So the old question of Free Will (link takes you to a teaser; paid subscription required to read the article) is once again rearing its head:
Underneath the uncertainty of quantum mechanics could lie a deeper reality in which, shockingly, all our actions are predetermined
“WE MUST believe in free will, we have no choice,” the novelist Isaac Bashevis Singer once said. He might as well have said, “We must believe in quantum mechanics, we have no choice,” if two new studies are anything to go by.
Early last month, a Nobel laureate physicist finished polishing up his theory that a deeper, deterministic reality underlies the apparent uncertainty of quantum mechanics. A week after he announced it, two eminent mathematicians showed that the theory has profound implications beyond physics: abandoning the uncertainty of quantum physics means we must give up the cherished notion that we have free will. The mathematicians believe the physicist is wrong.
“It’s striking that we have one of the greatest scientists of our generation pitted against two of the world’s greatest mathematicians,” says Hans Halvorson, a philosopher of physics at Princeton University.
I think Isaac Bashevis Singer got it right. Whatever they prove, life must be lived with the assumption of free will. Even if we know we don’t have it — and my guess is that we’re still a long way from knowing for sure — we have to assume that we do have it.
We may have free will; we may not. But life without the presumption of free will is absurd.