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# Why Determinism could never be disproven or shown to be unlikely

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That said, I have a pretty simple view on determinism:

1. All systems based on rules are deterministic

That is indeed extremely simple. Who said the universe is based on rules, and who made those rules? What rules are these? Do we know all the rules? Do we know how the rules were determined?

You have a huge definition problem right here.

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No...computers (as in calculating machines) were realized about the same time that quantum mechanics were founded as a discipline. After that, it took a long time for computers to be anything but huge machines that turned wheels and caused glass tubes to blow up.

I can make a "calculating machine" or computer out of a river using the water pressure in place of electron flow. (although a slower one then today's calculating machines). The abacus is a calculation machine and was in use long before the discipline of quantum mechanics.

Understanding of how to make calculating machines was obtained in ancient times. Anyone with that understanding who then looked at and saw the speed of electron flow would be wide eyed having realized the speed of the computation machines they could now create- microchip or no.

but qm indicates preciesly that random events DO occur. thus, determinism is false. i dont see why this is difficult to see.

also, just because the universe is not strictly deterministic, doesnt mean free will exists. behaviourism could still be true. it just means the universe is not predictable, there is no grand plan or pre-determined path of reality, the universe makes it up as it goes.

BTW random does not imply non deterministic. IE if you roll a dice the result is "random" because the variance is large or in other words a small change in independent variables causes a large change in the outcome. There is no definition for "random" that is non deterministic. The concept doesn't even make sense.

That's an interesting "belief"! The problem is that randomness is mathematically definable, and it can be shown that deterministic functions are spectacular failures at replicating randomness.

So how do you justify this "belief?"

That's only true insofar as you are recognizing limitations of current knowledge or technology. If you don't this statement is completely non-sensical: "Deterministic" by *definition* means that the outcome can be predetermined given enough information...

As a general comment, I always find it fascinating how "Fear of Randomness" drives people to seek determininsm in Nature. Fear of the unknown is natural I suppose--its not fun to know that "bad luck" could strike any minute--but it does seem to lead to a tremendous desire--both unhealthy and undesirable in my view--to turn it into something that should be eschewed, and to work hard to make it unnecessary or even to define it away as "an illusion."

Naturally Random,

Buffy

EDIT: Wow... I didn't even realize what you were saying here. Randomness is deterministic. Just because we can not come up with a function complicated enough to replicate it doesn't change this fact. A deterministic function created to explain the behavior of dice would require a lot of input variables and be extremely complicated. But randomness itself is really simple: Small change in input variables = large change in output, ie high variance. If you take a normal curve, and adjust it such that variance = very large what do you get? The uniform distribution.

And randomness is only mathematically definable in an enviornment that you have any understanding of whatsoever. Any type of statistical reasoning depends on assumptions, many of which are considered trivial under most conditions but certainly not when dealing with something like quantum particles. Many people (in the field even) have trouble understanding that these assumptions can fail within the context of the macro world, as well as when and how that can occur.

For instance many people believe randomly sampling from the same population you attempt to make a prediction for is something that you do not have to strive to accomplish. Then they wonder why the stock market defies technical analysis. There are probably alot of easily impressionable people out there that believe that just cause some people jumped through a bunch of hoops to be declared specialists on a subject they can never be wrong. Well I know that could not be further from the truth - most agreement on any given subject is developed under social pressure and not due to unanomous and well informed agreement. And in my opinion, it isn't agreement at all because the people all will tell you different things (of greatly varying degrees of accuracy) when asked why they believe it.

That is indeed extremely simple. Who said the universe is based on rules, and who made those rules? What rules are these? Do we know all the rules? Do we know how the rules were determined?

You have a huge definition problem right here.

Our existence says the universe is based on rules. Imagine a factor signifying the likelihood of some object, situation, or occurence that was observed through the various mediums that match our senses and that appeared the same as previous things we had seen like it would behave similarly. I will call it the WTH factor. Raise this too high, and we could not exist. Why? Because you would go to an oasis to get a drink of water, and the water would catch you on fire and burn you to death. You would try to get a bannana off a tree, and it would blow up 3 seconds after being removed from the tree. The world would dish out more heart attack causing random punishment then any animal could handle. What prevents this from happening? The rules of course. Things don't just happen, they happen for a reason.

Who knows who made them, and even if you knew why you could still ask why to that explanation. Of course we don't know them all.

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BTW random does not imply non deterministic. IE if you roll a dice the result is "random" because the variance is large or in other words a small change in independent variables causes a large change in the outcome. There is no definition for "random" that is non deterministic. The concept doesn't even make sense.
Well, it does require you to jump up a level of abstraction, but there are several approaches.

The Algorithmic Definition of Probability states that a random number sequence is defined as an ordered set where the shortest possible algorithm that can derive that number is longer than the the set itself. That is, its not compressible: you need to have the sequence in order to define it.

The subtle part of my post above--which seems to get glossed over in your argument--is that its not about the algorithms we *currently know*, its about *all possible* algorithms. That means you can't dismiss this argument as being "just because we haven't found it yet." Thus it is pointed out in the literature that this does not help in determining whether a *specific* sequence is random, but it does indeed show that the only way to know the next number in a random sequence is to *have* the sequence.

Now as I said, the issue here is "jumping out of the system" to see it more clearly: This definition is all about having the sequence up front, but what if you *don't* have it? What it means is that any particular proposed function for determining the sequence--given that it was truly random--would have to grow without bound with new data!

I would hope that that would disabuse you of the notion that randomness and non-determinism are not linked.

But it looks like I should, it the name of completeness, discuss this fallacy:

A deterministic function created to explain the behavior of dice would require a lot of input variables and be extremely complicated.
But the implication of what I just described is that by definition, the "number of input variables" constitutes the entire information set of the history of the universe! And moreover, it still doesn't tell you that a particular algorithm has encoded the next data point for the sequence.
But randomness itself is really simple: Small change in input variables = large change in output, ie high variance.
This is another key fallacy, the notion you are describing here only describes how small random *or* non-random changes in inputs can be propagated to have effects on larger scales. Mathematically, this is simply saying "some series diverge" which is laughably obvious to mathematicians. To call this the "definition of randomness" is misleading to say the least.
If you take a normal curve, and adjust it such that variance = very large what do you get? The uniform distribution.
Randomness can indeed be characterized--heck the *most* random you can get, a Poisson distribution, is a straight line --and randomness can *become ordered* with energy input, but that does not disprove that the generation of random data is not indeed random.
Our existence says the universe is based on rules. ......What prevents this from happening? The rules of course. Things don't just happen, they happen for a reason.
Well no, this is misunderstanding randomness, and is yet another example of the inherent Fear of Randomness I spoke of in the earlier post. What you're proposing here is a "domino theory": "If there's really randomness, then What The Heck *anything* could happen!" If you can put asside the fear of randomness, and really try to understand it, there's it really becomes obvious that you can *create order* from *randomness* *without* a mysterious number of hidden variables!

Randomness does not imply lack of rules, nor does it imply that rules can be randomly broken in radical ways.

Now to a great extent, I've thought that the majority of this thread was akin to counting the number of angels that dance on the head of a pin. Its pretty clear to me based on what I've described here that it might be *possible* that there's an algorithm that describes the "random" occurrences in our universe, but its still mathematically possible to show that that algorithm does indeed need to be bigger than the entire dataset of the entire history universe if its going to deal with explaining--even after the fact if you insist that that is somehow different than prediction--anything that is yet to come (aka "determinism").

What we are left with if you follow that is that "determinism" is unknowable, and is simply a non-deistic religion concerned with showing that "there's a reason and purpose for everything that happens." Something that I would hardly call "scientific"....

Decaying alpha particle,

Buffy

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The title to this thread could have just as easily read: Why randomness could never be disproven or shown to be unlikely.

The debate between the two will continue as long as information technologies continue to grow. This is because, Determinism has it's foundation built upon the notion that forthcoming information will explain, as yet, unknown causes.

Accepting the view that the sum of information might be infinite, there will always be wiggle room for the determinist.

Confessing the fact that I myself am a determinist, I still give those that hold to randomness their just respect. The truth is, this issue may never be satisfactorily satisfied. It is however, much fun to deliberate............Infy

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There is no definition for "random" that is non deterministic. The concept doesn't even make sense.

Random: Non-deterministic.

seems a pretty good definition to me.

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Anyone with that understanding who then looked at and saw the speed of electron flow would be wide eyed having realized the speed of the computation machines they could now create- microchip or no.

Electrons don't flow very quickly. Even if you drive about 50 amps of current down a copper wire, electrons are drifting around half a centimeter a second.

The most important part of any computation machine is the switching (the transistors. Semi-conductor transistors make modern computers possible: without quantum mechanical understanding of materials, we'd be stuck with vaccuum transistor.

There is no definition for "random" that is non deterministic. The concept doesn't even make sense.

Of course there is. There is a difference between deterministic and non-deterministic chaos.

In general, I find your unwillingness to do any research before you make pronouncements kind of unsettling.

-Will

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Actually the speed of individual electrons is very high, according to Boltzmann's distribution at the temperature, it's the net average speed that's slow. What counts though is the signal's propagation velocity, along with switching times, for a good transmission line you get a good fraction of c.

I'd say this whole discussion has become pretty pointless.

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One of the thread's claims is "determinism could never be disproven" and in post 1 I find "it is impossible to disprove determinism", yet there is no argument for determinism presented in post 1, except for the vague and unsubstantiated assertion "it is not hard to show that many kinds of non deterministic worlds do not make any kind of sense, or at least, they seem to contradict the idea that "A=A" therefore making deductive reasoning impossible". The same sentence continues with "and since our consiousnesses are dependent on this being true it is useless to try and speculate on the nature of such an enviornment", the point here is that human reasoning is consistent with perception, and these two tools, reason and perception, are essential for human interaction with external reality. As it happens, human consciousness experiences choice, this is direct perceptual confirmation of a level of freedom that contradicts strong determinism, and as this is a direct perception by humans it needs to be challenged by determinists, in other words, the thread is attempting to switch the burden of proof, it isn't determinism that needs to be disproved, it is non-determinism.

Post 1 also mentions skepticism and limits on inductive reasoning, naturally both of these ideas could equally be used to suggest a mistaken basis of determinism, ie that determinism is the result of failure to consider limits on human understanding, and determinism extrapolates from the effectiveness of some models of behaviour (physical laws) to the conclusion that everything is equally and ideally constrained by such laws.

In short, post 1 neither challenges non-determinism nor establishes determinism.

On part one of this thread's claim, "determinism could never be disproven", determinism requires that the universe in state A causes the subsequent universe in state B, and that no state can exist without it's preceding causal state, clearly this leads to an infinite regress in which there can never be an initial state and therefore no initial cause, and if there is no initial cause, or state A, there is no initial effect, or state B. Determinism is thereby disproven.

As for the latter part of the thread's claim, "or shown to be unlikely", Erasmus00 has dealt with this (on several threads), and now, so has Buffy.

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Now, that Ughaibu, is a

 highly deterministic post... /forums/images/smilies/banana_sign.gif

Anyone come for a :beer:?

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What we are left with if you follow that is that "determinism" is unknowable, and is simply a non-deistic religion concerned with showing that "there's a reason and purpose for everything that happens." Something that I would hardly call "scientific"....

Science grants causal agency only to previous physical events, in effect characterizing the universe as a perfect determinism. The way to prove that this view is wrong is just to think about it for a minute. If the universe is a perfect determinism, then every act every person performs was decreed at the moment of the big bang to occur at the precise moment that it occurred. In other words, strict adherence to scientific causality precludes any prospect of free will. So, let's let everyone out of prison --because they could not help but commit their crimes. Their actions were dictated by an unbroken chain of causal events snaking back to the big bang. Clearly, this is a absurd position, a Newtonian/Cartesian fantasy of a clockwork universe.

More interesting is the implication of quantum indeterminacy that nature must make decisions: Because quantum indeterminacies do get resolved into particular empirical facts----because the range of possible outcomes becomes narrowed to a particular one----we must grant nature an agency to make decisions. The only such agency besides physical determinism that I can conceive of is subjectivity itself. And this is a starting point for a new quantum theology, along the lines of the process theology developed by Whitehead and Hartshorne. Where there is indeterminacy, God tries to nudge events along his preferred direction.

Of course, each actual occasion has the capacity to refuse the call . . . .

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More interesting is the implication of quantum indeterminacy that nature must make decisions.

Nature does not make decisions, observers do. Please try again.

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Heresiarch: Your first point is a non-sequitur as, in a deterministic world, the putting in prison is as much an outcome of determinism as is the criminal act.

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Nature does not make decisions, observers do. Please try again.

An indeterminacy means that several possible outcomes exist. However, this physical world is made of actual events. Therefore, nature must decide which outcome facing any indeterminacy will actually occur.

We might settle our differing approaches to this issue if we agree that "nature" and "observer" name the same subjective entity.

Then again, I suppose, we should humble ourselves and just admit the painful but inescapable truth that George W. Bush is the decider.

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Heresiarch: Your first point is a non-sequitur as, in a deterministic world, the putting in prison is as much an outcome of determinism as is the criminal act.

Then let's stop all the nonsense about morals and ethics. We can't help what we do in a deterministic universe. The position of every atom at every point in time is completely determined and was determined at the instant of the big bang, in a deterministic universe. In such a universe, there can be no merit for virtue and no demerit for vice. No goodness attaches to feeding the poor, only mechanical determinism. No evil attaches itself to atrocity, only mechanical determinism. Puh-leeze.

If you want to believe that and live your life as if it were true, be my guest.

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You're still missing the point, in both your latest posts.

1) Claiming that "nature must decide" is assuming a cause and that implies determinism.

2) Morals and ethics are also part of the determinist's worldview, they are inevitable merely because they occur. And, if determinists are consistent they too have no choice in what they believe.

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You're still missing the point, in both your latest posts.

1) Claiming that "nature must decide" is assuming a cause and that implies determinism.

I think determinism is usually taken to mean a lack of free will, not a lack of causality. If by determinism you mean simply that every event is caused--and that minds can function as causal agents--then we are in agreement.

How does your brand of determinism account for the Big Bang? Or are you a steady-state guy?

2) Morals and ethics are also part of the determinist's worldview, they are inevitable merely because they occur. And, if determinists are consistent they too have no choice in what they believe.

Again, I think you're using terms--morals and ethics--in a way that is not the way in which they typically are used. If behaviors are not freely chosen, if they are completely determined, then they do not possess moral or ethical dimensions.

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I'm not a determinist and I dont know how determinists view the big bang.