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Free Will vs Determinism: Which One Is True?

Free Will vs Determinism: Which One Is True?

Does God play dice? Do we live in a deterministic universe or one in which we have free will? These are the type of wicked questions we will attempt to answer here. So, get ready to go down one crazy and deep rabbit hole. Just remember, Alice didn’t just wonder into Wonderland… she fell.

What is Free Will?

    Just trying to define Free Will takes us down a deep rabbit. You think it would be simple, right? We are free to make whatever choice we like… not so fast. Let’s look at some of the definitions of free will.

    • The ability to choose different course of action.
    • To make choices for which the outcome has not been predetermined.
    • Philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives. [1]

    Libertarianism

    Another way to look at free will is Libertarianism. This is the claim that determinism is completely false. Leaving the possibility of free will to be true.

    Question to ponder

    Let’s look at free will from a theological perspective. How would you answer it?

    “If God knows what we are going to choose in the future, then do we really have free will? If God knows we are going to make a certain ‘free will’ choice, then when it is time for us to make that choice, because God knows what we are going to choose, are we really free to make a different choice? Would God’s foreknowledge mean we cannot have free will? [2]

    What is Determinism?

      Again, this seems as though an easy definition should be available for Determinism; yet, there is not. Let’s take a look at how we can define determinism.

      • Common definition: Philosophical position that for every event there exists conditions that could cause no other event. [3]
      • Hard Determinism: A claim that determinism is true and that free will is not possible.
      • Causal Determinism: All effects have causes.
      • Logical Determinism: The future is already determined.

      Question to ponder

      When a criminal commits a crime, they should be punished right? We punish those who are responsible for the crime. What if we are wrong? What if the criminal is not free to choose right from wrong? What if free will is just an illusion? With that in mind, let’s look at another question.

      “Is a mass murderer born into this world predestined to kill?”

      How would you answer this question?

      Is there an alternative view?

      We can answer the first part of this question with a little more ease: Yes. However… we are now going deeper into the rabbit hole!

      Compatibilism vs Incompatibilism

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      Compatibilism, in some sense, is compatible with determinism. The alternative view to compatibilism is incompatibilism: free will is not compatible with determinism.

      Let’s take a look at compatibilism. Here we can freely choose to do only what our constraints allow us to do. This means that we are not completely free.

      Defining a simple word… trying to define the word choice is difficult to do. So, I will make the choice to define it as such: The deterministic selection of one option, from among the range of options that would be opted for by a typical range of human beings in a typical range of situations. [4]

      Here we see that there is a choice, yet a deterministic selection of choices. So, what did Einstein have to say about compatibilism?

      “Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.”

      What do you believe?

      So, what do you believe is correct? Do you think we have free will or do we live in a deterministic world? Or do you believe it is a combination of the two (i.e. compatibilism).

      Let’s take a look at how we can compare Free Will vs Determinism by way of a table demonstrating the different positions and how they relate to the two. [5] If you see determinism as true, but believe free will is possible, then you can consider yourself in the compatibilism camp. Yet, if you see determinism as true and free will as impossible, then you fall in line with the hard determinists.

      Does God play dice?

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        Let us now go further down the rabbit hole into the world of Quantum Physics. Early scientific thought (think Newtonian physics) was that our universe was deterministic. Additionally, Einstein was also a determinist. Think of his famous quote, “God does not play dice with the universe.” Well, I hate to break it to you, but Einstein was wrong. God does play dice!

        Quantum physics demonstrates that we can predict events only in terms of probabilities. Think of the wave-particle duality concept. Here, every particle can be described as both a wave and a particle. This feeds the many-world interpretations theory. Ready for your mind to be blown!

        Many-Worlds Theory: An interpretation of quantum physics that asserts the objective reality of the wave function and denies the actuality of a wave function collapse. [6]

        Basically, there are alternative versions of you for every decision you did not make. So, in one world you could be wealthy and living the good life; yet, in another, you could be in prison as a convicted felon.

        My Hypothesis!

        Ok, so here you go. Here is my theory, but first let me first share with you a quote from American theoretical physicist Michio Kaku regarding Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and free will.

        “Heisenberg proposed the uncertainty principle and says there is uncertainty, meaning you don’t know where the electron is. It is in many places simultaneously. This of course Einstein hated as he said ‘God does not play dice with the universe’ but he was wrong. God does play dice with the universe. Every time we look at an electron it moves. There is uncertainty with regard to the position of the electron. What does that mean for free will? No one can determine your future events given your past history. There is always the wild card, there is always the possibility of uncertainty in whatever we do.” [7]

        In developing my hypothesis, I concluded that we are looking at this from the wrong angle. So, let’s look at this wicked problem and ask a new question. Are we looking at a simple “either/or” problem here? Is it just Free Will vs Determinism? My answer is no.

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        We have what is called a False Dilemma. This is where we have an informal fallacy. We are not looking at an “either/or” scenario as there is at least one additional option.

        This is like saying:

        • X is True for A
        • X is True for B
        • Therefore, X is True for C, etc. [8]

        Using Syllogistic Reasoning

        Here are two premises, which led to my hypothesis.

        Premise #1: All human choice is an event.

        Premise #2: Some events constrain free will.

        Conclusion: Therefore, the only events in which humans do not possess free will are those in which we are constrained.

        Essentially, my perspective is similar to that of compatibilism. I truly believe that we are free to choose. Yet, we are choosing from a set of options that are presented to us. Think of how ideas pop into our mind when we are making a decision. There is an infinite number of ideas that could pop into our mind, yet we receive a specific range of options. Is there a reason why we are presented with these select few? I will leave that question for you to answer. For now, I am leaving this rabbit hole!

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        Reference

        [1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Free Will
        [2] CARM: If God knows our free will choices, do we still have free will?
        [3] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Causal Determinism
        [4] Coelsblog: Compatibilism for incompatibilists: free will in five steps
        [5] Wikipedia: Determinism
        [6] Wikipedia: Many-worlds interpretation
        [7] YouTube: Michio Kaku why physics ends the free will debate
        [8] The Nizkor Project: Fallacy False Dilemma

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        Dr. Jamie Schwandt

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        Last Updated on February 11, 2021

        20 Amazing Facts About Dreams that You Might Not Know About

        20 Amazing Facts About Dreams that You Might Not Know About

        Dreams — Mysterious, bewildering, eye-opening and sometimes a nightmarish living hell. Dreams are all that and much more.

        Here are 20 amazing facts about dreams that you might have never heard about:

        Fact #1: You can’t read while dreaming, or tell the time

          If you are unsure whether you are dreaming or not, try reading something. The vast majority of people are incapable of reading in their dreams.

          The same goes for clocks: each time you look at a clock it will tell a different time and the hands on the clock won’t appear to be moving as reported by lucid dreamers.

          Fact #2: Lucid dreaming

          There is a whole subculture of people practicing what is called lucid or conscious dreaming. Using various techniques, these people have supposedly learned to assume control of their dreams and do amazing things like flying, passing through walls, and traveling to different dimensions or even back in time.

          Want to learn how to control your dreams? You can try these tips:

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          Lucid Dreaming: This Is How You Can Control Your Dreams

          Fact #3: Inventions inspired by dreams

          Dreams are responsible for many of the greatest inventions of mankind. A few examples include:

          • The idea for Google -Larry Page
          • Alternating current generator -Tesla
          • DNA’s double helix spiral form -James Watson
          • The sewing machine -Elias Howe
          • Periodic table -Dimitri Mendeleyev

          …and many, many more.

          Fact #4: Premonition dreams

          There are some astounding cases where people actually dreamt about things which happened to them later, in the exact same ways they dreamed about.

          You could say they got a glimpse of the future, or it might have just been coincidence. The fact remains that this is some seriously interesting and bizarre phenomena. Some of the most famous premonition dreams include:

          • Abraham Lincoln dreamt of His Assassination
          • Many of the victims of 9/11 had dreams warning them about the catastrophe
          • Mark Twain’s dream of his brother’s demise
          • 19 verified precognitive dreams about the Titanic catastrophe

          Fact #5: Sleep paralysis

          Hell is real and it is called sleep paralysis. It’s the stuff of true nightmares. I’ve been a sleep paralysis sufferer as a kid and I can attest to how truly horrible it is.

          Two characteristics of sleep paralysis are the inability to move (hence paralysis) and a sense of an extremely evil presence in the room with you. It doesn’t feel like a dream, but 100% real. Studies show that during an attack, sleep paralysis sufferers show an overwhelming amygdala activity. The amygdala is responsible for the “fight or flight” instinct and the emotions of fear, terror and anxiety. Enough said!

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          Fact #6: REM sleep disorder

          In the state of REM (rapid-eye-movement) stage of your sleep your body is normally paralyzed. In rare cases, however, people act out their dreams. These have resulted in broken arms, legs, broken furniture, and in at least one reported case, a house burnt down.

          Fact #7: Sexual dreams

          The very scientifically-named “nocturnal penile tumescence” is a very well documented phenomena. In laymen’s term, it simply means that you get a stiffy while you sleep. Actually, studies indicate that men get up to 20 erections per dream.

          Fact #8: Unbelievable sleepwalkers

            Sleepwalking is a very rare and potentially dangerous sleep disorder. It is an extreme form of REM sleep disorder, and these people don’t just act out their dreams, but go on real adventures at night.

            Lee Hadwin is a nurse by profession, but in his dreams he is an artist. Literally. He “sleepdraws” gorgeous portraits, of which he has no recollection afterwards. Strange sleepwalking “adventures” include:

            • A woman having sex with strangers while sleepwalking
            • A man who drove 22 miles and killed his cousin while sleepwalking
            • A sleepwalker who walked out of the window from the third floor, and barely survived

            Fact #9: Dream drug

            There are actually people who like dreaming and dreams so much that they never want to wake up. They want to continue on dreaming even during the day, so they take an illegal and extremely potent hallucinogenic drug called Dimethyltryptamine. It is actually only an isolated and synthetic form of the chemical our brains produce naturally during dreaming.

            Fact #10 Dream-catcher

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              The dream-catcher is one of the most well-known Native American symbols. It is a loose web or webs woven around a hoop and decorated with sacred objects meant to protect against nightmares.

              Fact #11: Increased brain activity

              You would associate sleeping with peace and quiet, but actually our brains are more active during sleep than during the day.

              Fact #12: Creativity and dreams

              As we mentioned before, dreams are responsible for inventions, great artworks and are generally just incredibly interesting. They are also “recharging” our creativity.

              Scientists also say that keeping a dream diary helps with creativity.

              In rare cases of REM disorder, people actually don’t dream at all. These people suffer from significantly decreased creativity and perform badly at tasks requiring creative problem solving.

              Fact #13: Pets dream too

                Our animal companions dream as well. Watch a dog or a cat sleep and you can see that they are moving their paws and making noises like they were chasing something. Go get ’em buddy!

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                Fact #14: You always dream—you just don’t remember it

                Many people claim that they don’t dream at all, but that’s not true: we all dream, but up to 60% of people don’t remember their dreams at all.

                Fact #15: Blind people dream too

                Blind people who were not born blind see images in their dreams but people who were born blind don’t see anything at all. They still dream, and their dreams are just as intense and interesting, but they involve the other senses beside sight.

                Fact #16: In your dreams, you only see faces that you already know

                  It is proven that in dreams, we can only see faces that we have seen in real life before. So beware: that scary-looking old lady next to you on the bus might as well be in your next nightmare.

                  Fact #17: Dreams tend to be negative

                  Surprisingly, dreams are more often negative than positive. The three most widely reported emotions felt during dreaming are anger, sadness and fear.

                  Fact #18: Multiple dreams per night

                  You can have up to seven different dreams per night depending on how many REM cycles you have. We only dream during the REM period of sleep, and the average person dreams one to two hours every night.

                  Fact #19: Gender differences

                  Interestingly, 70% of all the characters in a man’s dream are other men, but women’s dream contain an equal amount of women and men. Also men’s dreams contain a lot more aggression. Both women and men dream about sexual themes equally often.

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                  Fact #20: Not everyone dreams in color

                  As much as 12% of people only dream in black and white.

                  Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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