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Free-will or reality?

  1. Jun 22, 2005 #1
    Firstly, my apolgies if I've got this post in the wrong section, i trust the Mods will move it the right place if i have. Secondly, this is not a religious argument, merely where scientific reasoning & my own personal experiences have led me, I'd like rebuttals, opinions & thoughts to help stimulate my own thinking on this subject further. Best i get on with it then.....

    I read a very interesting article in New Scientist today about some quantum entanglement experiments conducted by Nicolas Gisin of the University of Geneva. The results seem to violate John Bells’ inequalities (possibly an understatement – they violate it by about 1000 standard deviations!) & thus prove one of 4 things :-

    a) something travelling faster than light is communicating between the entangled photons. (at the moment their estimate is 10,000 times the speed of light)
    b) the experimenters have no free-will to choose what to measure
    c) reality doesn’t pre-exist before its experienced or measured.
    d) Bell’s inequalities are flawed

    I’m interested in what people think is going on here. At the moment I’m happy to assume that Bell’s inequalities are logically sound, they certainly appear to be to me anyway, tho I’m no logician. Which leaves the first 3 options… at the moment, I’m not tremendously happy with option a) either, but I don’t believe it can be ruled out. Again I’m going to assume that this is not the reason for the time being.

    Which leaves options b) & c), which are real mind benders & philosophically very deep conclusions. These I want to explore a bit more in detail.

    Option b) leads us to the conclusions that the experimenters are not in possession of genuine free-will & what they choose to measure has already been determined in advance. This is a hard thing to accept, but I’m willing to play with the idea that free-will is just an illusion on our part. So our thought processes have already been mapped out & what we decide to do, we were always going to decide what to do, regardless of the options we perceived ourselves to have in the first place. If this is the case then I believe spiritually this leaves us devoid, surely we’re as good as dead already without free-will?? I’m sure most would agree that free-will is an important principle in lifes’ merry dance, but does that mean it truly exists?

    Option c) is the one I’m personally drawn to. Reality really doesn’t exist unless its experienced. Unless you measure something, it’s properties are not just unknown, they genuinely don’t even exist. This piqued my interest on a spiritual level; I have heard Buddhists say that ‘reality doesn’t exist unless we perceive it’ & that the only reason I can’t get my head round this is because I’m locked into a western mind-set. It sounds like an abhorrent idea at first glance, but is it really? Taken to its logical conclusion, the only reason the Universe (& everything in it) exists at all is that something is here to experience it.

    I must say, I’m not a religious man at all, but recently I’ve been drawing in on the conclusion that Buddhists have developed a deep understanding of the world by looking inwards at their own minds & bodies rather than outwards (such as science does) & they seem to have come up with many of the answers long before us scientists. I’m sure I’m going to explore this personal epiphany in more detail in my future life, but for now, I’d be very interested in some more scientists thoughts & opinions on the subject of free-will & reality & the other questions I have posed here.

    sorry for the mammoth post!!

    PMF
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 22, 2005 #2
    I guess you could go further to a more fundamental and personal level by questioning, "If I haven't percieved what is said to be real, is it?" In the end, I think it all boils down to individual perspective or perceptions. To me, I take reality to be a perspective, and hence I take truth to be perspective. To percieve 'more' of reality only changes this perspective, but we never get the 'real' reality. Likewise for free-will. Well...actually, I'd rather rephrase that as 'ignorence is bliss' :biggrin:
     
  4. Jun 23, 2005 #3
    this reminds me of what renee descartes said "i think therefor i am" this states that the only known reality is himself and everyone else he created for his own amusement
     
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