Free Will, the soul and the problem of evil

I have talked about the soul being above and apart from matter. That it isn’t subject to the laws of physics. I am reading a marvelous book which tackles an issue that is parallel to the issue of the existence of the soul, but also is showing me in powerful terms why the soul absolutely MUST be independent of matter and the laws of nature. For me the freedom of the soul is founded upon the observational evidence from quantum, which unfortunately many don’t understand. About half of the physics community accepts the Bohr/Copenhagen interpretation. Indeed more accept it than any other interpretation. Such a view brings consciousness to the fore. Just consider:

There exist external observers which cannot be treated within quantum mechanics, namely human (and perhaps animal) minds, which perform measurements on the brain causing wave function collapse . " Zvi Schrieber, "The Nine Lives of Schrodinger’s Cat, University of London: MS Thesis, Oct 1994, p. 46 1

" Quantum mechanics is therefore dualistic in one sense, namely the pragmatic sense. It involves, operationally, on the one hand, aspects of nature that are described in physical terms, and, on the other hand, also aspects of nature that are described in psychological terms. And these two parts interact in human brains in accordance with laws specified by the theory. In these ways orthodox quantum mechanics is completely concordant with the defining characteristics of Cartesian dualism."

" This conclusion that nature is fundamentally mind-like is hardly new. But it arises here not from some deep philosophical analysis, or religious insight but directly from an examination of the causal structure of our basic scientific theory . " Henry Stapp, "Quantum Reality and Mind, , in Lana Tao, ed., Quantum Physics of Consciousness, (Cambridge: Cosmology Science Publishers, 2011), p.20

Free will means one thing to a physicist, that our consciousness is not controlled by any deterministic process. And this causes a problem for physics. This may be the biggest reason that science tents to down play free will. If we have it, then there is an agent which can affect the universe in a manner that does not follow the laws of physics. The philosophical implications of this are that we can’t be responsible for our sins, crimes, adulteries, nor are we responsible for our good deeds, our heroism, our philanthropy or our acceptance of Christ as Savior. Determinisim destroys all guilt, and all responsibility. A woman can’t get mad at her fiance for diddling the maid of honor at the wedding because the groom isn’t responsible. It was pre-ordained. We don’t live that way and we don’t act as if free will is an illusion.

Free will means we are free to make a decision that changes nature and the deterministic outcome of the laws of nature.

" Free will means a mind can freely choose to bring about events that otherwise would not have occurred ." Wayne Portwine, "Free Will is Real: A Theory of Consciousness, Sheridan: Kryghter LLC. location 39

But free will requires this:

"We have accepted that our choices are freely made, so our choices must be free of all prior causes. If our choices are free of all prior causes, then the thoughts from which choices are formed must also be free of all prior causes. For free will to be truly free, our thoughts cannot be statistically governed by quantum events, nor can they be bound by the physical laws. For this to be true, no part of the thinking process can have mass nor momentum because either would make our thoughts subject to the laws of physics. " Wayne Portwine, "Free Will is Real: A Theory of Consciousness, Sheridan: Kryghter LLC. location 306

This would also mean our soul can’t have mass or momentum and as quantum indicates in the special role of the observer being exempt from the laws of nature. The quantum results are consistent with us having free will. Further I have noted often that the paradox of Frauchiger and Renner, shows that the mathematics of quantum mechanics becomes conflicted and contradictory when it attempts to model minds which are using quantum mechanics. Using four observers, they effectively showed that occasionally these six would see different outcomes for Schrodinger’s cat. Some would see a living cat, while in the very same world at the very same time, others would see a dead cat. Or, as in their set up, a heads or a tail of a coin.

"The setup is now ripe for a contradiction. When Alice gets a YES for her measurement, she infers that the coin toss came up tails, and when Bob gets a YES for his measurement, he infers the coin toss came up heads. Most of the time, Alice and Bob will get opposite answers. But Frauchiger and Renner showed that in 1/12 of the cases both Alice and Bob will get a YES in the same run of the experiment, causing them to disagree about whether Alice’s friend got a heads or a tails. “So, both of them are talking about the past event, and they are both sure what it was, but their statements are exactly opposite, ” Renner said. “And that’s the contradiction. That shows something must be wrong.”

One of the following 3 assumptions must be wrong:

This result can be phrased as a no-go theorem (Theorem 1). It asserts that three natural-sounding assumptions, (Q), ©, and (S), cannot all be valid. Assumption (Q) captures the universal validity of quantum theory (or, more specifically, that an agent can be certain that a given proposition holds whenever the quantum-mechanical Born rule assigns probability-1 to it). Assumption © demands consistency, in the sense that the different agents’ predictions are not contradictory. Finally, (S) is the requirement that, from the viewpoint of an agent who carries out a particular measurement, this measurement has one single outcome. The theorem itself is neutral in the sense that it does not tell us which of these three assumptions is wrong. As noted above, the lack of free will means everything we do is determined from time immemorial by the laws of physics. Daniela Frauchiger and Renato Renner, “Quantum Theory Cannot Consistently Describe the Use of Itself,”, Natue Communications 9, 2018.

If quantum isn’t universally applicable–that is, it isn’t applicable to the conscious soul, then the contradictions would go away. Similarly we could say that consistent results are not required in science, but that would solve the contradictions, while destroying science. As to the single outcme assumption, we have never had a report that multiple outcomes are observed. The easiest assumption to ditch is the one which would involve consciousnes and ditching that assumption, leaves us with free will.

One further thing, this paradox applies even to the multiverse. In no universe are teh answers found to be consistent.

" Take Renner’s favoured many-worlds interpretation, which forgoes the part about alternative facts not being allowed–they are allowed, just in another universe. Renner initially thought this might work. But further investigation showed that there is no branch of the universe after the measurement where the answers of all four observers are consistent. ‘Before this thought experiment, I was relatively convinced that certain interpretations make sense,’ says Renner. ‘Now I think none of them can.’ " Richard Webb, The Reality Paradox, New Scientist, March 23, 2019, p.32-33

Having free will, makes us responsible for our actions, but responsible to whom? Well each other for starters. If there is a God, then we are likely responsible to him as well.

Rosenblum and Kutner say:

" Though it is hard to fit free will into a scientific worldview, we cannot ourselves, with any seriousness, doubt it. ]. A. Hobson’s comment seems apt to us: “Those of us with common sense are amazed at the resistance put up by psychologists, physiologists, and philosophers to the obvious reality of free will.”

"However, as we have seen, in accepting both free will and the demonstrated quantum results, we face an enigma: the apparent creation of reality by conscious observation. Moreover, to avoid the enigma by denying free will, we must also assume that the world conspires to correlate our choices with the physical situations we then observe. While in classical physics free will is a benign problem, quantum mechanics forces us to consider such human aspects intruding into our physics. According to John Bell:

‘It has turned out that, quantum mechanics cannot be “completed” into a locally causal theory, at least as long as one allows … freely operating experimenters.’

The creation of reality by observation is hard to accept. But it is not a new notion ." Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner, Quantum Enigma, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 174

The creation of reality by conscious observation gets into Ed Babinski’s question about the problem of evil. If we are sinful humans, and we have this power to create at least some of our reality, then we are the ones at whose feet evils should be laid. This issue has to potential to solve the problem of evil which vexes so many atheists.

The responsibility starts end ends with the creator, assuming there is one.

Because in another thread, I mentioned to Martin that I was friends with one of the US’s preeminent atheists, it led me to an email I sent him in 2001 which actually marked the nadir of my doubt about Christianity. Will discusses free will and its incompatibility with materialism. He sent me some files which I read but it was reading that stuff that actually caused me to take another look at Christianity, so, I never gave up Christianity, but I this note was when I was the closest to giving it up that I ever was. Will passed away several years ago and I don’t think he would mind me publishing this. But I was doing back then, on the ASA list what I have been doing here, asking people to found their belief system on observational data, not on the niceties of ‘eternal truths’. Will’s portion has one > My words are prefixed by >>

-----Original Message-----
From: Will Provine []
Sent: Thursday, February 08, 2001 5:08 AM
To: Glenn Morton
Subject: Re: An Interesting proposition for you

Dear Glenn,

The issues you raise in your email are truly deep. I never try to convert
folks to atheism. But I do say what I think, as you know well. I will do my
best to try and answer your questions, and react to your statements.

At least I think this is an interesting proposition, because you once
called me a ““practical atheist””.

I recall saying you were an ““effective atheist,”” a term brought to my
attention by Jim John, a very devout Catholic medievalist. He is an expert
in paleographic medieval symbols. I remember thinking that you fit his
description of a person who really believed in modern science and rejected
the argument from design, and yet tried on no convincing evidence to
continue to believe in Christian doctrines. He could see no reason to
believe under those circumstances and branded those who did as ““effective

Over the past few years on the ASA list I have
been quizzing the liberal Christians (and the few YECs that are there)
about the very basis of Christianity and the problem with historical
verification of the events in the Scripture. What I have come to believe, and what is
a problem for the views I have held, is that Christians en masse seem to
flee from verifiability. The YECs retreat to a false science and then
deny that any contradictory data exists, even if one glues it to their nose.

Great study you have done. I agree fully so far.

The liberals on the other hand, claim that the Scriptural events are not
real history, are not meant to be taken as real history, and thus are morality
plays or Aesop’s fables for adults. They make the entire Christian
enterprise unverifiable by their entire approach. They then use this
approach to avoid nasty logical conclusions about their world
view. But in my opinion, it removes any reason to beleive them as they can give no
evidence that anything they say is true.

Again, I agree fully.

About a year ago, this got me to thinking about how Christians don’t work
in a world where knowing fact from fiction is important. And of course,
that led to the question: If ancient Christians were as bad at telling fact
from fiction as modern ones are, can one trust the testimony of the disciples
that Jesus actually rose? Like it or not, Christianity is dependent upon
that testimony.

For a year in graduate school, I was a student of Greek and Roman history,
and have my master’s degree in that field. One of my professors, Stuart I.
Oost, was editor of the journal Classical Philology, and a student of early
Christians. His view was that they were, like their non-Christian brethren,
deeply impressed by magical evidence, and could not see it as magical (a
modern conception) because such evidence was indistinguishable to them from
any other kind of evidence. His argument was that we could not
even begin to understand their acceptance of evidence that we of the modern day
would tend to reject. Oost was sure that the most conservative of modern Christians
were far more critical of evidence than the early Christians. I was still a
sort of Christian in that first year of graduate school, but I did ponder
this issue of the reliability of the testimony in the Biblical accounts.

So, you are now saying, that I have finally swung over to atheism. Not
quite yet. The thing that makes me not swing, is the idea that metaphysical
certitude is no better on your side of the fence than on mine.
Should this be the truth, then flipping a 4 sided die should suffice for picking the
correct position out of atheism, deism, theism and pantheism. (I know how
to make a 4 sided die.)

Oh, no, I would never say that you had become an atheist just because you
find the Biblical accounts unconvincing stories told by folks who could not
distinguish magic from other evidence. You know well that many folks who
consider themselves very religious share this scepticism about Biblical

Metaphysical certitude is totally beyond me. I am much too much of
a sceptic
to feel so certain about anything. I don’t even know what ““metaphysical
certitude”” means. I have a pretty simple mind and just follow a basic
scientific practice. I figure out a problem as best I can, by talking and
reading the work of others as I think, then mush ahead by taking the best
basic hypotheses I can, in other words null hypotheses. I just start from
there. If there is reason to reject or modify the null hypothesis, then I
■■■■ well should. In science, I have changed nearly every basic null
hypothesis in evolutionary biology since my graduate school days, and I see
the field dramatically differently than in 1968. In 1964, my best
explanation for the adaptations in biological organisms was some sort of
purposive force. Two years later, I changed that same null hypothesis to
natural selection, with no trace of design.

So of course I have no proof that no gods exist, and would never claim to
have any such evidence. Is however, atheism consistent with all I
can see of the world, especially science? Yes. Why should I bother with hypothesizing
gods, deism, theism, pantheism, Tao, or other such conceptions? They just
don’t offer me any greater understanding than simple atheism.

My proposition: I would like to examine your position for what it OFFERS,
not what other positions fail to have. I don’t subscribe necessarily to
Sherlock Holmes’ saying, ““When you have eliminated the impossible,
whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”” (The Sign of Four, ch.
6). That doesn’t allow for things we haven’t thought of. It also seems to me
that it appears equally difficult to actually prove God doesn’t exist as
it does to prove He does. So, what I am looking for is the underpinnings of
atheism. What is the positive evidence for it?

Atheism has at first some rather odious-sounding consequences. You give up
in rapid succession 1) gods; 2) life after death; 3) ultimate foundations
for morality; 4) ultimate meaning in human life; and worst of all, 5) human
free will is nonexistent. The first four disappeared quickly in the face of
evolutionary biology, but I continued to worry over free will for
another 15 years before giving it up. So are these consequences really so odious. To
me, far from being odious, they represent freedom from cultural myths that
have enslaved minds and the hope of seeing life more clearly for
what it is.
Since battling with this damned brain tumor, all fear of death has
disappeared, and I am just delighted with life. I never miss having a god
around, and think that life after death would be terrible. Morality has
nothing to do with ultimate foundations (who would know them,
anyway, and if you knew them, how would you apply them to the new situations that
constantly crop up?). Ultimate meaning in human life is nothing compared to
proximate meaning in human life, and promoting proximate meaning in my life
and other people seems to be a reasonable behavior mode. The non-existence
of human free will is the greatest gift that modern science has given to
humans, but we refuse to appreciate it, and continue be believe in this
hopeless free will, which justifies our nastiness to others (and to
ourselves). So the odious-sounding implications of atheism turn out to be

This is not a trap, or an attempt to convert you, as I don’t really think
you could be anyway. I am truly interested in that question.

I know you are really interested in these issues and I would never have
expected you to trap or try to convert me.

I must have sent some stuff your way before, but in case I forgot,
here is a
little autobiography written for ISIS, an article on intelligent design
design theory written for a volume edited by Campbell of Memphis, but the
volume has never appeared. And a confidential interchange with Dan Dennett
about free will. All three relate to our questions. Are you still abroad?

Warm wishes, Will

I wish Will was still around, my interaction with him would be much different today, as I am a firm believer now that there is a path for Christianity to be historical and I know from data that the soul exists, and such a soul, to do what the observer does in quantum is required to be free of physical law, which raises all sorts of problems for the materialistic philosophy that infects our world. Will might not have liked me. I will say that he was nicer to me than most Christians on either side of the fence, and that would extend to even here. Will was a gentleman but I think his logic went astray for lack of understanding the evidence for the soul’s existence.

1 Like

Bro. @gbob,

Your statement although interesting and touching reveals the serious problems that traditional philosophy has imposed on modern thought.

Quantum physics has nothing to do with determinism. It has nothing to do with what I think and how I act. If there were one event that determined what goes on today in this world, it would be the Big Bang, which set into motion all of the particles in the universe… What we call quantum motion is not determinant. Whereas the Big Bang does play a role in what we do because it is the ultimate cause of the universe, it does not determine what I say and do.

Please read the two essays I have pace on on Freedom and The One And the Many. for much better insight into these issues.

Couldn’t find my reply so rewrote it

Roger, you are responding to my note on Will Provine. I can’t find in this thread that I said exactly what you said I said. Schrodinger equation is deterministic, it is the observation that isn’t. Because of the chaotic behavior of matter, I doubt seriously that the Big Bang can have determined everything, in spite of claims to the contrary by the likes of Gerard t’Hooft.

I am glad to hear that you have a better insight on these issues. I will read your papers if I can find them.

Edited to add, Roger you need to start a thread on your two papers. this topic is not about what you are speaking of there. I disagree with much of what you say of philosophy, science and since you say nothing in your paper on freedom about natural law, (and unless you did a lot of serious study of physics, my guess is you don’t know much about the workings of natural law). Thus, I would prefer talking about your papers in another thread.

I am sorry but this seems to be over thinking and over complicating a basic idea.


we are puppets controlled by destiny (God) and therefore absolved of all responsibility


We are self determinate (free will) and therefore must take responsibility for our actions

If we are puppets then the claims about Christ have no meaning. There is no need for a saviour.

If we have an innate evil nature (Original Sin et al) then Christ has no meaning either because we cannot change it. Salvation still comes from predestination or the will of God over which we have no control (Calvinism)

Free will is the fundamental basis on which we must exist. We must be self determinate or Life is meaningless.

Evil? Is a necessary opposite to good. Without it there can be no choice, error, or need for forgiveness. Ying / Yang. Remove evil you remove free will.


Richard, Philosophers do dig into details of these issues others don’t. Yes you are correct, Free will is required for accountability and the existence of evil and good. But that statement alone doesn’t ensure that we have free will. Physicists and philosophers almost universally deny that we have free will. Physicists base it on their view that there is only matter and it is subject to the laws ofphysics. that would mean no free will.

@RichardG, with all due respect your state4ment above demonstrates what am talking about and the serious weakness of Western dualism, that is either/or thinking.

According to dualism, humans must be free or unfree, self-determined or other determined. The problem is that none of this is true.

We are not free to do whatever we want to do, nor are our actions always determined by forces outside ourselves. We are not totally free, nor are we totally determined. We are both free and determined.

Sadly philosophy dictates that I cannot be both free or determined, I must be either X or Y, so philosophers keep trying to put me into a box into which I do not fit.

The other side of this is the Mind/Body dichotomy. If the Mind is dominant in the person, then the Person has free will. If one believes that the person is solely physical, then the Mind does not really exist so the Body is dominant. Again it is either/or, Mind or Body, which is a false dichotomy. Humans are4 both Minds, and bodies and we really cannot say that one is more important. We are dead if our Body/heart fail. We are dead if our brain/Mind dies, even if our body is still alive.

However, when we are talking about the person, there a sound basis for going beyond the dualistic Mind/Body model to a triune Body/Mind/Spirit model. The biggest problem here is the Platonic view of immortal Soul, which is nor Biblical. The dualistic Mind/Body understanding of a Person makes no sense because it subordinates the Spirit to the Mind. When you think about the Spirit in a Person, think Love.
This brings a resolution of the free will question because it indicates that it is not either/or, it is both/and. In some circumstances we are free to make our own decisions and in other circumstances we are not and it varies from person to person. Sin for instance does limit our ability to have free will.

I do not think that statement is accurate. Many physicists and philosophers believe in free will today, because they think quantum physics makes determinism impossible. Before that they thought than humans were at the mercy of physical laws. This makes sense only if humans are not rational, which almost everyone denies.

Natural laws are deterministic, but the human and other brains are not we learn from experience. We are not determined by experience. Just as Variation is random, but evolution is not, quantum particles act randomly in some respects, but matter is not chaotic.

The Big Bang determined the shape of the universe, but does not determine how we think.

Physicists also say there is energy, and they include quantum mechanics in the laws of physics.

This is the part of your posts that is confusing me a bit. You seem to be saying that the soul is defined by quantum mechanics. To me, this would mean the soul is defined by the laws of physics since quantum mechanics is part of physics. Am I missing something here?

Yes, what physicists see is many different forms of energy. To say their view is only matter is to be out of touch with the developments in physics for centuries. And yes they investigate the mathematical structure and equations which govern the different forms of energy – that is after all the essence of physics. But one of the things they discovered was that this is not a causally closed system, i.e. not all events are determined by pre-existing conditions (no hidden variables). But as for free will? This is not a subject to which physics can speak if they restrict themselves to the science of physics. This is a subject of philosophy. Part of the problem is the physics is mostly restricted to a time-ordered type of causality and free will requires causality outside such limitations.

Only thing you could be missing is that what he is speaking of is not physics at all but pseudo-scientific philosophy and theology.

I wouldn’t go that far! After all there is no free will in a novel but we wouldn’t say that the novel is meaningless. But perhaps the point is that it is only meaningful to the author and readers and not to the characters in the story, who are neither alive nor conscious.

I read lots of physics and philosophy books. I certainly get the feeling that most authors hold that we are bound by the laws of physics. Quantum theory doesn’t get one free will. Every quantum outcome has a probability of occurrence. The human isn’t the chooser of those outcomes, thus, free will doesn’t come from having a probabilitist gaussian distribution. Almost all of the modern philosophy books I have read have advocated a lack of free will. I don’t know of any polls which would answer the issue between us, but I deny your characterization of physicists and philosophers. If I could prove it I would, but I think you ought to try to prove your statement as well. Our feelings don’t solve the issue.

Natural laws are deterministic, but the human and other brains are not we learn from experience. We are not determined by experience. Just as Variation is random, but evolution is not, quantum particles act randomly in some respects, but matter is not chaotic.

The Big Bang determined the shape of the universe, but does not determine how we think.

First off, I think we agree in the idea that we humans have free will. But materialism almost requires relinquishing free will. As Mitch notes in his post below,

“Part of the problem is the physics is mostly restricted to a time-ordered type of causality and free will requires causality outside such limitations”

Free will means a break in the laws of physics. It means causality outside of matter and the laws of physics. If you are a materialist, believing that matter and the laws of physics are all that exist, then thee is nothing outside of matter and this universe so free will doesn’t exist for them because there is no elsewhere.

A Nobel prize winner Gerard t’Hooft would strongly disagree with you that the Big Bang doesn’t tell us how to think. He believes is something called superdeterminism where by every result is already determined from the big bang forward. His article is not easy to read but here is a quote from it

"If we would have been deprived of the possibility to freely choose our initial states,
we would never be able to rely on our model; we would not know whether our model
makes sense at all. In short, we must demand that our model gives credible scenarios for a universe for any choice of the initial conditions!"

"This is the free will axiom in its modified form. form. This, we claim, is why one should
really want "free will’ to be there. It is not the free will to modify the present without
affecting the past, but it is the freedom to choose the initial state, regardless its past, to
check what would happen in the future. Gerard 't Hooft ON THE FREE-WILL POSTULATE IN QUANTUM MECHANICS, p.5,6

He talks about free will in a different way from what you would understand it, so be forewarned not to insert your definition of free will into this paper.

What I think you are missing is that the existence of the soul is proven by quantum. But it is not subject to quantum laws. It can’t be or it couldn’t collapse the wavelet. I can’t say what its characteristics are other than that its existence is proven by quantum. I just ran across an article today that clarifies maybe for you the necessity of the observer being outside of physics. I will follow it with a quote from a hilarious article refuting decoherence.

Then things get weirder still. According to the standard way of treating the quantum calculus, the act of making a measurement on the particle kills off all pieces of the wave function, except the one your instruments register. “The wave function is said to collapse as all the smeared-out, potential positions or velocities vanish in the act of measurement. It’s like the Schrödinger equation, which does such a great job of describing the smeared-out particle before the measurement is made, suddenly gets a pink slip.”
“You can see how this throws a monkey wrench into a simple, physics-based view of an objective materialist world. How can there be one mathematical rule for the external objective world before a measurement is made, and another that jumps in after the measurement occurs? For a hundred years now, physicists and philosophers have been beating the crap out of each other (and themselves) trying to figure out how to interpret the wave function and its associated measurement problem. What exactly is quantum mechanics telling us about the world? What does the wave function describe? What really happens when a measurement occurs? Above all, what is matter?”
"There are today no definitive answers to these questions. "There is not even a consensus about what the answers should look like. Rather, there are multiple interpretations of quantum theory, each of which corresponds to a very different way of regarding matter and everything made of it – which, of course, means everything. "The earliest interpretation to gain force, the Copenhagen interpretation, is associated with Danish physicist Niels Bohr and other founders of quantum theory. In their view, it was meaningless to speak of the properties of atoms in-and-of-themselves. Quantum mechanics was a theory that spoke only to our knowledge of the world. "The measurement problem associated with the Schrödinger equation highlighted this barrier between epistemology and ontology by making explicit the role of the observer (that is: us) in gaining knowledge.” Adam Frank, Minding Matter,

This is from Philip Pearle’s wonderful article. SQT=standard quantum theory. He points out that in order for it to work, one must go outside of physics to get new information to cause the collapse. It is the observer who is the one who causes the collapse, and thus it is the observer who is outside and not subject to quantum laws.

While the experimenter turns on the apparatus and monitors its smooth functioning, the theoretician follows the smooth evolution of the statevector according to Schrodinger’s equation. Suddenly, the experimenter sings out “An event has occurred, and this is the result.” Abruptly, the theoretician stops his calculation, replaces the statevector, which has by now become the sum of states corresponding to different possible outcomes of the experiment, by the one state which the experimenter told him had actually occurred, and then continues his calculation of the smooth evolution of the statevector.

In other words, the practitioner of SQT must go outside the theory, to obtain additional information, in order to use the theory correctly. What is missing is that the theory doesn’t give the probability that an event occurs between t and t + dt."
Phillip Pearle, True Collapse and False Collapse in Quantum Classical Correspondence: Proceedings of the 4th Drexel Symposium on Quantum Nonintegrability, Philadelphia, PA, USA, September 8-11, 1994, pp. 51-68. Edited by Da Hsuan Feng and Bei Lok Hu. Cambridge, MA: International Press, 1997.

All quantum does is say “The observer/soul, is not subject to the laws of physics”. Thus in biblical terms we are not of this world!

One final quote that says the same thing, our souls are not subject to the laws of physics.

A careful analysis of the logical structure of quantum theory suggests that for quantum theory to make sense it has to posit the existence of observers who lie, at least in part, outside of the description provided by physics.” Stephen M. Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003), p. 27-28

We are the observers; we are not subject to the laws of this material universe–at least not our consciouses, even if our bodies are subject to those laws. I can’t from this data say anything about the theology that goes along with the souls existence. I believe in Christian theology but the science per se doesn’t support any theological view of where the soul fits in.

None of the above.

When I grew up the main trend in philosophy was Existentialism. Existentialists were not big on determinism.

Humans are bound by the laws of physics and the laws of morality. The laws of physics present humans from flying like a bird, but allow humans to fly with an airplane. They night limit our choices, but they do not determine what we must do.

As far as I can tell humans do not live in the quantum scale. We do not make decisions based on quantum mechanics, so this aspect of physics has no impact on our free will, just as the multiverse has no impact on our lives.

Free will is the ability to make a free chice or decision. This is the best and only real definition of free will. As you say we agree and most people I think agree that people have free will.

It seems to me that the people who do not accept free will do so for ideological reasons, rather than practical or existential reasons. For instance if God is all powerful and all knowing then logically there is no way for humans to make and carry out decisions. This is an important issue I tried to address in Good and Freedom.

On the other hand if there is no God or rational Being/Force to guide the universe or human kind, then humans do have free will, but there is no purpose or meaning of life, free will is meaningless.

When we discus evolution on BioLogos, atheists and most scientists say that it is not directed by God or the laws of science. This is despite Darwin’s Theory does say that evolution is directed by Natural Selection, but not how.

Not se. Quantum is a different aspect of the physical, not something different from the physical. The Soul or better Spirit is proven by the fact that humans can think. The fact that humans can think means we can make decisions and have free will.

If reality is solely physical, that means that humans do not think, because the physical cannot think, not because thinking violates the laws of physics. Humans can think because the human brain, mind, and nervous system are rational, that is they are adapted to thinking as opposed to the physical elements of the body such as skin, muscle, bones, and blood.

“the conditions at the Big Bang were decisive all the way up to and including the events characterizing the ‘final apocalypse’. Where does the notion of ‘free will’ appear?”
from the article by Hooft

The article raises many interesting questions. The fact is that it is humans who have free will, not the universe, it is humans who think, not the universe. Humans are not bound by the laws of physics, humans are liberated by the laws of physics.

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When I grew up the main trend in philosophy was Existentialism. Existentialists were not big on determinism.

The first Existentialist, Kierkegard died in 1855. I don’t think you are that old. lol. But it is true that Existentialism became popular after WWII but it wasn’t the only thread of philosophy. Existentialism, from my readings says little about science and talks mostly about the absurdity of the human condition. Indeed, philosophy has never been united on one school of thought. Analysis was also big after the war and so was logical positivism (which was over by 1960) Analysis was big in my graduate days in philosophy, so I suggest you might have a stilted view of the breadth of philosophical matters.

As far as I can tell humans do not live in the quantum scale. We do not make decisions based on quantum mechanics, so this aspect of physics has no impact on our free will, just as the multiverse has no impact on our lives.

Actually, every single nerve firing in our brain is a quantum event. A sodium atom must enter a nerve pore a potassium atom will leave the cell and those events are truly on a quantum scale.

Free will is the ability to make a free chice or decision. This is the best and only real definition of free will. As you say we agree and most people I think agree that people have free will.

As a scientist, the definition of free will is that my will is not subject to the laws of physics. As Merlin Donald says in his book:

“Curiously, and characteristically in this furiously reductionistic century, many members of this language-as-consciousness consortium agree with sensory Hardliners on one thing: they support the downgrading of consciousness to the status of epiphenomenon. Polar opposites though they may be on so many other issues, they agree that consciousness is a secondary by-product of the brain’s activity, a superficial manifestation of mental activity that plays no functional role in cognition, a mere consumer of experience that gets the news too late to do anything about it.” Merlin Donald, A Mind So Rare: The Evolution of Human Consciousness, (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2001), p. 36

This is typical of what I see with scientifically minded philosophers and physicists. The soul arises from the activities of the material brain. You may be right that those who reject free will, do it for ideological reasons. But can’t the charge be laid to you and me that we accept free will for ideological reason?

Not se. Quantum is a different aspect of the physical, not something different from the physical. The Soul or better Spirit is proven by the fact that humans can think. The fact that humans can think means we can make decisions and have free will.

My guess is from looking at your background, you have never read a technical book on quantum so you might not understand the basis upon which I make that claim. If I am wrong, correct me. I have extensively studied areas that were not associated with my degrees so, I can’t guarantee that others haven’t done the same.

If reality is solely physical, that means that humans do not think, because the physical cannot think, not because thinking violates the laws of physics.

The materialist would strongly disagree with that. We all know thinking exists. If the world is soley physical, it requires that the material brain be capable of thought–they call it an epiphenomenon of the brain.

I don’t think humans are all that rational. We are capable of rationality but look at the panic around us about covid 19 or the stock market plunge caused by panicked investors trying to get out of it. That is not always based on rational thought. My grocery store was basically plundered yesterday by people buying some rather irrational things because they were running out. Is that rational behavior? Maybe maybe not.

Incorrect. That is like saying because we cannot pass laws regarding establishments of religion then that means religion breaks the law. The whole point is that physics doesn’t cover such things, just as the law cannot distinguish between religions. Whatever the ultimate cause is behind free will, the laws of physics still apply – energy and momentum will be conserved in the long run and people who walk off cliffs or jump off buildings will fall and their freedom of will cannot change this in the slightest.

This just muddles things. Free Will, in terms of reality does not mean freedom to do anything. I cannot choose to fly because it is impossible but that does not mean that I have no free will. Free will assumes freedom within the limits of reality or circumstance.

So my yes or no alternative still stands. You can argue definitions until the cows come home but what is at stake is the ability to choose for oneself. Heaven or Hell adds reward or punishment into the mix and effectively negates free will because we consider the consequence as being part of the decision. Like having a gun to the head. If you consider eternity as part of your decision then you no longer give yourself the freedom to choose anything that would jeopardise it… But that is a matter of belief and not creation. As a creation we have free will, but we give it away by our belief and / or the rules of society.
So this is not a simple argument.
Are we born with free will? Yes. Does God give us free will? Yes. Is this Free will practical and real? No. Not because of God but because of circumstance and reality. Some “free” choices are not viable due to laws or perceived consequences. I am free to kill but must accept that the action carries consequences that will affect my future and ultimately my freedom to choose future actions. But that freedom still exists, theoretically at least.

So if you want to be pedantic, Free will cannot exist. But that is not what this discussion should be about (IMHO) We have to distance ourselves from consequences circumstances and / or human laws before we draw any conclusions about whether God gave us free will or not.


Existentialism was a response of the individual to totalitarian Communism and conformity in the West. It says much about free will.

Now I have a perfect excuse for all the mistakes I make!

Seriously, if quantum events are accurate on a curve, has anyone tried to test this. I do not know of any great discovery which came out of the blue! On the other hand evolutionary Variation uses Natural Selection to edit mutations, so the mind could use an editing tool to edit out the false leads and keep the good leads. On the other had the decisions we need to make do not depend on whether a photon comes through a slit as a wave or a particle.

I have no problem with saying that the Mind arises from the physical brain, however just because the Brain is composed of atoms doe34s not mean that thinking is Material. Ideas are not physical, but mental or rational. They are relational and so is the Mind.

In the economy we have two kinds of jobs, blue collar or physical work, and white collar or mental work. Thinking is non-physical activity. I really can’t help it if many people don’t understand this, and it understand that dualism contributes to it.

You are mistaken. I would like to write a paper on the quantum nature of rain to demonstrate how quantum reality works. Are you interested in this project.

Giving something a name does not demonstrate anything. How does the rational arise from the random? Didn’t I say that people can use free will, but they often act irrationally out of fear, ignorance, hatred, etc.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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