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Do Subatomic Particles Have Free Will?

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the painting-fences-white-very-quickly dept.

Math 608

An anonymous reader sends in a Science News article that begins: "Human free will might seem like the squishiest of philosophical subjects, way beyond the realm of mathematical demonstration. But two highly regarded Princeton mathematicians, John Conway and Simon Kochen, claim to have proven that if humans have even the tiniest amount of free will, then atoms themselves must also behave unpredictably." Standard interpretations of quantum mechanics, of course, embrace unpredictability. But many physicists aren't comfortable with that, and are working to develop deterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics. Conway and Kochen's proof argues that these efforts will be fruitless — unless one is willing to give up human free will, in a very strong sense. The article quotes Conway: "We can really prove that there's no algorithm, no way that the particle can give an answer that is unique and can be specified ahead of time. I'm still amazed that we can actually manage to prove that."

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Uh, what? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628185)

There's already considerable evidence that humans don't have free will, but that free will is (essentially) an illusion created by your brain.

So, no, particles do not have free will.

Re:Uh, what? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628263)

There's already considerable evidence that humans don't have free will, but that free will is (essentially) an illusion created by your brain.

So, no, particles do not have free will.

Let A be "Humans have free will." and let B be "Subatomic particles have free will.". Conway and Kochen says A->B. You assume ~A and draw the conclusion ~B. That's not justified. I'm sure there is a Wikipedia entry on this logical fallacy.

Re:Uh, what? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628489)

And for those who haven't studied that notation... "A->B" is "A implies B" (if A, then B)... "~A" is "not A". "A->B" is the same as "~A V B" ((not A) or B)

Re:Uh, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628281)

There's already considerable evidence that humans don't have free will, but that free will is (essentially) an illusion created by your brain.

So, no, particles do not have free will.

Your logic sucks. Particles can have free will even if humans don't.

Also, the "considerable evidence" (link it) that some humans may not have free will does not prove that all humans does not have free will. I have free will, and I will not hesitate to use it to ignore future posts from you.

Re:Uh, what? (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628283)

An assertion and a thin one. Using math to 'prove' the real world is the illusion. Cite please.

Re:Uh, what? (4, Insightful)

Mr. Picklesworth (931427) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628455)

But what, then, is guiding us to believe we have free will? What part of the brain is seeing the illusion? Your theory still leaves a fairly large and important chunk unanswered, and I think that chunk of our consciousness easily leads back to the same department as free will.

Re:Uh, what? (3, Insightful)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628507)

But what, then, is guiding us to believe we have free will?

The fact that there are so many variables constantly changing as to construct the illusion of it.

That, and the desire to have some purpose - any purpose - to our behaviours.

Re:Uh, what? (1)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628629)

But what, then, is guiding us to believe we have free will?

The fact that there are so many variables constantly changing as to construct the illusion of it.

That, and the desire to have some purpose - any purpose - to our behaviours.

Then what gives purpose to our illusions and illusions to our purpose? An intersection of behavior and free will represents the purpose of free will and illusion of behavior.

Re:Uh, what? (3, Insightful)

Skevin (16048) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628515)

I already tend to believe humans don't have free will to begin with. We are governed by a set of rules, that while we might think we are free to take a drastically different action, there are further rules upon those rules which determine why we took that action.

Okay, so as an example... it's close to lunch time, and I haven't eaten all day. I have money, and I'm right outside a burger joint. Is it Free Will that I decide to go inside and buy some food? What if I watched a video on arterial plaque buildup the previous day and decide to try to find a salad instead? Is it Free Will, or was my logic governed by another set of rules that determined I would seek a healthier alternative? We might think our actions are determined by a thought process, but I've been philosophizing heavily as to how those thought processes got into place to begin with.

Solomon Chang

Re:Uh, what? (1, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628523)

"free will" is just an expression of the impossibility of predicting the future with any degree of accuracy based on knowing initial conditions. In an ideal world, you could, and it would be clear there is no free will. But we can no easier predict a human's decision than we can figure out exactly where a given atom of oxygen will be in the room 5 seconds from now. So for all practical purposes, there is free will. But the reality will always be that there is none. So although there is no free will, there's no point in arguing about it.

Re:Uh, what? (3, Insightful)

unity100 (970058) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628649)

then fetch that considerable evidence. dont produce arguments out of your butt.

You forgot... (1)

bobwrit (1232148) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628209)

Asimov also is strongly supporting this idea(Foundation series).

No: Free will + statistics (5, Insightful)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628559)

No - in Asimov's world humans can have free will in exactly the same manner as quantum mechanical particles can have "free will" and yet Newtonian mechanics (which is deterministic) can accurately describe the physics of things a lot larger than an atom. There is a probability for each human/particle to make different choices and, when statistically sampled on a large enough scale, those probabilities lead to something that appear deterministic.

This is exactly how quantum mechanics work. Each particle has a probability distribution for what it will do so that, at the large scale because of the huge numbers involved we know that roughly 40% will do X, 20% will do Y and 40% will do Z.

While I don't know for certain that Asimov based psycho-history on QM I've often suspected as much. As a PhD chemist he should have had a reasonably good understanding of QM at least.

!news (4, Informative)

fractic (1178341) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628211)

The article was from 2006. Here's a link to wikipedia [wikipedia.org] for some details.

Re:!news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628371)

More information on the free will of hardrons can be found here [bbspot.com]

How about a link to the actual article? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628221)

http://arxiv.org/abs/0807.3286

Not new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628223)

This is Bohr's idea, this is hardly new...

Hrm... (1)

spleen_blender (949762) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628245)

Couldn't this conversely be just interactions below our precision of measurement? It seems like a dangerous conclusion to jump to that atoms must have "free will" just as it is to say "god did it". I think free will is an illusion of causal relationships that exist outside our precision of measurement, be it our five senses used as our input for stimuli which causes our responses, or the interactions of subatomic particles. Ideas like the article presents just reek of arrogance of our importance in the grand scheme of things.

Re:Hrm... (1)

PatDev (1344467) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628285)

Indeed, I thought this was how most quantum mechanics (is that right - a practitioner of mechanics is a "mechanic") interpreted it. I thought "random" and "uncaused" were just shorter and easier to talk/write about than "possibly caused, but by events on such a small scale that they cannot be detected due to that damn Heisenberg uncertainty principle."

Re:Hrm... (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628373)

No, that is merely a common way to misunderstand it.

However, with the topic being the non-intuitive mess it is, don't ask me to explain properly how it really works.

Re:Hrm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628381)

Nope, by "random" they mean random. The type of thing you're talking about is what physicists refer to as a "hidden variables theory" in which there really is some sort of deterministic mechanism taking place to produce these results in such a way to appear random, but we cannot directly observe that mechanism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hidden_variable_theory [wikipedia.org]

It sucks even worse than that (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628495)

Human free will might be predictable for God, but not for other humans (this means that it's theoretically predictable, if you had access to the full starting state of the universe, but since no-one has & no-one ever will, it's not doable).

Or it might be the case that it's infeasible to predict the evolution of the universe faster than real-time. Even if you knew the starting state of the universe, that information would not help you predict anything unless you had a computer that could simulate more than 1s of "universe evolution" in 1s. This is an unsolved problem, since that computer would have to simulate itself, faster than it can run. (ie. 100% certain predictions of the future are by themselves paradoxes, since they'd have to incorporate themselves.

Say, for example "global warming's going to kill us all !" were a prediction, we take heed, and prevent it. That act, obviously, makes the prediction wrong, since the prediction caused a reaction that prevented it from coming true. Any 100% certain prediction has that problem.

The randomness in quantum mechanics (which is an assumption of the theory, not a proven fact) *might* prevent that problem from occuring in quantum mechanics, but it might not, it's not proven either way. It is also not proven that to aviod paradoxes you require fundamental unpredictability either, so lots of avenues still open (you'd have to prove that human beings, or at least something (God ?) is "rational" in some way to prove that rational unpredictability is required, it might just as well be the case that humans will not prevent certain calamities, no matter how well informed we are about them, in fact it's happened lots of times in history, for example there is every indication that the Inuit are perfectly aware what is happening to them, yet it does not seem to slow down their demise, but the same could be said about quite a few people that don't exist anymore, like the Inca's or the Mayans, they knew perfectly well what was happening to them, and they knew what was needed to prevent it from killing them, they had the opportunity to prevent their own demise ... and they didn't).

However that prediction-paradox is only a problem for people with their heads extremely high up in the clouds ("philosophers", and other idiots) since anything resembling the minimum required technology does not currently exist, nor does it seem possible to create a technology like that (except to said airheads).

Even if newtonian mechanics were 100% true, it would not today be feasible to predict the actions of a single human. We're slowly getting close to predicting, (using less than even newtonian-style physics, just using gravity-less balls and valency electrons, so by this measurement that would be, what "really inaccurate" ?), the actions of a single bacterium, but we're not quite there yet. And even if we were there, that ability is useless until we can do it faster than real-time (ie simulate more than 1s in 1s "real time"), except for study of general principles of course.

Humans, with 100 billion brain cells, have a few hundred years even if Moore's law is upheld for its entire duration, and there would be no fundamental unpredictability *AND* there would be a way to make, in a single instant, every measurement conceivable (that last one is a requirement for making even newtonian predictions)

Re:Hrm... (1)

Strilanc (1077197) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628493)

Right, because no physicist could have ever though of that. "It's there but we just can't measure it" theories, aka "Hidden Variable Theories" aren't compatible with the predictions of QM, unless you throw in some other weird things like non-locality.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hidden_variable_theory [wikipedia.org]

This is exactly what free will boils down to.. (3, Insightful)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628251)

...if you are willing (and able) to scientifically analyse what human will (free or otherwise) really is, and what are the boundaries of its freedom. If we hadn't have quantum mechanical phenomena, there would be no room for free will whatsoever, and we'd be all living a predetermined life.

When I try to discuss this topic with my friends, they are either not scientifically minded enough to follow through, or just can't accept the fact that, as physical beings, we would be absolutely determined in our behaviour and actions. And then, there's the concept of "soul" that, so far, has only helped to muddy the waters of reasoning in this topic. I'd really like to see a way that the concept of "soul" could be included in the discussion of free will in a physical world, I just don't know of any scientifically minded philosopher who had done it.

Re:This is exactly what free will boils down to.. (1)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628351)

really like to see a way that the concept of "soul" could be included in the discussion of free will in a physical world, I just don't know of any scientifically minded philosopher who had done it.

Actually, Orson Scott Card covers a fairly good conjecture on that topic in his sequels to Enders Game (where the writing and character development actually gets much better imo). To boil it down, in his setting humans have discovered that the smallest definable division of matter is known as a Philote [wikipedia.org] which only has a location, duration and connection with adjacent philotes in the form of a infinitely long ray. His setting posits that philotes combine to form matter when their rays are twined together lumping all their rays into a single twine that defines that piece of matter, and when sub-atomic particles combine to form neutrons/electrons/positrons these twines then twine into a larger one, with the rays extending forever twining with each layer of abstraction.

(POSSIBLE SPOILER FOR THOSE WHO HAVENT READ THE SERIES)

The soul part comes in when the characters come to believe that living organisms have an independant philote that is not a part of the matter in the organism, but is rather a control of the remaining matter as one system underneath the "soul" philote's will (called an aiua in the books, from Sanskrit I believe). Non-living matter would simply be composed of the philotes combining into the matter itself.

It's a rather interesting way of looking at things I must say, if you read through that wikipedia entry it may provide a new perspective to those debates =)

Re:This is exactly what free will boils down to.. (1)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628409)

Re-reading the entry myself, i missed something key. EVERY structure has an organizing philote, even non-living matter in that setting. I forgot that aspect from the books.

Basically the more complex the organism, the more powerful of a will that needs to "possess" that system. Living creatures are organized by these "stronger" wills.

Re:This is exactly what free will boils down to.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628631)

Your errant version of the description is probably an accurate description of reality if someone were to rename a few things.

I would not be amazed to learn that quantum mechanics is suspended within the human forebrain.

Re:This is exactly what free will boils down to.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628419)

>concept of "soul" could be included in the discussion of free will in a physical world

I know you probably mean it differently, but that's exactly what it is: a "concept".

It's like the concept of "atom", The atom is not "really" there. In actuality there are only events arising and passing from moment to moment. It's just when "alike" events are "near" each other, that we think there is an atom entity when in fact there is no entity that prevails.

It's alike with "soul". Because the "beings" have communication paths between them that are so narrow it takes ages for any meaningful information to pass, it seems as if there is a "soul" that belongs to the being, when actually thoughts can be thought by anyone, it just takes too long to communicate them and so they'll naturally prefer the same "being".

That, or I'm full of shit ;-)

In short, who says the "soul" is real and not a persistent illusion?

Re:This is exactly what free will boils down to.. (4, Insightful)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628465)

Are particles unpredictable because they have free will, or are they unpredictable because we don't have the ability to understand what drives them?

At one point objects fell from the sky because it was God's will.

Re:This is exactly what free will boils down to.. (2, Insightful)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628583)

This is only true if you assume free will to be inconsistent with fundamental unpredictability.

What exactly is the problem, if you simply require that free will is inconsistent with practical unpredictability ? Then free will would be perfectly consistent with even Newtonian physics.

To make a prediction 100% certain in Newtonian physics you'd have to make every measurement conceivable in a single instant. Otherwise, no matter how much data you bring into your simulation to predict, there'd always be the possibility of outside intervention (I'm not talking ghosts or aliens or God, but merely some guy, or even a single particle of dust that wasn't included in your simulation coming in and ruining your predictions).

Also you'd need "faster-than-realtime" simulation. Even if you could simulate the universe, unless you can do it faster than the real world does it, it will not yield any prediction.

There are lots of places for fundamental problems to manifest themselves, and we've certainly not looked everywhere for them. In fact I could name 10 fundamental problems with simulating even an ant according to newtonian physics.

In the case that, while the universe is fundamentally predictable, but not practically, only a being completely independant of our own universe would be able to predict anything 100% certain. Or if you like it stated otherwise, only God would know the future for certain, everyone else merely has a bad (or good) guess, but nothing more.

That's a very inglamorous way of looking at the universe, and at our own limitations, but it does seem to have realiy on it's side.

Therefore, even in Newton's world, only God knows the future, everyone else merely has a guess.

Re:This is exactly what free will boils down to.. (1)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628667)

When I try to discuss this topic with my friends, they are either not scientifically minded enough to follow through, or just can't accept the fact that, as physical beings, we would be absolutely determined in our behaviour and actions.

Or maybe they think it's all a load of waffle and nonsense that has no bearing on reality?

I have enough free will to avoid TFA like the plague, and that's all the free will I need. You can say I'm "predetermined" not to, or whatever, but who cares? It's of no significance.

Re:This is exactly what free will boils down to.. (1)

localman (111171) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628681)

The best description of a "soul" from a scientific/mathematical standpoint that I've ever read was in Hofstadter's . Describing how the soul arises out of seemingly nothing is basically the thesis of the book, though it's broad enough that it takes a while to get there. Worth the journey, though, in my opinion. He just came out with a new book on the same point that sounds a lot more succinct: [wikipedia.org] I Am A Strange Loop [wikipedia.org] . Haven't read it yet, though.

If you're interested in consciousness from a scientific/mathematical standpoin, I can't recommend his stuff highly enough.

Cheers.

Re:This is exactly what free will boils down to.. (1)

localman (111171) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628705)

Oh fuck... I stop using preview and look where it gets me! Let me repeat that post:

The best description of a "soul" from a scientific/mathematical standpoint that I've ever read was in Hofstadter's Godel, Escher, Bach [wikipedia.org] . Describing how the soul arises out of inanimate manner is basically the thesis of the book, though it's broad enough that it takes a while to get there. Worth the journey, though, in my opinion. He just came out with a new book on the same point that sounds a lot more succinct: I Am A Strange Loop [wikipedia.org] . Haven't read it yet, though.

If you're interested in consciousness from a scientific/mathematical standpoint, I can't recommend his stuff highly enough.

Cheers.

Re:This is exactly what free will boils down to.. (1)

Hope Thelps (322083) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628727)

if you are willing (and able) to scientifically analyse what human will (free or otherwise) really is, and what are the boundaries of its freedom. If we hadn't have quantum mechanical phenomena, there would be no room for free will whatsoever

Why?

As far as I can tell, "free will" means that your decision making processes aren't interfered with by outside influences other than through standard interfaces. Classical example would be e.g. no gods or magicians are reaching in and using their amazing powers to override your thought processes.

Someone whose actions were somehow being manipulated by electrodes implanted in their brain would have their free will reduced. More prosaically, you might consider someone whose drink has been spiked without their knowing it, thus impairing their ability to make decisions, to be "less free willed" than they would otherwise be.

I can't see that randomness has anything to do with free will by any sensible meaning of the term. A person with a random number generator in their head isnâ(TM)t any more 'free' than someone without one.

I was destine to post this! (3, Funny)

ericspinder (146776) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628253)

I've now fulfilled my destiny.

Re:I was destine to post this! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628303)

Now you can an hero

It's turtles all the way down (4, Interesting)

archeopterix (594938) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628257)

The deterministic/nondeterministic debate can go on forever, no matter how precise the experiments are. Any phenomenon that (temporarily) appears deterministic can have an underlying finer non-deterministic model and vice-versa. Currently the lowest level appears nondeterministic (quantum effects) and some scientists are speculating about an underlying deterministic model.

If they indeed succeed, some other folks will start to search for underlying nondeterministic model, and so on...

Re:It's turtles all the way down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628503)

Wasn't the initial explanation for brownian motion that the particles had some sort of free will?

Re:It's turtles all the way down (1)

node 3 (115640) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628571)

Just because we have a seemingly deterministic view of the world naturally (our range of senses pretty much avoid relativistic effects and quantum effects, landing smack-dab in the Newtonian clockwork realm), and have discovered an underlying, apparently statistical framework, doesn't mean it's alternating layers all the way down.

Before one can confidently say that it appears like things are just a series of alternations between determinism and non-determinism, you'd need more than just one or two flips, unless you can come up with a sufficiently useful model for why it's so (and turtles all the way down is no such model).

Waking life (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628259)

Go watch Waking Life, that creepy rotoscope-styled movie. That's a big part of it.

The question of "Are we merely the random wavering of subatomic particles" is almost, verbatim, a line from the film.

Free Will != Unpredictability (5, Interesting)

MaxEmerika (701730) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628289)

Unpredictability has nothing to do with free will. I can be completely predictable and still be acting freely. Conversely, if my actions are random, how can I be said to have any control over them?

Re:Free Will != Unpredictability (5, Informative)

nasor (690345) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628349)

Generally when people talk about "free will" in this sort of sense they mean that if you must choose between A or B, before you make your choice there is some non-zero possibility that you could pick either A or B. If your choice is governed by the mechanisms of a deterministic universe, there is really no possibility that you could pick either one; your choice is predetermined, and an observer with enough information could calculate with certainty what your choice will be before you make it. If you want to say that being free is simply being unconstrained to do what you try to do, then a robot following a program is "free," so long as nothing interferes with it trying to do what it is programmed to do.

Re:Free Will != Unpredictability (2, Interesting)

Goaway (82658) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628421)

The funny thing is, though - and I didn't see it mentioned explicitly - that not even a deterministic universe is actually predictable.

As you say, with "enough information" you could calculate any outcome, but that information is actually infinite, and physically impossible to obtain for several different reasons, and even if you had it, it would be impossible to process.

Re:Free Will != Unpredictability (1)

nasor (690345) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628483)

Whether or not it's feasible (or even possible) to actually calculate the outcome of a decision doesn't really have anything to do with whether the decision is deterministic or "free".

Re:Free Will != Unpredictability (3, Interesting)

Goaway (82658) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628567)

That's kind of why I said "not even a deterministic universe is actually predictable", isn't it?

So here's the question, then: How do you differentiate between actual free will, and unpredictable determinism?

Re:Free Will != Unpredictability (2, Interesting)

etymxris (121288) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628591)

And so why isn't the robot free? Anyway, assume that humans have souls that exist in some other metaphysical realm that actually controls what we think and do. Why does that make our actions any more free? Why does it matter if our human bodies are puppets of some immaterial soul or if the means for rational thought is within the bodies (brains) themselves? I can't see any good reason. There's no a priori reason some metaphysical entity couldn't fully study and determine the future actions of one's immaterial soul. In short, "determinability" doesn't mean much.

Re:Free Will != Unpredictability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628451)

you have it backwards. this isn't a "if particles behavior isn't deterministic, humans must have free will," this is "if humans have free will, particles can't have deterministic behavior."

Yes, it does. (3, Informative)

node 3 (115640) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628487)

I can be completely predictable and still be acting freely.

No, you can't. If I can know right now every action you are going to take, from now until you die (ignoring the edge case where you die instantly), then you are not exercising free will. Why? Because your actions in the future are being completely determined by the state of things right now.

That's what distinguishes determinism from free will.

Conversely, if my actions are random, how can I be said to have any control over them?

Not "random", but "unpredictable". There's a *huge* difference.

That is because the observer determines... (1)

FromTheAir (938543) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628301)

The observer, the awareness, the strangest creature of all determines whihc potential becomes reality. The observer causes the collapse of the wave function into a particle.

Imagine an information universe with the processing going on at the quantum level and then being stored or written which we label the tangible or that having mass.

Atoms are controlled by the observer within the constraints of math and function.

From Chaos comes form.

Re:That is because the observer determines... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628501)

Determinisim is an interesting pondering but I don't see how the *answer* is *any different* than the age old question of weather by being a part of the universe we can understand it.

Personally I would be more concerned with theories that turn universe spawning into a broken record. At least theories like LQG incorporate some fresh air.

Life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628307)

I thought John Conway believed life was deterministic.

LOGIC! OMG! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628313)

sokrates whistles.
a train whistles.
sokrates is a train!!!
-
on a serious two cent note:
don't rock a doggy boat surrounded by sharks.
did you understand the last sentence? WHY?

I'm bracing myself... (0, Troll)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628323)

For the flood of obnoxious misinterpretations that will inevitably result. Highly mathematical result? Check. Reported in a pop science publication? Check. Arguably related to objects of emotive importance to humans? Check.

The only question now is how ghastly the claims will get. "OMG Te7 Princeton scientists proved free will11!" "Does quantum physics prove God?" "Free Particles the end of Materialism!", etc, etc.

science parading as philosophy (or vice versa) (1)

dosboot (973832) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628325)

Algorithmic predictability leads to contradictions without involving QM or philosophy ('free will'). If some computer where capable of prediction it would be possible to create a simple Russel's Paradox. e.g. create a machine that turns on a light when the computer answers 'no' and turns off a light when the computer answers 'yes'. Then ask the computer to predict "will the light be on at time t?".

It's an argument that involves neither human beings/philosophy or QM theory, we are conflating things by even dragging those things into the conversation.

Re:science parading as philosophy (or vice versa) (1)

fractic (1178341) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628513)

That doesn't show a prediction algorithm can't exists, it shows either one of the following things

-the results of the algorithm can't be accessed or interpreted in this world
-the algorithm can't be limited to only yes-no answers
-The algorithm only exists on a meta level.
-There aren't enough particles in the world to implement a computer to compute the algorithm

Re:science parading as philosophy (or vice versa) (1)

Boronx (228853) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628713)

Or the second computer inevitably breaks down, or build a third computer that takes the prediction of the first computer into account.

Science and religions/atheism should not mix (0, Offtopic)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628327)

I am a little bit concerned, that scientists, due to their philosophical bent, might actually try ignore evidence that does not fit into the atheist viewpoints. If there is an unpredictability and free will, which seems to imply something metaphysical, and this is where the evidence leads, so be it. Science is driven by evidence and if the evidence leads to a metaphysical something or to god, well then we have to follow the evidence and lay aside or religious ideas when it comes to scientific research, whether our religious or philosophy is atheism, christianity, islam or anything else. Science is about evidence rather than about preconceived religous ideas. Religions can be fun and can be a nice inspiration, and it can be fun and beneficial to speculate about metaphysics and life, i dont have any problem with science testing religious ideas, but it is the evidence that shows the outcome.

I think scientists can be of a particular religion as is their own choice, but when it comes to evidence and research what is reality should be told by evidence.

Re:Science and religions/atheism should not mix (2, Interesting)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628385)

I should add that when it comes to theoritical physics and expoloration, we should not limit ourselves strictly to materialistic or atheistic viewpoints, but also should explore possibilities that there is a metaphysical components to something. So if we have theories which point to the possibility of a metaphysical component, these should not be thrown out because they conflict with someones atheistic viewpoint. Until we have a clear answer and something that is provable with emperical evidence, we really should consider all possibilities regarding something, and even afterwards continue to test theories and laws, not assuming they are entirely correct. I do not believe, in a strict seperation of science and religion, religion can inspire science, but when it comes to established fact we should follow evidence. Science can also speculate about things which are presently undetermined and untested, and develop a hypothesis or theory, in which case all possibilities should be explored, regardless if they have an atheist or a religions aura about them. So especially with things hypothesis which conjectures in areas about might what be possible, i think it is important for all possibilities to be explored and seen as possible, and where there is evidence, the evidence should not be ignored because they conflict with religions or atheism.

Sorry, religion does not inspire science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628467)

That's like saying that dogs barking inspires music. Religious people are dogs--treat them as such.

Re:Science and religions/atheism should not mix (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628609)

Metaphysics has no place in science. Read some Karl Popper [eeng.dcu.ie] for Christ's sake.

Re:Science and religions/atheism should not mix (1)

fractic (1178341) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628403)

That doesn't show a prediction algorithm doesn't exists, it shows either one of the following things

-the results of the algorithm can't be accessed or interpreted in this world
-the algorithm can't be limited to only yes-no answers
-The algorithm only exists on a meta level.
-There aren't enough particles in the world to implement a computer to compute the algorithm

Mod parent down (1)

fractic (1178341) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628453)

Arrg. I accidentally replied to the wrong topic.

Have to agree (1)

Sybert42 (1309493) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628413)

I think scientists or the science-minded overcompensate from the obviously silly ideas of most religions and superstitions. What if a glimmer is actually true? What if we have the free will? What if there is reincarnation?

Re:Have to agree (1)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628539)

yes, about what is unproven and beyond the realm of the observable, we have no idea if there could be other realms, other universes, if we have had past lives, if we are in fact metaphysical beings, etc, so for these areas really all theories should be on the table and people can make a personal choice about which one they like best but really shouldnt tell others that their theory is something everyone else has to believe. If science as well leads in the direction of metaphysics, we should not discard the evidence because it contradicts the atheist view.

Re:Science and religions/atheism should not mix (3, Insightful)

mblase (200735) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628427)

I am a little bit concerned, that scientists, due to their philosophical bent, might actually try ignore evidence that does not fit into the atheist viewpoints.

Yeah, it's terrible when respectable professional scientists won't accept the possibility of unprovable supernatural beings as an axiom for their research papers.

Re:Science and religions/atheism should not mix (1)

woot account (886113) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628461)

Upon this first, and in one sense this sole, rule of reason, that in order to learn you must desire to learn, and in so desiring not be satisfied with what you already incline to think, there follows one corollary which itself deserves to be inscribed upon every wall of the city of philosophy:

Do not block the way of inquiry.

Although it is better to be methodical in our investigations, and to consider the economics of research, yet there is no positive sin against logic in trying any theory which may come into our heads, so long as it is adopted in such a sense as to permit the investigation to go on unimpeded and undiscouraged. On the other hand, to set up a philosophy which barricades the road of further advance toward the truth is the one unpardonable offence in reasoning, as it is also the one to which metaphysicians have in all ages shown themselves the most addicted.

Re:Science and religions/atheism should not mix (1)

Jonboy X (319895) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628543)

If there is an unpredictability and free will, which seems to imply something metaphysical...

Why do unpredictability and free will imply something metaphysical? Define your terms please.

I go by the rule that someone has free will as long as they don't understand the factors that influence their choices. The child at recess believes he is free to choose the slide over the swingset, but the parent knows that the child is deathly afraid of heights and will choose the swings every time.

Re:Science and religions/atheism should not mix (1)

nasor (690345) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628549)

You hear that sort of thing a lot, but most scientists would MUCH rather become famous as "that guy who proved that everything we thought we knew was wrong" than advance some particular theological or philosophical agenda.

Re:Science and religions/atheism should not mix (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628603)

Random. Free Will, Act of God. in essence they are all the same. The danger is when they find something that is Random, Act of God, or Free Will is stop and say thats it, science cannot go further because it can't be measured. As it is unpredictable, wants to deceive us, or is controlled by an omniscient being. Science is not religion I doubt it will ever prove there is or isn't a God(s). That isn't the point of science is understand how the universe Macro and Micro works, and find ways to represent it. So if one believes in God, the question is why God made it that way will lead you to study further. If you are an atheist you need to go why is it random. Believing in God or Not doesn't make you a better science. In general we will do the same things and for some they will find something and they will try to put a cap on it, just because they are tired looking more into it. So they will say God plans it, Or it is to Random to tell. Both are equally destructive to science, if you have people following it.

Off topic (1)

mypalmike (454265) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628643)

Religion? Whatever man.

Re:Science and religions/atheism should not mix (1)

Joe Tie. (567096) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628685)

I've been following this kind of thing for some time. Don't worry, there's no shortage of scientists that no matter their belief, are adamant in wanting to think that there's something magic about the human mind.

Free will is a result of consciousness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628699)

Free will is a result of consciousness.
Consciousness is a very sparse commodity in this universe.
Consciousness is extremely complex not (even remotely) understood by science.
Consciousness is the source of free will.
Yes, subatomic particle are ruled by probability.
This has nothing to do with free-will as relating to human consciousness.

Intuitive enough but useless (1)

BhaKi (1316335) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628345)

It is very much intuitive that human beings can't have free will unless the constituent particles themselves have free will. So, the formal proof of this is useful only for categorical and pedagogical purposes but not any practical purpose. The real question to be solved is whether human beings have any free will at all?

Bad mix of physics and metaphysics/philosophy (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628353)

Two things :

a) Good luck with that
b) So free will is all about deterministic vs. random? As in, you can't have free will if the process of thinking is deterministic? Or does free will your ability to be random in your thinking?

Also, if I have no free will and that I'm a deterministic process whose actions are functions of prior events, does it mean I'm not responsible for my actions? (Sorry I'm new to the whole free will debate)

Re:Bad mix of physics and metaphysics/philosophy (1)

PieSquared (867490) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628623)

If it is possible to completely predict the movement of every single particle then it's also possible to completely predict the movement of every single entity in a system. If that's true then there is only one decision you can *actually* make in any situation. So yes, you're not responsible for your actions. Of course, the people who punish you also have no choice about that so don't expect a break...

If there is free will, then you're responsible for your actions. If you don't have free will, then whatever people end up doing to punish you is the only possible course of action. So either way you might as well act under the assumption that you have free will. In other words this is a completely academic question with absolutely no meaning other then finding the answer. If we have free will great, if we don't there's nothing we can do about it anyway.

Personally, I rather suspect there are at least some things that can't ever be predicted (like the decay of individual atoms) and while this doesn't prove there *is* free will, it at least leaves the possibility of it.

Waking Life (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628357)

A very good film. Here is an interesting monologue [youtube.com] about the relationship between the free will and physics laws.

No (1)

mypalmike (454265) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628363)

Subatomic particles do not have free will.

Re:No (1)

bunratty (545641) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628587)

Do you agree that you do not have free will?

Wide Interpretation of Freewill is at fault (5, Insightful)

topham (32406) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628367)

Think about a definition of Free Will for a while. Then answer this question:

If an exact copy of you were made (absolutely exact, right down to the quantum state of every particle); do you believe that given the exact same environment (a twinned universe?) your doppleganger would ever do anything different than yourself?

If you believe that you would not act, and think exactly the same then you believe Free Will is beyond quantum mechanics; otherwise Free Will is just the synergistic response to a complex organism that has the capability to think of itself.

depends (1)

Dakuma (857226) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628377)

depends on the DRM..

It depends (1)

sanctimonius hypocrt (235536) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628379)

If physicists say so, then yes. If priests say so, then no.

You can only choose to make a decision (1)

FromTheAir (938543) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628429)

In theory we can only choose to make a decision. This creates a fork in the cause and effect chain. In the world of the multiverse a universe representing each path is formed with you in it.

So this is where fate comes in. Since you are split and exist having taken the blue pill and the red pill by choosing to decide, the fact that you are in the universe that results from the red pill is simply fate. You are also in the universe that results from taking the blue pill.

The universe you are in is simply happenstance. You did not actually choose to take the red pill, both happen. If you want to end up in the perfect universe simply go with the flow and follow the natural impulse don't stop to make a decision.

NO, they do NOT! (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628435)

Quote: "John Conway and Simon Kochen, claim to have proven that if humans have even the tiniest amount of free will, then atoms themselves must also behave unpredictably."

That is NOT what they claim. Rather, they claim that if subatomic particles (not atoms) behave in ways that are not deterministic (as they think they have shown). Another claim is then (unjustifiably) extrapolated: if they behaved deterministically, then we would not have free will. The claim in the original post is claiming the logical converse of this proposition, which does not follow at all. In fact the original post got it wrong two ways: not only did they reverse the claim, even if it were the claim it would probably be false.

Re:NO, they do NOT! (1)

Strilanc (1077197) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628593)

How is it unjustifiable?

They showed, given very few assumptions [read the paper], that if humans are unpredictable then particles are unpredictable.
A pretty basic logical equivalence: A->B === ~B->~A
Therefore if particles are entirely predictable, humans are entirely predictable

Re:NO, they do NOT! (1)

bunratty (545641) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628607)

Huh? I think part of your second sentence is missing. If subatomic particles behave in ways that are not deterministic, then what?

Free particles make me happy (1)

quixote9 (999874) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628437)

I'm not even sure why. I guess I like the idea of living in an approximate, fuzzy universe. So much cozier.

Q: Do Subatomic Particles Have Free Will? (0, Flamebait)

J_Omega (709711) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628449)

A: No.

Oh great (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628463)

Now my "spiritually minded" friends will be telling me that science has proved that subatomic particles think and feel. I know they mean well, but nothing is worse than a quantum mechanics lesson from people who can't even do algebra.

lack of determinism != free will (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628475)

Free will entails a lack of determinism, but a lack of determinism does not necessarily imply free will. These guys need to get their terminology straight.

There is a big difference between simply having been able to choose otherwise in a given situation, and actually being in CONTROL of said decision.

Simple answer (2, Insightful)

greyhueofdoubt (1159527) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628509)

You have basically three choices here:

-Humans/animals/subatomic particles have free will somehow; as in, they can make arbitrary decisions and cause action that is unpredictable by any model of physics.

-Humans et al. do not have free will and their actions are dictated by laws of physics; said laws are natural and immutable and will lead to a predictable model of the universe.

-Humans et al. do not have free will and their actions are dictated by the whims of a god or other conscious entity. This scenario, much like creation theories, really just moves the determination of free will to another actor: If we are merely cogs in god's plan, does god have free will? This scenario, even if true, would not provide us with any useful information.

As an atheist I cannot fathom option 3. Of the remaining scenarios, the only one I can rationally support is number two (no free will thanks to physics). As it hurts my ego to claim that I have no free will, I believe that the concept of free will ought to be divided into distinct categories: mathematically-derived actions of matter and energy and sentient actions (which would not cover particles unless they were shown to be conscious). I think they ought to be treated as separate fields.

Or maybe individuals have free will, but the species does not. If you can predict birthrate, accident rate, crime rate, etc with a high degree of accuracy, is free will threatened? If you can predict with great accuracy that 1.2% of RV owners will experience a collision while driving their RV, do RV owners still retain free will?

I need more caffeine.
-b

Re:Simple answer (1)

mypalmike (454265) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628689)

Try to explain the single photon double-slit experiment without nondeterminism.

Bad Philosophy and Questionable Physics (2, Insightful)

etymxris (121288) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628525)

First of all, quantum mechanics has absolutely nothing to do with free will. Free will, if understood properly, is a moral property of human agents. And whether someone is responsible for his actions has nothing to do with our final understanding of subatomic physics.

Secondly, the physics is questionable. There are several assumptions underlying Bell's inequalities. One of which is that incoming (that is, earlier in time) influences are independent. However, the fundamental laws are, for the most part, time symmetric. (The exceptions are the neutral kaon which has questionable significance and entropy, which is a supervenient law that needs to be explained by cosmic boundary conditions.)

The point is that we should not expect incoming influences to be independent. We should expect variable dependence going both ways in time. "Agency" and "observer" being primitive theoretical entities was always a metaphysical abomination. Happily, it's not necessary once the symmetry of time is fully appreciated.

I'm not saying anything new. Huw Price is the principle proponent of this view and he's not the one who came up with it either. To my knowledge there has been no serious reply to Price's proposal. So his work sits largely ignored, while media attention goes to crazy interpretations that give free will to subatomic particles, and various other metaphysical abominations.

Some bad wordings (1)

Jasper__unique_dammi (901401) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628533)

Do not really like the article, some bad wording:

Experiments have shown that a type of subatomic particle called a âoespin 1 particleâ

Bad wording. There is no particle named 'spin 1 particle' He should just have said that it is about a spin 1 particle.

Spin is one of those properties physicists canâ(TM)t predict in advance

If you measure spin in one direction and then measure it in the same direction again you can predict the second outcome in advance. (The operators commute.) If you measure it in other directions he is right.

Hold Your Breath ! (0)

FromTheAir (938543) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628557)

Hold your breath and with all the will you can muster and see how long you can resist the universal will for you to breath!

Try not going to bathroom the next time you feel the urge.

Free will is an illusion.

In Pariclar... (1)

binaryseraph (955557) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628573)

Sub-Atomic particles in America are given ID cards under the patriot act, and in fact are quite limited to their allowance of free will of movement. Not to mention when sub atomic particles go through airports- they are subject to some serious screening.

Free Will is Magic (-1, Flamebait)

dasheiff (261577) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628579)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_will [wikipedia.org]

Basicly, Free Will can only exist if you believe in Magic. Either something has a cause or it's random. (Or some combination) There is no room for Free Will.

What do we mean by FREE WILL here? (4, Interesting)

Zobeid (314469) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628613)

The original poster writes that this hypothesis is a threat to "human free will, in a very strong sense". I'm not sure what he means by a very strong sense, but it becomes clear after doing a little research that none of these people are talking about human free will in the sense that most people perceive it.

The real argument here is about whether the future is fixed. If the universe is purely mechanistic, then no agency -- human or otherwise -- can change the course of future events. But what does that mean for a human being?

Not much, it turns out. So you can't change the future, but thanks to the laws of thermodynamics you don't know what the future is going to be like anyhow. There's still nothing to prevent you from shaping (as opposed to changing) the future with your decisions.

But wait! Aren't those decisions also pre-determined? In a strictly physical sense, yes, they are. But again, what does that mean for us? Not much. A human being is a vastly complex and chaotic system interacting with a vastly complex and chaotic environment. We're driven by chaos theory and the laws of thermodynamics, not by quantum randomness. (Would you really want to be guided by quantum randomness? I mean seriously. . . What kind of "free will" would you get out of that?)

Any argument against free will -- in the way that most ordinary people regard it -- is easily brushed aside. For thousands of years we've been designing and creating things, making plans and then carrying them out. That's free will. To argue against it is like trying to prove that black is white (and then getting yourself killed at the next zebra crossing).

mod do3n (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24628655)

real problems Words, don't get You nned tO succeed numbers continue and Juliet 40,000 faster than this

It could make a good book (1)

noname444 (1182107) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628673)

Do subatomic particles dream of elementary sheep?

Freewill -- Rush (1)

rssrss (686344) | more than 6 years ago | (#24628733)

Rush "Freewill" Words by neil peart, music by geddy lee and alex lifeson album: "Permanent Waves" There are those who think that life has nothing left to chance, A host of holy horrors to direct our aimless dance. A planet of playthings, We dance on the strings Of powers we cannot perceive "The stars aren't aligned, Or the gods are malign..." Blame is better to give than receive. [Chorus] You can choose a ready guide In some celestial voice If you choose not to decide You still have made a choice You can choose from phantom fears And kindness that can kill I will choose a path that's clear I will choose free will
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