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Free will re: einstein/bohr

  1. Mar 31, 2005 #1
    i may have some facts mixed up in this story, so tell me if i'm saying anything wrong.

    einstein wasn't a fan of quantum mechanics--he didn't deny it's results, but thought the method of approaching it was wrong. he thought that there was something fundamentally wrong with the fact that you can only predict statistical output and not the results of any one trial, like relativity/classical physics can do.

    he thought there was another unified theory which superceded quantum mechanics and relativity, which he spend the last years of his life looking for. he thought this theory would make the universe 100% predictable, given infinite knowledge of it's present state. if it's true that everything is so calculated and beautiful, then it must not be possible for the outcome of a situation to change based on our own cognitive powers. if it were possible, then the universe wouldn't be predictable anymore.

    i understand i'm comparing two different things--the universe on an atomic level, and from a human perspective--but i feel that if it applies to the atomic level, it must also apply on all higher levels.

    i don't believe in free will--only the illusion of free will. this isn't meant to be a proof of free will. but i think if you believe that einstein was right in searching for a unified theory, and that our universe is predictable, then free will can't be possible--unless you want to talking religion, which i don't.

    thoughts?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 31, 2005 #2
    I don't care too much about the uncertianty principle myself and find that it just doesn't fit the intuitive universe I have created for myself. But I'd prefer to keep the details of my universe to myself until it's seemingly perfect.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2005
  4. Mar 31, 2005 #3
    I held your view for same reasons for many years. Finally deciding not to waste any more time trying to resolve the conflict between physics (my Ph.D. is in physics) and my strong feeling that i do actually make decisions. I added this problem to the list of things like "why there is something rather than nothing" that were impossible to answer.

    I became interested in how human perceptions (a 3D precept for a 2D retinal image) works. Rapidly I concluded that the standard view of cognitive scientists is wrong and more slowly built my own view- Unexpectedly fell out of it was the possibility that physics could permit free will, but there is a price to pay for it.

    See the attachment to the first post in the general philosophy thread "What price for free will" I would like to know your thoughts - does it resolve the conflict for you as it did for me. Nothing about "spirits" or "souls" etc.
     
  5. Mar 31, 2005 #4

    Alkatran

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    A 3d image from multiple 2D images. Computers can do it to an extent, too, so it doesn't require anything 'amazing'. All the information is there.
     
  6. Mar 31, 2005 #5
    Can 3d be proved with a single sense? Touch needs sight to confirm that we have a grip on a three dimensional object. Sight needs feeling in order to feel that our enviroment isn't just two dimensional images running through our minds. Combine two pictures of the same view but two inches apart in angles and you get a three dimensional type of image. Same with sound, we need feeling to confirm that the wave patterns are what our hearing tells us our surroundings are like. Little off topic so I'll shut up now, LOL.
     
  7. Mar 31, 2005 #6
    billy t

    i agree with you, the problem is most likely unsolvable, at least by any human cognitive powers. in fact, whether i really have free will or just the illusion of free won't even affect my decisions--either way, i think i'm thinking for myself.

    if you're an adament supporter of quantum theory, i could see how you could believe just the opposite of my opinion is true. it's a belief i hold, not because i think it's provable, but only because it intuitively seems more probable. even if it is not more probable, i suppose i just like the aesthetic design of einstein's vision; it's a version i would much rather prefer to the converse supported by quantum theory. fortunately, since the truth holds no bearing on my actions, i can sleep easy tonight =]

    i haven't read the other thread about free will yet. im on my way to class, i'll read it tonight and give you my thoughts.
     
  8. Mar 31, 2005 #7

    Alkatran

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    You're talking about context. Well think of it this way: what use is a brain that can't give context to things? Evolution would favor brains that didn't just ignore the input coming in through senses so...
     
  9. Mar 31, 2005 #8

    selfAdjoint

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    You're pretty close on Einstein's position. It wasn't actually the probability angle that bugged him so much, though he didn't like it; it was the nonreality, the notion that things have no properties until they are measured. That is the actual purpose of the EPR thought experiment that inspired John Bell; to "prove" that particles had properties all during their unobserved flight. Bell too was no fan of the observation-gives-reality version of QM; he thought that instead of "observables" we should be looking for "beables", actually existent properties.

    To get back to your assumption that probabilistic QM explains free will, this is a common misunderstanding. Free will gets no help from randomizing nature or thought; a random outcome is no more accessible to be formed by our will than a deterministic one. And QM probabilism isn't about random outcomes anyway.
     
  10. Mar 31, 2005 #9
    i don't quite understand this part. how can you say free will gets no help from randomizing nature or thought? randomness in nature or thought provides evidence for the possibility that we can make our own decisions (because there are multiple possible outcomes). it in no one way proves it's truth, only it's possibility.

    whereas if nothing in the universe was random, it would be impossible for us to change results based on our actions, since our actions are in turn results of previous actions, etc, etc. and all of these previous actions involve no probability involved--based on the current state, there is only one possible outcome.

    am i missing something?

    edit: okay, i think i understand what you're saying now. in quantum mechanics, even though there are many possible outcomes, there is no correlation to our will deciding these outcomes...

    i guess that is true. so by either view, free will is impossible; yet by the latter view (quantum mechanics), different outcomes are possible, but by randomness on an atomic level, and not because of our own cognitive powers (which we conventionally call free will).

    is that what you were talking about? either way, it cleared some things up, thanks =]
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2005
  11. Apr 1, 2005 #10
  12. Apr 1, 2005 #11

    selfAdjoint

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    The point is that for free will we require a causal universe where WE are among the causes, where our decisions can really make a difference in what happens. In determinism, we can't be causes; we are just effects. In a really random universe we have no security in any causes; where in the allegedly random realizations of eigenvalues is our will?
     
  13. Apr 1, 2005 #12

    StatusX

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    What would free will even mean? As selfadjoint said, it would mean we are a cause. But what does that mean? If we are our physical bodies, then we are free to do whatever we want, it's just that what we want is determined by the laws of physics. But so what? It's still what we want. And what else could we mean by "we"? The soul?

    No matter what, it comes down to either that we do things because we are following a strict guideline, whether that be rational thought, emotional thought, the laws of physics, or whatever, or we do them randomly. I don't see how free will is even a meaningful concept, beyond the kind mentioned above.
     
  14. Apr 2, 2005 #13
    I doubt absolute free-will exist. I'm sure we are very predictable to the laws of nature but us being able to comprehend or observe the complete laws is another story.
     
  15. Apr 2, 2005 #14
    I have been away for a couple of days so I will combine replies in one post, giving post ref number first:

    4 (ALKATRAN):"A 3D image from multiple 2D images. Computers can do it to an extent, too, so it doesn't require anything 'amazing'. All the information is there."

    No, just as in a 2D photo, the information is not all there. Last time I looked at "computer vision" literature, some better programs could construct a 3D representation of a "toy world" where all the simple geometric objects were a pre known set. None can cope with a single live cat as the sole object in a white box - most can't even cope with a dead one, if it is just thrown in the box and left as it falls!
    Some "conectionist networks" (also called "neural networks", but I do not like that name) can select the pre trained pattern (typically one face from many) from a patrial sample, but this is not really production of 3D from 2D.

    5 (Enos): Humans, and other advanced creatures do use multiple sensory inputs to build the 3D world as you suggest, but it is interesting to know that part of the processes is "wired in" as we grow into adults. For example, if you were born blind and then are restored to sight as an adult, you will never learn to make the 2D retinal image into a 3D representation. - All you "wiring" for construction of the 3D world was from your tactile sense. The convergence angle of your eyes, focus of the lens, and several other factors the normally sighted child learns to use to do this are fixed. (In cat, this fixing takes place in less than one month and requires that the cat be active in the world. - An experiment with one cat always riding in a basket at one end of a horizontal centrally pivoted rod and another walking in harness at the other end (causing rod to turn and both to have same visual experience showed this. - Passive cat never learns to see correctly later.)

    8 (selfAdjoint): "....assumption that probabilistic QM explains free will, this is a common misunderstanding. Free will gets no help from randomizing nature or thought; a random outcome is no more accessible to be formed by our will than a deterministic one."

    I agree completely. That is why in post 3 I said I would: "...not to waste any more time trying to resolve the conflict between physics (my Ph.D. is in physics) and my strong feeling that i do actually make decisions. I added this problem to the list of things like 'why there is something rather than nothing' that were impossible to answer."

    9 & 10: The last (inserted by edit) paragraphs of Rygar (9) answer Tournesol's (10) well IMHO.

    11 (selfAdjoint): "...for free will we require a causal universe where WE are among the causes"

    Perfect! His capitalization of "WE" hits the nail squarely on the head. What "we" are is the focus of my attachment to first post of thread "What Price Free Will?"
    I think Free Will is possible, (not proven) but we must cease to be "physical bodies." Being a "soul" was a price too expensive for me to pay. Thus, when I stumbled on to a solution that costs less and can make non-illusionary Free Will consistent with physics, I was happy. I removed one item from the list of things impossible for humans to understand. (Again see attachment to first post of thread "What Price Free Will?")

    12 &13 (StatusX & Enos) - Both should read that just referenced attachment and see if they still holds same views or ask the same questions.
     
  16. Apr 2, 2005 #15

    selfAdjoint

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    There's a philosophical halfway house between being just a result and having a soul. Your thought seems close to it. It is the existential "pour-soi"; the consciousness for-itself. I don't agree with it myself (I'm happy to be a result, if that is not an oxymoron :rolleyes: ), but you might find it discussable.
     
  17. Apr 2, 2005 #16
    I've pretty much narrowed it down to: if you believe in free will, then you have it; if you don't believe in free will, then you don't have it. Neither should prevent you of living a full and productive life.
     
  18. Apr 2, 2005 #17
    Like the light that travels a straight line through vacuum, we too travel the straightest (best) possible path. We consume enough matter to convert to energy to create our own curvatures in the universe or our little worlds. Just because we over power gravity doesn't mean we control the universe.
     
  19. Apr 2, 2005 #18
    different topic related to free will but...

    does anyone else think that the absence of free will de-values existence?

    like, if my entire family dies tomorrow. of course it would suck on a psychological level--but that's only because our neurons are programmed that way. when you take a step back and think that there was no other possible outcome, at least an avoidable one... well, it certainly helps rectify any cognitive dissonance one might experience.

    not that we should all go kill ourselves; whether we have free will or not shouldn't affect what i think my actions are going to be. but viewing the results as cause and effect gives us a lot less room to worry.
     
  20. Apr 2, 2005 #19

    StatusX

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    Could someone just explain a hypothetical universe where free will exists? What would have to be different (assuming there is none here)? I just don't really understand how the concept is meaningful.
     
  21. Apr 2, 2005 #20
    statusX:

    a universe with free will would imply that the results of our actions are determined by us, the causes. furthermore, it implies that we, the causes, are not the results of other causes. or at the least, our ability to change our results does not depend on our being the result of a cause, but instead it depends on something instrinsic that we label "free will". that is, the ability to cause our own results by genuine choice. free will implies we are more than just a small part of a gigantic cause and effect chain; we have the ability to disrupt that chain, and choose its direction without any factors pre-determining the results.
     
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