Late night follow-ups

Following up on some of Dovid Form's comments from a long, long time ago:

Quarks only represent an area of science (within the brain) that are not deterministic according to human predictability. However, Jeff’y’s next step is to assume that behind a phenomenon that is non-deterministic to us, is a greater set of deterministic laws. I would go the other way, and say that behind that phenomenon is something like the incorpeal human soul…that free agent part of us where free will is found. Jeff’y is absolutely correct to say that there is no way of knowing what is behind the Quarks, but in order to rebut the scientific argument determinism, you do not need to because the scientific argument proceeds from our actions to some sort of psycho-chemistry to physics to quantum physics…which is not deterministic. Once we get there and can know now more, there is no reason to believe that all brain functions are determined by completely physical laws.

That is a logically possible alternative to meta-determinism. But while this is obviously just my opinion on a matter that no one has any way of really knowing, I'd have to say that I don't think that's a probable alternative. Here are a few objections/questions:


  • You run into all sorts of nasty issues regarding the scope of this control–exactly which quantum processes a hypothetical "incorporeal human soul" has control over. Surely the soul wouldn't be able to determine the outcome of arbitrary quantum processes outside the human body, or else what's to stop our soul from influencing the path of a beam of light or, more to the point, the thought processes of someone half a world away? It's a slippery slope from this model of free will to telekinesis and mind control.

  • What's so special about the particles that happen to be in our brains at a given moment that allows their fundamental properties to be influenced by a force outside of the realm of physics? Given the fact that individual, distinct particles enter and leave the physical area of the brain constantly, at what point do they become "influenceable" by the soul? Is every particle in the brain influenceable, or just a certain subset of "decision" particles?

  • Such a system would require that the soul be privy to an absolute staggering amount of information, and be able to process it in a remarkable. On one level, the soul would have to assess the current state of all particles in the brain relevant to a given decision at any given moment, and then instantly evaluate which quantum properties must be adjusted for a given particle or set of particles in order to trigger the proper physical reaction necessary to implement a given "decision."

  • In addition to being able to assess the proper quantum states of all relevant brain particles, the soul would have to possess a perfect understanding about the physical implications of each electron and neural passageway in the brain and its relation to the rest of the body in order to figure out what needs to be influenced on a more macro-physical level.

  • In addition to all that, the soul would have to have a near-perfect picture about the state of the entire physical universe at any given moment to account for the effects that particles/energy outside the brain might have on the particles that the soul "controls" inside the brain. We're being bombarded by electromagnetic radiation at every instant, and it would certainly need to be taken into account when the soul determines what quantum states are necessary for effecting a particular decision.

  • Does the idea of an omniscient soul sound plausible? Why would people ever make "bad" decisions (from their perspective) if the part of them that influences their decision-making has a perfect command over the state of the universe and all the relevant laws of physics?

  • Quantum entanglement, in which two particles in completely different locations (e.g. one in my head, one in your head) have quantum states that are mutually intertwined, can lead to some odd scenarios. Whose soul wins if each of those particles need to be in incompatible states in order to effect completely separate decisions? Can I end up making decisions for you if critical particles in each of our brains become entagled?


So those are some of the reasons I can come up with why I don't think your scenario is probable. None of them logically (or physically) preclude an incorporeal soul that can influence quantum processes and therefore make decisions. I do think that unless you can refute those points you'd have to admit that such a system is far-fetched.

I also wanted to respond to Form's critique of my use of the word "random:"

Third, I guess I need to defend the argument Jeff’y presents about randomness. (As much as I need to do anything, given that I have free will. Ha Ha!) The argument came up in the Senior Seminar too. However, I do not think it is fair. There is a logical or linguistic problem with reconciling how physics seeks to describes things with free will. That does not mean there cannot be free will, but just that it cannot be described by physics or any type of metaphysics that insists on using the language of Newtonian physics. Newtonian physics seeks to explain every action according to its cause and effect. Once the cause has been explained, the laws of Newtonian physics can be used to predict the necessary effect. Thus determinism. If Newtonian physics does not believe an effect is necessary, it classifies it as random.

Specifically, I argued that if quantum processes were truly random then that would preclude traditional notions of free will. When I used the term random here I don't intend it to refer to any old process that isn't a necessary effect in a Classical model; rather, I mean a process that is lacking a discernible cause. If Form's proposed ├╝ber-influential soul is responsible for determining the outcome of quantum processes then those processes would neither be random (in that they do have a discernible cause) nor would they be deterministic. So we're talking about two different things.

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