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is there such a thing as free will?

Written by jeremy hammond on sunday, 7/14/2002

when we are brought into existance, our minds are a blank slate. from there, a series of complex environmental factors to the tiniest degree contribute to our daily decision-making process. from every move we make, from every choice we take, our actions are the direct reaction to the environmental conditions that mold us throughout our entire life.

if a football player throws a football, where it lands is an unknown fact. it hasn't even happened yet. but if a physics professor knows the starting conditions, such as velocity and throwing direction, it can calculate the exact position where it will land. this proves that if all the starting conditions are known, we can reasonably predict the future, all things are based in a grand system of rules that we're not quite conscious of.

this process continues throughout time. every little action changes something somehow, and each little choice changes the possibility of another choice, with even more outcomes.

what makes these things different? what determines these choices? if there was no such thing as free will, then what would existance be? there would only be one possibility, one reality, one universe, one result? isn't that the way things now? well, sort of. it's the one that we exist in now, and we aren't aware of any other reality right now. that doesn't mean that they don't exist, though, it just means that we're trapped in this particular one.

well, what was the first choice? what could have changed that led up to all these possibilities? what keeps changing?

science to the rescue. quantum mechanics shows that at any given time, it is impossible to determine where an electron is relative to the nucleus of an atom. therefore it is impossible to know the precise starting conditions of any situation. at any given time, there could be the possibility of anything, because in some other universe where the electron in the atom is in a different place, the rules are all different, things have different outcomes from the starting conditions. at any given point, there is a certain variable in place, and that variable is uncertainty.


article discussion



posted by smartyr on Wednesday, 7/17/2002:

We definetly do what we want, but our past choices greatly effect our previous choices. I always like to think of life as a tree branch of decisions. You start off at the stump and from there we make decisions, and at each decision the tree splits into 2 or more different parts, what would of happened is to one side and to the other what we did do. And in a tree branch the one that broke off has another break, but we didn't hafta make that choice. It eventually branches and branches and branches untill you hit a leaf. that can either be where you end up in life or where you die dependinng on how you look at it


posted by dhruv on Thursday, 7/18/2002:

what u have touched upon is essentially one of those bigger cogs in what quantum physicists are using to find the 'equation of life' (i.e. that timeless question -- what is the meaning of life?).

u and smartyr have briefly elucidated on one of the four primary theories regarding this - that of 'bubble universes'.
according to stephen hawking, one possible and likely way the world works is when each thing we do gives birth to another universe altogether - a baby universe. not only each thing, but each tiny event - an electron being discharged, a leaf falling, or, as the inimitable Blackadder says, "a butterfly breaking wind" - will spawn another universe.



posted by dhruv on Thursday, 7/18/2002:

so there are undoubtedly countless such universes, if this complicated and, in my opinion, incredibly annoying, theory is true. a diagram might help explain.

I eat bread
/ \
With butter Without butter
/ \ / \
Spread Spread With With
with with jam chocolate
knife spoon / \
Mixed Strawberry
fruit jam jam



posted by dhruv on Thursday, 7/18/2002:

sorry that didnt show up v. well
will re-draw later


posted by dhruv on Thursday, 7/18/2002:

my point is that there will b countless universes, if this theory is indeed sound, which stem from every trivial event, leading to perhaps more than a gadzillion bagillion schillion kapillion such universes since the beginning of time (the numbers r incredibly high, and science does indeed permit such intangible units as 'bagillion' and 'kapillion'). and if each of these universes take as long to die as scientists say (another gadzillion bagillion years), then the whole thing makes for a huge hotch-potch of confused gibberish.

bottom line? if i hadn't added a question-mark after the last sentence, another universe. if i'd backspaced before completing it, another universe. if i'd first put a full-stop and then deleted it, another universe. if i'd not written this long post at all, another universe.
do we really need a theory so annoying?


posted by malcolmmasher on Monday, 7/29/2002:

A huge hodge-podge of confused gibberish? That makes sense, unlike almost everything else. Think about anything long enough and it becomes confusing. Life = choices = chaos.


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(C) 2002 Jeremy Hammond