How to reconcile certainty about causality?

 
FormerDemocrat
 
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FormerDemocrat
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26 May 2021 13:49
 

Hi, first post so I apologize if this is asked elsewhere.  I just listened to Sam Harris’ appearance on the Lex Fridman podcast and I was wondering how he reconciles these two statements (I’m paraphrasing maybe someone could find exact quotes)

1. “I wouldn’t be surprised to find out we understand 1% of what there is to understand about the universe”,
2. “There’s no picture of causality that allows for Free Will”

The obvious question to me was, what if you simply don’t understand enough about the universe to reconcile causality with free will?
It seems to me that all causality is predicated on spacetime being fundamental, which is a suspect presupposition in light of emergent spacetime.

[ Edited: 26 May 2021 14:58 by FormerDemocrat]
 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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Antisocialdarwinist
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26 May 2021 16:43
 

Can you give an example of some misunderstood aspect of the universe which, if only we understood it, might lead to reconciling causality with free will? Your observation about space-time doesn’t seem to do this, in case that was your reason for bringing it up. It only questions whether the universe is in fact causal. Isn’t that a different debate than reconciling causality with free will?

 

 
 
EN
 
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EN
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26 May 2021 19:31
 

Hello and welcome to the forum. I hope you hang around long enough to get into some fruitful discussions. As for your post, raising a question about something doesn’t reconcile anything. There is a lot we don’t know, to be sure, but it’s a pretty big leap to say that lack of knowledge could lead to a reconciliation. It just as likely could offer confirmation that free will simply doesn’t exist. But let’s see how you develop your argument.

 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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27 May 2021 18:11
 
FormerDemocrat - 26 May 2021 01:49 PM

Hi, first post so I apologize if this is asked elsewhere.  I just listened to Sam Harris’ appearance on the Lex Fridman podcast and I was wondering how he reconciles these two statements (I’m paraphrasing maybe someone could find exact quotes)

1. “I wouldn’t be surprised to find out we understand 1% of what there is to understand about the universe”,
2. “There’s no picture of causality that allows for Free Will”

The obvious question to me was, what if you simply don’t understand enough about the universe to reconcile causality with free will?
It seems to me that all causality is predicated on spacetime being fundamental, which is a suspect presupposition in light of emergent spacetime.

Regarding what I’ve boldfaced above, They probably don’t reconcile without a bit of word-torturing. And though it’s a stretch, one could claim that the 1% that’s understood applies directly to whether or not everything is predetermined.

In my opinion, 1% is a profoundly inflated guess since we have no idea what other kinds of cognitively advanced life—or any life—exist beyond our minute corner of the universe. For us to have 1% “understanding” of everything, we’d need to know all kinds of ins and outs of every other life form, assuming they exist. At the very least, we’d at least need to know whether or not they even exist.

Also, are both paraphrased quotes from Sam Harris?

[ Edited: 27 May 2021 18:13 by nonverbal]
 
 
Cheshire Cat
 
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28 May 2021 18:07
 

I haven’t listened to the Fridman podcast with Sam, so I may be at a disadvantage in fully understanding your premise, FormerDemocrat.

If you accept Einstein’s theory of spacetime, the Block universe, then there is no such thing as free will. We are like automatons riding on the conveyer belt of time, trapped like flies in amber to our individual, predestined fates.

However, if you look at quantum theory, and the Many Worlds interpretation in particular, then each of us is living a nearly infinite variation of lives, fulfilling our nearly endless potentials in other offshoot universes.

The fact that we have two such very radical and different views of the universe, which cannot be reconciled at this time, merely proves how very little we really do know about the universe.

So I say that, yes, we simply don’t understand enough about the universe to reconcile causality with free will. 

 
 
weird buffalo
 
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weird buffalo
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29 May 2021 12:17
 
Cheshire Cat - 28 May 2021 06:07 PM

I haven’t listened to the Fridman podcast with Sam, so I may be at a disadvantage in fully understanding your premise, FormerDemocrat.

If you accept Einstein’s theory of spacetime, the Block universe, then there is no such thing as free will. We are like automatons riding on the conveyer belt of time, trapped like flies in amber to our individual, predestined fates.

However, if you look at quantum theory, and the Many Worlds interpretation in particular, then each of us is living a nearly infinite variation of lives, fulfilling our nearly endless potentials in other offshoot universes.

The fact that we have two such very radical and different views of the universe, which cannot be reconciled at this time, merely proves how very little we really do know about the universe.

So I say that, yes, we simply don’t understand enough about the universe to reconcile causality with free will.

I’m with ASD here.  I think you’re confusing two separate ideas and mashing them together, much like the OP.

We don’t need to know how the universe works in order to come up with an understanding of how causality and free will would interact.

If the universe were causally determined, ie, all events had a preceding event that determined their outcome, then no, free will would not exist.  Every time you came to a “decision point”, the events leading up to it would determine the outcome.  The truth of this relationship is irrelevant to how the universe actually is.  I don’t need to know how the universe actually works to know whether causality and free will are compatible.

For causality and free will to harmonize, you would have to introduce a non-causal method by which thoughts and choices can happen.  You would need to demonstrate a method of influencing the action potential of neurons which fire off sodium and potassium ions into receptors that doesn’t involve ATP, or some non-physical method of the neuron to be influenced into using it’s ATP to fire.  This method of influencing would have to exist outside our universe, but be able to interact with it, and the rules of wherever that is would have to be non-causal.

If our universe exists with only causality, then for there to be free will, there would have to be a second universe (without causality) that is influencing how our minds work.  Without that second universe, the operation of our minds would be determined entirely within our causal universe.

I don’t need to know whether our universe is causal in order to reach this conclusion.  I only need to understand the relationship between causality and how our brains function.

It is entirely possible that causality is not a rule our universe has to follow, in which case then, whether free will exists or not would no longer be restricted by the concept of causality.