Thursday, July 3, 2014

Reflection #7 - The Process of Elimination - Part C "Free Will to Determinism"

Simultaneously with the Christian to Agnostic to Atheist evolution, I was going through a Free Will to Deterministic evolution.  This one however, was actually far more emotional and bothersome for several reasons.  The first major stumbling block was that many religious teachings more or less reside on the deterministic side of things and while free will creeps in (in Christianity in the choosing to be saved thing and Buddhism and Hinduism with the Karma thing), the mystical side of those religions talk an awful lot about how things are predetermined, prophesied and "known", so the preponderance of the evidence for any/all/most religions seemed to me to be that things ARE determined.  So there was a religious "taint" on determinism for  me and since I hated religion during most of this time, I allowed that emotion to override my use of logic. 

The second unfortunate thing for me was being born in America and fed the American dream the American ideal, American exceptional-ism, from birth all the way through the Golden Age of Ronald Reagan.  All of these concepts, lies, ideas and myths had one clear thing in common.  You made your own way, your own life, your own wealth = Free Will

As I further developed my method for thinking about these things, I started questioning my assumptions that Determinism had to:
(1) be related in some way to religion or mysticism and
(2) clearly defied common sense and everyday experience

For me, these realizations are probably the most proud achievements of my intellectual life.

Going back a few posts, I mentioned the idea that when you take humans out of the equation, the idea of Free Will seems to carry much less clout.  Most (like 99.9999999999999%) of the stuff in the Universe appear to carry on without any care or influence of Free Will.  It is only the self aware beings that seem to care about or create the illusion of Free Will. Comets and stars and planets and the weather all seem to behave according to Predetermined (or at least Determined) laws of the physical Universe.

When I meditate on the origin and purpose of the Universe, it seems clear that the Universe exists for itself and itself alone.  Whether or not there are multiple universes that exist, whether or not they are similar to, but not exactly like ours (slightly differing physical laws projecting their outcomes over billions of years), or we are a one off - all there ever is and ever will be universe, the unfolding of this Universe is tells us much about the nature of universes  in general.

While we don't, probably can't and never will know everything, we know a lot.  The things we don't know, like the exact, "real" origin of our Universe, actually hold less importance if you look at them through the lens of Determinism.  We are just here, we know mostly how we got here and we know that without any intervention from an extra-universal force, the Universe will last another trillion years or more. 

From what we can make out so far about the Universe, its main "purpose" (which is sadly a personification) seems to be quite simple.  The purpose of the Universe is to continually increase its entropy until it no longer exists.  We don't know or probably can't understand the details of the earliest days, but our Universe clearly started in a state of VERY low entropy and since that time the "physical laws" inherent in this Universe require the average entropy of the Universe to be ever increasing and (most likely) at an increasing rate.  These facts, make it easy to predict that in some very distant future, the entropy of the Universe will be such that all things that we understand to "be" (matter and energy) will no longer exist.  There are questions about the "fabric" of space-time and we don't know what dark matter or dark energy are, HOWEVER through inductive observation, we do know that even these conceptual "things" seem to follow the ever increasing entropy model. 

Therefore, simply put ALL things must be predetermined.  The Universe will unfold as it will and your choice of which socks to wear must be part of that process, no matter how ridiculous that sounds on the surface of it.

Some very smart people argue that there may be a "Planck Scale"* where free will is allowed to take place because those decisions are small enough not to impact any general outcomes that would violate the natural laws and the fate of the whole Universe.  To me, this is just another sophisticated way to trick ourselves into believing that we have some control, it attempts to put the human back into the equation, an equation into which we don't belong.  Our role is clearly spelled out as has been since the beginning.  It is ridiculous to think that while the overall fate of the Universe is predetermined some individual acts are not, simply so we can sleep better at night.

In conclusion:  I am convinced that an Atheistic, Deterministic view of our Universe seems to be the most correct explanation for things, based on the process of elimination.  

FIRST NOTE:  Please realize that I realize that being born in America was like a lotto win, in a messed up world, there are few places as awesome, healthy and safe as the US.

SECOND NOTE:  Sadly our history texts only spent 1, exactly 1 page each on the topic of "Manifest Destiny" that was a popular excuse for our behavior back in the early days of colonial America.  Even back then (5th grade History),  I saw the irony of Free Will Politicians who loved to evoke the "Founders", but never really spent time explaining the paradox of Free Will and Economic Choice with the idea that somehow it was "God's plan" that we almost wipe out an entire race of humans (Indigenous Americans) and exploit abundant and cheap natural resources for personal gain.

Final SIDE NOTE:  If our understanding of the Universe changes dramatically I will be dead and my thoughts on the matter will be absorbed along with the worshipers of Sun Gods and the Flat Earth Crowd, but if you trace back the scientific history of mankind, many fundamental truths were hinted at, poked, prodded and "almost known" quite a way back.  It normally took technology to catch up to thought to shed the most proper light on any given subject.  The ancients believed in atoms, that matter was made up of mostly space and that matter and energy were somehow interchangeable, but until the 1800s, we didn't have ways to show that these ideas were correct.

* Planck Scale is a concept used in Quantum Mechanics to "explain" the border line between the Quantum World and the Macro World.  It is a way of saying, we don't understand how quantum uncertainty collapses into a final state of what REALLY is for large objects.  Large in this case being atoms. 

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