Does superdeterminism undermine the scientific method?

In summary, Anton Zeilinger argues that free will is an essential assumption for doing science, as without it, nature could determine our questions and lead us to a false understanding of reality. However, some argue that this belief in free will contradicts the concept of superdeterminism, which suggests that all events, including our thoughts and actions, are predetermined by natural laws. The objection to superdeterminism is that it would invalidate the process of science, as scientists' thoughts and judgments would also be predetermined. However, there is no clear consensus on the real reason for rejecting superdeterminism, with some arguing that it is equivalent to a deterministic retro-causal interpretation and others finding it to
  • #71
wittgenstein said:
Zellinger however, implies that we are separate from nature.
Zeilinger implies no such thing. I have already explained how his "freedom of the experimentalist" does not mean what you are claiming it means.
 
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  • #72
wittgenstein said:
It seems to me that Zellinger's point is a metaphysical point (that free will is necessary for rationality) rather than a scientific one.
It is no such thing. See the responses I have already given. Zeilinger was speaking as a physicist, not a philosopher or a metaphysician. Since there is a simple and obvious physical interpretation of what he said, there is no need to go off into the weeds and read mystical implications into his words.

wittgenstein said:
I agree the brain does create all our thoughts.
Some biologists would say it's our brain plus body that does, but in any case it's a physical system that does. Yes, this is part of the viewpoint called "physicalism", and most physicists subscribe to it.

wittgenstein said:
We may disagree tho on the idea that the brain can violate cause and effect. I think it cannot.
Of course not. The brain + body is a physical system and cannot violate physical laws.

This is not a philosophy forum so claims about " free will" in the philosophical sense are really off topic here, but you should know that there is an extensive philosophical literature on "compatibilism", which is the viewpoint that there is a useful and meaningful sense of the term "free will" that is perfectly compatible with everything, including human brains and bodies, being governed by physical laws, even deterministic ones. I would recommend Daniel Dennett's books Elbow Room and Freedom Evolves as good lay person's introductions to the field. For this thread, though, the key question is not "free will" in any philosophical sense but physical laws and their implications for doing science.
 
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  • #73
I am familiar with Dennett. My degree is in philosophy. My point is that even if we say that Zellinger meant, " This means we need to assume our thoughts don't bias the outcome of the experimental results beyond some threshold of significance. [ Jarvis} " his reasoning still falls short. Just because our brain is predetermined does not mean that it cannot make unbiased decisions. Computers do that all the time.
 
  • #74
I am only talking about "free will" because it seems to be central to the Zellinger quote, even if "free will" is defined as unbiased.
 
  • #75
wittgenstein said:
even if we say that Zellinger meant, " This means we need to assume our thoughts don't bias the outcome of the experimental results beyond some threshold of significance. [ Jarvis} "
I'm not Jarvis and did not make his claims. If you are going to respond to me, please respond to what I said Zeilinger meant. Responses to what Jarvis said should be directed to Jarvis.

wittgenstein said:
Just because our brain is predetermined does not mean that it cannot make unbiased decisions.
Zeilinger never makes any such claim. You are attacking a straw man.

wittgenstein said:
I am only talking about "free will" because it seems to be central to the Zellinger quote
And I have already explained, multiple times now, how "free will" as you are using the term has nothing to do with what Zeilinger meant by "freedom of the experimenter". What Zeilinger meant by "freedom of the experimenter" is perfectly possible in a deterministic universe and does not require any notion of compatibility between "free will" in any philosophical sense and determinism. It's a simple statement about independence of measurement settings and preparations of measured systems, which superdeterminism says must be false in all possible scenarios, even ones involving extreme forms of isolation between measurement settings and preparations of measured systems.
 
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  • #76
wittgenstein said:
Just because our brain is predetermined does not mean that it cannot make unbiased decisions. Computers do that all the time.
PeterDonis said:
What Zeilinger meant by "freedom of the experimenter" is perfectly possible in a deterministic universe and does not require any notion of compatibility between "free will" in any philosophical sense and determinism.
Note that what I am saying in the quote from me above is in agreement with what you (@wittgenstein) are saying in the quote from you above. So your apparent belief that Zeilinger's claims are opposed to yours is simply wrong. Zeilinger's statements are perfectly consistent with your claims. Zeilinger's claim is basically that superdeterminism requires that the simple, straightforward belief of practically all physicists, that experimental situations can exist in which the determination of measurement settings is independent of the preparation of measured systems (and both of these things can be done by automated processes which involve no human intervention, so the question of "free will" doesn't even arise), must be false. And that claim (that superdeterminism makes) seems outlandish. You appear to be saying the same thing.
 
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  • #77
Thank you for your help. Zellinger must have been writing to professionals. To a layman it sounded like he was saying that superdeterminism cannot be true because if our thoughts are predetermined, they cannot be objective, which is clearly false. My brain hurts! LOL But now (because of your help) I can see that he was not saying that.
 
  • #78
wittgenstein said:
Zellinger must have been writing to professionals.
What you quoted from him, I believe, was from a peer-reviewed paper directed at other physicists, so yes, he was.
 
  • #79
Fra said:
Some additional reflections:

1. I personally disagree with Sabines analysis to use superdeterminism to escape Bells inequality: I don't think statistical independence is the problem, for me the more likely problem is our incomplete understanding of the nature of causality.

But Einsteins quest for a casaul mechanism is IMO rational. Correlations begs an explanation. But IMO the partitioning of probabilities into the sum over hidden variable is contains implicitly preconceptions on the nature of causality, not sure why, but this is rarely mentioned. It sticks out to me. But the alternative causal mechanism is not yet understood. But I think it's the place to look for progress. Superdeterminism itself has to me no mechanisms with explanatory value, as has been mentioned by others as well, it's more like an excuse to keep a loophole open, that will not be useful. I think it's the wrong hole.

/Fredrik
It’s ironic that Einstein gave up looking for a constructive account of time dilation and length contraction, opting finally for a principle account that also explains Bell state correlations. Indeed, the relativity principle resides at the very foundation of QM, yet Einstein never stopped searching for a constructive account of it.
 
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  • #80
RUTA said:
It’s ironic that Einstein gave up looking for a constructive account of time dilation and length contraction, opting finally for a principle account that also explains Bell state correlations. Indeed, the relativity principle resides at the very foundation of QM, yet Einstein never stopped searching for a constructive account of it.
I share the view that the underlying principles have some common denominators, between QM and Relativity, and while your principle account is nice, the desire for a constructive account is strong and the constructive account of QM (that is in my vision) necessarily includs a constructive account also of the key postulates of SR, such as thee existence of a sup signalspeed limit that is invariant. In a way I think the underlying observer equivalence principles of relativity, can be generalized. In the most abstract "agent picture", that agent is not something living in spacetime, spacetime is rather an inferred map of the environment. And the "constructive account" is to explicitly show how this spontaneously selforganizes into maps that are "tuned" in the classical correspondence. If that ever works out in the future, I think it would satisfy even Einstein as it would be taking the principle of relativity to the next level.

/Fredrik
 
  • #81
The issue of free will is a biological one. Not philosophical.

What people term "intelligence" is the ability of life to adapt and to find additional ways to explore the environment and its laws(physics, science in general).

Why dies life need to do so?
Survival.
Then the question arises, Schroedinger's style, 'What is life?'

And why must it survive
 
  • #82
CoolMint said:
Then the question arises, Schroedinger's style, 'What is life?'

And why must it survive
There is no constraint to survive.

Agents are free to make bad decisions, even fatal ones. But those will not be ubiquitous and thus have marginal contribution to the environment.

So natural ubiquitous agents must asymptotically learn how to learn. Beeing able to adapt is more essential than to be right at a particular case.

/Fredrik
 
  • #83
Fra said:
There is no constraint to survive.

Agents are free to make bad decisions, even fatal ones. But those will not be ubiquitous and thus have marginal contribution to the environment.

So natural ubiquitous agents must asymptotically learn how to learn. Beeing able to adapt is more essential than to be right at a particular case.

/Fredrik
Not so. Bad decisions also mean withdrawal from the gene pool. Nature knows best
 
  • #84
CoolMint said:
Not so. Bad decisions also mean withdrawal from the gene pool. Nature knows best
Yes but this is what what i wrote supposedly means in the agent view as well. Of course the mechanisms for the "reproduction" equivalent ia different, also the conceptual dna of physical law. But i agree with your comment in its essence. The problem ia just what exactly os the "gene pool" in the abstrqct agent/observer view? At thia point we risk going into deep speculation though so i settle with the conceptual level.

/Fredrik
 
  • #85
PeterDonis said:
Determinism says no such thing. Determinism does not say you cannot influence events. All it says is that "you" are part of a deterministic physical system, so whatever influence you have on events is done by means of deterministic laws. If the deterministic chain of causation of some event goes through you, then you influence that event.
Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington in “THE NATURE OF THE PHYSICAL WORLD” (Cambridge, At the University Press (1929), Chapter CAUSATION):

"Causation and Time’s Arrow.

Cause and effect are closely bound up with time’s arrow; the cause must precede the effect. The relativity of time has not obliterated this order. An event in Here-Now can only cause events in the cone of absolute future; it can be caused by events in the absolute past; it can neither cause nor be caused by events in the neutral wedge, since the necessary influence would in that case have to be transmitted with a speed faster than light.

But curiously enough this elementary notion of cause and effect is quite inconsistent with a strictly causal scheme. How can I cause an event in the absolute future, if the future was predetermined before I was born? The notion evidently implies that something may be born into the world at the instant Here-Now, which has an influence extending throughout the future cone but no corresponding linage to the cone of absolute past. The primary laws of physics do not provide for any such one-way linkage; any alteration in a prescribed state of the world implies alterations in its past state symmetrical with the alterations in its future state. Thus in primary physics, which knows nothing of time’s arrow, there is no discrimination of cause and effect; but events are connected by a symmetrical causal relation which is the same viewed from either end." [bold by LJ]
 
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  • #86
Maybe you will find this paper interesting?

The dominant paradigm in physics relies on the idea that systems evolve through time according to dynamical laws, with the state at a given time determining the entire history of the system.

General relativity challenges this view. The Einstein equations, describing the relationship between spacetime geometry and mass-energy [1], have counterintuitive solutions containing closed time-like curves (CTCs) [2–17]. An event on such a curve would be both in the future and in the past of itself, preventing an ordinary formulation of dynamics according to an 'initial condition' problem. The question then arises whether some more general type of dynamics is possible.

Although it is an open question whether CTCs are possible in our Universe [18–22], considering dynamics beyond the ordinary temporal view is relevant to other research areas as well. In a theory that combines quantum physics with general relativity, it is expected that spacetime loses its classical properties [23, 24], possibly leading to indefinite causal structures [25–27]. In a quite different direction, it has been suggested that quantum physics could be reduced to some kind of 'retrocausal' classical dynamics [28–39].

The main problem arising when abandoning ordinary causality is the so called 'grand father paradox' [40]: a time traveller could kill her own grandfather and thus prevent her own birth, leading to a logical inconsistency. A popular approach holds that the grandfather paradox makes CTCs incompatible with classical physics, while appropriate modifications to quantum physics could restore consistency [41–56]. A common feature of the proposals within this approach is that they postulate a radical departure from ordinary physics even in regions of space-time devoid of CTCs, or in scenarios where the time traveling system does not actually interact with anything in the past [57, 58].

...

First considered in the quantum context, this approach has been applied to classical physics too, with the remarkable discovery of classical processes that are incompatible with any causal order between events [75–77].

...

Our results show that CTCs are not only compatible with determinism and with the local 'free choice' of operations, but also with a rich and diverse range of scenarios and dynamical processes

https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1361-6382/aba4bc
 
  • #87
Lord Jestocost
One domino causes a domino to fall. That domino causes the next to fall. The fact that the first domino started the chain does not mean that the second domino did not cause anything. If you are correct, then we cannot cause anything (unless you are saying that our brains transcend cause and effect). Are you saying that our brain is an uncaused causer? I find the idea of an uncaused causer too mystical for me. https://www.godcontention.org/compare-religions/how-can-god-be-an-uncaused-cause#:~:text=The uncaused cause argument is often misunderstood by,being depends upon something else for its existence. BTW Order can emerge from disorder. That is important for evolution to exist. One can start with relative chaos (after the big bang) and billions of years later end up with a highly ordered object like a brain. Are you saying that the brain causes our thoughts (I agree) but that nothing caused the order in our brain that makes thoughts possible? I strongly disagree with the idea that rationality requires free will. If that is so, then evolution is nonsense. I believe in evolution. Also, suppose nothing causes the actions of our brain. That means we did not cause the actions of our brain. I agree that we (our consciousness) did not cause any action in our brain. My point is that even if you say that nothing causes what our brains think, even then there is no free will.
 
  • #88
I do not believe that our brains are an uncaused cause and that we transcend the material world. "Uncaused causer" belongs in theology and perhaps metaphysics not science. I am glad that Zellinger was not talking about that!
 
  • #89
Lord Jestocost said:
Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington in “THE NATURE OF THE PHYSICAL WORLD” (Cambridge, At the University Press (1929), Chapter CAUSATION):
This is what today we would call a pop science book. It is Eddington's personal opinions, not Eddington's published peer-reviewed science. As such, it is not a valid reference here.
 
  • #90
The OP's question has been sufficiently discussed, and the thread is veering off into philosophy. Thread closed.
 

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