One of the most maligned philosophical theories of nature is that everything in the universe is pre-determined.
If you know the size, makeup, velocity, spin, trajectory, polarity, etc. of an atom and all other atoms in the universe you could accurately predict the entire lifetime of where the atom is, where it will go and where it has been all the way to the big bang.
If that were possible to do, it means that from one area outside of the observable universe you could model theuniverse so accurately that one could tell that someone was typing a blog post so far away that light had never traveled between those two points in the history of the Universe. Super determinism is cool, and it maps to most scientific observations of the world. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and if two known chemicals are added to a beaker and mixed thoroughly, the combined mixture will be knowable.
It makes intuitive sense that everything, even complex systems, are governed by knowable rules.
The real questions are more complicated: 1. Are the rules we currently use, correct? They may not be. 2. Are the rules we don’t know so different that they change how the universe works fundamentally? They may. 3. Are the rules practical to measure? An atom may not be measurable in a way that would ever be practical – a position may be measurable, but velocity may not be, or vice versa. So even if the math is correct, it’s implausible to leverage the knowledge of the rule. For instance, perhaps there are simply too many variables to practically measure. 4. Are there hidden measurements or hidden variables?
Are there unknown variables in any system that add enough seemingly random noise to the system that it is unmeasurable – like stray photons and hydrogen atoms that enter experiments even in the “perfect vacuum” of space?
Or are there ways to measure things that escape our current or future abilities, simply because they are made up of the very same materials we want to measure, or because to measure them we interact with them, changing their outcome? Super determinism may be difficult to utilize and is impractical is the very same way that knowing that a benign but uninterested metaphysical super-being started the universe but has not put their figurative finger on the scale.
Both have the same utility, but people feel very different about them for one reason.
Determinism has the downside of excluding moral culpability. It is more akin to wearing a meat-suit and traveling around in it, watching what it does. Why not murder someone or sit and watch soap operas all day, if the universe caused you to be destined to do so? Why take any credit or feel bad for any action if the universe would have played out this way no matter what?
People feel very uncomfortable with that idea. The alternative notion is that God adds entropy into the universe through things like quantum physics. This idea of sub-molecular randomness is as old as the concept of Clinamen that Lucretius gave to his concept of how atoms “swerve” in the first century BC. Lucretius said, this unpredictable swerving of atoms gave "free will which living things throughout the world have."
What if instead of trying to force them into two separate camps, we wanted to combine
determinism and metaphysics? There is no reason that one necessarily mutually excludes the other.
Let’s use a very simplistic model. Let’s pretend that the universe is a card game with two players of “high card wins”. There are three stages to this game.
1.Shuffle the cards
2.Deal the cards
3.Compare the cards
If the dealer shuffles the card with the intention of cheating the game, by making certain that
he will draw the high card, then nothing about the dealing of the cards must change for the
outcome to be different. If I am a “bad-guy” who aims to cheat, the causality of the dealing is
unrelated to whether I win when the cards are compared. I have “stacked the deck” in my favor.
Likewise, if I choose to lose the game, and I stack the deck so that the other player has no chance of losing, again, the dealing of the cards doesn’t need to change for the outcome to be known and for the other player to win.
Let’s apply this to metaphysics: 1.Shuffle the cards (metaphysics leading up to the big bang) 2.Deal the cards (big bang and subsequent deterministic causality until now) 3.Compare the cards (seemingly random “now”) Let’s say for lack of a better word, there is a “spirit” for which you are assigned, and I am assigned a separate “spirit.”
And let’s say we are given certain choices about how we act and behave given certain stimuli/decisions that lead to the same card-game being played out billions of years into the future when our respective bodies have embodied a manifested and deterministic corporeal form.
There is nothing about the causality of the atoms of the universe that need to change if the atoms in the universe lead to the outcome that our mutual spirits created in an a-priori state of being. To make this a bit closer to reality, let’s instead of using a card game as an analogy we use the concept of a video game of billiard.
All the movements of the player prior to breaking the balls up at the beginning of the videogame directly relate to the movements of the balls, but one could not state that the player manipulates the balls in any meaningful way after the button is pressed to hit the cue ball.
And yet, from the player’s perspective it feels relatively random. The rules, however, were programmed in the game to be deterministic, so the randomness is only perceived due to the complex nature of the game and the sensitivity of the controls, not real. If you were to hit the same ball in the same way, it would always have the same outcome. Perhaps a metaphysical universe could exist where spirits apply some input into the atoms at the beginning of the big bang, that lead to how we feel. We are surprised by the randomness of life, because we have nowhere near the necessary computing power in our brains to calculate even a small fraction of the variables. The result is that we could have metaphysical universe with “spirits” and omnipotence that is governed by deterministic rules.
This combination of metaphysics and determinism doesn’t necessarily preclude the ideas of quantum computing if indeed the rules that govern the perceived randomness were deterministic, but it certainly makes it less plausible. Therefore, spiritually driven people will likely prefer to combine a “spirit” or omnipotence into the quantum realm.
For one to be true, it makes more sense that both are true: if you are to believe that metaphysics is real you are more likely to believe in quantum physics than determinism. For now, there is simply no way to know for sure, but as the state of quantum physics advances, we may get better understanding on if quantum physics is a matter of the hidden measurement theorem/hidden variable theorem, or if it is indeed a matter of true randomness applied at the one of the lowest areas of particle physics.
Waves on a computer may appear random as they cross one another, but the type of true randomness implied by the equations of Nils Bohr, Erwin Schrödinger, Werner Heisenberg, Max Born and Paul Dirac could never be modeled accurately. The question quantum physicists will ultimately have to prove is what random really means. Is particle physics random in the way that firing two balloons of water at one another might appear random but are governed by normal laws of motion as they bounce and slosh against one another, bending and stretching around one another, sometimes combining into one big mess of water as they pop or sometimes passing by one another without imparting spin/wobble/bounce/vibration, etc.? Or are particles uniquely random in the way that no other system in a macroscopic universe appears to be, but just appear to be, in the way that when two chemicals are mixed, they never perfectly make a third chemical – there is always some number of atoms that remain elusively unmixed or combine with imperfections in the solution/container?
This appears to be the case when heat is applied to chemicals in cigarettes for instance.
While the number of chemicals may be small before lighting, after heating they combine into dozens or even hundreds of other carcinogenic chemicals as the atoms move faster and faster, slamming into one another combining to make more and more complex and dangerous molecules.
This molecular process is knowable, but so complex it cannot be accurately modeled. It is seemingly random, but the rules are absolute, and testable to a high degree of certainty in a macroscopic universe. While determinism may not preclude metaphysics, it does preclude truly random particle physics, which appears to be necessary for quantum computing theories.