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← The raw deal of determinism and reductionism

jimblake's Avatar Jump to comment 11 by jimblake

I think you’ve written the most thoughtful discussion on this topic I’ve seen on this site. You’ve touched on all the relevant issues affecting an understanding of what is really going on. I’d like to add some comments about determinism and causality.

The idea that the future could be predicted from information about the position and movement of all particles and atoms using the laws of physics is something that appeals to our biases about causality. However, even if we could overcome the indeterminacy principle, we still could not predict future events. That is because all we would know is the future position and motions of the particles and atoms, but we wouldn’t know what it means. If none of it meant anything, nothing would happen; it would just be heat energy. Even if we knew what some of it meant from past experience, we couldn’t be sure that some of the meaning hadn’t changed or that some new meaning hadn’t been added.

The meaning of the ordered energy in the universe has been changing and evolving since the Big Bang, by random variation and some sort of filtering or selection process. This meaning is determined by the structure of the complex systems of ordered energy that have been evolving. The energy to make something happen ultimately comes from the Big Bang, but the meaning in the structure of complex systems determine what actually happens. As more complex systems evolved, eventually living complex systems emerged that could create the structure of meaning in real time through learning, visualization, and design.

As the meanings of meanings of meanings in systems of systems of systems became more complex, the effect of the causation became more probabilistic, because there were more things that could go wrong. In order to explain how a stop sign causes a car to stop, we have to resort to discussing information and meaning. There is a high probability that the sign will cause the car to stop, but it’s not as certain as a block wall. If there is any problem transmitting the information or understanding the meaning or any mechanical problems with the car, it won’t stop.

Individual particles don’t make things happen, it’s when they work together in systems that things happen. In the early simpler universe there may have been only one or two things that could happen. In today’s complex universe, with so many complex systems, there is a vast multitude of things that can happen. The reason that we feel that we can make things happen is that we are complex systems, and complex systems determine what happens. We have complex structures in our brains that can be altered in real time to make new things happen.

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 04:38:09 UTC | #948951