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Soubresaut's avatar

What do you think about this video as an argument against determinism?

Asked by Soubresaut (12788points) 3 weeks ago

Please do watch the video in order to answer. It’s 10 minutes.

Video here

What do you think about its argument against determinism? Is it at all compelling? Do you see a flaw?

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7 Answers

rojo's avatar

As I understand it, Determinism is the belief that all events are caused, or acted upon, by prior events. Nothing happens without cause.

I think that the video posits an argument for Indeterminism; that is that random events can and do occur that are not caused by prior events and that may, or may not, have effect on future events.

Zissou's avatar

I had thought that the probabilistic nature of quantum theory was well established, and serious physicists had given up on the kind of determinism represented by “Laplace’s Demon” a long time ago.

It is also well established that randomness by itself is not enough to give us meaningful free will, but I would agree that the randomness/entropy they talk about is a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for free will.

Some will say, however, that the randomness at the level of quantum events cancels out at the macro level, yielding effective determinism at the level of observable human behavior. This strikes me as wishful thinking on the part of those who cling to determinism.

I was unaware or had forgotten the notion that information can be equated to entropy. I’ll have to think about that some more. That kind of information theory might help us develop video compression technology, but I’m not sure how much light it sheds on the problem of free will and determinism.

Soubresaut's avatar

Thanks both of you!

I talked to someone about this and they showed me some of the “moves” that the speakers did that I wasn’t seeing initially. Like, just because we are able to describe a pattern in a condensed way, it doesn’t mean there is suddenly less “information” in the world, it just means our description or conceptualization of it is simpler. (If you have a set of red and blue marbles and line them up in a row red/blue/red/blue, and then you take the same set of marbles and dump them on the ground, you haven’t lost or gained any “information.” It’s just easier to describe one than the other.) So the “information is entropy in the universe” isn’t true. (I had kind of assumed that from the way he said it that it was some sort of more widely accepted idea and he was merely explaining it, so I went with it initially. Turns out not so much.)

@Zissou you’re probably right about how physicists view Laplace’s kind of determinism today. I don’t know very much about it so I don’t know one way or the other.

Zissou's avatar

Yeah, I was going, “Wait… what?” when they started connecting information to (in)determinism in that way. I didn’t watch the video more than once in order to examine those arguments more carefully since the overall argument against determinism seemed adequate.

LostInParadise's avatar

Just saw the video. The second law of thermodynamics was formulated before the theory quantum mechanics. It holds even in a deterministic universe.

Free will lies outside of science, since it is unfalsifiable.

From a practical point of view, the universe is partly deterministic. A chaotic system is predictable in the very short term. Even for very chaotic systems there are statistical statements that can be made. Long term weather predictions are not possible, but we can speak about how things like global warming affects climate. We can say that global warming results in more severe weather patterns and rising sea levels.

LostInParadise's avatar

The second law of thermodynamics only applies to closed systems. As long as the Earth receives energy from the sun, it is not a closed system, which explains how Earth can decrease entropy by creating life.

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