I know this has been discussed before, but I have read Sam Harris' book Free Will and Michael Shermer's book The Believing Brain, and I must say that I agree with both authors. Studies show that our brains make a decision on an unconscious level three tenths of a second and sometimes more before we even consciously know we're going to act. To take a short quote from Shermer's book: "The neural activity that precedes the intention to act is inaccessible to our conscious mind, so we experience a sense of free will. But it is an illusion, caused by the fact that we cannot identify the cause of the awareness of our intention to act".

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…other physicists who claim they have proof that quantum theory is a done deal when the entire thing is still indeterminate, unpredictable, etc.

That seems to me an inaccurate description of what physicists believe. First of all quantum mechanics makes very exact predictions and despite its non-intuitive nature provides an excellent description of the segment of reality to which it applies.

Second, although in retirement I follow these things at quite a distance, my impression is that no one expects to find a replacement for quantum mechanics that eliminates the uncertainty principle. In fact in his book Nothingness, German physicist Henning Genz says explicitly

"Indeed we have to conclude that there cannot be a deeper theory at the basis of quantum mechanics—a theory that would be able to predict the precise result of every measurement of a particle's location."

As far as I can tell, that is the widespread consensus.

That book looks like a very interesting read. I'm going to have to assume that you own that one. You know, on Google, you can search for an exact phrase by putting it in quotations, and I did that to your quote and only two instances came up. The actual page that in which this text appears in Google books, and the Atheist Nexus page that this quote is mentioned, i.e. your post.

From the page, it's said that these determined probabilities have become extremely accurate, although not perfectly certain. Perhaps you're familiar with Hawking's notion of "adequate determinism."

This is the idea that quantum indeterminacy can be ignored for most macroscopic events due to quantum decoherence.  So, he believes that libertarian free will is an illusion, and instead what we have at best is compatibilistic free will which is nevertheless determined. I'll quote Hawking: 

 "The microscopic world of quantum mechanics is one of determined probabilities. That is, quantum effects rarely alter the predictions of classical mechanics, which are quite accurate (albeit still not perfectly certain) at larger scales.[24] Something as large as an animal cell, then, would be "adequately determined" (even in light of quantum indeterminacy)."

Okay, that's all based on consensus, as you said, now for some wishful thinking, and if that puts you off, you might want to stop reading at this point.

The notion arising out of the mystical state seems to be one of predeterminism, so if we posit for a moment that this is the case, then in the double-split experiment, for instance, these photons that are shot one by one against a screen and seem to land in different spots each time, but nevertheless create an interference pattern that resembles waves.

As this single photon is fired,  the distribution of its collisions with the target can be calculated reliably, and although it's not certain, its likelihood of where it may hit can be determined.

The problem I've always had with this is that whenever you hear about this experiment, the forces that create this interference pattern is the one thing that is out of control of the experiment. Is it something within the electromagnetism of the photon itself for cause of this interference pattern? Is it gravitational waves within the particle? Is it external gravity itself? Are there other fundamental forces at play? Is it a combination of all these things? There's too many complexities to be accounted for in the experiment to yield any satisfying result despite the fact that physicists try and keep things simple as possible in these experiments, and I didn't even mention the observer's influence on these experiments (as if it weren't complicated enough). Could it be that if we understood all these forces that cause this interference and are present in this experiment, we could then predict perfectly where a photon may collide on the screen instead of only predicting precise probable outcomes?

It's like the quantum fluctuation in a coin toss. Could one really account the momentum that arises out of the spin of every subatomic particles around the nucleus of an atom or the any momentum that might come out of the quantum of chaos of each subatomic particle, etc.?

I've actually heard of a coin flipper machine that'd hit a coin with a specific momentum on a specific point on the coin, and lo and behold, the coin would always land on a certain side each time, but anyway, that's beside the point.

It's a tough call for human beings to make, and the topic of "free will" certainly aims to address it. I mean, if we knew the answers to these questions, if someone could come up with the equations of the unified field theory, then we'd know for sure how "determined" we are, wouldn't we? 

Tyson made an interesting comment once. Perhaps you've seen the video, but he spoke about a "fascinatingly disturbing thought" where he posited a species more evolved than human beings. He made the comment that this higher evolved species would "intuit" string theory. You see, I've become convinced through a powerful intuition that occurs in the mystical experience that everything is truly predetermined, but intellectually because of all this quantum madness, it hasn't really caught on. I suppose that's why I always hold this doubt in skepticism towards modern quantum mechanics, but as I said, that's just me and perhaps it's merely wishful thinking, but it's something I cannot seem to deny due to having such an experience.

Neils deGrass Tyson - Fascinatingly Disturbing Thought

A few facts may help clear up some of your questions.

The first one is the uncertainty principle. The uncertainty principle is given by the equation:

ΔxΔp ≧ ℏ/2

where Δx is the uncertainty in the position x of a particle and Δp is the uncertainty in its momentum. The right half of the equation is a small constant. For ordinary everyday objects momentum is relatively small. (Momentum is the product of mass and velocity.)
So that, while the inequality holds, it is not a practical limitation on measurement. However elementary particles move at extremely high velocities and have considerable momentum on the experimental scale even though their mass is small. Consequently the uncertainty becomes a significant factor in the physics of elementary particles. This is precisely what your quote from Hawking says, in different words.

The second fact you need is a more accurate description of the double slit experiment. When a single electron is fired, a single dot appears on the detection screen behind the double slit barrier. Each time one is fired another dot is added to the picture. After a large number of particles have been fired and the screen has collected a large number of dots, a pattern in their distribution emerges. This is the kind of pattern that the interference of waves would produce. The conclusion is that the particles also have a wave character which is what is behind this interference pattern:

The above shows the progression towards this pattern as the dots accumulate. In the first three—a,b, and c—no pattern is apparent, but in d it shows clearly. (The whole picture is not visible, an artifact of the narrow width of this post.)

The pattern is created by the interference of the particle waves, not by any force. If only one slit is open, no interference pattern occurs, just the expected distribution of dots around the slit.

Maybe that is enough physics for now. There's more of course, but I think these two things can help to clarify what is going on.

Here is the whole picture showing the interference pattern in the last frame.

I'm familiar with these images. I find them very interesting, but what about the wave-particle duality? Do not the electrons behave like a particle when observed, but create the interference pattern when unobserved?

I find it strange that you can't many videos on this experiment. I've searched Vimeo, YouTube, Google, etc. YouTube will just give you a lecture by the computer animated "Dr. Quantum" or a Yale discourse on such experiments. I know "Through the Wormhole" filmed this process, but there's not that many.

You said, "The pattern is created by the interference of the particle waves, not by any force." Isn't the momentum of the electron shooting from from the apparatus a "force"? I'm not quite sure what you meant here by "not by any force."

I want you to leave you with two quotes that maybe you've come across:

"It will remain remarkable,  in whatever way our future concepts may develop, that the very study of the external world led to the conclusion that the content of the consciousness is an ultimate reality." -Eugene Wigner

"Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of the mystery that we are trying to solve."

- Max Planck

It's almost as though the physicists have merely acknowledged that when matter or light are unobserved, they behave as waves, but when observed, they behave as particles. Is this truly an explanation?

Do not the electrons behave like a particle when observed, but create the interference pattern when unobserved?

Hitting the recording device counts as being observed. If the double slits are monitored so that it's known which slit the electron went through, then the electrons don't interfere.

It's almost as though the physicists have merely acknowledged that when matter or light are unobserved, they behave as waves, but when observed, they behave as particles.

When something is "observed" - interacts with a big environment - its state becomes entangled with the state of the environment.  This leads to the something being in a definite state - at least, as we observe it.  Since we ourselves are part of that environment. 

There are different theoretical interpretations of this "quantum state reduction". 

Do not the electrons behave like a particle when observed, but create the interference pattern when unobserved?

No, that is not the correct interpretation of the experimental result in these pictures.

Isn't the momentum of the electron shooting from from the apparatus a "force"? I'm not quite sure what you meant here by "not by any force."

No, momentum is not a force. You need some elementary mechanics. There are four known forces in physics—weak, strong, electromagnetic, and gravitational.

It's almost as though the physicists have merely acknowledged that when matter or light are unobserved, they behave as waves, but when observed, they behave as particles. Is this truly an explanation?

This is not what any physicists are claiming to my knowledge. It seems a distortion of the so-called Copenhagen interpretation of wave-particle duality.  There are several different explanations of wave-particle duality and it is unquestionably one of the most philosophically interesting issues in physics, but much too large a topic for here. Duality is not present in the theory of David Bohm, which you mentioned earlier.

Perhaps you've mentioned it before, Allan, but do you have a position in regards to determinism/free will/incompatibilism, etc.?

I did mention it earlier in this thread. I believe it's on the second page of responses, but I don't claim it is a really well thought out position.

I don't believe it is possible to establish either free will or determinism rigorously, but I am inclined toward the possibility of a measure of free will based on our direct experience of it— with the caveat that strong and perhaps unconscious impulses often direct choices and that learned behavior repeated many times can become unconscious. 

I like Dennett's book Freedom Evolves.  It's an excellent analysis of free will.

I'd suggest that free will is logically incompatible in both a deterministic universe (entirely causal) as well as an indeterministic universe (one where acausal events happen). In this way the hard incompatibilist position is stronger than the hard determinist position in that it addresses both possible worlds. ;-)

Daniel Dennett takes the compatibilist position. Do you disagree with this point-of-view?


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