Free Will

Free Will
Everything that happens has a cause and every cause has an effect. Effect strictly follows cause every time. This is an necessary logical tool for humans in understanding the world around them. Because humans understand the concept of time it means that they can then understand that some things always happen after other things. Spotting these patterns allows them to then deliberately cause certain effects by mimicking or instigating the cause they had previously observed. If effect did not follow cause reliably each and every time then it would become very difficult to survive as we learn from repeated exposure to cause and effect what is likely to happen if we do X. However, there is an issue with cause and effect. If every effect has a cause and those causes in turn have their own causes, then surely you can just keep working back to the point of creation?
This implies that the impulse to write this essay was pre-determined at the time of the big bang. If what I am doing now was pre-determined, then surely everything I ever will do and everything that will ever happen was also pre-determined at that time. This implies that fate does exist; that we are all just actors in some vast pre-determined play. Many people find this a difficult conclusion to accept. One of the main reasons for this is that it robs life of meaning and robs the individual of a concept of self. Cause and effect is very mechanistic. It is great to be able to predict machines? behaviour, but not our own. However, we think that cause and effect does apply, we see it and rely on it every day. Theories that deny cause and effect assume that there is a bizarre chain of consequences, or that God intervenes in some way, both unsatisfactory and contrived. Surely the simplest explanation is that cause and effect simply do exist. Is everything we will ever think or do pre-determined? Were all of the great works of creation in art music and architecture pre-determined at the point of creation? Again this argument seems both unsatisfactory and false. So how do we resolve this contradiction? One answer lies in the way in which we perceive the world. There are essentially two worlds in nature. The world that we see: the macro world, the world of Newtonian physics, and the world of the very, very small: the world of quantum physics. Quantum physics essentially shows us that far from being totally predictable, the paths of particles are unknowable, because the act of observing a particle will alter it or its path in some way. Thus, rather than dealing with absolute positions, directions and speeds quantum physics uses statistics to predict the position of particles. This means that for a given particle we only have a probability of where it will be. Now the behaviour of large numbers of particles is much easier because lots of these elusive particles acting together and in relation to each other (as in matter) become more predictable. Why? Imagine a box with a divider such that we can close the box into two identical halves at any time. Suppose the box is totally empty ? a perfect vacuum. We then introduce one particle, as single oxygen molecule. We then close the divider. Which half is the oxygen in? We have a 50:50 chance of guessing the right answer. Now imagine that we introduce some more oxygen molecules so that we now have ten in total. When we close the divider again, how much oxygen is in each half? A good guess would be 5 molecules in each half. It would be quite unlikely that all ten molecules were in the same half. Assuming that the box is one litre in capacity and we introduced sufficient oxygen into the box to achieve normal atmospheric pressure there would be 602214199000000000000000 molecules of oxygen in the box. Now the probability of there being even a small inequality in the amount of oxygen in each half of the box is now vast, simply because of the number of particles involved. These vast numbers of particles render the system predictable on the macro scale. In the same way as with our box, our reality can contain predictable cause and effect at the macro level, but allow for the counter-intuitive probabilistic world of quantum physics at the very small scale. One thing that operates at a very small scale is the human brain, which depends on the paths of particles to operate. I would like to assume that the probabilistic nature of physics at the small scale enables the rule of cause and effect in the human brain to be at least slightly bent. This slight uncertainty is enough for us not to be simply following a pre-determined path. Thus, both cause and effect and individualism are possible simultaneously, in the tradition of quantum physics this could be termed destiny / choice duality.

Free Will 7.1 of 10 on the basis of 1352 Review.