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shekib82 Feb 9th 2012 08:48 AM

Scientific determinism
 
Is the universe fully determined, eg were a supreme being or a very powerful being to copy the universe in its early state create a parallel universe that would unfold in the exact same way as our universe, down to the everyday decisions made by every human being who lives or ever lived ?

In the 19th century the answer would have been yes, Pierre-Simon Laplace of the Laplace transform fame would say yes:

Quote:
We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.
—Pierre Simon Laplace, A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities[34]


But in the 20th century the scientific discovery of Quantum Mechanism sheds strong doubts about the former statement. QM in its very nature is probabilistic. Particles can come into being at random, and the quantum process is part of our thought process. Of course, nothing is fully understood on this front. The probabilistic nature of QM might be an approximation and there might exist some hidden variables that would make QM deterministic, but this is not the opinion of most scientists today.

The current thinking is that a universe that started out just like ours would not unfold in the exact same way and there might be differences.

Does this means that the universe is not deterministic? QA certainly can disprove laplace's view, but would it also invalidate the thought experiment i suggested at the beginning of this thread? Would a clone universe who shared this one's initial conditions evolve to be different from this one? or would such a clone universe evolve in the same way as ours down to the writing of this thread on this very forum ?

Greendruid Feb 9th 2012 11:32 AM

Re: Scientific determinism
 
Science can't ask a question where one possibility of consideration is the will of God. Once you invoke the will of God as an explanation (wording however you like as determinism or otherwise) you throw the possibility of asking a scientific question out the window.

Donkey Feb 9th 2012 11:53 AM

Re: Scientific determinism
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Greendruid (Post 59893)
Science can't ask a question where one possibility of consideration is the will of God. Once you invoke the will of God as an explanation (wording however you like as determinism or otherwise) you throw the possibility of asking a scientific question out the window.

I don't think the question requires God, though. It's a thought experiment: if the Universe were to start over exactly in the same way that it came into existence, would I, in said parallel universe, be typing this message to you right now?

It makes me think of Schrodinger's cat. If there is an even chance that the material will degrade and kill the cat, then no, determinism cannot be a realistic proposition.

I tend to hold a high opinion of Human free will as well, which to me indicates that parallel humans would behave differently, but the quantum argument probably holds up better.

shekib82 Feb 10th 2012 02:08 PM

Re: Scientific determinism
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Greendruid (Post 59893)
Science can't ask a question where one possibility of consideration is the will of God. Once you invoke the will of God as an explanation (wording however you like as determinism or otherwise) you throw the possibility of asking a scientific question out the window.


there are religious dimentions to this question, but it can be addressed without ever mentioning God or ever discussing him. And furthermore, some of the most important scientific discoveries came while people were looking for evidence of that is in the bible. Evolution, the age of the universe, dinosaurs, etc... all were the result of the science which was searching for Noah's ark (which is yet to be found). So, a lot of scientific answers started as religious unanswered questions.

As, for the topic of this thread, It is a scientific explanation of what we call free will. If the universe is determinist, we don't have it. If it isn't we might have it. Such issues, have been addressed by Physicists and cognitive scientists.

shekib82 Feb 10th 2012 02:12 PM

Re: Scientific determinism
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Greendruid (Post 59893)
Science can't ask a question where one possibility of consideration is the will of God. Once you invoke the will of God as an explanation (wording however you like as determinism or otherwise) you throw the possibility of asking a scientific question out the window.

If what you are opposing is my thought experiment about the intelligent being, it is not about God or anything resembling God. What I am trying to estabilish is whether there is some hidden determinism in our universe that we don't know about. Another version of einstein's hidden variables if you will. QM tells us that we can only measure probabilities. Does this mean that this is the limit of any measurement made in the universe, or that this is the fundamental behavior of particles in the universe, i.e. they are undetermnistic to begin with.

Michael Feb 10th 2012 07:17 PM

Re: Scientific determinism
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by shekib82 (Post 59963)
If what you are opposing is my thought experiment about the intelligent being, it is not about God or anything resembling God. What I am trying to estabilish is whether there is some hidden determinism in our universe that we don't know about. Another version of einstein's hidden variables if you will. QM tells us that we can only measure probabilities. Does this mean that this is the limit of any measurement made in the universe, or that this is the fundamental behavior of particles in the universe, i.e. they are undetermnistic to begin with.

I'm inclined to say that measuring probabilities is a human imposed limitation, rather than an inherent property of the universe. I'm only speculating here though.

shekib82 Feb 11th 2012 01:02 AM

Re: Scientific determinism
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Michael (Post 59973)
I'm inclined to say that measuring probabilities is a human imposed limitation, rather than an inherent property of the universe. I'm only speculating here though.


well, i don't know enough about QM, but it would seem to me that the fact that the hidden variable theory has been discredited experimentally, means that the probabilitic aspect in inherent in nature.

Michael Feb 11th 2012 09:27 AM

Re: Scientific determinism
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by shekib82 (Post 59988)
well, i don't know enough about QM, but it would seem to me that the fact that the hidden variable theory has been discredited experimentally, means that the probabilitic aspect in inherent in nature.

I think my phrasing was poor. I didn't mean to infer or aver any property to the universe (or not). My point was meant to be entirely humancentric.

For example, I believe that the sky is blue because that's the way the human eye perceives the color spectrum, not necessarily because the sky itself is blue. The sky likely appears a different color to different animals because they have different types of eyes for perceiving the color spectrum.

Same goes for probabilities in the universe - the universe may, or may not be deterministic - that's probably beyond human science anyway. But the limitations and perceptions of the human intellect are the true defining factors determining our understanding of the universe. If humans are inclined to percieve the universe as a function of probability theory, then that's the way the universe will look to us. In human terms, the universe appears to conform to our theory.

shekib82 Feb 11th 2012 02:06 PM

Re: Scientific determinism
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Michael (Post 59992)
I think my phrasing was poor. I didn't mean to infer or aver any property to the universe (or not). My point was meant to be entirely humancentric.

For example, I believe that the sky is blue because that's the way the human eye perceives the color spectrum, not necessarily because the sky itself is blue. The sky likely appears a different color to different animals because they have different types of eyes for perceiving the color spectrum.

Same goes for probabilities in the universe - the universe may, or may not be deterministic - that's probably beyond human science anyway. But the limitations and perceptions of the human intellect are the true defining factors determining our understanding of the universe. If humans are inclined to percieve the universe as a function of probability theory, then that's the way the universe will look to us. In human terms, the universe appears to conform to our theory.

well ok. I think it is established that as far as human comprehension is concerned, we can only deal with it at the sub-atomic level using probabilitic math. But what i want to know is that if this the inherent property of the universe that is beyond any experimental observation attempts. Maybe it is as you say, beyond human science.

Suibhne Feb 11th 2012 04:19 PM

Re: Scientific determinism
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by shekib82 (Post 60003)
well ok. I think it is established that as far as human comprehension is concerned, we can only deal with it at the sub-atomic level using probabilitic math. But what i want to know is that if this the inherent property of the universe that is beyond any experimental observation attempts. Maybe it is as you say, beyond human science.

Well, is there anything wrong with that? If the conclusion to be drawn from the perspective we have is that it is necessarily limited to what we are able to perceive as humans (and therefore never objective) we would never really know that, would we? We can make that assumption, but if we reach the limits of our possible understanding, would we even be able to see that there is more?

Essentially, is it a moot point? So what if we're limited to our own human perspective: these questions are still worth exploring because what we uncover could have any kind of unforeseen benefit to human lives.

It could potentially have unforeseen negative consequences too, but it's so dreary to stick to that view: pessimism is boring.


As for the quantum mechanics stuff, I know enough about it to know that I really don't know a damned thing.


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