Quantum Determinism

2023 Dec 19

Determinism is the idea that because of physical laws, our world and ourselves have no choice but to be what and where we are. We might think we have the freedom to make choices, but that is just a mistake of our perceptions under determinism.

Determinism says that we are on a single train track of existence with no switches to give us options. In determinism, everything that happens is inevitable. The progress of everything that happens in our universe is determined from what came before. Strong determinism says that even the origin of our universe in its exact form was inevitable.

In classical physics everything ultimately depends on the initial physical conditions inside the singularity of the Big Bang. Those initial conditions are not set by anything from classical physics, and it supplies no theories for what set them. So, classical physics is unable to self-support strong determinism.

Usually quantum theories are thought to weaken determinism because they only provide probabilities for what happens, and never certainties. In fact for quantum events, multiple outcomes can actually exist in superposition. (See the thought experiment of Schrödinger’s Cat.) You only have certainty for an outcome after it has been observed.

However, some think that quantum physics might be even more deterministic than classical physics. First they think that probabilistic quantum behavior avoids the singularities of classical physics theories (like as in black holes and the Big Bang). Infinities are embedded in these singularities so literally anything could appear or disappear there. (Essentially, the infinities are pockets of the supernatural.)

The progress of quantum behavior is described by a wavefunction - essentially a super-duper probability function that describes everything in the universe. ••• The function deterministically describes the progress of the universe’s development forward. It would also be descriptive backwards - right to the Big Bang.

I don’t know that anyone thinks they can produce an actual complete wavefunction equation, but the idea is that such functions do actually exist for everything.

In this quantum model, the universe as it is, happens because of the wavefunction, and not because of prior physical events. So then also at the extreme beginning, the wavefunction was not dependent on initial conditions. There still are initial conditions in this quantum world, but they are not from the physical world; they are instead in the realm of the theory and its math. James Hartle and Stephen Hawking's influential idea is called a 'no boundary' wavefunction.

The problem to their theory is that even if this were correct, what established those initial conditions of the function? In fact, it is more problematic because math and theory only exist in the realm of intellect, in minds. For their theory to be functional at the beginning, it must depend on an intellect to have implemented these thoughts. The existence of this transcendent intellect must be without the universe.

In addition, the math of a wavefunction is descriptive, but it is not causal. The wavefunction describes what happens, but it does not make anything happen. Hawking wrote: "Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing." ••• This is nonsense - why should he think that absent matter, energy and the universe, that laws such as gravity even exist? This is equivocation because if his "nothing" is the quantum vacuum, that is not nothing! If his "nothing" is genuine nothing, then not even his laws exist. His "cause" is impotent.

Hawking, S W. "The grand design." New York : Bantam Books, 2010.

Hawking also said in a 1981 talk on the origin of the universe at the Vatican: "There ought to be something very special about the boundary conditions of the Universe, and what can be more special than the condition that there is no boundary?" This again is high nonsense because it is not an argument, not logical, not evidence, not a scientific theory, and not a mathematical theory. It is simply bald opinion, the reflection of a personal worldview preference for methodological naturalism.

I would instead say that more special than no boundary would be a hard initial boundary, a boundary that was intentionally and purposely created by an intellect. An intellect with agency and power does have the ability to conceive math and implement laws (unlike in Hawking’s proposal). An agent like this would have causal efficacy.

An originating agent such as this also would have the ability to create lesser agents such as ourselves. Humans living in a universe created on purpose (instead of by accident) also have the possibility of having a purpose for their existence (again unlike Hawking's concept). In this purposeful world, humans are much more special than if they existed in Hawking's world.

Our own daily reproducible experience is that we are conscious and make personal choices. That would contradict determinism. These introspections about the self are also the most fundamental observations that all humans make. (Note that repeatable observations is a key basis of all science.) Why would we not believe our own observations?