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Humanists and Freethinkers of Cape Fear Message Board General Interest › Is life's path inevitable?

Is life's path inevitable?

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Warren B
user 70926402
Wilmington, NC
Post #: 6
OK, here is a question. Can things happen in truly random fashion ie without physical causation? Or is every event the result of the invariant physical laws of nature which act on the the universe as it currently exists in the now to transform and push it forward into the future world as it will exist an instant from now?

Logic tells me that a distinct cause or set of causes are required to produce any changes in the universe. Nothing happens randomly, by chance and without causation.
Although not universally accepted by many scientists and not to drop names Albert E's "Nature does not play dice" statement resonates with me.

Our notion of randomness or chance apparently comes from observing differing outcomes for seemingly the same causes. For example some of us are unable to repeatedly drive a golf ball 250 yards straight down the fairway even though we might try to hit it repeatedly in exactly the same manner. It goes right, left or falls short. However it is not the natural laws that are varying or some ethereal fairy dust spiritual randomness factor that causes the golf ball to go awry, but rather our inability to precisely control and repeat all the ball flight causal factors like muscle control, ball lie, wind...etc..

Carefully controlled laboratory experiments have shown that if secondary causals are identified and eliminated, minimized or their variability removed, an extreme degree of experimental consistency can be achieved. In one clear example a precisely machined round steel ball is slowly nudged off of a fixed tower. It falls onto and bounces off of a number of fixed multiple angled steel plates causing the ball to follow a wild and seemingly random path around the room. On its final bounce the ball passes through a tiny opening and into a cup. If the ball is retrieved and pushed off the platform again, it will follow the same seemingly random series of bounces, hit the steel plates in the same locations and end its flight by again passing back through the hole and into the cup. As additional secondary causals like air friction are removed or variable causals like temperature are held constant, the ball's path can be retraced with ever increasing precision.

For myself at least I can only conclude then that the unchanging physical laws of nature push the universe ahead from the past to the future and that there is no magic mysterious "other" thing that causes portions of the universe to defy nature and undergo other fickle, arbitrary or random uncaused changes.

But then if you think about it there is and has been only one path for every element (including humans) in the universe to follow. We as part of that universe will follow our path, our destiny. No other paths have been or are currently available to us because there is only the natural laws driving things step by step forward. In the end each of us must land in our own personal cup. As with the bouncing ball, this does not mean that our travels will form a passive or uninteresting journey. It just means that no other path is or ever was truly possible.

I think people both inside and outside of science have allowed quantum physics and things like the uncertainty principle to cloud the issue. One needs to distinguish between predictability and inevitability. Although QM considerations cast doubt on man's ability to obtain the current data with sufficient accuracy as to be able to perfectly predict the future flight of the ball, it really says nothing about the inevitability of the path. Nature itself is not encumbered by the uncertainty. The ball will go where the ball must go whether man can predict it or not.

So if the clock were reset on the universe and you were back in your mothers arms exactly as you were at birth, these many years later you would still be sitting there looking at the screen and reading this thinking this is just a bunch of ....... :-)

Jamie S.
Jamieson
Wilmington, NC
Post #: 2
Some deep thinking here! I get all my quantum physics from Nova. According to Nova, concepts like past, present and future are just something we've created to help orient ourselves. Apparently, everything that's going to happen has already happened.

But I digress. What is your question, exactly? In your last paragraph, it seems that you are starting to ask if anything would be different if we started over. Well, doesn't it depend? The horrible cliche about wanting to be 30 years younger and know what one knows now probably was created for a reason.

But it sounds like you are suggesting that there's no such thing as free will. To be fair, I should read your essay at least 2 or 3 more times...but time is precious, and this chair isn't all that comfortable. Perhaps you are saying that nature is entirely and utterly predictable, as long as we control for variables.

Even if that's true, I don't think it proves that our lives are pre-ordained and that we are kidding ourselves to think we ever have a conscious choice. We could be wrong, but at least we're not kidding ourselves.

Is this a complete muddle?
Warren B
user 70926402
Wilmington, NC
Post #: 7
Jamie; Thanks reading my ravings and for your great comments. I think you have captured the gist of my thinking.
Most people would agree I think that the laws of nature are immutable, fixed, and never changing. In any case this is of course the key unproven hypothesis or assumption on which my argument hinges.
If we consider a slice of time, these physical natural laws take (or operate on) the state of the universe at it exists at the beginning of the time slice to produce or yield the universe as it will exist at the end of the time slice. Therefore if the universe exists in a certain state at time T, unless the laws of nature change, logic would dictate that the universe can only morph into one and certainly not many alternative universes at time T plus t later.
So if the universe which includes humans were to be put back to how it was a some prior point of time, the immutable laws of nature which don't age, change or vary can only push it forward along precisely the same exact path.
As to the notion of free will, humans along that path will still struggle to make the best decisions. But if put back in time, since humans are part of the universe and subject to the same rules and regulations, they too would always come to the same conclusions and make the same decisions in precisely the same way because everything is the same as it was before. It would take some "other" thing outside of the natural law to have things change. You could postulate a truly random extra-natural varying law that would lead to a different results. Spirituality provides an unending array of extra-natural "forces" and "powers" but for myself all such notions are clearly unverifiable feel-good human fabrications.

For me the truly mind boggling conclusion is that if this logic is not flawed, the only possible conclusion is that our lives and those of our descendants have been locked in for billions and billions of years. Not so much in the sense of predefined but more in the sense of inevitable. I am not saying this is a nice or pleasant conclusion like those which can be achieved via extra-natural postulations. This is just where my mind takes me when I attempt to honestly search for the truth while applying what I think I know and logic.

As to Nova and multiple realities etc I can only share my personal (and unpopular) viewpoint. Those folks that come up with these relationships and theories are undoubtedly much smarter than I. However a bit of caution I think is advised. Physicists search for, guess at and noodle out predictive mathematics or equations and as good scientists do they then try to verify it. If an equation or relationship agrees with experimental results and yields useful predictive results, they then scratch their heads and try to imagine what this might mean in terms of reality Often this leads to an additional discovery.. But note that they leave the world of science and enter the world of philosophy. So one should be careful not to confuse the fact that their equations function and are verifiable with their hypothetical interpretation relative to our perception of reality. Not that this makes them wrong by any means. But it is good to realize that they have largely left their scientific world of mathematics and physics where many dimensions are the norm. Now they have entered the world of speculation where they often try to force fit their huge foot of their equation variables into the tiny shoes of reality." Ah... maybe there is an invisible shoe to take the overflow" . The public likes to hear about invisible shoes a lot more than they want to hear about eigenvalue equations etc. Wow vs yawn. :-)
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Wilmington, NC

Founded Jan 17, 2003

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HFCF, Amber Gayle Taggert, Anne Rose, Jane Nelson, Jean Dunne, Page Rutledge, Phillip Drum, Susanne Werner
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