I have talked about free will a few times in other posts, but yesterday I came across an article (link at bottom of post) and it got me thinking, yet again, about this idea and whether or not we do or don’t or if it’s an illusion as Brian Greens says.
The article mostly talks about randomness and how humans are terrible at being random. No matter the scenario we try to recognize patterns, because that is what we are good at, and how we have evolved to think. Where the article gets interesting, at least where I thought so, was when it starts to talk about quantum physics and whether or not there is a set of most basic laws that truly govern our universe.
Before reading this article I was of the mindset that at some basic quantum level, which we cannot comprehend, the universe is predicable and there is a set of laws that will define everything that happens. Meaning that with these laws we can observe the past and predict future events. If that is the case then our lives lose what we think is free will, or at least that is how I interoperate things. The article also talks about throwing dice and other games of chance, where if we understood these most basic laws of nature we could predict how the dice would land. So in trying to be random and typing an “N” in the next sentence for no reason, despite my best efforts to be spontaneous, was supposed to happen. N. I was always going to type that “N” and I always would have typed it. The “random” thought to enter my brain was a cause and effect, if you will, and could be traced back to its beginning and predicted. It feels like I typed it randomly but that is the allusion that Greene has talked about before. As much as I would like to think that is the way the universe works that these laws that govern everything, and that each choice can be determined by these underlying laws. After reading this article I am not so sure that is the case.
The article talks about the quantum aspect of this argument and it is hard to overlook. Remember Schrodinger’s Cat, the paradox where the cat is both alive and dead. Well that is because the radioactive material’s decay is completely random and unpredictable, or so it appears. If it is indeed random then there may very well free will in the universe. But when you start to add in other theories such as time and how we think it works I am once again back on the side that we do not have free will, it just seems like we do.
If you really get down to it, it is one hell of a crazy circular argument. Let’s say that the decay of the particle is truly random. It decays at a certain time and we can record it, so if we had the power to rewind time it would always decay at that same point in time. So predicting the decay may be random but there are specific points in time that the particles will decay and we can record them. Looking at the data there may be no pattern, so it would appear random. If you could somehow view the time stream into the future, then the “randomness” would no long be random because we would be able to see when they happen, each point in time. I guess what I am trying to say is that it may appear random but if you were to step outside time it could still be what we call “random” but the word would lose its meaning and no longer be random because it could be predicted, and we could see when it would happen.
Maybe that is the answer to the question, time is what makes things appear random and appears to give us free will. I cannot remember exactly what I posted that Greene said but at some point despite him being just a bit smarter than me, obviously joking! We each, at some point, have to make our own assumptions about the universe (within reason of course, but then again if the universe is as infinite as they say then all things are possible.) At the end of the day, for the most part, their guess is as good as mine. At some level what does it matter if we have free will, we cannot change it one way or the other. At the very least, if we don’t, it feels like we do and that is all that matters.