Archive for December 6th, 2011

December 6, 2011

Free will and determinism – the greatest show on earth

by Neil Rickert

There have been several recent posts on questions of free will and determinism.  I am finding a lot to laugh about in those posts, so I am categorizing this one as humor.  I will be commenting, in particular on the recent posts by Jerry Coyne (here and here) and on the post by Sean Carroll.

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December 6, 2011

On determinism

by Neil Rickert

If I were asked to describe the tree on the parkway in front of my house, I would probably give its height and its breadth.  That would come across as a deterministic description.  It is unlikely that I was say anything about the way that it flops around in the wind.  That’s the way that scientists and engineers tend to look at things.

An engineer working for an electric utility might be more interested in the way a tree flops around in the breeze, because that flopping around could cause the tree to knock down some power lines.  However, that engineer would probably just specify a radius of motion, so that he would finish up with what still looks like a deterministic description.

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