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A Case For an Indeterministic Universe

  1. May 12, 2005 #1
    A Case for an Indeterministic Universe

    Definitions quoted from posts by Moving Finger:

    Determinism is based on cause and effect (IMHO) . Everything that happens in the universe is the effect of a prior cause. This allows us in principle to determine an earlier or later state of the universe given that the present state is knowable. While I agree that most everything that happens in the universe is cause and effect, determinism ignores a significant part of events that are random, spontaneous and chance occurrences . These chance events are unpredictable, undeterminable and ontically and epistemically unknowable.

    Chance played a large part in the early formation of the universe if we assume that the Big Bang Theory is correct and chance is a significant part of the universe, the earth, life and our lives today. Since random, spontaneous and chance events are unpredictable and indeterminable then the universe and our lives cannot be deterministic.

    This basically is my position and following are examples of such events actually occurring and verified by experiment and observation. Why is this important to us?
    Mainly it allows us real freedom of action and choice. Everything that we do and choose to do is not necessarily determined by a prior cause outside of ourselves. We have freedom of action and free will. We can and do act and choose of our own volition, of our own will and desire. We are free agents of free will.

    Example: Cosmology
    Assuming the Big Bang Theory is correct and that it started as a singularity the temperature, energy and mass density had to be homogenous, smooth, everywhere the same. As it expanded and then went thru the inflation phase is was no longer homogenous but rippled with areas of higher and less density. This was shown by COBE and was important to explain how the galaxies and clusters first formed. If it remained homogenous then there was no way that gravity could have caused the formations we see today. As there was no cause for this to happen it must have happened by chance.
    There is some speculation that as the Universe expanded and inflated space became foamy with bubbles of void, non-space. These bubbles expanded along with the universe and created large variations of density in the cooling universe. This could explain the great areas of empty space or voids seen in a map of the galaxy clusters. While this may have caused the variations that allowed the galaxy clusters to start to form as long ago as 11 billion years. The pattern would have been random chance not deterministic.

    Example: Quantum Physics
    I know that it is still controversial but Heisenberg’s Uncertainty principle is ontical, it really happens and not epistemical, we can’t know what happens. While the quantum particle waves may be actually real and not just probability waves made real when the wave collapses, it is ontically unknowable where the particle wave is and what path it takes, before and after the fact. There is no cause that directs the motion or path. It is purely chance.
    There are also virtual particles randomly and spontaneously coming into existence in a vacuum as shown and now proven by the Casimir Effect. http://physicsweb.org/articles/world/15/9/6

    This is made very clear in Richard Feynman’s QED, Quantum Electro-Dynamics and supported abundantly by decades of observations and experiences in the field of electronics where the random behavior of a significant percentage of the electrons involved have to be allowed for and compensated for in device and circuit design. Such things as cathode clouds, space charges, leakage current, inter-element capacitance and tunneling are all examples of the random, uncaused behavior of electrons that refuse to do what every electron is supposed to do and most do. The following link is to a site that has articles on Quantum Physics although it no longer shows the article referred to by Fliption in the archived thread, “Clarification on QM” by Tiberius, General Philosophy-Archives-Clarification on QM- page 5- post #67- 6/27/03

    Example: Life
    For those of you that do not believe that life is “something more” or created your usual response is that it happened by chance and was statistically inevitable. If it happened by chance then it is indeterminable and so then is the universe.
    Sexual reproductions is all about chance especially among plants and sea and fresh water life. Even with higher animals it is by chance alone which sperm cell fertilizes which egg if at all.
    The Theory of Evolution would be virtually impossible without the occurrence of random mutations and genetic drift, random as in uncaused and indeterminable.
    Last edited: May 12, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. May 13, 2005 #2
    do you believe in fate?

    Only one possible state at a time? More than one possible state a time? It seems that only one state at a time actually exists. It also seems that there is no possible way to determine if it is the only one that could have existed at the time. My opinion (hey, it is free and easily disregarded) is that the existence of 'intelligence' introduces some kind of 'force' that does allow for things that cannot be predicted to happen. Conclusion: One can influence one's future.
  4. May 13, 2005 #3

    Just because you can't pinpoint a cause, you can't draw conclusions that something happens by "chance" alone.

    Quantum Physics

    Heinsenberg's Uncertainty principle just states that the more we _know_ about a particle's momentum, the less we know about it's position and vice versa.

    It does not say that a particle does not have a definite momentum and position. It's an unsurmountable problem of measurement alone.


    i don't believe this proves anything at all. talking about "chance mutations" doesn't really make them chance. i'm not claiming that i can describe evolution by the movement of particles, but i wouldn't be surprised if there is a systematic process underlying "chance mutations".
  5. May 14, 2005 #4
    That's true, I can't; but, if any part of it is chance, even the pattern, then the universe is indeterministic,i.e. its state at t=0 does not determin its state exactly at t=1. Since there was nothing to cause such a diversity, no space, time or matter yet what else could it be. If something occurs without prior cause the it occurs by chance.

    If we read that statement normally then it does seem just a matter of mankinds inability to know, to measure and a limit or our instruments. I only know what I read and I everything I have read states that QM is outside human experience and sense. If we read a QM statement and it seems reasonable and seem to make sense that is our first clue that we have read it wrong.
    Heisenbergs statement is not epistical it is ontical. I has nothing to do with human knowledge or ability it is a statement about what really is in the universe at that level.


    i don't believe this proves anything at all. talking about "chance mutations" doesn't really make them chance. i'm not claiming that i can describe evolution by the movement of particles, but i wouldn't be surprised if there is a systematic process underlying "chance mutations".[/QUOTE]
  6. May 14, 2005 #5
    this simply isn't true. heinsenberg said that we the more we know about a particle's momentum, the less we know about it's position, and vice versa. this is because anything we use to measure a particle will affect it's position or momentum. this isn't to say our instruments aren't precise enough, it's saying there can be no such instrument that is precise enough. it does not say that a particle does not have a definite position and momentum at any given point.
  7. May 15, 2005 #6
    As I said before, I only know what I read. Several books by several different authors agree that Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle is a description of what actually happens not uncertainty about what we can know but that it is unknowable. That is why it is so important and famous.
    I am beginning to believe that it all depends on who and what your read and how you interpret it. You say that my statement is wrong but I know that it is correct. I said that it is controversial and I am certainly no expert.
    If you choose to believe that the Universe is deterministic and the chance plays no part in reality there is nothing that I can say or quote that will change your mind. That is not my intention anyway.
    I am not trying to prove anything or change anyones mind. I am simply supporting my position that the Universe is not deterministic and the reason being is that chance plays a significant role in reality. In my opinion determinism ignores chance and that is a mistake because again in my opinion chance plays a significant role in virtually every facet of the Universe and in our lifes. That's my opinion and you are welcome to it for what ever it may or may not be worth.
    A long time ago someone told me that opinions are like a__holes. Everyone has one and they all stink.
  8. May 15, 2005 #7
    i don't know if the universe is deterministic or not, i'm just saying Heinsenberg's uncertainty principle can't be used as evidence for one way or another. if it were that simple, why would there even be a debate?

    consider the most common simplified form of heinseinberg's uncertainty principle: "The more we know about a particle's momentum, the less we know about it's position."

    keyword: know. the principle does not say anything about a particle's actual momentum or position.

    The whole principle is based around measurement, that the outcome is not certain until it is observed, but in observing it, we affect the outcome.

    i'm not trying to be mean, if you think i'm wrong then argue your point. but i think you're misinterpretting heinsenberg's uncertainty principle. how exactly is the principle "ontic"? can you re-state the principle "the more we know about a particle's momentum, the less we know about it's position, and vice-versa", in a way that deals with the nature of how things actually are and not the way we observe them?
  9. May 16, 2005 #8
    I presume that it has to do with his quantum equations which are very accurate models of quantum reality. I have read that they were full of infinities, very hard to understand and all but useless. I presume that when solving for position the momentum side filled up with these infinities making it even more undeterminalble and vis a versa when attempting to solve for momentum.
    Richard Feynman got rid of the infinities by a process he called normalization making the equations relatively easy to understand and extremely useful and accurate; however, the method was not completely kosher or a mathematically exact valid procedure. Again Feynman said and proved the electrons will take any and every path available to get from point A to point B and the exact path cannot be determined before or after the fact. The best that can be done is to compute each path and sum them up, hence the term sum of histories which resemble a probability curve so we use probabilities as a shortcut.
    As far as the quantum particles actually behaving that way, I can only guess that it is because they have both particle and wave properties and it is impossible to exactly locate a wave function. Quantum physicis is weird. It does not make sense and to try to make it make sense to us is a mistake and leads to more errors in understanding.
  10. May 16, 2005 #9


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    QUantum uncertainty is "ontic" in the sense it is not really about what we can learn. But in quantum mechanics what "IS" depends completely on the interaction of a classical wave function with something that projects the wave state into a real value. "Something" is often but not always identified as an observer. So in this sense quantum ontology depends partly on epistomology. But within this constraint, uncertainty is as ontic as anything in QM. [tex]\Delta p\Delta x \ge \hbar[/tex] is a fundamental rule of QM and doesn't come out of experimental limitation but out of the basic math of QM.
  11. May 16, 2005 #10
    Thank you, SelfAdjoint. I, unfortunately, am not versed enough in QM to argue the point. I just know that it is "ontic", it really is what happens.
    Thanks again for giving us the information needed.
  12. May 16, 2005 #11
    i never claimed it had anything to do with experimental limitation. in fact, i stated that it had nothing to do with experimental limitation.

    but i still don't believe that heisenberg's uncertainty principle proves an indeterministic universe. although i'm not versed enough in QM enough either, so i'll just give up.
  13. May 16, 2005 #12
    rygar, I'm not sure that it proves that the universe is indeterministic either but I do think that it lends support to my position that chance plays a significant part in the universe. It is because of this that I think that the universe is indeterministic.
    I think that it is even probable that given the same beginning and with the same parameters and values the universe would turn out to be much the same in essence but that it would look completely different. If we still existed the night sky would look different. Its more that chance would effect the patterns than the actual events. They would probably still happen but in a different way, maybe a slightly different time or place and thus it would be a completely different looking universe but essentially the same type of workings. For example all mechanical clocks are essentially the same and all tell time in the same way but they all look different. They are not the same clocks.
    I am more than happy to give up on Quantum Mechanics but willing to discuss anything else that you may want to.
  14. May 22, 2005 #13
    I like your example of the same exact universe with the same exact physical laws and same initial conditions, turning out a few billion years later (today) pretty much looking the same (stars, galaxies, etc) but different results in the details. Earth itself may never have come to be in this "second chance" universe, but many others like it, all with various types of lifeforms and a few maybe developing intelligent lifeforms. On a more microscale, if you had a second chance to live your life, because of "chance" it would probably turn out much different. Today you would be a different person altogether. Chance plays a large part in who we become, and in whether we ever even have a chance to become (ever were conceived). Now let me insert a question here: Just because the universe is indeterminant, does that give us "free will". Is it really "chance will"? We say we have free will because we can make an intelligent decision. But if that decision is based on our past experience (that was based on many chance events), in combination with a few stray electrons in our brain, does that really equal "free will"? I have this gut feel (and desire) that it does mean we have true "free will", but I cannot say it with any solid support or evidence. :bugeye:
  15. May 23, 2005 #14
    I was going to start a new thread about freedom and free will. Essentially nothing gives us freedom or free will. It is a natural intrinsic state that everyone and thing has in the absence of some controling or limiting factor outside of itself. "Outside of itself" is the key phrase here. The best definition of free will that I have been able to come up with is; The ability to choose between real alternatives and act as we choose and desire without prior causes or limits outside of ourselves. This does not mean that our choices are not determined by our genes or prior experiences. It means simply that it is us who does the choosing for whaever reason rather than something outside of ourselves doing the choosing or it being previously determined or caused. just because something within us may impel or even compel us to make certain choices in a certain way does not mean that it is not free will so long as that something is from within us.
    Last edited: May 23, 2005
  16. May 23, 2005 #15
    What is that "something within us?" It would have to be something metaphysical since everything we do can be explained by natural laws. To have free will (be able to choose randomly) would be pretty disasterous. Suppose you were deciding what to have for lunch. The physical limitations are: where you are, what time it is, how hungry you are, what you like, what is good for you, what's on the menu, etc.... On the menu are such items you are familiar with plus a slab of rock and dog poop. Your free will would just as easily choose the dog poop as the burger. There's no partial or maybe sometimes free will. Either it is or it isn't. If it were occasional, you would never be certain if you were making a random selection or selecting something for a reason.

    It would be impossible to live in an indeterministic universe. The scientific method would be useless. Can you even imagine what it would be like to not ever know what to expect?
  17. May 23, 2005 #16
    Sounds exactly like human behaviour.
  18. May 23, 2005 #17
    You are right about that... there is no evidence of "free will." You would never be able to find evidence that you would do anything differently a second time around, given the same exact circumstances. The evidence is quite the contrary. As in all systems where we know the factors, an experiment performed with the same identical input, without variation, has to yield the same result. One of the purposes of testing is to determine what the exact conditions are. If you started the universe all over again from the big bang, given the exact same initial conditions, you would end up with a replay to your very thoughts. That's chaos theory. It is such an important contribution to science because it proves determinism is the natural law of the space/time universe we live in.

    Prove me wrong!
  19. May 23, 2005 #18
    Do you have a serious comment?
  20. May 23, 2005 #19
    It could simply be a predisposition toward one alternative over the other. A bais cause by genes, emotions or life experiences. I may even be a compulsion of an obsessive compulsive or an addiction. As long as it is our decision made within ourselves, determined by reason or logic or undetermined as simply a whim of the moment, it is free will. our own free will that determines the outcome not the universe or deterministic forces outside of ourselves.

    Little of this has anything to do with free will. choosing randomly is a conscious choice of our free will. Free will is not necessarily random and may be determined by many things as long as that determination is made by ourselves and not made externally for us.

    It would be impossible to live in an indeterministic universe. The scientific method would be useless. Can you even imagine what it would be like to not ever know what to expect?[/QUOTE]

    I did not say that all cause and effect would be abolished in an indeterministic universe. I said that chance plays a significant part and and can not be deterministic i.e. the Universe would probably be much the same but only look different with different patterns.
    Does the fact that there are no two snow flakes exactly the same destroy cause and effect, abolish the scientific method and leave you trembling in fear of the unexpected. We must live on different worlds because I never know exactly what to expect one day to the next. I can't imagine how boring life would be if I knew exactly what was going to happen one moment to the next.
  21. May 23, 2005 #20
    The lack of evidence proves nothing except that you are not looking or looking in the wrong place or the wrong way. You obviously do not understand what I am talking about when I talk about free will. You choose to respond in this thread and choose to write what you did. that is an example of free will. Neither the universe nor anyone else with or without a gun compelled you to write what you wrote here. That is free will. By simply choosing to respond, you have proven your statement false.
    There is no way to test or to know the exact conditions of any event much less be able to duplicate them. Chance is always a factor especially in chaos theory and results are almost never exactly the same in any two experiments. We cannot know anything exactly anyway and would never know even if chance did make the results exactly the same.
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