# Determinism Question - possibility of scientific explanations for human behaviour

by Ken Natton
Tags: behaviour, determinism, explanations, human, possibility, scientific
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I'm a mathematics major, and I'll offer my opinion for what it is worth.

At one time, I use to be a very firm believer in determinism. In fact, I deeply desired a deterministic universe because its rational and fits into a narrative of certainty. But the evidence against my deterministic faith piled so high that I could no longer ignore it. For thousands of years, mathematicians and scientists have attempted to rationalize the universe, and every single effort to do so has failed. The last nail in the coffin in my mind was Godel's theorem of incompleteness and a few other proofs similar to it. If the universe is deterministic, it is pseudo-indeterministic, so we are not going to be able to reduce it down to a point of certainty. For all intents and purposes, we might as well treat the universe as indeterministic and random.

Leibniz had a very interesting question. Take a paint brush and sling paint onto a graph paper. Afterwards, build an equation from the paint spots. What does the equation mean exactly? In truth, the equation is complete nonsense even if those dots were created through some kind of deterministic process (IE: you slinging the paint onto the graph paper). If all we can see is the dots, the process might as well be indeterministic. I think the quantum world really puts us into this situation. So to answer your question, I'm pretty sure that the universe cannot be reduced down to clockwork.

I just wonder when the social sciences are going to drop the rational actor assumption.
 P: 9 What do you guys think of this view? Majority => the way nature has been perceived by most is deterministic. Determinism is how one perceives the universe to follow simplistic and logical laws . For example, the moon orbiting the Earth at an instant: If one knows the newtonian equations, any future position may be determined. Einstein (the biggest mind of science) fought for determinism . He tried to reach for God's mind. Imagined himself in God's place (from a human perspective of God) ,and discovered the famous general and special theory of relativity. Being one of the main founders of quantum mechanics, he loathed the subject (as it defied logic and determinism) and died in disbelief when the discipline was actually being accepted by most scientists. Real truth: Very different from how its perceived by many. => Nature, at the fundamental level, is defined by the laws of quantum mechanics which are infact, probablisitic. Mind boggling proof => Double slit experiment ( Nature's conjuring trick): when you look, you alter the outcome of the experiment!! My opinion: God has hidden several mysteries within the universe (such as the double slit, particles travelling back in time, matter being created out of nothing i.e. the big bang). He wants us to research deeper and deeper into these and really appreciate what he'has created. If everything was really simple and predictable, then we probably wouldnt be impressed by most of the things around us or one could say, by the creativity of God. Probabilities are are assigned to things, that we do not, and can never have full knowledge of. This is actually higlighted by Heisenberg's uncertainty principle: 'one can never have full knowledge about the position and the momentum of a particle at the same time i.e the knowledge of a particles position results in loss of all of its momentum'. In a way, Probabilities are the best approximation to how we perceive a certain situation. It underlines the incapability of the human mind to understand the reality of nature and as a result predict outcomes. In a way, God has expressed these probabilities throughout nature. Summary : We can never fully understand the universe, and the uncertainty within a probabilistic world will always remain.
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 Quote by mohsin031211 Einstein (the biggest mind of science) fought for determinism . He tried to reach for God's mind. Imagined himself in God's place (from a human perspective of God) ,and discovered the famous general and special theory of relativity.
Einstein only used the word god as a metaphor for nature, he was agnostic.

 My opinion: God has hidden several mysteries within the universe (such as the double slit, particles travelling back in time, matter being created out of nothing i.e. the big bang). He wants us to research deeper and deeper into these and really appreciate what he'has created. If everything was really simple and predictable, then we probably wouldnt be impressed by most of the things around us or one could say, by the creativity of God. Probabilities are are assigned to things, that we do not, and can never have full knowledge of. This is actually higlighted by Heisenberg's uncertainty principle: 'one can never have full knowledge about the position and the momentum of a particle at the same time i.e the knowledge of a particles position results in loss of all of its momentum'. In a way, Probabilities are the best approximation to how we perceive a certain situation. It underlines the incapability of the human mind to understand the reality of nature and as a result predict outcomes. In a way, God has expressed these probabilities throughout nature. Summary : We can never fully understand the universe, and the uncertainty within a probabilistic world will always remain.
There is no proof that supernatural creatures exist, so please explain what a mythical supernatural creature has to do with science. Also, please understand we are a science forum, even though the rules in philosophy are a bit more lax than in the science forums, we still insist that all posts be based in science and not religion/superstition.
 P: 256 Isn't the fact that we are talking about having a free will mean that we have a free will? Anyway, this is bloated metaphysics and should be seen as such.
 P: 9 Firstly he did not use the word God as nature => watch BBC horizon, einsteins unfinished symphony. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_...eligious_views , also, i am not talking supernatural but i am just referring to God as infinite and something we cannot comprehend, as i said it is my opinion and i appreciate your criticism but you cannot tell me that i am not allowed to post an opinion on this website. Peace
 P: 9 The creature concept is just how you make it out to be, It doesnt have to be a 'being' to be defined as God.
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 Quote by mohsin031211 Firstly he did not use the word God as nature => watch BBC horizon, einsteins unfinished symphony. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_...eligious_views , also, i am not talking supernatural but i am just referring to God as infinite and something we cannot comprehend, as i said it is my opinion and i appreciate your criticism but you cannot tell me that i am not allowed to post an opinion on this website. Peace
Yes she can, those are the rules you signed up for when you joined the site. If you want to discuss something you need evidence to back up what you are saying. Not assumptions and baseless claims. You cannot demonstrate that a god (even defined as "infinite and something we cannot comprehend) can and does exist, discussion is pointless if you cant even provide evidence for your premise.
 P: 9 Well, ryan m b i see your point but proving a philosophical point of view is non sense, its just thoughts based on a possible evidence which are contained within your own consciousness. If evidence can be provided with 100% certainty for a philosophical idea , then explain metaphysics to me. Thanks
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 Quote by mohsin031211 Well, ryan m b i see your point but proving a philosophical point of view is non sense, its just thoughts based on a possible evidence which are contained within your own consciousness. If evidence can be provided with 100% certainty for a philosophical idea , then explain metaphysics to me. Thanks
I never mentioned proof nor 100% certainty as those things can only apply to logical absolutes. I said evidence. Just because something is a philosophical view does not mean you cannot provide evidence for it. For example, getting back to the original purpose of this thread take this argument:

1) The present is deterministically contingent on the past (cause and effect)

2) We have no control over the past

C) Therefore we have no control over our behaviour.

Now we can discuss this argument by examining the logic of it (is it internally consistent? Does the premise fit the statements? Are there any fallacies?) and whether or not there is any evidence for it (are events purely deterministic?). So whilst the argument is contrived "within your own consciousness" how it maps to reality can be thoroughly dependent on evidence.
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 Quote by ryan_m_b 1) The present is deterministically contingent on the past (cause and effect) 2) We have no control over the past C) Therefore we have no control over our behaviour.
This is a fallacy. What is this we that don't have any control? Having control of our own behavior does not mean that our behavior is not part of physical causality. We do have control of our own behavior. Our will is part of physical causality, and we are free in that regard to control our own actions according to our will.

The arguments of this type usually assumes a very speculative view of the self and the will.
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 Quote by disregardthat This is a fallacy. What is this we that don't have any control? Having control of our own behavior does not mean that our behavior is not part of physical causality. We do have control of our own behavior. Our will is part of physical causality, and we are free in that regard to control our own actions according to our will. The arguments of this type usually assumes a very speculative view of the self and the will.
If you read the rest of the quote you might have realised that I was not proposing this argument, I was presenting it to illustrate my point to mohsin031211 that it is possible to discuss and analyse whether or not a philosophical argument is logical or has any evidence for it. In future please try to figure out the context of what I am writing though I do thank you for quite adequately proving my point about discussing the logic of philosophical statements.
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I only discussed the argument, it's fine if you don't support it. But back to the argument. Discussing free will has its difficulties, as both sides will have difficulty explaining what free will is (even if it proposed that it doesn't exists; what is it that doesn't exist?). The explanations usually does not run further than saying that free will is will that is not bound by physical causality. What does this mean? Does it make sense? I don't think it does, but it is certainly not an explanation at all.

It's fine if one relax at the notion that free will is non-sense, it can't really be explained because we don't know what we are talking about. But why does it interest us so? Certainly there must be something to discuss. But I am confident that "free will" we do have is unproblematic and tautalogical.

Why do we say that the will is free? Can one imagine, or give an example of a free willed action? And why don't human will qualify? (qualify for what)

 I think the question is not proper, whether the will be free, but whether a man be free. This way of talking, nevertheless, has prevailed, and, as I guess, produced great confusion...
- Locke

We are free in the sense that we are not constrained. Physical causality (in the brain) is reason for our actions, but in what respect is this a constraint? Isn't freedom really to have the possibility to act as one wishes? (even if wishes are also physically caused)

The problem is a blurry notion of the self, or the person, as something affected by physical causality; when, really, all that comprise us is physical.
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 Quote by disregardthat I only discussed the argument, it's fine if you don't support it. But back to the argument. Discussing free will has its difficulties, as both sides will have difficulty explaining what free will is (even if it proposed that it doesn't exists; what is it that doesn't exist?). The explanations usually does not run further than saying that free will is will that is not bound by physical causality. What does this mean? Does it make sense? I don't think it does, but it is certainly not an explanation at all. It's fine if one relax at the notion that free will is non-sense, it can't really be explained because we don't know what we are talking about. But why does it interest us so? Certainly there must be something to discuss. But I am confident that "free will" we do have is unproblematic and tautalogical. Why do we say that the will is free? Can one imagine, or give an example of a free willed action? And why don't human will qualify? (qualify for what) - Locke We are free in the sense that we are not constrained. Physical causality (in the brain) is reason for our actions, but in what respect is this a constraint? Isn't freedom really to have the possibility to act as one wishes? (even if wishes are also physically caused) The problem is a blurry notion of the self, or the person, as something affected by physical causality; when, really, all that comprise us is physical.
A cell is the basic unit of life (some may even call DNA to be so, at least philosophically). The problem ( as per my belief) is that cell is the effect of a phenomena where the final outcome is greater than the sum of its constituent parts. We just go after the physicallity of things whereas there are realms that are beyond mere physicallity. These are yet to be explored by science.

Prevoiusly scientists were 100% certain about the determinism of science. But with the advent of quantum mechanics they had to accept uncertainty as something ingraned in this universe ( maybe this uncertainty points to some sort of order in the distant future). Previously we had 4 dimensions, now M-theory talks of 11 ( an error of more than 70% within a few decades). I believe (may be wrongly) that life is not mere physicality of things but some kind of energy that arises ( or performs its role) when certain very-2 complicated and precise configurations of matter become possible randomly or by design. May be after 300 yeras or so, humans will create their own forms of life ( I am not just talking about genetically modified beings but those that will be created from the rudimentary material configurations, provided we get to know about the mechanism that instills the 'energy' of life in matter).
 P: 256 What in this world happens out of necessity? Not a free will.
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 Quote by disregardthat I only discussed the argument, it's fine if you don't support it. But back to the argument. Discussing free will has its difficulties, as both sides will have difficulty explaining what free will is (even if it proposed that it doesn't exists; what is it that doesn't exist?). The explanations usually does not run further than saying that free will is will that is not bound by physical causality. What does this mean? Does it make sense? I don't think it does, but it is certainly not an explanation at all.
I agree. One of the problems is what people think "free will" really means.
 Quote by disregardthat It's fine if one relax at the notion that free will is non-sense, it can't really be explained because we don't know what we are talking about. But why does it interest us so? Certainly there must be something to discuss. But I am confident that "free will" we do have is unproblematic and tautalogical.
From my point of view we make decisions but they are not "free" in the sense that it is inevitable that we will make those decisions (caveat: unless some quantum effect causes a chaos like change in the whole system, but this is out of our control anyway).
 Quote by disregardthat Why do we say that the will is free? Can one imagine, or give an example of a free willed action? And why don't human will qualify? (qualify for what) - Locke We are free in the sense that we are not constrained. Physical causality (in the brain) is reason for our actions, but in what respect is this a constraint? Isn't freedom really to have the possibility to act as one wishes? (even if wishes are also physically caused) The problem is a blurry notion of the self, or the person, as something affected by physical causality; when, really, all that comprise us is physical.
You're right in that last part but I disagree that we have possibilities to act in other ways than we do, instead we have the illusion that we do. As for the notion of self I'm inclined to lean towards an epiphenomenon explanation for consciousness. We think we make decisions but in reality decisions are made and our consciousness is just the ghost in the machine.

 Quote by Deepak Kapur A cell is the basic unit of life (some may even call DNA to be so, at least philosophically). The problem ( as per my belief) is that cell is the effect of a phenomena where the final outcome is greater than the sum of its constituent parts. We just go after the physicallity of things whereas there are realms that are beyond mere physicallity. These are yet to be explored by science. Prevoiusly scientists were 100% certain about the determinism of science. But with the advent of quantum mechanics they had to accept uncertainty as something ingraned in this universe ( maybe this uncertainty points to some sort of order in the distant future). Previously we had 4 dimensions, now M-theory talks of 11 ( an error of more than 70% within a few decades). I believe (may be wrongly) that life is not mere physicality of things but some kind of energy that arises ( or performs its role) when certain very-2 complicated and precise configurations of matter become possible randomly or by design. May be after 300 yeras or so, humans will create their own forms of life ( I am not just talking about genetically modified beings but those that will be created from the rudimentary material configurations, provided we get to know about the mechanism that instills the 'energy' of life in matter).
There is nothing that makes life special. When we say something is alive we mean that it has certain attributes compared to non-living things, in our experience this is caused by a vast collection of semi-contained chemical reactions that give rise to an organism. There is nothing that separates an organism from the components of that organism, no "energy" or anything like that. It's merely that different configurations give rise to different behaviours in a system and some of those behaviours are judged to be "life".
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 Quote by disregardthat What is a possibility then?
A measurement of likely hood when the factors are not known perfectly i.e. a coin toss is not 50/50 because all of the factors involved (if you could replicate mechanical forces, environmental factors etc perfectly the same thing would happen) but because we don't know them we can only say the probability. This is the basis of determinism, where it conflicts is with quantum effects that are inherently random.
 Sci Advisor P: 1,670 I'm sorry, I deleted the post before I was about to edit it. Answering your post: A probability is a degree of confidence, but a possibility is an event that could happen. Why is it wrong to say that I could lift my arms in the air? Is this not a possibility even if I choose not to? See that whether my actions are predetermined or not does not come into question. It is a psychological thing. Again, why is physical causality a constrain on the will? What does it constrain?
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 Quote by disregardthat I'm sorry, I deleted the post before I was about to edit it. Answering your post: Probability is a degree of confidence, but a possibility is an event that could happen. Why is it wrong to say that I could lift my arms in the air? Is this not a possibility even if I choose not to?
The problem is defining the terms. It is a possibility but whether or not you will or wont do it is determined. For example; I could eat something I don't like but if I'm offered a choice between my favourite meal and the one I detest the most In reality I'm never going to pick the last. So whilst it is feasible that I could eat the last it will never happen. It's the confusing part of this is the definition; what does possibility mean in a deterministic system? What does free mean in a deterministic system? What is will? What does free will mean in a random system?

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