Free Will

Some silly mind-game articles were linked on Slashdot today that make the claim that if humans have free will, then subatomic particles have free will as well. Even if I buy the idea that subatomic particles have an element of randomness, so we’re not a purely predicable physical machine — which I don’t actually buy and certainly is not the same thing as “free will” — I still don’t think that this raises any possibility that we have free will — just that we’re unpredictable… Free will is at best an illusion that arises from a massively complex, but still ultimately deterministic, system.

I think on a metaphorical level I agree with the Hindu dualistic notion that matter has no freedom, and that the soul lacks any control over matter, and that enlightenment is comes from understanding that the two worlds never interact… except of course I feel that the “soul” is an illusory construct.


  1. Kyle wrote:

    I think that what alot of humans think is there free will is an idea they’re predisposed to. I think 80% is instinct and 20% is baised on the situation inwitch you grew up.

    Friday, March 20, 2009 at 8:05 pm | Permalink
  2. apolicious wrote:

    I genuinely don’t mean to be snarky, but I’ve never engaged in the free-will argument, because I’ve honestly never seen the purpose. It’s important to never stop asking questions, of course, but as far as this question goes, is there a useful answer to be had?

    Friday, March 20, 2009 at 11:56 pm | Permalink
  3. Shannon wrote:

    If free will exists, then so does the possibility of God, because free will necessitates a higher power than the physical universe.

    Conway et al’s papers though do nothing to answer the question.

    Saturday, March 21, 2009 at 5:55 am | Permalink
  4. Allahkat wrote:

    Doesn’t one need to have self-awareness in order to have free-will? I mean, don’t you need to know and understand choice and consequence?

    Saturday, March 21, 2009 at 7:29 am | Permalink
  5. Shannon wrote:

    Free will requires that the fundamental mechanics of the universe can be somehow altered by thought… Otherwise it’s all just a massively complex equation/machine/system.

    Saturday, March 21, 2009 at 8:31 am | Permalink
  6. Kyle wrote:

    I think my point would be that even if you understand the choice and consequence that you’re genetically predisposed to pick A over B. So even though you think you’re making a choice 99 out of 100 times you would pick A.

    Saturday, March 21, 2009 at 8:38 am | Permalink
  7. Anselm wrote:

    Shannon- how does free will necessitate a higher power than a the physical universe?

    For instance: this video ( gives a description of how random molecules can form more and more complex shapes until they create modern life. Now, I’m no scientist (I’m a writer), but why couldn’t the same thing happen with free will? Why couldn’t a suitably complex structure slowly begin to develop free will?

    We’re beginning to see trends and sea-changes in the internet- almost like extremely primitive thoughts. Why couldn’t a brain, which is far, far more complex than the internet, eventually achieve logic, become sentient, develop free will and eventually become self-aware?

    Granted, in my proposal above humans are acting as the “higher power” which initially created the network, but since nobody is attempting to steer the internet toward sentiency, I’m not sure we’re all that much different from the random interactions between particles.

    Saturday, March 21, 2009 at 11:07 am | Permalink
  8. linda wrote:

    Sub atomic particles have properties. They don’t think, they exist.

    Supposedly we are made out of the same material that stars are made of. That said, then subatomic particles have the potential to become conscious and have as a part of their consciousness free will. Does that mean at some point electrons will decide to not collide into neutrons, I don’t know!

    The way I learned free will from religious training is, you are put on the earth.
    God bestows upon you, unbeknowst to you, “free will “. This means, in essence, that walking your path in life, you will make the right choices as necessary for you to get into heaven. You will make the right choices as far as bowing down to religion and living by religious principles.

    That’s “religious” free will.

    To me, free will is the choice to have a chocolate ice cream cone without someone trying to shove a vanilla one down my throat. Also free will for me is the right to not follow the crowd, not to have a religion and to be able to end my life if I needed to.

    Sunday, March 22, 2009 at 8:16 am | Permalink
  9. I’ll take comment #2 for 10,000, Wink.

    I guess the stupid Serfs like me will never relate to topics like this. Right now I’ve got a saber-toothed tiger chasing me…

    Sunday, March 22, 2009 at 8:33 am | Permalink
Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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