You have free will. Or not. The choice is yours.

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I'm a little under the weather today, might have Covid. So a little light on content. But:

I've been a fan of theoretical physicist (and successful science popularizer) Sabine Hossenfelder for a number of years. I've blogged about her blog here, here, here, here, and here. And I read her previous book, reported on here.

Her new book Existential Physics is out, and Portsmouth Public Library has it, so I'll get around to reading it at some point.

Sabine (I call her Sabine) believes free will is an illusion, and that's reflected in Existential Physics. From a recent review in the WSJ: (‘Existential Physics’ Review: Easy to Believe, Hard to Prove):

She is less persuasive when she encroaches on philosophical territory, brusquely brushing aside the possibility of free will because, “according to the currently established laws of nature, the future is determined by the past, except for occasional quantum events that we cannot influence.” Philosophers who think that this is not the end of the story are dismissed as falling into a “quagmire of evasion,” as William James put it. But the only defense of free will’s compatibility with science she addresses—and rightly rejects—is the feeble idea that “your will is free because it’s not predictable.” But there are many other arguments, far more plausible, that go unaddressed.

But what I really liked was a short LTE from Barry Milliken in yesterday's paper:

In his review of Sabine Hossenfelder’s “Existential Physics” (Bookshelf Aug. 11), Julian Baggini quotes the author’s argument that free will is impossible because “according to the currently established laws of nature, the future is determined by the past.” This merely shows how little we understand about nature.

All statements by conscious beings presuppose both the laws of logic and the free will of the speaker. Otherwise, the speaker is forced to admit that his words are mere noise compelled and predetermined since the big bang. Denying free will is a self-contradiction. Logic and free will are axiomatic to any meaningful statement. We may not understand the mysterious “mechanisms” of the origin of life and free will, but excuse me, there they are.

Certainly that's not a popular opinion among the free-will-denying. I find it pretty persuasive.

"How are you going to convince me free will is an illusion? Careful argument with facts and logic? If I don't have free will, how is that supposed to convince me?"

Last Modified 2024-01-16 3:52 PM EDT