Discussion World Forum  


Go Back   Discussion World Forum > Discussion Forums > Science

Science From your kid's science project to relativity, this is the place to discuss it.

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old Oct 19th 2008, 03:30 PM
Michael's Avatar
Michael Michael is offline
Administrator
Herder of Cats
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Toronto
Posts: 14,838
Default Do sub-atomic particles have free will?

Quote:
Human free will might seem like the squishiest of philosophical subjects, way beyond the realm of mathematical demonstration. But two highly regarded Princeton mathematicians, John Conway and Simon Kochen, claim to have proven that if humans have even the tiniest amount of free will, then atoms themselves must also behave unpredictably.

The finding won’t give many physicists a moment’s worry, because traditional interpretations of quantum mechanics embrace unpredictability already. The best anyone can hope to do, quantum theory says, is predict the probability that a particle will behave in a certain way.

But physicists all the way back to Einstein have been unhappy with this idea. Einstein famously grumped, “God does not play dice.” And indeed, ever since the birth of quantum mechanics, some physicists have offered alternate interpretations of its equations that aim to get rid of this indeterminism. The most famous alternative is attributed to the physicist David Bohm, who argued in the 1950s that the behavior of subatomic particles is entirely determined by “hidden variables” that cannot be observed.
Do sub-atomic particles have free will?

I had a hard time deciding whether to put this under "Science" or "Philosophy".

I'm curious what our math friends might think of this. Personally, I'm still thinking this one through...
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old Oct 19th 2008, 03:34 PM
Michael's Avatar
Michael Michael is offline
Administrator
Herder of Cats
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Toronto
Posts: 14,838
Default Re: Do sub-atomic particles have free will?

Here are some recovered posts for this thread...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dominick
A similar question would be : Is a brick happy or sad?
In other words, it's an anthropomorphic question and thus meaningless. Even without hitting the link, I know with absolute certainty that the scientists in question never put it that way.
Quote:
Originally Posted by SMadsen
But the mason might.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dominick
Quote:
Originally Posted by SMadsen
But the mason might.
True, but neither is the mason made of brick nor is he on the same level of complexity. One needs consciousness to have free will (unless that term needs a definition in this context) and neither bricks nor subatomic particles have the organizational complexity to achieve that.

Your left arm in itself doesn't have free will either. It's entirely dictated by nerve messages.
Quote:
Originally Posted by SMadsen
Yes, the term free will is in dire need of a definition if it is to be applied to what is being implied here
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dominick
The responsability therefore lies with the thread starter of course.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael
Well, if humans have free will and sub-atomic particles have free will, then this thread has free will too!

We can let it change itself then!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dominick
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael
Well, if humans have free will and sub-atomic particles have free will, then this thread has free will too!

We can let it change itself then!
Good pun, but no dodging allowed. So, would you actually consider whether sub-atomic particles have free will and in that case, what definition of free will are you using ?
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old Nov 6th 2008, 11:54 AM
drgoodtrips's Avatar
drgoodtrips drgoodtrips is offline
Official Forum Geek
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 1,314
Default Re: Do sub-atomic particles have free will?

My natural inclination is to say that any free will that humans might possess would result directly from unpredictable quantum behavior (if it turns out to be, in fact).

I've often wondered whether a valid TOE might expand the mathematical framework in such a way that we no longer see "quantum weirdness". That is, we currently don't know whether Shroedinger's poor cat is alive or dead, so the math says that it is both. Perhaps, down the line, we'll abstract the mathematical framework and be able to give a definitive answer. The abstract framework will render the box transparent... maybe.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old Nov 6th 2008, 02:22 PM
Donkey's Avatar
Donkey Donkey is offline
Official Forum Mascot
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Northeast Ohio
Posts: 7,771
Default Re: Do sub-atomic particles have free will?

They don't have to have free will to operate in absolute unpredictable randomness, right?
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old Nov 6th 2008, 02:29 PM
drgoodtrips's Avatar
drgoodtrips drgoodtrips is offline
Official Forum Geek
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 1,314
Default Re: Do sub-atomic particles have free will?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Donkey View Post
They don't have to have free will to operate in absolute unpredictable randomness, right?
I'm not really a believer in the idea of free will, per se, bit I think the answer to your question is "no" (and begs the more philosophical question of what "will" is).
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old Nov 6th 2008, 09:44 PM
Michael's Avatar
Michael Michael is offline
Administrator
Herder of Cats
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Toronto
Posts: 14,838
Default Re: Do sub-atomic particles have free will?

In reply to Dominick's question - and drgoodtrips' point about 'will', I don't think it is reasonable to posit 'will' without consciousness. 'Will' seems to require a conscious choice to be available - I don't think atoms or molecules can demonstrate some choice that isn't 'rule-driven' or apparently random.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old Nov 7th 2008, 01:23 PM
Donkey's Avatar
Donkey Donkey is offline
Official Forum Mascot
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Northeast Ohio
Posts: 7,771
Default Re: Do sub-atomic particles have free will?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael View Post
In reply to Dominick's question - and drgoodtrips' point about 'will', I don't think it is reasonable to posit 'will' without consciousness. 'Will' seems to require a conscious choice to be available - I don't think atoms or molecules can demonstrate some choice that isn't 'rule-driven' or apparently random.
But apparent randomness could have some serious implications in the determinism discussion, could it not?

I'm still a rookie at this stuff, but it could be that randomness of particles is a strike in favor of free will?
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old Nov 7th 2008, 01:55 PM
drgoodtrips's Avatar
drgoodtrips drgoodtrips is offline
Official Forum Geek
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 1,314
Default Re: Do sub-atomic particles have free will?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Donkey View Post
But apparent randomness could have some serious implications in the determinism discussion, could it not?

I'm still a rookie at this stuff, but it could be that randomness of particles is a strike in favor of free will?
In human free will? I would think that would just make humans at the mercy of the "whims" of the particles.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old Nov 10th 2008, 05:46 AM
SMadsen SMadsen is offline
World Citizen
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Denmark
Posts: 627
Default Re: Do sub-atomic particles have free will?

Quote:
Originally Posted by drgoodtrips View Post
In human free will? I would think that would just make humans at the mercy of the "whims" of the particles.
And?

I mean, aren't we at the mercy of the "whims" of particles?
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old Nov 16th 2008, 05:15 PM
JHC's Avatar
JHC JHC is offline
World Citizen
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: under the delphiniums blue and geraniums red
Posts: 581
Default Re: Do sub-atomic particles have free will?

Quote:
Originally Posted by drgoodtrips View Post
In human free will? I would think that would just make humans at the mercy of the "whims" of the particles.
I agree with SMadsen. And?
What is consciousness? What connotates whims? All arguments resolve to our perception that humans are uniquely endowed - special. We don't know this to be true at all. In fact, historically, we have been wrong in making such assumptions more often than not. Why then should we place any confidence in such a prediction again?

For instance, we supposed that a god created humans to be specially endowed and thus entitled to special dispensation over other life forms.

Then we began to discover that some animals were a little more special than we thought.

Then Darwin came along and we began to view ourselves as somewhat less special and perhaps driven by nature.

Then Watson and Crick came along and we began to see ourselves as products of genetics specifically and driven by genes that replicate and live on when we're dead. Wow. Not really very special in comparison.

And what makes up our genes? And what makes atoms? And what makes neutrons, protons and electrons?

Free will? Yeah. I think when we figure out what that means, we'll figure out that it isn't our unique gift either.

Michael, awesome thread!
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -4. The time now is 04:24 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.7.2
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright ©2008 - 2017, DiscussionWorldForum.com