The weather is still lousy so I've been thinking. One of the things I thought was that I can say what I like about idiots. The PC crowd won’t bother me because idiots are not a minority. Far from it.
On a more philosophical note, New Scientist recently carried an article on whether free will exists or not. Are we making decisions, or are we simply following a predestined route? That sort of thing.
It doesn’t take long for your head to start hurting with this stuff. Eventually, though, you come to a dead end.
There’s no way to test this, either way.
Suppose I decided not to post this after all. Suppose I said ‘I’m going to exercise my free will and make a decision to delete this.’
Did I make the decision through free will, or was I destined to delete? In the event, I have posted it. Did I decide to do that myself or was it Written that I Must?
It is not possible to determine whether or not we have free will. Every word we utter, every letter we type, every idiot we insult, might be the product of an individual decision. Equally, they might have been scripted, and we simply follow the script.
The best argument against predestination is human intelligence. If we simply move through time, saying and doing what we are destined to say and do, why do we have intelligence? We don’t need it if everything is predetermined. Why, they say, did we evolve intelligence?
We can equally argue that humans are intelligent because we were destined to be. We can further argue that intelligence is an illusion. We are not intelligent if we are following a plan. We are simply doing what we have to do, thinking the thoughts we were meant to think. We do what quantum physics decided we would do at the Big Bang, or if you prefer, what God designed us to do.
Is every claim of intelligence or free will simply an expression of the route we have to follow? Is there a God in a white coat watching this program unfold, to see whether we work out that we’re only doing what the initial stages of the program dictated? Or, as most of us prefer to believe, is it all random and our own decisions shape the future?
The only way to find out is to step outside the universe and look in. We can’t do that.
There is one further possible test.
If the future is already determined, if tomorrow’s events are already set up for us, there might be a way to work out what those events will be. If we can devise a way to predict what will happen tomorrow, the day after, or next year, then if it all turns out as we predicted, the future is indeed already preplanned. We have no free will.
If that is the case, then we are destined (or not) to find out. What will we do about it? We’ll do exactly what we were supposed to do. Blame someone, most likely.
The flaw in this idea is that if our predictions are wrong, we won’t know whether that means we have free will, or that our method was wrong. So future predictions might prove that we don’t have free will, in which case there’s no point doing them because it’s all going to happen anyway and we can’t do a thing about it.
Future predictions can’t prove that we do have free will because if the predictions don’t happen, we won’t know if our predictive method was any good.
The most dramatic prediction around is that of the end of the world. According to many major religions we are now in the Last Days, the End of it All, the Kali Yuga. These predictions were made thousands of years ago. If it happens, if the big ‘Game Over’ flashes in the sky, we will finally know for sure. We didn’t have free will. It was all planned and someone told us, a long time ago. We didn’t listen because we weren’t supposed to listen.
I wonder who’s destined to be the first to say ‘Oh, crap.’
I hope we do have free will. I’d like to think the insults I generate are my own ideas.
I just can’t see any way to solve this one. I wish I could stop thinking about it, but maybe I’m not supposed to.