Friday, August 8, 2014

The death of "freethinking"

If there are Christians who don't get Christianity, there are also scientists who don't get free will. Oddly enough, some call themselves "freethinkers".

From "How Would Humans Know If They Lived in a Multiverse?" by Tanya Lewis at LiveScience:

... [I]f a multiverse does exist, it could have some wacky consequences. A world with an infinite number of universes would virtually ensure that conditions in one universe would repeat in another, [Columbia theoretical physicist Brian] Greene said. In other words, there would almost certainly be another version of you reading this article, written by another version of me.
In such a multiverse, you might decide to read the article in one universe and not read it in another. What would that mean for the notion of free will?
Perhaps it's a moot point. "I think free will bit the dust long before multiverse theory," Greene said.
Scientific equations describe the particles that make up all matter, including humans, Greene said. While more-complex structures arise that have no relevance to a single particle — temperature, for instance — everything still has a "fundamental microphysical underpinning," he said.
That means free will is merely a human sensation, not actual control.
"When I move my teapot, that sensation is absolutely real," Green said. "But that's all it is. It's a sensation."
Maybe in another universe, there's a Brian Greene that believes in free will.

And thus ends "freethinking", in a slavery more thorough, complete and unremitting than any brainwashing: material causality.

When a strict determinist says, "I have no choice but to believe God doesn't exist," he's speaking the literal truth — he has no choice. Every premiss, every piece of evidence (or non-evidence) he's built up to bolster his belief in a universe that's only material, is merely a sensation, a product of causes and effects over which he has no control because he has no free will in the matter (pardon the pun). 

But so is Dr. Greene's belief in string theory. So, for that matter, is my belief in God and gravity. Every thought, every conclusion ever drawn by Man is accidental; that they've occasionally been useful — well, we only think that they've been ... well, the thought itself is a sensation, nothing more. 

When we thought we were doing science, we were actually engaging in a complex yet meaningless ritual, acting on sensations rather than conclusions. That a sensation seems to correspond with the observable universe is itself a sensation; our conclusion that it's true is mere sensation; that it seems to lead some use is a sensation. A person who denies free will no more deserves the name "freethinker" than a person who advocates state ownership of property deserves to be called a "capitalist".

All possible knowledge, then, depends on the validity of reasoning. If the feeling of certainty which we express by words like must be and therefore and since is a real perception of how things outside our minds really "must" be, well and good. But if this certainty is merely a feeling in our own minds and not a genuine insight into realities beyond them — if it merely represents the way our minds happen to work — then we can have no knowledge. Unless human reasoning is valid no science can be true. ...
Thus a strict materialism refutes itself for the reason given long ago by Professor [J. B. S.] Haldane: "If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose my beliefs are true ... and hence I have no reason to suppose my brain to be composed of atoms."
—C. S. Lewis, Miracles, pp. 23-24; cit. Haldane, Possible Worlds, p. 209
That man's will is free is also an undeniable datum of one's experience. If someone denies his own will is free, his denial proves itself vacuous. His act of denial requires that his act of denial be under influence of inexorable causes (usually such arguments mean causes that emanate from the material world). In short, if he has no free will, the act of denial is not his, for it properly belongs to the inexorable causes. So, according to his denial, he has not denied it. What's more, there is, according to his denial, really no "he", just a sea of causes. This is absurd, because the denier knows he himself exists. ...
As A. H. Compton (1892-1962) said, "It seems unfortunate that some modern philosophers have not forcibly called attention to the fact that one's ability to move his hand at will is much more directly and certainly known than are even the well-tested laws of Newton ...." A. H. Compton was a renowned physicist who won the noble prize [sic] for his work on the effect named after him, the Compton Effect. He did not always follow the clarity of thought he showed here.
—Physicist Anthony Rizzi, The Science Before Science, pp. 113-114, fn. 186

Now, none of the above — Haldane, Lewis, Compton or Rizzi — denies that the material is involved in translating perception into inference, desire into action. That isn't the argument; that was never the argument; that will never be the argument. The argument is that without free will, reason, and therefore science, is an illusion. Make the illusion as complex as you like; without choice, which gives us evitability, we don't "reason" in any meaningful fashion.

And when you reduce thought to mere material cause-and-effect, that's precisely what you do: you take choice out of the picture. If free will is dead, science is meaningless, because reason is an illusion ... if not a delusion.

Another scientist on free will: Dr. Stacy Trasancos, "Is Free Will Scientifically Dead?"