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Free will vs. Determinism Free will vs. Determinism
by Joseph Gatt
2021-02-03 11:08:01
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Albert Einstein and his followers believe that everything in the universe is pre-determined and that there is no free will. Many religious beliefs also center on the notion that everything is pre-determined and that there is no freedom of action.

I wish I could have sat down with Einstein over a cigar and a cup of dark coffee and explain to him in my broken German the following: that objects in the universe have no consciousness and that there is a branch of astrophysics looking for and searching for extraterrestrial life that is conscious beings outside our own planet.

frewi00001_400So objects in the universe have no free will indeed. There are laws determining their trajectories, their inception, their falls, their collisions.

Now there could be a philosophical debate over whether atomic and sub-atomic and sub-sub-sub atomic particles in the universe have any degree of free will, or whether their movements and actions and fusions are determined as well.

Important question: what is free will? I would define free will as a mixture of “organization” and “pre-meditation” and “reflexes.”

We know that most animals have some form of social organization. Some animal species live alone; others are more gregarious and live in groups. Some hunt for their food all by themselves, others hunt for food in groups. Other animals “conquer” land in search for food in groups, but then look for food all by themselves. Other animals look for food in groups.

Then you have pre-meditated actions that plants as well as animals have. Rocks and stars do not have pre-meditated actions. But plants and animals do. They can decide to go one way or the other, hide in one place of the other. They can even elaborate strategies to find food or to defend themselves from predators.

Asteroids unfortunately can not maneuver to avoid collusions with other asteroids. Nor do asteroids feel pain or the “survival instinct” to avoid colluding with another asteroid. They are lifeless objects.

Finally you have reflexes. Plants and animals have reflexes. Sometimes it's an opportunity that comes out of the blue, either for mating or for hunting, and the animals change their plans and go hunting for the sudden prey. Or animals and plants have reflexes to defend themselves and the avoid being harmed or eaten.

What about the fate of planet Earth? The mixture of rock and its interaction with gas and radiation from the Sun, over billions of years, led what was once a “black” rock of sorts to take the form and shape it has today. Gases and radiation caused the Earth to develop and atmosphere, and chemical fusions and reactions led to the establishment of water, crusts, magma and rocks to interact and move around, leading to oceans, continents. And the appearance of life forms.

The life forms evidentially organized to survive, eat and reproduce, and evolved into distinct species. The species of course feed on each other, and it's a war of tomatoes against bacteria and humans against tomatoes.

But is everything pre-determined in the universe? A lot of the “big” stuff seems to be pre-determined, that is most stars and rocks evolve in predictable cycles.

But the behavior of elements and atoms is still a mystery to us. Do atoms organize kind of the way animals and humans do? Do they have survival strategies? Or do they just act in pre-determined ways?

Some experiments have shown that atoms do indeed have reflexes and some form of organization. That is, a few experiments have shown that atoms behave depending on the context, and seem to have behavior strategies for survival.

But are human lives pre-determined? Einstein tended to believe that chemistry rules the universe and that everything we humans do is merely reacting to our chemical context and surroundings. If there's a fire, you run away kind of reactions.

But this does not do justice to the fact that humans like to sit down and discuss organization strategies for survival and for community life. The ideas for organization are in many cases merely impulsive suggestions.

Let's say that I decide to go out and take a walk. The action could be a reflex, or could be pre-meditated. It could be a habit, or it could answer an urgent need. It could be a friend's suggestion, or it could be itchy feet. That walk probably wasn't pre-determined.

BUT, and I'll agree with Einstein on this. IF we understood the world in all its particle elements, and that we understood every single one of the gazillion times gazillion number of particles and their behavior, perhaps then we could come to conclusions that most things are really pre-determined. But to gain the kind of knowledge involving every single particle in the universe, you really need God's time and knowledge. I am a mere mortal.

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