Saturday, September 15, 2012

What is free will

This is really fascinating to me.  In fact, this is the root of all of my philosophical reasoning.  It happened when I saw an episode of Star Trek The Next Generation when Commander Data's personhood was put on trial.  For him to win the right of self-determination, they had to prove that he was sentient.  That he was alive.  And they attempted to define life.  Well, I wasn't satisfied with their definition.  For me, life was much simpler to define, although condensing down into a short elegant sentence is proving to be far more challenging. The idea is simple though.  Life takes energy and uses it to affect the physical world.  Of course a billiard ball has energy and it affects other balls.  So what's the difference between the cue ball and the stick and the shooter?  Free will.  Over the past decade I have been exploring this question of free will and I think I have finally been able to at least condense THAT into a single short and elegant sentence.  Here it go:

Free will is our effect over cause.

I will explain it this way: with a batter hitting a baseball.

What causes the bat to hit the ball?  The batter.
What causes the bat to swing?
The muscles of the batter.
What causes the muscles to move?
The decision to swing?
What causes the batter to decide to swing?
Seeing the ball and understanding the purpose of swinging.
What gives the batter the purpose to swing?

You see, we could go on like this forever it seems, trying to ask why why why why, like a 4 year old who has just learned that there's a cause for everything.

We can keep going up the chain of cause and effect and for free will to be real, we have to eventually see an incident where one event had an equal chance of occurring one way or another way, and the only outside force on that event was the will of the batter.  If you can keep going back in time and if ypu never find a cause of an event that involves the will of the batter, then the batter was entirely at the whim of cause.  He has to have control over cause to have free will.

He has to effect cause.

And you see, this has some very serious and far reaching consequences, especially for the Christian, who absolutely MUST believe in free will, otherwise the God who will send some people to eternal torment in hell and other people into eternal bliss in heaven must be a tyrant if free will is an illusion.

So, the cognitive dissonance between my deterministic view of the world played against my faith has structured my view of the world.  I cannot simply dismiss God.  And at the same time I cannot dismiss logic and reasoning.  There has to be an explanation.  And that is what I have been searching for.

Of course the popular understanding of quantum physics gives me an easy out.  Quantum physicists believe that there are cases at the quantum scale that are probabilistic.  That simply observing something is enough to affect it.  I could just accept that and procla this as the answer for my cognitive dissonance.  Oh if it were only that easy.  The problem is that I feel that scientists must be missing something.  There HAS to be a cause for an atom to go one way or another.  Our observation might ultimately lead to effect the outcome, but the chain of events between our observation and the outcome itself is not even considered.  Ever since the double slit ecperent was done 100 years ago man has thought that we control the world.  I'm not convinced.  Something is happening to cause the photon to turn into a particle.  We can't be the only cause.  I don't know what it could be, but observation itself can't be the only thing at play.

So, I continue on, in search of free will, because I must.

No comments: