John Horgan on free will and superdeterminism

March 11, 2022 • 12:00 pm

John Horgan’s opinion piece on the physics theory of “superdeterminism” (which we’ve encountered before in a video by Sabine Hossenfelder), and its relevance to free will, appeared in the latest Scientific American. Click to read the short piece:

Although I had (and still have) trouble understanding superdeterminism, it is, as Horgan and Sabine explain, a way that quantum mechanics becomes deterministic rather than fundamentally indeterministic. To use the jargon of Bell’s Theorem, superdeterminism is a theory of “local hidden variables”, so that factors we don’t yet understand actually determine absolutely how particles behave. As Horgan notes:

A conjecture called superdeterminism, outlined decades ago, is a response to several peculiarities of quantum mechanics: the apparent randomness of quantum events; their apparent dependence on human observation, or measurement; and the apparent ability of a measurement in one place to determine, instantly, the outcome of a measurement elsewhere, an effect called nonlocality.

Einstein, who derided nonlocality as “spooky action at a distance,” insisted that quantum mechanics must be incomplete; there must be hidden variables that the theory overlooks. Superdeterminism is a radical hidden-variables theory proposed by physicist John Bell. He is renowned for a 1964 theorem, now named after him, that dramatically exposes the nonlocality of quantum mechanics.

As I wrote in response to Hossenfelder’s video:

I’m not quite sure what “superdeterminism” means is on the level of particles, but it appears to be something like this: “What a quantum particle does depends on what measurement will take place.” And once the measurement system is specified, somehow a quantum particle is determined to behave in a certain way. That’s what I don’t get.

And Horgan seems as puzzled as I am, even though Hossenfelder says that superdeterminism may be empirically testable. Back to Horgan:

I’m nonetheless baffled by superdeterminism, whether explicated by Hossenfelder or another prominent proponent, Nobel laureate Gerard t’Hooft. When I read their arguments, I feel like I’m missing something. The arguments seem circular: the world is deterministic, hence quantum mechanics must be deterministic. Superdeterminism doesn’t specify what the hidden variables of quantum mechanics are; it just decrees that they exist, and that they specify everything that happens, including my decision to write these words and your decision to read them.

Hossenfelder and I argued about free will in a conversation last summer. [JAC: this discussion is on YouTube and I can’t watch it from down here.] I pointed out that we both made the choice to speak to each other; our choices stem from “higher-level” psychological factors, such as our values and desires, which are underpinned by but not reducible to physics. Physics can’t account for choices and hence free will. So I said.

And now, what about the effect of superdeterminism on free will? Horgan says that the relevance of physics itself to the phenomenon of free will, much less the effect of superdeterminism, is irrelevant. That’s because, or so it seems from his piece, that he does believe in a form of libertarian (“you-could-have-done-otherwise”) free will.

But as most of us know, even if there are fundamental indeterminacies lurking in quantum physics, and while deterministic physics rules macro-level phenomena, there is still no such thing as libertarian free will. Whether or not an electron jumps in an indeterminate way, and that makes you decide to do one thing or another—this does not mean you have libertarian free will. To enable that, your conscious will must have made that electron jump and, as Sean Carroll has pointed out, that itself violates what we know about the laws of physics. So long as the laws of physics are obeyed, be they deterministic or indeterministic, we cannot have libertarian free will. Yet Horgan seems to think that that kind of free will can exist; we just don’t understand enough about nature to know how and why.

The analogy here is to our current lack of current understanding abut how neurobiology leads to the phenomenon of consciousness. This lack of understanding is taken by some, like Philip Goff, to mean that we’re missing something beyond current laws of physics: the ability of electrons, atoms, and so on, to have a form of consciousness (this idea is called “panpsychism,” and I consider it both foolish and untestable).

Likewise, the fact that we have emotions and consciousness and feelings that can alter the world (again, this is a fact regardless of the truth of superdeterminism) leads Horgan to the idea that there may be libertarian free will. He thinks that we just don’t understand enough physics yet:

. . . To my mind, the debate over whether physics rules out or enables free will is moot. It’s like citing quantum theory in a debate over whether the Beatles are the best rock band ever (which they clearly are). Philosophers speak of an “explanatory gap” between physical theories about consciousness and consciousness itself. First of all, the gap is so vast that you might call it a chasm. Second, the chasm applies not just to consciousness but to the entire realm of human affairs.

Physics, which tracks changes in matter and energy, has nothing to say about love, desire, fear, hatred, justice, beauty, morality, meaning. All these things, viewed in the light of physics, could be described as “logically incoherent nonsense,” as Hossenfelder puts it. But they have consequences; they alter the world.

Physics as a whole, not just quantum mechanics, is obviously incomplete. As philosopher Christian List told me recently, humans are “not just heaps of interacting particles.” We are “intentional agents, with psychological features and mental states” and the capacity to make choices.  Physicists have acknowledged the limits of their discipline. Philip Anderson, a Nobel laureate, contends in his 1972 essay “More Is Different” that as phenomena become more complicated, they require new modes of explanation; not even chemistry is reducible to physics, let alone psychology.

This, and the paragraph below, are truly begging the question of naturalism and free will: assuming the existence of a phenomenon we want to prove—libertarian free will. We are “intentional agents” with “the capacity to make choices”, What Horgan is ignoring here is whether or not those choices are determined by the laws of physics. They may look like true choices that could have been made otherwise via conscious will, but that’s an illusion.

And the last paragraph seems to show that Horgan truly is afflicted with confirmation bias.  To Horgan, the known and unknown laws of physics, and their relevance to free will, is a non-issue. Our wills must truly be free—and not deterministic—because  because the implications are just too depressing. Horgan:

. . . Why does the debate over free will and superdeterminism matter? Because ideas matter. At this time in human history, many of us already feel helpless, at the mercy of forces beyond our control. The last thing we need is a theory that reinforces our fatalism.

What we need is the truth, not a view of science that buttresses our emotional desires.

In the end, the debate between superdeterminism or quantum mechanics is irrelevant here. All that’s relevant is whether the known laws of physics apply to all matter. There is no evidence that they don’t, and some evidence (viz., Sean Carroll’s arguments) that they do, at least to “everyday life.”

In other words, Horgan wants there to be libertarian free will, and so he thinks that we’re simply missing the physics that allow this to be true. I happen to disagree, and I think that most physicists and philosophers will agree with me. Even compatibilist philosophers, after all, still think that libertarian free will is wrong, and our “choices” are absolutely determined by the laws of physics. They just conceive of free will in a manner that is compatible with the laws of physics.

h/t: Matthew

40 thoughts on “John Horgan on free will and superdeterminism

  1. Human beings have different neural systems/implementations for voluntary and involuntary actions. So from one perspective, nature makes a distinction between “free will” actions and more constrained actions that look, from an outside perspective, like identical actions. For example, a voluntary blink versus a reflexive blink (the latter in response to, say, a puff of air). Since nature makes the distinction, is the argument that it doesn’t matter, all actions are still deterministic? To me, I’m not sure what the difference is between “free will” and voluntary motor behaviors, voluntary attention etc. They seem like fundamentally the same thing. And if there are involuntary behaviors, then we have evolved as organisms to have both voluntary and involuntary behaviors–hence, free-will and non-free-will behaviors. It doesn’t matter at all that you can follow each respective behavior, in a reductionistic way, back through preceding steps that make each look pre-determined. This is a red herring.

    1. “Human beings have different neural systems/implementations for voluntary and involuntary actions.”

      But both are still equally deterministic.

      “It doesn’t matter at all that you can follow each respective behavior, in a reductionistic way, back through preceding steps that make each look pre-determined.”

      Seems like simply insisting that free will exists despite obvious evidence to the contrary.

      1. I think it’s a reductionism trap. I’m saying that voluntary actions are akin to free will, and involuntary actions are not. If you want to say nature takes advantage of inherently deterministic processes to provide an animal with both voluntary and involuntary means to achieve the same action, I guess. But you’re going to have to explain why it’s beneficial for an organism to have both. And if the response is that everything is inherently predetermined, I’m not sure how to continue the discussion. There doesn’t seem to be much of a way to falsify that idea.

        1. Evolution gives us the reason why we have some automatic actions (pulling the hand out of the fire before you are conscious of doing so) while other actions have to pass through the evolved and adaptive programs evolution built into our brain. Both of these can be determined; both are evolved, but they work in different ways, which is why one SEEMS voluntary.

          To falsify determinism, simply find a new method of physics whereby our conscious will can affect the movement of molecules.

          1. Thanks for responding. I’m not trying to falsify determinism. I’m rejecting reductionism. All I’m saying is that voluntary actions are akin to free will because there is an involuntary process that leads to the same action. I choose to blink versus I blink reflexively is a meaningful distinction that is experimentally verifiable. That two different processes exist, and one maps onto the concept of free will, is sufficient for me. This means that when Putin bombs Ukraine, he is morally culpable. Further, this distinction was provided by a natural process (natural selection) with no skin in the game–completely agnostic to the ethical issues etc. If one says “But this is an illusion, both are deterministic” I think they have fallen into the classic reductionism trap. The meaningful distinction at the level we started at is lost when you try to reduce it to less complex levels of explanation. So in that case, one is in the odd position of saying there is no distinction between voluntary and involuntary actions with respect to the notion of “voluntary.” But I can then experimentally verify that there *is* a distinction by selectively eliminating one of the systems. So to me, there is a meaningful distinction that maps directly onto our common notion of “free will”, and it was provided by a process that was agnostic to whether physics is deterministic, whether actions are ethical etc. Determinism versus non-determinism is not relevant.

            1. I don’t know what you mean by “rejecting reductionism”. One way of looking at it, which could be either temporarily or permanently true, is that all higher level phenomena are produced by lower-level phenomena, but we don’t know enough to figure out how.” The other way is “higher level phenomena are not determined by lower-level phenomena but there are other processes at play besides the known law of physics.” If you mean the latter, I would say you’re wrong.

              Regardless, there is no meaningful distinction between blinking your eye involuntarily or “when you choose to”. Both are the result of naturalistic brain processes, and you can’t “will” yourself to blink unless your neurons, which reflect the laws of physics, determine that. In fact, I doubt that we can “reduce” involuntary blinking to lower-level processes.

              If you accept the hegemony of the laws of physics, which I assume you do, then determinism (or naturalism) is the cause of both “voluntary” and “involuntary” blinking. The fact is that you’re just redefining libertarian free will, as do most compatibilists, so that it can hold alongside determinism, But another fact is that most people accept the libertarian view of free will, and surveys show that. To me, reductionism versus nonreductionism is irrelevant given the immense societal consequences of accepting determinism in the naturalistic sense. (This is particularly true for our judicial system or the apportionment of blame and credit.).

              What satisfies you as a good definition of free will doesn’t satisfy me, yet you seem to think it should. Compatibilism is simply semantics, and nearly all compatibilistic philisohers reject libertarian free will. It seems to me that the importance of the public’s accepting determinism is far more important than their accepting a definition of “free will” that still, at bottom, givens the agent no alternative to have chosen otherwise.

              There’s no need to answer me again; I’ve had my say.

  2. Horgan’s article is a confused mess that doesn’t ever present a sensible conception of the “free will” that he is arguing for.

    As for:

    Physics, which tracks changes in matter and energy, has nothing to say about love, desire, fear, hatred, justice, beauty, morality, meaning. All these things, viewed in the light of physics, could be described as “logically incoherent nonsense,” as Hossenfelder puts it.

    This is not so, and just shows that he doesn’t understand why Hossenfelder labels his conception of “free will” as “logically incoherent nonsense”.

  3. I’m not quite sure what “superdeterminism” means is on the level of particles, but it appears to be something like this: “What a quantum particle does depends on what measurement will take place.” And once the measurement system is specified, somehow a quantum particle is determined to behave in a certain way. That’s what I don’t get.

    AIUI, superdeterminism would posit some heretofore unknown particle, wave, or law which interacts between the observed photon and the measurement system which renders what happened fully determined (rather than quantum indeterminate).

    Your ‘and once…’ sentence is, I think, actually closer to a standard description of QM than superdeterminism: the action of measurement causes a collapse of the wavefunction into an observable state.

    Philip Anderson, a Nobel laureate, contends in his 1972 essay “More Is Different” that as phenomena become more complicated, they require new modes of explanation; not even chemistry is reducible to physics, let alone psychology.

    I think he’s right, but this does not provide any refuge for libertarian free will. I would phrase it as: we use different models of the world for different scale phenomena. I don’t talk about atoms when I want to estimate a cannonball trajectory, so why would I talk about atoms when I want to estimate consumer choice in response to a drop in demand of some good?

    What Anderson left unsaid is that using different models at different scales in no way implies that scientists think these models mean there are inconsistent rules governing each different scale. Chemistry may not always be reducible to physics, but nobody would claim this is evidence chemistry is inconsistent with physics. So it would be a mistake to look at our models of human behavior – which include notions of choice, agency, responsibility, etc. – and take this to mean that human decision-making is inconsistent with physics. Treating humans as free agents for purposes of law, philosophy, sociology, economics, etc… is like using NM to launch a rocket: we use it because the model is accurate and useful within the boundary conditions specified. But we simultaneously recognize that the model’s assumptions are fundamentally wrong if we attempt to apply them to smaller scale phenomena.

  4. How I understand superdeterminism (perhaps wrongly, do correct me):

    Imagine there are 2 people living in a simple cabin, one is located in China, one is located in the USA. They only have a one-way receiver which prompts them to “send the signal“. Then they may go outside and wave a flag. Strangely, exactly one of them waves, never both. And when prompted there is always exactly one signal. It looks like “spooky action” over a distance. They cannot possibly coordinate, and to us, it looks completely random.

    Explanation…
    Both check the (idealised) time. If it‘s day, they go outside to wave, if it‘s night, they don‘t (there is no dusk or dawn in this Gedankenexperiment).

    The assumption of a hidden variable is not circular, because it provides an explanation for the outcome.

    1. The circularity is due to the fact that determinism is assumed so that determinism can be concluded.

      To borrow your example, first let’s note your “it looks completely random.” Meaning when the signal is sent, right?

      So imagine first of all that we have an explanation for why it is random. “It is random” isn’t just some unexplained empirical observation, it is an observation explained by a very accurate and tested theory of signal randomness. But Bob just really doesn’t like that theory. So he says to you: “well, it can’t be random; I simply reject that as a possibility. Instead, I posit the Bob Alternative Theory: there is some third person using some decision heuristic to decide when to send the signal. We can’t detect that person, and his signal-sending heuristic may appear random, but it really isn’t.” Bob then tells you: “There, now I have shown that what appears to be random, isn’t!” Has Bob actually shown that? No. He’s assumed it, so he can’t conclude it; that would be circular. Superdeterminism is sometimes used by it’s supporters as both a premise and then the conclusion. It is an hypotheses that is not needed, and for which no evidence exists. It’s only beneficial feature is that the theory of signal randomness sticks in most people’s craw, and the Bob Alternative Theory is much more intuitively appealing.

  5. Superdeterminism reminds me of the ‘God of the Gaps’ argument – only without a god and with teeny tiny gaps.

  6. I am reminded of the memories of people I read who claimed to belong to the intelligence services of several countries and took part in collective telepathic and channeling. Both phenomena are, of course, pseudo science, the author of such revelations can only be congratulated on his vivid imagination.
    I include a small fragment of these imaginations.

    “Imagine a mind that rushes at dizzying speeds, stops not for itself, but for people to have a chance to understand, a mind that is multi-threaded at an unusual level for us.
    Which scatters for us (to use a metaphor) a handful of thousands of thoughts like grains of sand, where initially chaos and human disbelief about the ability to bear such complexity turns into admiration because this mind just does it. It does it.
    It is reminiscent of a show by an extraordinary magician or artist in which we humans are reduced to the level of children who stand with their mouths open in astonishment.
    The best that can be done in such a situation is to learn and ask questions, remembering that the better trained the human mind is, the more knowledge it has, the more information it will get. The better the human mind, the less it needs downtime to explain non-essential things to it. ”

    Sometimes, however, despite my skepticism, I regret that similar events are not related to reality.
    Why ? Well, the described mind (if it really existed) could easily provide humanity with answers to many questions that bother us, in theory, it could even help us develop new drugs, help us break stagnation in physics, and maybe even show us our future. Possibly show the rescue if our future did not look good for us.

  7. In a Facebook exchange yesterday with Horgan on his superdeterminism essay, I pointed out we don’t have libertarian free will, and he responded:

    “The libertarian argument–I could choose differently given the precise same situation–is meaningless, and that’s why I’m irritated when free-will deniers invoke it. If I choose differently in exactly the same situation, for no reason, that choice would be random by definition and hence meaningless. So denying libertarian free will, as defined by you, is a pointless exercise.”

    I replied that it isn’t pointless since after all since many folks and some philosophers (e.g., Robert Kane) and scientists (Peter Tse) think they have libertarian agency, and that belief has very damaging consequences.

    Even though he denies he’s a libertarian, Horgan still wants some kind of wiggle room that gets us free from physics. As you quoted from his piece, he says that “‘higher-level’ psychological factors, such as our values and desires…are underpinned by but not reducible to physics. Physics can’t account for choices and hence free will.”

    When I pointed out that none of the higher-level factors that account for choices escape determinism (and that randomness can’t add to control or responsibility), he replied on Facebook that “I’m a determinist, if psychological, moral and spiritual causes count.” This is progress on his part, although his equating determinism with fatalism is a big mistake.

    1. “If I choose differently in exactly the same situation, for no reason, that choice would be random by definition and hence meaningless.”

      That would seem to indicate that either he doesn’t understand Libertarian Free Will or he’s just being difficult.

    2. After reading Horgan’s article, I was going to say that I couldn’t tell if he was committed to libertarianism. Thanks for clarifying that he is not committed to it.

  8. To say that there is no free will is not the same as saying there is no will. Willingness is part of the definition of consciousness. This gives new meaning to the Augustinian exhortation “love, and do what you will.”

  9. My background is in philosophy, not physics, but my impression is that all quantum physics (at most) does to determinism is to replace it with randomness. That may offer a challenge to simplistic Newtonian causation and “billiard-ball” determinism, but I’m not sure the free-will folks really consider quantum randomness much of an improvement. The biggest problem with rejecting free will, I think, is the inability of most people to reject the idea that they didn’t really make a free decision.

  10. “A conjecture called superdeterminism, outlined decades ago, is a response to several peculiarities of quantum mechanics: — their apparent dependence on human observation, or measurement” —

    Nope, there is no confusion about whether or not agency is required. It’s not.

  11. Jerry, I just thought I’d clarify something. I do NOT believe in the libertarian version of free will, as you define it. I’ve always found this position incoherent. If you choose differently under the same circumstances, then your choice is random or whimsical. That’s not free will. I’m a determinist, but my determinism, unlike Sabine’s, allows for psychological/ethical causation, which is not reducible to physics. And yes, I am committed to this kind of free will in part for moral and political reasons. It’s silly not to take these consequences into account in a debate that almost certainly is irresolvable.

    1. Reply to John Horgan above:

      As Tom Clark wrote in the comments yesterday, if you think that there is psychological/ethical causation that is not reducible to physics, that is tantamount to saying that it does not involve physics, which is a form of libertarian free will. On the other hand, if you think that although we can’t presently derive “decisions” from physics, but the laws of physics, at the bottom, controlling the decision, you are a pure determinist (or “naturalist”).

      Wetness may not be deducible from water, but it is a consequence of the laws of physics, and so wetness is determined by the laws of physics. So, I believe, are “choices”.

      The debate, to my mind, is resolved, and the hegemony of determinism (or naturalism, if you will), and the rejection of free will have enormous consequences for society, including the judicial system.

      Seriously, if your article argues that we have no conscious control over our decisions, then you are a determinist and have rejected the only kind of free will that most people think is important: libertarian free will. It’s not a silly problem: think of all those religious believers, both Christian and Muslim, who do think we have a free choice about whether to accept Jesus or the Prophet Muhammad.

      If anything is reducible to the laws of physics, even though we don’t know how, that thing is “determined” (meaning involving either deterministic laws or non-willed indeterministic quantum laws). Who cares if something is “not reducible” to physics—-a characterization that simply means “via the laws of physics but we don’t know how–yet, that itself has nothing to do with the argument about free will. And the sort of libertarian free will you dismiss–that you can will another decision at the same moment–happens to be the kind of free will that, according to surveys in four countries, is accepted as what “free will” means in four countries according to the survey I know.

    2. There’s debate about whether higher-level regularities involved in human behavior, e.g., at the psychological/intentional level of belief-desire, reasons and values-based explanations, are in principle reducible to physics, even if (obviously) not in practice. Sean Carroll says all we need is the wave function to predict what I’m about to type next (“Consciousness and the laws of physics,” Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2021) while Eric Hoel and others have argued that “Quantifying causal emergence shows that macro can beat micro” (see the paper of that title and others at his website, https://www.erikphoel.com/science.html ). So, the jury might well be out on the causal autonomy of higher-level explanations – their non-reducibility to physics. But such autonomy, if shown to be the case, wouldn’t mean that we have the ability or capacity to have done otherwise in actual situations in a way that would give us more control and responsibility than we already have under determinism. This ability is what libertarians claim we have, what many folks think they have, and is so pernicious in helping to justify things like retributive punishment and belief in a just world where people generally get what they deserve. About which see books and papers by Bruce Waller, Gregg Caruso, and Derk Pereboom.

  12. “In the end, the debate between superdeterminism or quantum mechanics is irrelevant here.”

    Agreed! I find those discussions mostly pointless in regard to free will.

  13. “our choices stem from “higher-level” psychological factors, such as our values and desires, which are underpinned by but not reducible to physics. Physics can’t account for choices and hence free will.”
    Apparently Horgan thinks that a desire is not just a conscious experience, but an immaterial thing that can interact with the physical world somehow. That’s what I thought when I was younger.

    1. “Underpinned by” is the same as “determined by”, though I don’t think Horgan realizes that. “Reducible to physics” (using what we know at the prsent moment) simply means our inability to understand how the reducibility can be effected.

  14. [I tried to post this earlier, but I seem to have I messed it up; my apologies if it appears twice.]

    I think part of the confusion here is that there are several different “determinism” vs “free will” questions getting conflated. I see at least three distinct questions:

    1) Physical determinism vs physical randomness: are quantum processes (like when a particular unstable atom decays) truly random, or do they only look that way because we don’t know about the factors that control them (“hidden variables”)?

    2) Libertarian free will: do humans (or “conscious beings”, or whatever) have some sort of additional free will (beyond any randomness that might come from being made of quantum particles)? (Note: like many others, I find strict libertarian free will logically incoherent, but you could include less extreme versions here.)

    3) “Superdeterminism” vs settings independence: are the settings on detectors statistically correlated with the things being measured?

    As far as I can see, all three of these are logically independent of each other. For example, it’s entirely consistent to believe in physical determinism, lack of free will, and also reject superdeterminism. The de Broglie–Bohm theory (aka Bohmian mechanics aka the pilot wave interpretation of QM), which is a (deterministic) hidden variable theory, evades Bell’s theorem because it’s non-local (i.e. events at one location can influence events at another location infinitely fast); no superdeterminism needed.

    Less obviously, it’s also possible to reject physical determinism and/or accept free will, but still believe in superdeterminism! The name is hopelessly misleading, or as Sabine puts it “a terrible nomenclature”. For one thing, if an experimenter knew the exact state of the particles they were about to measure, they could choose (choose!) which measurements to make based on the particles’ states. Whether their “choice” is free or semi-random or determined by the physical state of their brain is irrelevant — if the choice is influenced by the state of the particles, it’s not statistically independent, and therefore (at least technically) “superdeterministic”.

    (But that’s somewhat irrelevant to the real question here, which is whether superdeterminism can explain the experimentally observed violations of Bell’s theorem. In the actual experiments, the experimenters don’t have any inside info about the state of the particles, and actually they don’t choose the measurement settings either — that’s done by physically random/pseudorandom systems. Which also means that any special human free will is completely irrelevant anyway.)

    I don’t fully understand the version of superdeterminism that Sabine’s advocating, but from her description it’s quite a bit different from what I just described. I had the state of the particles influencing the choice of measurement settings, but she thinks the choice of measurement settings influences the state of the particles. So (at least as I understand it), in her version of superdeterminism, the experimenter and/or their equipment can be free or random or determined or whatever, that’s completely irrelevant; the trickery in her version is in the settings influencing the particles being measured.

    (Remember that “superdeterminism” is really just correlation between the measurement settings and the things being measured, and correlation doesn’t imply causation. Superdeterministic correlations could come from the experiment being influenced by the particles, the particles being influenced by the experiment, or both being influenced by something else.)

    Now, things being affected by measurements performed on them is nothing strange, and if that’s all Sabine’s theory involved there’d be no problem at all. The difficult part is that the Bell’s theorem tests involve two separate experiments being performed on two separate particles at two separate locations, and (again, at least as far as I understand it) to get a superdeterministic correlation between the choice of experiment at one location with the state of the particle at the other location. And I have no idea how that could be consistently arranged without some sort of spooky action at a distance, or the universe conspiring to fool us.

  15. Here’s how superdeterministic correlation could be consistently arranged without some sort of spooky action at a distance, or the universe conspiring to fool us: retrocausality. Now, Hossenfelder doesn’t like the term retrocausality – for decent reasons, relating to the entropic arrow of time – but her interpretation is still “retrocausal” in the way many physicists understand that word. (See section 7 of her paper: https://arxiv.org/pdf/2010.01324.pdf )

    The Wikipedia entry on superdeterminism says

    Some authors consider retrocausality in quantum mechanics to be an example of superdeterminism, whereas other authors treat the two cases as distinct. No agreed-upon definition for distinguishing them exists.

    If you evolve the equations backward in time from the post-measurement results as well as forward in time from the preparation of the quantum states, of course there is no problem accounting for the correlations.

    What Hossenfelder and Horgan don’t bother to notice is that this completely undermines the supposed free will “problem” as understood since ancient times! If the past depends on what is done now, then the past isn’t “fixed”, and therefore can’t constrain what we do now no matter how ironclad the natural-law connecting past to present. And it doesn’t matter if you refuse to call the present-to-past relationship “causal” or not. As Hossenfelder states in her paper, “The laws of physics, to the extent that we have discovered them so far, do not have a direction of time. To best current knowledge, then, the apparent asymmetry of time is an emergent phenomenon that has its origin in the Past Hypothesis and entropy increase.”

  16. There are two realms of reality, the physical world, and the confusing realm of conscious experiences, also known as the psychological part of reality (feelings and thoughts). The psychological realm is as real as it gets, but feelings and thoughts are not immaterial things, so they can’t interact with the physical world. Why do they exist then? Couldn’t animals with brains evolve without conscious experiences? My guess is that given that pain has evolutionary advantages, learning from conscious experiences has to be very advantageous. Brains that can learn by processing feelings and thoughts must have and evolutionary advantage. But feelings and thoughts are not causes, they are just information that the brain requires to help organisms navigate the physical world.

  17. The assumption of determinism isn’t circular. Rather, abandoning it is simply giving up. Saying that a particle does something by chance is ultimately no different than assuming that the ant I see crawling across my carpet just materialized there with no prior history. Chance ‘explains’ thing by simply sweeping complexity under the carpet. It’s no different than appeal to God.

  18. The business of Local Hidden Variables and superdeterminism, (basic non-local entanglement) reifies the reality that future time is pre-existent…time is fundamental surrounding space by exemplification. You realize that more of the universe is inaccessible than super-determinism, then regard time as a di-synchrony, determinism/indeterminism.

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    Studying how nature manages energy at the nanoscale

      1. Re-organize it for you to make sense of it: indite parts or all backward, adjust.

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        The technological singularity and the transhumanist dream – Idees

  19. I never took “free” to mean “indeterminate” or “incomprehensible” or “contra-causal”. The common definition of “free” seems consistent with a behaviourist view of actions that result from neutral or positive reinforcements only, without coercive or forceful negative reinforcements.

    1. Do you know the results of surveys that actually show how people construe free will. As libertarian free will. Just because you find the “compelled” definition of free will consistent with “free will” for yourself doesn’t mean that everybody else does. You can see the refutation of that definition in Sam Harris’s book, which I recommend that you read.

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