Wigner's Friend, the existence of the immaterial soul and death of materialism

gbob

William Pennat, I couldn’t agree with you more. This was one of the things I learned in my one year of grad school in philosophy. No one actually disproved 19th century idealism, they just decided to do other things, like Wittgensteinian analysis.

Thanks. I do have a fundamentally idealist perspective, I think, though I’m still working out the details. My observations above don’t necessarily entail idealism (I don’t think). But they kind of clear the way for it.

The understanding by us of the world has been the subject of many thinkers, and I am inclined to the view that we as Christians may idealise existence from the fact that we base our outlook on the ultimate ideal, Christ, and we contemplate attributes such as total goodness, faith, love, etc., as a way we comprehend God.

Often however, philosophers consider things that are opposed, such as idealism vs materialism (or realism). This summary (found on the web) is useful for this:

Idealism in general refers to any philosophy that argues that reality is somehow dependent upon the mind rather than independent of it. More extreme versions will deny that the “world” even exists outside of our minds. Slight versions argue that our understanding of reality reflects the workings of our mind first and leading that the properties of objects have no standing independent of minds perceiving them. In Western civilization, Idealism is the philosophy which maintains that the ultimate nature of reality is ideal or based upon ideas, values and essences and that the so-called external or real world is inseparable from consciousness, perception, mind, intellect, and reason in the sense of precise science. It is also a tradition in Western thought which represents things in an ideal form, or as they ought to be rather than as they really are, in the fields of ethics, morality, aesthetics, and value. Some forms of idealism, like that of Berkeley, are often contrasted with materialism. Some idealists, like Spinoza, are monists as opposed to dualist, again like Descartes, or pluralist ontologies. Plato is called an idealist because of his theory of Forms or doctrine of Ideas, which are “ideal” in the dictionary sense. Most interpreters, ancient and modern, hold that Plato does not describe the Forms as being in any mind, instead he describes them as having ………

That is not even coherent. The theory of truth is not about what can be true but about what it means to be true. Saying that your theory of truth should be devoid of metaphysical claims is not the same as saying that metaphysical claims cannot be true.

Talking about science and how it works is not the same as talking about what science has discovered.
Talking about what is life is not the same as talking about all the things which are alive.
Talking about love is not the same as having love for someone.
Talking about computers is not the same as using computers.
Talking about what it means to be true is not the same as talking about what is true.

Your reasoning was like equating a claim that computers don’t use food to a claim that computers cannot be used in food industry. Or like equating a claim that religion has no role in scientific inquiry to a claim that science cannot study religion.

Maybe you need to look up theory of truth and deflationism yourself. Because I am at my limit. Figure it out for yourself.

It’s not that “God is so small” but that such uncertainties in the results of Physics are small, i.e. its not that science provides a great apologetic. I don’t have a great reason for ‘why should we pray’ in an empirical way but offer just the faith I have for this question.

At some point, I am going to start another thread to tell the story of my prayer for a Turkish translator. It was the one answered prayer that I couldn’t reject when I was struggling with atheism for 10 years. That one prayer allowed me to hang on long enough for the doubts to resolve.

I would agree that apologetics must be done where they match science and that is the problem with the yecs (young earthers). Nothing they say matches science. And ID tries to ignore that evolution can create the structures they use as examples. So, yeah, there is a sordid history out there. It doesn’t follow that all our arguments are wrong or that we shouldn’t try.

That is why I gave those quotes by Fred Hoyle.

They shouldn’t be because when they design science to match their atheist view, then we all feel compelled to believe them. Im going to try again with argument that got really sidetracked with Mitch.

Let’s ask it this way, Is physics about things we can’t observe? It didn’t used to be. In fact physicists were the preeminent empiricalists–if we can’t see it, sense it, it is in the realm of faeries, gods and other nonsense. So, let’s look at the logical consequences of two different answers to that question.

Case 1: Is physics about things we can’t observe? NO.
Then in this case, all we can refer to in our scientific explanations are things that we can observe. We can observe a beginning to the universe. Which of course raises unanswerable questions about what was before, how did it start–questions which can’t be answered without referring to things we cant observe–science hits theology at this point.

We can also observe the fine tuning of the universe which is so fine tuned that we get the feeling that the game is rigged in favor of our existence. But without referring to things we can’t observe we have no idea how this fine tuning got here. Again, science hits the wall of theology and while the answers are outside of science, it is perfectly acceptable then in this case where only empiracle things are allowed, to say God rigged the game and caused the beginning.


Case 2 Is physics about things we can’t observe? YES
In this option, we can look at the beginning and like Hoyle, if we don’t like hits of God being there, we can come up with inflation where an infinitude of universes are spawned each moment can’t say through all time but can say through whatever the higher dimensional analogue to time is. In this case we have an unobserved and unobservable inflaton field creating universe after universe and therefore, the big bang doesn’t smell of God.

Oh, and the fine tuning? Well, now, if we don’t like the idea of the stink of god on the physical constants, we can create an infinitude of unobserved universes whose constants are created by chance. and how on earth would we know if the constants are varied by chance processes or perchance our constants are fixed for all universes—we can’t know either case because it is all fiction We can’t see any of this other world out there, but if we play like it exists, then our universe isn’t special. It is just one of many and by chance we got very very very lucky in the choice of our physical constants.

We Christians are allowing them to play sleight of hand games on us–whereby they substitute their metaphysics and wrap it in a mantle of impervious science, while we cower, afraid to call cow patties, cow patties.

I’m not so sure the fine-tuning approach is the best to go with though do ascribe to a general ‘first-cause’ type of argument. You don’t actually know the ‘chance’ of anything regarding physical constants unless you have independently developed a sufficient theory (string theory?) that can account for actual probabilities.

See above, NEITHER DO THOSE USING SCIENCE TO ADVANCE THEIR ATHEISM KNOW THIS!!! But they claim it because if you have an infinitude of actual universes, and add the slick assumption that they know the constants vary with chance,(which they can’t possibly know), then they sound so scientific, when in fact they are peddling their philosophy.

Again I’m not so sure this makes much sense in light of what physicists mean when they talk about fine-tuning.

So those physicists are the only ones who can set the rules, when I think you re a physicist and I know I am one? As Feynmann said:

Science is the organized skepticism in the reliability of expert opinion.” Lee Smolin, The Trouble with Physics, (New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006), p. 307

What we have today, and what your faith in those physicists shows, is that “Science is the organized belief in experts.”

GRM: Above, I quoted an argument from Popper, who was agnostic and even he, without using quantum, felt that man’s consciousness was immaterial. If an agnostic can stand up and say that what the heck is wrong with us Christians who claim our souls will be in heaven after we die?

Philosophers don’t work on ‘feelings’ they work off of logic. That is the same basis upon which science is supposed to work. And logic is as good a way to get a handle on the nature of reality as is experiment. You should try to understand the logic in Popper’s argument for the existence of the soul. It is really a scientific argument because he starts with what we observe and draws conclusions–that is what a theoretician in physics does.

sigh,
Of course it isn’t coherent. That was precisely my point. I was pointing out that the definition you chose for metaphysics, when tied to your definition of deflationism leads to bad things. That is what is called a reduction to absurdity argument. Go look it up. It uses the assumptions of the other side and shows it leads to a contradiction. People really don’t understand this extremely powerful tool of logic, the reduction to a contradiction.

What your truth definition means by ‘metaphysics’ is unperceived objects–ie. let’s not talk about God when we discuss truth. Your definition of deflationism only works if it uses the dictionary definition of metaphysical which I provided–ruling out things that are not perceived by physical senses.

And then where I was going with the bigger argument was the 2 cases outlined to Pevaquark above. If you rule out the unseen multiverse, then the fine tuning argument is an excellent argument for design. atheists only exit from it is to say we won the lottery by buying only one ticket, or to have an infinity of attempts and one of them worked to create our universe.

I think this summarizes the situation very well.

Several folks in this thread have commented on materialism, as to its current influence on science. It seems to me that materialist philosophy has been the driving force behind the infinite-attempts explanation, because materialism does not accommodate anything, like fine-tuning, that smells of God.

The same thing is has happened with quantum mechanics, and the need for a conscious observer to collapse the wave function. The many-worlds interpretation appeals to materialists because it appears to overcome the stench of a God who created something other than the material universe (like a soul) – though this approach does not actually succeed in overcoming the stench of God (as Glenn and my paper “Quantum Soul” explains).

A second materialist tactic is based on decoherence, which IS an observable phenomenon, in that quantum-size objects do, in fact, get entangled with objects in their environment. But, conveniently for the materialist agenda, it is falsely being claimed that this succeeds in collapsing the wave function. This simply is not true, no matter how many physicist say it is, with many actually believing it. I anticipate that gbob will be addressing this issue head-on soon, so I will leave that task to him, and stop here.

The case against Decoherence

Gordie asked me to address decoherence which in my view was developed with the goal in mind of ridding the quantum world of spirits and souls. My normal snide self thinks this is mission impossible to demonstrate the false promise of decoherence when almost no one will read this, and some will not want to give up cherished beliefs. . But, the importance of this issue lies in the question, can the wavefunction collapse without an observer? We strongly say NO for the reasons below. Much of this will come from a hillarious and devastating critique of decoherence by 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. https://arxiv.org/pdf/quant-ph/9805049.pdf

First we need to understand what collapse is.

Quantum descriptions of things always involves at least two possible outcomes. The quantum description is a mixture of those two

Uncollapsed state= Reality 1 option AND Reality option 2 added together.

Collapsed state = Reality 1 OR Reality 2, no longer mixed. The state. it is one or the other. The famous physicist John Bell said:

" The idea that elimination of coherence, in one way or another, implies the replacement of “and” by “or” is a very common one among solvers of the “measurement problem.” It has always puzzled me ." John Bell (Pearle page 9)

As Pearle says: What is wrong with standard quantum theory (SQT)? Doesn’t it give wonderful agreement with every experiment so far performed? Then why should anyone wish to change it?

What is wrong with SQT is its description of quantum events. It doesn’t describe them. (Pearle p. 1)

and he goes on to describe the situation:

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."

The Schrodinger equation has no collapse mechanism in it. It is an equation in which no reality is ever chosen. Left to its own mathematical devices the Schrodinger equation would crunch endlessly onward with no reality option ever chosen. This is important: Decoherence specifically doesn’t change the Schrodinger equation . Some approaches have tried to add terms to it, but decoherence ISN’T one of those approaches. Thus decoherence must live with the Schrodinger equation that never collapses. The entire problem is that when we observe a system we see ONE reality not a SUM of two realities; Schrodinger equation only works with at least 2 realities, never 1.

So with an unchanged Schrodinger equation, Pearle emphasizes the point above by:

"It follows from Eqs.(2.1) and (3.1) that the statevector at any time T which evolves under a particular w(t) is

[GRM: Schrodinger equation with 2 mixed states] (3.3)

Now, according to Eq.(3.3), NOTHING has HAPPENED, i.e., the statevector is still a superposition of the states |a > and |b > with unchanged squared amplitudes. Of course, the phases of the amplitudes are changing, but certainly one cannot find in this statevector evidence that an event occurred or, supposing that an event occurred, whether it resulted in a or b." Pearle p. 6

Decoherence advocates go on "unphased" as Pearle says, and create a density matrix each of whose elements describe a different possible environmental interaction. They whole matrix is said to represent all the possible quantum level environmental interactions, and when superposition is lost, all elements of the matrix go to zero except the diagonal values. As long as the off-diagonal elements are not zero, the superposition is still in effect.

The Stanford Dictionary of Philosophy says:

" We are left with the following choice whether or not we include decoherence: either the composite system is not described by such a sum, because the Schrödinger equation actually breaks down and needs to be modified, or it is described by such a sum, but then we need to understand what that means, and this requires giving an appropriate interpretation of quantum mechanics. Thus, decoherence as such does not provide a solution to the measurement problem, at least not unless it is combined with an appropriate interpretation of the theory

"Unfortunately, naive claims of the kind that decoherence gives a complete answer to the measurement problem are still somewhat part of the ‘folklore’ of decoherence, and deservedly attract the wrath of physicists (e.g. Pearle 1997) and philosophers (e.g. Bub 1997, Chap. 8) alike ." https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qm-decoherence/#ConApp

To head off an objection here about philosophers and feelings, raised in the forum above, philosophers of science are required as part of their degree program to take the course work of that area they want to be involved with–in other words, they do both math, physics and philosophy.

Problem 1. The off-diagonal values NEVER go exactly to zero–they contain small values

In other words decoherence is an approximation. They feel if the values of the off-diagonal elements are small enough we can ignore them—for all practical purposes.

" The off diagonal elements contain multiple inner products whose magnitude is less than 1. As time goes on, the cat will have interacted with more and more mice, and new innerproducts will appear in 23.13. Hence, the off-diagonal elements will decrease exponentially with time until the cat’s state becomes indistinguishable from the mixture:

though, formally speaking, the system remains entangled at all moments, the eventual outcome is classical for all practical purposes . In other words, diagonal form of the density matrix is classically interpretable ."" Moses Fayngold and Vadim Fayngold, Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Information: A guide through the Quantum World, Wiley 2013, equation 23.13

I used to tell my math and physics teachers, well I got the answer correct, for all practical purposes. It never got me the grade I erroneously thought I deserved.

In reality this means the superposition/entanglement continues forever. Others say the same thing:

" For the second one, decoherence is only a way to show why no macroscopic superposed state can be observed, so explaining the classical appearance of the macroscopic world, while the quantum entanglement between the system, the apparatus and the environment never disappears ." Herve Zwirn The Measurement Problem: Decoherence and Convivial Solipsism, https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1505/1505.05029.pdf p.1

In the above, the small probabilities in the off-diagonal locations are a sign that entanglement remains and no collapse to a single reality has happened. Collapse isn’t a partial thing that we get to ‘for all practical purposes’. It is an event that happened or didn’t happen, period. We see one reality or multiple realities, and since we NEVER see multiple realities, collapse must be complete and decoherence doesn’t provide that.

" Decoherence is, formally, never complete. There always remain exponentially small non-diagonal terms in the reduced density matrix , reminding us that an initial pure state remains pure according to basic quantum mechanics. Does it mean that decoherence is only a phenomenological theory[26],or is there some deeper way of interpreting very small probabilities [25]?" Roland Omnes, Results and Problems in Decoherence Theory, Brazilian Journal of Physics, vol. 35, no. 2A, June, 2005, p. 210

If quantum entanglement/superposition doesn’t disappear completely, there is NO collapse!!!

Problem 2. The environmental interactions in the off diagonal positions are just as quantum as any other event, and thus are in mixed states themselves without having a definite reality. That is, they represent interactions that may never be real.

Pearle says this of the idea:

" *The False Collapse claim is that, at some large time, when the off-diagonal density matrix elements are suitably small (in current parlance, at the decoherence time), an event (a or b) occurs for any system.

*This claim makes no sense, for two reasons. **The behavior of an ensemble of evolutions which have not taken place cannot be crucial in determining the occurrence of an event in one evolution which did take place (what is not real cannot have an effect upon what is real).*If no individual statevector describes events, an ensemble of these statevectors cannot do so (a property missing in each element of a collection must be missing in the collection). Therefore this scheme cannot solve the events problem. Although the density matrices (2.7)and (3.4) have the same form, this does not mean that the arguments leading to these expressions are equally sound." Pearle, p.7

Problem 3. A contradiction

Adler points out a stunning contradiction in his strongly argued critique of decoherence. Due to the nature of Hilbert space (go look it up), the off diagonal terms do which are performing an inner tensor sum, have nothing to do with the evolution of the main object of the experiment. Adler says:

"Thus, when quantum mechanics is applied uniformly at all levels, to the apparatus and its environment as well as to the system, we are faced with a contradiction. This contradiction is in no way ameliorated by decoherence, since the inner product of Eq. (5b) plays no role in the final state vector of Eq. (6a) or Eq. (6b) that describes the outcome of the measurement." Stephen L. Adler http://cds.cern.ch/record/531385/files/0112095.pdf p. 7,8

I refer people to that for details.

Problem 4 basis dependence of decoherence.

According to Fayngold and Fayngold, one must pick which parameter to write the density matrix on, and then that parameter or basis, will collapse. Other basis’s won’t collapse! What kind of deal is it when an object only collapses on one basis but not another?

" There is a common misconception that td is the time for a system to become ‘classical.’ The truth is that decoherence is basis dependent. You must make your choice of basis before writing the density matrix. Then decoherence will cause the off-diagonal elements to vanish, but only in that basis!

Suppose now that the qubit has fully relaxed and decohered and the thermal equilibrium state rho has been attained. This system (we should now call that, instead of qubit) is classical in the energy basis. No energy measurement will show any correlation between |R> and |L>. However, the superposition still exists in the computational basis {|^>,|v>} as shown by the nonzero off-diagonal elements, so the resulting equilibrium state can be highly quantum-mechanical! " Moses Fayngold and Vadim Fayngold, Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Information: A guide through the Quantum World, Wiley 2013, Box 23:1

Braun agrees:

" Decoherence is a basis-dependent phenomenon. Obviously, if a reduced density matrix has become diagonal in a given basis , it will contain off-diagonal elements (i.e. ‘coherences’) in another basis. " Daniel Braun, Dissipative Quantum Chaos and Decoherence," Springer, 2003, p. 53

Decoherence, even when it diagonalizes the matrix, doesn’t provide an explanation of why we see those other ‘coherences’ in the other basis’s. If part of the object is uncollapsed, we should observe multiple realities and we don’t. Decoherence doesn’t collapse objects to one chosen reality.

The Feyngolds talk about how only special circumstances will allow all basis’s to be simultaneously classical.

There are several basis’s one can chose from, obviously from above, one can chose energy as the basis, or computation as the basis, there is positional basis, momentum basis etc. If decoherence only affects one aspect of the particle, that is a huge problem in my view.

Problem 5. Time.

To me this is one of the best arguments against decoherence. Td is the time of decoherence. Te is the time of the collapse, or in decoherence terms, time to classical behavior. Pearle says that that time Td is chosen in an ad hoc manner.

" In order to properly assess the meaning of Eq.(3.4), I believe it is salutary to avoid using the phrase “decoherence” time because that seems to imply that there is a physical process called decoherence which takes this amount of time to be completed. I suggest that the phrase “No One Will Ever kNow” time, or NOWEN time for short, is more apt for the following reason.

"If the statevector evolution is as described in the previous section, then an event does not occur at any time ." Pearle p. 7

Pearle then lays out the mathematical argument and concludes:

" The NOWEN time is, by definition, a time at which the last term in Eq.(3.5) is small enough to be beyond experimental resolution. Only if you chose Te to be equal to or greater than the NOWEN time will the experimental result be the same as if your claim were right. With this choice, No One Will Ever kNow that you were wrong. " Pearle p. 7

We conclude that decoherence does not replace the observer with a naturalistic collapse mechanism. Indeed, even strong advocates of decoherence admit that metaphysical bias’s enter in to the choice to teach decoherence and admit that it is a bit of a sleight of hand:

" Decoherence offers a theoretical framework in which the measurement problem can be swept under the carpet (pushed into a system larger than that which we can observe). The effect is that quantum mechanics can be studied and presented to a student without the need for the ad hoc ``wave collapse’’ being presented as a primary tool of the theory. One can achieve, in many cases, the same apparent effect of a wave collapse without recourse to von Neumann’s mysterious first intervention.

Thus we clarify that decoherence is not a new theory unto itself, but is instead an efficient and fruitful repackaging of theory . It does not solve the measurement problem , and most certainly wouldn’t have satisfied the reservations of Einstein in his later years " Tim Jones, https://www.physics.drexel.edu/~tim/open/main/node2.html

Similarly,Breuer and Petruccione, say the same thing:

" Since decoherence, as it is understood here, is ultimately linked to the tracing over degrees of freedom of the environment, it cannot, of course, solve the measurement problem. This means that decoherence cannot be used to deduce the reduction of the state vector and the statistical interpretation of quantum mechanics from the unitary evolution given by the Schrodinger equation . " Heinz-Peter Breuer and Francesco Petruccione, The Theory of Open Quantum Systems, Oxford University Press, 2002 p. 270

The observer remains as a ghost outside of the machinations of physics.

The Experimentally Proven Existence of Free Will Proves the Soul’s Is Not Bound by Physical Law.

I am going to present a slightly different quantum argument for the existence of the soul. The general view of the scientific community is that we have no free will–everything is determine, and this lack of free will is compatible with the materialist view of the world.

The first quote is from a friend of mine, with whom during my crisis of faith, I had many conversations that involved, free will, evolution, evidence for atheism, intelligent design, what would cause Will to change his mind, and our personal stories. These interchanges took place over three years or so and continued after his diagnosis with brain cancer. Will was the son of a Methodist minister who sadly never got to discuss his change of heart with his father. I think he was a bit sad about that as he obviously liked his father so this wasn’t a preacher’s kid rebellion. His views are outlined in a book on him, and I strongly disagree with what he sees as the nature of evolution:

"If you really accept evolution by natural selection, Provine says, you soon find yourself face to face with a set of implications that undermine the fundamental assumptions of Western civilization:
o There are no gods or purposive forces in nature.
o There are no inherent moral or ethical laws to guide human society
o Human beings are complex machines that become ethical beings by way of heredity and environmental influences, with environment playing a somewhat smaller role than is commonly supposed.
o There is no free will in the traditional sense of being able to make unpredictable choices.
o When we die, we die _ finally and completely and forever . from "The Faith of an Atheist" by George Liles, written about Cornell Biology Prof. William Provine "MD" Magazine, March, 1994 pg. 60

Searles agrees that there is no free will and says that if we have it we have to have an entity that can influence matter (that is how I interpret his statement–a little more broadly than just limited to moving molecules)"

But if libertarianism, which is the thesis of free will, were true, it appears we would have to make some really radical changes in our beliefs about the world. In order for us to have radical freedom, it looks as if we would have to postulate that inside each of us was a self that was capable of interfering with the causal order of nature. That is, it looks as if we would have to contain some entity that was capable of making molecules swerve from their paths. I don’t know if such a view is even intelligible, but it’s certainly not consistent with what we know about how the world works from physics . And there is not the slightest evidence to suppose that we should abandon physical theory in favour of such a view.” John Searle, Minds, Brains, and Science, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), p 92

These statements seem to posit a universe lacking soul, and Provine’s world is positively bleak. So is there a way out of this conundrum. We certainly feel like we have free will? Is there any evidence of free will from science?

As it turns out there is. It comes from an observational experiment which works ONLY if there is free will. This is scientific evidence FOR the existence of free will. The Nobel prize winner, Gerard t’Hooft said:

"A class of very important questions arose when John Bell formulated his famous inequalities[1]. Indeed, when one attempts to construct models that visualize what might be going on in a quantum mechanical process, one finds that deterministic interpretations usually lead to predictions that would obey his inequalities, while it is well understood that quantum mechanical predictions violate them. In attempts to get into grips with this situation, and to derive its consequences for deterministic theories, the concept of “free will” was introduced. Basically, it assumes that any ‘observer’ has the freedom, at all times and all places, to choose, at will, what variables to observe and measure. Clashes with Bell’s inequalities arise as soon as the observer is allowed to choose between sets of observables that are mutually non commuting. "

Gerard t’Hooft ON THE FREE-WILL POSTULATE IN QUANTUM MECHANICS https://arxiv.org/pdf/quant-ph/0701097.pdf, p. 3

For understandability, non-commuting operators don’t change ontology, see p. 7 of t’Hooft’s article.

In other words, in order for Bell’s famous experiment to work as it does, the observer MUST have free will. If that is so, then that certainly makes me look back at Searles’ statement: That is, it looks as if we would have to contain some entity that was capable of making molecules swerve from their paths. While maybe not molecules, Gordie and I have presented much evidence from quantum that the conscious observer affects matter. To me, this is just another reason to hold that the immaterial soul actually exists.

The conjunction of these two ideas means that the existence of free will as shown in Bell’s Theorem supports the concept that the immaterial soul exists. Free Will requires something to be above and apart from matter. To again quote the physicist Stephen M. Barr,

"But this was only one of the remarkable reversals produced by the quantum revolution. In the opinion of many physicists-including such great figures in twentieth-century physics as Eugene Wigner and Rudolf Peierls-the fundamental principles of quantum theory are inconsistent with the materialist view of the human mind. Quantum theory, in its traditional, or "standard," or "orthodox" formulation, treats "observers" as being on a different plane from the physical systems that they observe . 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. This claim is controversial. There have been various attempts made to avoid this conclusion, either by radical reinterpretations of quantum theory (such as the so-called "many-worlds interpretation") or by changing quantum theory in some way. But the argument against materialism based on quantum theory is a strong one, and has certainly not been refuted. The line" of argument is rather subtle. It is also not well- known, even among most practicing physicists. But, if it is correct, it would be the most important philosophical implication to come from any scientific discovery." Stephen M. Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003), p. 27-28

Romans 1:20 says," For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."

It seems to me that it is up to Christians to defend our viewpoint, not waiting for atheists, scientist or not, to point out where nature might show the glory of God. When we just accept what people tell us without critically thinking through the issues, we end up believing what they say about the nature of reality.

One physics student struggling with how free will fits into his deterministic world view wrote:

"I was going through the results of Bell’s theorem recently and found that the freedom of the experimenter to choose the variable to measure is a key assumption. Given that we have no reason to believe that experimenters have “true” free will, how does this affect the validity of Bell’s theorem?

So…does the current state of science allow for traditional "free" will that is unbound from the laws of nature? After all, that is the meaning of the word "free" - as in "not bound"." Reference https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/bells-theorem-and-free-will.731617/

The one answer to his physics forum question referred to Libet’s work which suggested that the brain makes up its mind before the consciousness becomes aware that the decision is made.

“EVEN now, your brain may already have decided to turn the page. That’s the upshot of a study which found that a person’s decision to press a button can be detected up to 7 seconds before they are even aware of it.”

"Our decisions are predetermined unconsciously a long time before our consciousness kicks in," says John-Dylan Haynes at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin, Germany, who led the study. "I think it says there is no free will"

“It’s not the first time scientists have cast doubt on conscious free will. In the early 1980s, neuroscientist Benjamin Libet uncovered a spark of brain activity 300 milliseconds before subjects opted to raise a finger, in a brain region involved in planning body movement. However, this area may only perform the final calculations to move, not the initial decision to lift a finger, Haynes says.”

“His team asked 14 volunteers to tap one of two buttons at will, with a finger of their left or right hand, and used an fMRI scanner to monitor their brains all the while. They saw part of the prefrontal cortex - vital for executive thought and consciousness - "light up" about 7 seconds before the volunteers pressed a button.”

“What’s more, deciding to press the left or right buttons revealed slightly different brain patterns, enabling the team to predict 60 per cent of the time which button would be pressed (Nature Neuroscience, 001: 10.1038/nn.2112).” Anonymous, “Your brain makes its decisions long before you know it,” New Scientist, April 19, 2008, p. 14

What about those experiments like Libet and of Haynes which suggest that the unconscious brain makes a decision before consciousness becomes aware of it? The body is prepped to move before the subjects become consciously aware of it. Haynes says there is a 7 second precursor signal to movement. Libet’s time was less and his data has been claimed to be an artefact by John Eccles. These experiments are claimed to show that consciousness has nothing to do with making our decisions.

I don’t know what the exact problem is but it is clear to me that the conscious decision to move does not take 7 seconds. Consider driving and seeing danger ahead. The generally accepted time of our response is 1.5 seconds from seeing the danger and hitting the brakes. The best response time is .7 seconds (obviously in teenagers lol). That best reaction time is divided as follows:

Of this, 0.5 is perception and 0.2 is movement, the time required to release the accelerator and to depress the brake pedal. https://www.visualexpert.com/Resources/reactiontime.html

Furthermore while driving, we can’t prep our bodies for movement prior to actually SEEING the danger. There would be a lot more bad accidents if we required seven seconds to move our bodies. Evolution would have wiped out such a lethargic species. A leopard can run at 37 mph, which means that if it takes that long for my body to decide to move, any leopard that gets within 4 houses from me, will have me for dinner while I just stand there.

My guess as to the problem is that the subjects in these experiments have been given instructions prior to the tests and they prep their body accordingly. I know I would start thinking about what finger to move. I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from doing so.

Besides, physics says we have free will, and that means our WILL is not bound by the laws of physics–that is what Free means. Again, quantum leads us to understand that consciousness is a very special thing in this universe, above and apart from matter.

With the existence of a God an open question, one can’t claim with certainty, like Provine did, that there are no moral or ethical laws.

To go back to Provine’s list above, if the soul is not subject to the laws of physics, then it is something immaterial, and many of his claims fall.

The claim that gods don’t exist as a statement of his certitude falls. If immaterial objects exist, then maybe a God exists.

The claim that evolution is purely naturalistic is at least questionable. IF a God exists, then who knows what he did during the evolution of life?

The existence of the immaterial soul affect’s Provines claim that when we die we are just gone. Not necessarily if we are not material girls, as Madonna sings!

I sincerely liked Provine and wish he were still here to discuss this with. I think the discussions would be different now.

My take on Will Provine at the time was harsher than Glenn’s for Provine actively attempted to undermine the faith of his students in and out of his classses, and counted it a victory whenever he succeeded. I was praying at the time that Glenn would not become one of his trophies. In Glenn’s case, the score ended up Holy Spirit; 1, Will Provine: 0.

I will say that I blamed Provine. Provine bragged that he could take 90% of the Christians in his class and by the end of the semester turn them into atheists. I blamed Provine far less for this than the parents and Christian apologists, all of whom gave the kids nothing observational to hold on to. The YECs offer a totally fake set of facts about geology and biology so when the YECs run into a guy like Provine they are helpless before the slaughter. All he has to do is convince them YEC facts are wrong and then ask,“If early Christians were as bad as YECS at dealing with observational data, how can we be sure they really saw the resurrection. After all Christians make up facts today, maybe they did it back then?” And there goes the kid’s faith, kerplunk!

But the other side of Christian apologetics, in my opinion does no better. They say the Bible was not meant to tell us anything historical or scientific. Or alternatively God accommodated his message to the culture of the day which contained misunderstandings and falsehoods. Both of these views in the hands of a guy like Provine will be turned to the questions like, respectively, “So your God doesn’t know what happened at Creation and either wouldn’t or couldn’t communicate it? How do you know he is God?” or for the accommodation view, "So God allowed false ideas to creep into the Bible because he accommodated his view to the false views of the Neolithic farmers? So how do you know the resurrection isn’t an accommodation to the culture of the day with many resurrection cults?"

Either way one goes, we leave our children defenseless against wolves like Provine. Wolves will do what wolves do by nature. This is why I think it is important to have a defensible OBSERVATIONAL argument from science, that sets us apart from the prevailing materialistic ideas. Not only are the two arguments we have presented for the existence of the soul defensible, they are also from observational science. They are something to hang on to in the storm.

Since it is a bit off this topic I will post the observational experience which helped me hang onto my Christian faith while I was going through my severe doubts. Many of us need something to hang onto when we are thinking along the lines Provine thought. I was already asking questions like those above when I met Provine so it really wasn’t him that made me ask the questions above. Provine just tried to be my midwife into atheism. But he failed.

Of course, Glenn, I largely agree with this point. But, if we have free-will, and you have provided a strong observational justification for this above, then we are each responsible for how we respond to Christ, and respond to his resurrection; we cannot blame the Will Provines of this world, nor parental failures for abandoning the faith.

But I do disagree, Glenn; we are NOT “left defenseless.” For left out of this discussion to this point, is the essential, and I would say decisive, role the Holy Spirit plays, helping us to successfully continue in the faith. In this regard, you wrote,

“Siince it is a bit off this topic I will [not?] post the observational experience which helped me hang onto my Christian faith while I was going through my severe doubts. Many of us need something to hang onto when we are thinking along the lines Provine thought.”

Was not this the work of the Holy Spirit? And bringing this remarkable event back to memory when you were dealing with a crisis of faith, was not that the work of the Holy Spirit? Surely so!

Finally, does the human soul play any part in this? Absolutely, for the Holy Spirit is not communicating to the material part of us that constitutes our biology, but to our soul, something not material, which makes my remarks here very much on topic.

I doubt that the scientific community has any conclusion on free will and it certain not that everything is determined, quite the contrary. The failure of Bell’s inequality in experiments demonstrates that physical determinism is dead. The only way to keep determinism is to go outside the scientific worldview so those unwilling to do that accept the reality of an indeterministic universe.

The biggest problem with free will is philosophical – trying to understand how the idea even makes sense. If there are no causes for our actions then how is it any kind of will, and if there are causes for our actions they how are they free?

Since I am a libertarian incompatibilist, I naturally think there is a solution to the philosophical problem and although I do believe in existence beyond the physical, I still think the universe is largely indeterministic. Once again I take my philosophical prompts from Aristotle, and this time from his four causes, to suggest that we reject the scientific restriction of causality to efficient and material causes. Explained in terms modern parlance/thinking, Aristotle’s four causes are as following:

  1. material - causes for things derived from their composing materials in the reductionist view.
  2. formal - causes derived from how the materials are put together in the holistic emergent view.
  3. efficient - cause derived from pre-existing conditions in the time ordered view.
  4. final - causes derived from something teleologically guiding things towards some end.

All of these find some support in various modern scientific understandings of things especially in quantum physics but the least popular of these is the last showing a general preference to stick to a time-ordered view of causality. And I think this also explains why free will is likewise puzzling and often disputed as illogical. I think that letting go of time-ordered restriction on causality is the key to making sense of free will.

It hinges on the following observation: When we make deliberative choices for stated reasons this does not mean that we are not aware of any reasons for making a different choice. Thus the fact is that we choose the apparent cause or reasons for our choice along with the choice itself. Thus it would appear that cause and effect originate in the same event rather than cause preceding effect.

Consider what makes a person a thief. We are likely to say both that a person is a thief because he steals AND that the person steals because he is a thief. Once again we see this confusion in the temporal ordering of our thinking when it comes to making choices. To put it simply the cause of our choices is not the pre-existing condition of what we were but the future condition of what we become by those choices. We are not responsible for what we do because of the pre-existing conditions but because of resultant condition of what we have made ourselves into.

gotta go…

1 Like

Mitch wrote:

I doubt that the scientific community has any conclusion on free will and it certain not that everything is determined, quite the contrary. The failure of Bell’s inequality in experiments demonstrates that physical determinism is dead. The only way to keep determinism is to go outside the scientific worldview so those unwilling to do that accept the reality of an indeterministic universe.

Mitch, indeterminism is NOT the same as free will. That actually is a category mistake. From one of my favorite philosophers of the mind:

As far as we know, the only established indeterminism in nature is quantum mechanics. But at the quantum level, the absence of causally sufficient conditions produces randomness, and randomness is not the same as free will. (Contrary to popular opinion, determinism is not the natural, or default, position in nature. Quantum indeterminacies are built into the structure of the universe from top to bottom, but tend to cancel themselves out at the macro level.”John Searle, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” New Scientist, Jan 13, 2007, p 48-49

The biggest problem with free will is philosophical – trying to understand how the idea even makes sense. If there are no causes for our actions then how is it any kind of will, and if there are causes for our actions they how are they free?

Maybe fruitflies can help (take two and go to bed. lol) We watch them fly, zig zagging around but their motions are NOT random. They are chaotic, which as you know is an entirely different thing mathematically:

FRUIT flies have free will. Even when deprived of any sensory input to react to, the zigs and zags of their flight reveal an intrinsic, nonrandom - yet still unpredictable decision-making capacity. If evolution has furnished humans with a similar capacity, this could help resolve one of the longstanding puzzles of philosophy.
“Science assumes that effects have causes, and that if we understand the causes well enough we can predict the effects. But if so, our experience of being free to make choices is an illusion, since we are in effect just sophisticated robots responding to stimuli. If our behaviour is unpredictable, this is only because random events prevent us from responding perfectly to our environment.”
To test whether behaviour can be truly random, Bjorn Brembs, a neurobiologist at the Free University of Berlin in Germany, put fruit flies into a sensory deprivation chamber: a drum with a white interior that offers the flies no visual cues to orient themselves. The flies were glued to a torque meter that measured their zigs and zags as they attempted to fly.”
“Brembs and his colleagues analysed the resulting flight records using increasingly sophisticated models of random behaviour. Were the flies’ decisions random, like the result of a coin flip? No. Did they fit a coin-flip model in which the probability of ‘heads’ varied randomly? Again, no. Nor could they be explained by a series of random inputs, or a series of random inputs combined in non-random ways.
Instead, the researchers found the flies’ behaviour bears the hallmark of chaos—a non-random process that is nevertheless unpredictable, like the weather.” Bob Holmes, “Humble Fruit Fly Makes Its Own Decisions,” New Scientist, May 19, 2007, p. 16

Mitch wrote:

Since I am a libertarian incompatibilist, I naturally think there is a solution to the philosophical problem and although I do believe in existence beyond the physical, I still think the universe is largely indeterministic. Once again I take my philosophical prompts from Aristotle, and this time from his four causes, to suggest that we reject the scientific restriction of causality to efficient and material causes. Explained in terms modern parlance/thinking, Aristotle’s four causes are as following:
1. material - causes derived from a things composing materials in the reductionist view.
2. formal - causes derived from how the materials are put together in the holistic emergent view.
3. efficient - cause derived from pre-existing conditions in the time ordered view.
4. final - causes derived from something teleologically guiding things towards some end.
All of these find some support in various modern scientific understandings of things especially in quantum physics but the least popular of these is the last showing a general preference to stick to a time-ordered view of causality. And I think this also explains why free will is likewise puzzling and often disputed as illogical. I think that letting go of time-ordered restriction on causality is the key to making sense of free will.

If I understand you correctly (and since we have disagreed about so much I want to be careful here), you are saying that Free will exists (libertarianism) and it is incompatible with determinism. And further Causality ought to be broader than science allows, that is allowing teleological causes. If so I would agree with you. when people ask me if there is purpose in life ( towards an end; teleology), I answer categorically yes. When I go to the store to buy bread, it is teleological causes that started the process. Yes, material and efficient causes are involved but I am acting towards a goal. I hold a view of evolution that is a random walk through the phase space of DNA arrangements which constrain the possible living forms and will inevitably result in mankind. Like making Sierpinski’s gasket on a computer. https://lodev.org/cgtutor/sierpinski.html Each running of the program creates a unique set of particle motions, but if you mark each location the particle lands on, it is deterministic that the gasket will appear. The particle is free to move in any order it wants, but the rules of motion produce the gasket. In some sense this is teleological. I wrote the code with the purpose of making the gasket.

It hinges on the following observation: When we make deliberative choices for stated reasons this does not mean that we are not aware of any reasons for making a different choice. Thus the fact is that we choose the apparent cause or reasons for our choice along with the choice itself. Thus it would appear that cause and effect originate in the same event rather than cause preceding effect.

Agreed. lol, until you show me this leads me to a reduction ad absurdam with my other views, then I have to think about it again. lol

Consider what makes a person a thief. We are likely to say both that a person is a thief because he steals AND that the person steals because he is a thief. Once again we see this confusion in the temporal ordering of our thinking when it comes to making choices. To put it simply the cause of our choices is not the pre-existing condition of what we were but the future condition of what we become by those choices. We are not responsible for what we do because of the pre-existing conditions but because of resultant condition of what we have made ourselves into.
[/quote]

I agree here as well. The question is how do we get free will into a deterministic universe? In my view there is simply no way to get free will in the universe IF we maintain that consciousness is a material epiphenomenon of the brain. And I hate the word epiphenomenon–because it basically covers up our ignorance of how consciousness arises from the brain with a big fancy schmancy word.

Anyway, Schrodinger’s equation is deterministic and contains no mechanism for collapse. If consciousness is subject to the laws of physics, then it should go into the von Neumann chain and be in superposition with the quantum system. Classical physics is definitely deterministic, so, the only place I can even imagine free will entering the world is via the immaterial soul. SOMETHING has to be outside of nature for free will to exist. And materialists don’t want that, and will mock the idea like crazy.

Im enjoying this Mitch.

Regarding your last passage, the choice isn´t merely between materialism and some kind of cartesian dualism. Mitchell, and he will correct me if I´m misrepresenting him, is arguing from an Aristotelian hylomorphistic view, which speaks of a union of body and soul. This is very different from the “embodied soul” of which christian physicalists are talking about, but also avoids the philosophical problems that most kinds of dualism are facing.

Is this like Polkinghorne’s idea that mind and matter are two faces of the same thing? If so, then there is no observational support for it that I am aware of, and certainly more out of the view of mainstream view of science than what we have presented. That said, being in the mainstream means nothing as far as truth or falsehood of the idea is.

I take neither view and would apply hylomorphism differently. Mine is a monistic view with two simultaneous effective dualities: mind and body, and physical and spiritual. Add in hylomorphism and that makes three effective dualities and a division of our being into eight different “parts”: The substance of the physical mind, the form of the spiritual body, the substance of the spiritual mind, the form of the physical body, the form of the physical mind, the substance of the spiritual body, the form of the spiritual mind, and the substance of the physical body. The point here is that I see no good reason for simplifying this by equating any of these things with each other.

… not that everything is so divided because the mind and body only applies to human beings… and I think the physical spiritual duality only applies to living things. However lets go over these effective dualities once more…

  1. form and substance of Aristotle’s hylomorphism is the most basic duality and the idea here is to enable explaining other effective dualities with a single substance in different forms much the way science explains everything in the physical universe as different forms of energy.
  2. physical and spiritual are thus explained as follows. Physical things are all part of a single mathematical space-time structure which includes all the laws of nature in the mathematical relationships incorporated into its geometry, and thus physical things are what they are because of these relationships. Spiritual things are not a part of this structure or any other structure but are what they are by their own nature alone. In a sense you could say that the physical universe as a whole is in this sense a spiritual thing in its own right.
  3. Mind and body are two interdependent but different living organisms, i.e. self-organizing processes in two different mediums each with their own reasons for doing things, their own needs, and their own system for passing on an inheritance to the next generation. I think the term “meme” coined for the mental equivalent of gene lends us a good language for describing this comparison between gene life and meme life.

We agree on dualism.

Well after a 4-day delay I’m going to reach back a bit, but it’s still immediately relevant. My argument is much less sophisticated than either Gbob’s or the hylomorphism, but I think that that just makes it all the more lethal to materialism. I am arguing for a classical dualism that involves the physical and the nonphysical. I’ll start here by responding to Pevarnick saying that although it could be a coherent belief that doesn’t contradict science, you can’t find any scientific evidence for it.

Pevarnik, I understand that the idea of an immaterial mind directing the immaterial wave function is not measurable. Sy Garte said something similar in that essay you referenced. So, on the one hand, it might look like an unmeasurable theory made from wishful reverse engineering.

On the other hand, there is one other huge, glaring, astronomically profound aspect to the whole discussion: to the extent that we know anything at all, we can know that the wave function in particular, and all of mathematics in general, is immaterial. And if math is immaterial, then so must we be. Let me bring in Mitch’s comment here—his comment in response to my statement, "How could the brain perceive things that are immaterial? Of course, it cannot”:

Mitch, I am not stating a point of view here, or an opinion. I’m stating a simple, undeniable fact. Now any disagreement is surely a matter of semantics, so just to clarify, I’m defining an immaterial phenomenon as something that cannot be directly or indirectly seen, heard, felt, tasted, or smelled. It has no light waves emanating from it or bouncing off of it, so there is nothing to see. It has no sound waves emanating from it or bouncing off of it, so there is nothing to hear. Etc., etc. If such phenomena existed, then the brain could not “know” it. And if we are observing the absence of physical qualities in something, then what are we observing the presence of?

So the current scientific establishment presupposes that immaterial phenomena are simply not possible. There are some vague, fringe exceptions, but by and large monism is assumed as beyond question. As Kenneth Miller put it in The Human Instinct, “Let’s assume the obvious, which is that human consciousness is a product of the workings of our nervous system as it interacts with the rest of the body and with the outside world.” (p. 150)

So in regard to something like mathematics, the materialist’s/monist’s options include:

  • To insist that absolutely everything simply has to have physical qualities—has to be composed of matter or energy or very tiny strings or quantum fields, etc. Thus, for example, Stephen Pinker says we can perceive the number 3 because "it has real properties that can be discovered and explored." “According to the Platonist conception of number favored by many mathematicians and philosophers, entities such as numbers and shapes have an existence independent of minds. The number three is not invented out of whole cloth; it has real properties that can be discovered and explored.” (The Blank Slate, p. 192.) Since it is pure, incoherent nonsense to suggest that the #3 has physical qualities, Pinker hides it under a self-contradictory fog of Platonist philosophy.

  • To pretend that the (immaterial) mystery as explained by circular philosophy. Daniel Dennett is good at this: after acknowledging that all words (i.e. not just numbers) are immaterial, he says they are a type of meme, and then he later defines memes are “information things.” He says some philosophers “bite the bullet” and conclude that words do not exist. But he can’t do that (after all, he is writing a book full of words) so he concludes by saying that, well, we just have to “include words in our ontology.” (From Bacteria to Bach and Back). Would such an ontology be, in principle, any different from a soul—an abstraction to which we attribute the rational use of math and language?

  • To simply insist that we not ask the question–the question "What are numbers/words?". Somewhere above I quoted neuroscientist Dehaene making this argument. In short, his reason for insisting that we not ask the question was that it leads to a bunch of philosophical stuff. (It also leads to the evaporation of materialism!)

  • Now Pinker, Dehaene, Dennett and many others will also make a another, separate argument. They will say that our ability to perceive numbers and words in simply an instinctive ability simply “emerged” in ages past. (Miller uses the same “reasoning”, as illustrated in the title of his book, The Human Instinct.) But this is also a thoroughly self-contradictory answer. After all, instincts are, by definition, things that we do without thinking–i.e. things we do because we’re programmed to do them. But can you comprehend this sentence without thinking? No, you can’t. Can you determine the square root of 9 trillion without thinking? No, you can’t. Adding machines and calculators and computers can do such calculations in a millisecond, but they are no different from abaca. They don’t actually perceive the numbers. They aren’t thinking. They are tools that we use—we who actually perceive the numbers.

In short, no scientist can even articulate–much less test–a theory as to how our brains could perceive immaterial phenomena. So this argument is so simple and easy that it almost seems unfair: either theorize what the physical qualities of numbers could be (What texture or shape or force is there, for example, in the number 3?), or conclude that there is no way for our brains to perceive them.

And if our brains can’t perceive them? A soul by any other name— “a Platonic Form”, “a connectome processor”, “a qualia system”, “a meme machine”, “a global neuronal workspace”, “a superseded ontology”, etc.—will remain a mystery. As will our ability to perceive information.

What he said.

Good and interesting argument Matt. Did you see the quotes by Alastair Rae above? I posted them for you just after you left for 4 days.