Wednesday, 1 March 2006

It is your destiny

There's a loophole in the Force.
Readers of this blog will probably know that one of my major hobbies is scorning organized religion, god, and anything implying some sort of a fatalist "everything happens because that is what was meant to happen" view. But if I mock them so much, then what is the alternative that I do support?
Well, as far as explaining why things happen the way they happen, the theory that I accept as the best so far to explain things is that it is the matter that we are made of that determines what will happen. The first clarification on that would be that Albert and others have already sort of proved that matter is the same shit as energy. The second would be to offer an example: For instance, it is the quarks in my head and the interaction between them that determine what I know, what I remember, and what I'm going to think of next.
However, there is a bit of a problem there. If everything that transpires depends on the interaction between various particles, with no "out of the system" intervention allowed (such as the influence of some divine entity), then this means that whatever takes place tomorrow has already been determined some 10^-43 seconds after the big bang decided that enough is enough some whatever billion years ago. Which means that in actual fact, as much as I would like to think that I'm in control of my destiny, someone who can freely move along the 4th dimension could easily tell me what I will do in a year's time or when and how I will die - because free will is going to have nothing to do with it.
It gets worse: All of the effort we make during our lives, the things we protest about, the things we laugh about - they would all still be there no matter what we do. So why bother in the first place? This is exactly one of my major concerns with religion - if god watches us all and determines the outcome of it all then why bother - and I'm coming towards the same disheartening conclusion by using a rather analytic approach.
So far I can think of two things with which my preferred theory manages to get an out of jail card:
The first, according to my understanding of quantum physics (and I'm in no way pretending to understand much of it), there is a definitive element of randomness to the universe. Even though things seem orderly to us, and the above mentioned Albert has allegedly wasted a significant portion of his life trying to come up with a theory that would prove this orderliness, the universe is quite random and hectic. And it could be that this hectic-ness, this randomness, is the thing that allows us to maintain our free will and act of our own mind's initiative rather than what the brain's atoms dictate.
The second is more philosophical, and is actually the explanation that Jewish scholars present when this very same dilemma is thrown at them (and it was firmly thrown at them in the bible by Moshe when he asks the same question upon his first meeting with god). It basically states that although everything is set, you still have to do what you choose to do in order for things to happen the way god or your atoms dictate things to happen. Sort of a "if you never fill the lottery you ain't never going to win it" recursive explanation. And I don't know about you, but I never liked recursion; my mind was never able to fully grasp it.
But anyway, no one said we must have an answer for everything. At least I'm happy to have asked the question and to continue pondering.


uri said...

When Jack Slater was trying to be unpredictable, he said “I’ll be back”, which was, of course, the one thing we (and Danny) expected him to say.
Destiny is depressing when no matter what choices you make, everything will turn out the same. That’s not the case for us. Our choices may be known by a time traveler or God, but not to us.
Let’s say I know exactly what’s going to happen in your life, but I’m not able to alter it, or even interact with you in any way. Your life may seem boring to me, but why should it matter to you?
In Double Star, Smyth tells the anecdote of a professor who spent his life trying to prove that the Iliad was not written by Homer, but by another Greek of the same name.

Besides, recursion is cool.

Moshe Reuveni said...

First, let's make one thing clear: The Illiad (yet another case of "I have the book but will probably never get to read it - at least Jo has") was written not by any Homer, but rather by Dan Brown.
But on a more serious note: Yes, the choices we make do not count much in the grand scheme of things, and yes, as depressing as it may sound, our life is dictated by long series-es of seemingly random events totally out of our personal control much more than it is dictated by our own free will (let's face it - no one chooses when to get born, and the vast majority doesn't have much of a saying on their death, too).
I have to say I find it rather surprising to see how many people don't think anything is up to them at all and rather believe everything is dictated from above in order to serve some elaborate purpose, but never mind that.
The point is that as subliminal as the effect of our free will might be, it would still be nice if it made a difference; yet according to my favorite theory, my free will is just another product of my atoms.
None of this discussion is original and I don't foresee any breakthroughs coming up in this blog; it's just that this is something I tend to ponder on quite a lot.
And now the atoms in my brain dictate that I should cut the crap and move on. But before that, they wanted me to say just one last thing: trxitji.

Moshe Reuveni said...

Ok, I didn't really address anything you said much, so I'll just say this:
According to quantum physics (again), one cannot measure a system without affecting the system. Which is probably the only thing in quantum physics that makes sense to me.
Which means that you cannot tell what it is that is going to happen in my life without being able to alter it.
So again we're stuck in a bloody warm recursive thing.