; do you think I ought to check it out?
Free will is a difficult matter to think about. Clearly, the illusion of free will is subjectively infallible, so whether or not we “really” have it doesn’t affect our lives in any way. However, I’m somewhat of a believer that we do not have free will. Starting from the basis that, in a most existential sense, we are capable of having some kind of free will, consider this. Did we have any control over the initial circumstances of our lives? No, as I didn’t choose to be born into a well-off, American family in Massachusetts comprised of certain people. I didn’t have any control over that. What we have is liberty, which is to say that at the present moment, I have the ability to choose what I want to do. I can make the decision to play video games, or I can go for a walk. However, I never had any control over the upbringing that brought me to enjoy walks and video games; I had no control over shaping my personality, likes, and dislikes. This was determined by “random” circumstances of my upbringing. We are all dust in the wind, in a sense, but we refuse to believe it. If any tangible utility can come of this knowledge, it is that of forgiveness. I never get angry at people because I know that they had no control over the person they became, and deterministically it was somewhat inevitable that they would do what they did. If you’re looking for something to be angry at, then be angry at causation; be angry at the world. But, of course, there’s no sense in that. So why be angry at all?
The spirit is a very old idea. I think there are still somewhat mystical things in the world, but the classic idea of a soul or spirit has never seemed adequate to me.
I suspect that morality doesn’t exist. Well, not objectively at least. Morality is just something we are taught to keep us functioning in modern human culture in a way that maintains order. Good and evil are subjective concepts. Once you realize the reality of this, you lose fear all together. What is there to be afraid of when evil isn’t real?
Being a man of science is wonderful, and remember to not be biased, and to keep an open mind. If we ever want to solve the questions of life, we must remember that the mark of a true genius is to be capable of holding two opposing viewpoints in your mind simultaneously, and to be able to argue either one flawlessly. Pure objectivity, no bias, and an understanding that anything is possible.
My father is a brilliant man, CEO of a self-started corporation, stunning intellect, he’s a physicist and an engineer. When he was young, he had experiences of precognition in his dreams very frequently, and had other supernatural experiences. I’ve also had experiences like this, so I strongly suspect there is something to precognition more than just your mind making a lucky guess at something that would happen. My father dreamed that a tornado would strike his house weeks ahead of time, and the technology to predict a tornado that far in advance was not available. Yet the tornado struck his house in exactly the way it had from the dream. That is just one example.
Also, my apologies, I haven’t been schooled in physics as much as you. I’m not sure what a wavefunction is, so the last paragraph is a bit lost on me. Schrodinger’s cat is a mind-bending thought experiment. I’m not sure what I think about that. Although, I suppose that with this and with the double-slit experiment, it’s clear that reality is pretty wacky, and there’s a lot we don’t know. Perhaps when the box is opened, it creates two tangent universes, each of which continue, where in one the cat is alive, and in the other it is dead. Who really knows.
Merry Christmas!! :D
@snaysler, Man – the internet’s a weird place. Yes, I’m also a Tayler, but o > e
You are completely spot-on on a lot of things – it’s a little eerie how similar we are. It’s almost like I have nothing to say to you because there’d be no conflict or knowledge to be gained from conversation.
I do have questions about precognition though (AND YOU SHOULD 100% READ BLINK). Would you be willing to share some of the experiences you’ve had? I would be interested to hear them. I’m quite good at seeing both sides of an issue and wouldn’t take a biased approach either way, although I’ll certainly look for explanation.
I’d also love to hear your thoughts on the issue of whether or not we are entirely our brain functions. I just popped open your blog and read your piece on it – I’d like to hear more about the justification that there is in fact a spirit or soul. Being the boring science type that I am, I tend to think we are entirely our brains. It would be nice to hear the other side in a way that isn’t ignorant and totally lame, so lemme have it
@snaysler you should read the e-book titled ‘the present’ on http://www.truthcontest.com I too was a man of science first always and lacked the belief in the ‘spirit’ but this book gave me a new perspective. That and the lectures of Alan Watts as mentioned above, in either case however precognition would be a useless skill if ever attainable and I think the nature of determinism would agree with that.
You asked what is there to fear if you can understand that good and evil are subjective, and I would say that the biggest fear modern man should have would be to not see all there is to see in this life and to make the biggest mistake of all and take the wonders around us for granted. I believe now more than I have ever that there is a spiritual aspect to our universe and most of the great minds of our past tend to agree. Seriously though check that link out and see if it doesn’t at least give you a new perspective it certainly did for me.
@tayrex, Hey Taylor, sorry for the delayed response. I’ve been busy, what with the holidays and such.
I’ve had all kinds of crazy experiences. Some of my friends think I’m crazy or I’ve done too many drugs, while others, who believe in supernatural/spiritual phenomena, take my word at face value. Personally, even in my own perceptions I remain a partial skeptic, so I haven’t fully decided what I believe, although I personally do not think that my use of psychedelics has screwed up my head, causing me to have these unique perceptions.
I’m going to omit some of the details of my checkered past seeing as this post is public, however I will try to include as much as possible. The first experience I ever had with something strange was when I met a person who claimed they could spiritually awaken people, giving them access to their inherent spiritual abilities. Weeks passed without anything much happening and I almost forgot about it. Then I woke up one morning and went to work. I was typing code (I’m a programmer), when I noticed a sort of distortion in the air in front of my view of the screen of my laptop. It looked very much like the same effect you would notice in the air above a heat source, or over blacktop on a hot summer’s day. Instinctively I looked down towards the keyboard, thinking something was perhaps overheating in the computer. Then I saw my hands. I could see some kind of orange energy glowing and radiating from my hands and fingers. When I saw it I almost flipped a shit, but held myself together because there were a lot of people around me and I didn’t wan’t to make a scene. I turned my hands around and moved them through the air, and I could see a veil of “energy” all around them. I didn’t think I was going crazy, but rather I thought something really cool was happening and wanted to investigate. I played with the energy all day instead of working, and found that I could direct it outward from my finger tips like these little “tubes” of energy, and could direct it to other parts of my body. The craziest part was that I could actually feel it hitting the part of my body I was directing it toward; it felt like a sort of pressure. Over the course of the day, my ability to see and direct it had deteriorated rapidly, until by nightfall it was so subtle that it was almost gone. I experienced no other “hallucinations”, and the complexity and accuracy of seeing and directing and feeling the energy led me to believe that it was not, in fact, a hallucination. I’ve used psychedelics drugs, and they cannot create visuals so sophisticated and unyielding as this. I called the person who had spiritually “awakened” me and said that I thought I could see energy or something, and they said that seeing energy is a common ability, and they described to me what it’s like, and the description was exactly my experience. This was the first strange experience that led me down the path to changing my beliefs and outlooks of the world. On the internet people describe how to make psi-balls, and control chi, etc, etc. I feel like some of that stuff may actually be real. Even to this day I can see and direct the energy, but I’ve never seen it in color form since that first day. Currently, I see it as a distortion in space, but slightly different. It’s hard to describe. The only thing is that I cannot figure out any utility that this ability has, so I have largely neglected it.
For information about some dream experiences I’ve had lately, check this out: http://www.highexistence.com/topic/strange-dream-patterns/
The thing that I am most proud of currently is my theory on The Grid, which I wrote about in a post I created. Since the initial post, the theory has been greatly improved, reformed, expanded, and has credible sources and explanations. I have not presented the final version of this theory as I am still developing it and doing research. Suffice it to say that we are, in fact, all connected, and that many aspects of spirituality are true, and I have begun to demystify them. The thing people need to understand is that science and spirituality should not clash. In fact, if supernatural phenomena and spiritual things are true, then these things are themselves science. Science is just a description of reality, so any aspect of reality is science. Once these phenomena become demystified, people will finally stop being ignorant and stubborn about their outlooks and beliefs.
As for the other thing about just being our brains, I will systematically prove to you that we are not. At the moment I don’t have the time, and I have to go, but I’ll be back ;)
@jfortbro, Currently reading. 1/5 of the way through. Can’t say I love the whole thing but I think there’s a lot of things it gets right. Thanks for turning me on to this!
@snaysler, That is absolutely incredible about the energy thing. One of those things where if I experienced it personally it would change my life forever but it’s really hard to treat it the same way when it’s just a story on the internet. I guess I’ll just have to wait for my own defining experiences. I’ve also done psychedelics but I really don’t think that has anything to do with it.
Awaiting the consciousness and spirit/mind reply eagerly