Re: randomness and free-will

Danny Yee (danny@STAFF.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Fri, 27 May 1994 10:49:49 +1000

John O'Brien replies to me:
> Stochastic processes in the social sciences . . .

I never said stochastic processes weren't important in the social

> thinking consciousness is no different than thinking unconsciounsess

I don't understand this.

> and . . . some neurophysiologists, including Pribram, are making one he**
> of an argument that quantum phenomena are rampant in neurobiology.

Sure. I cited Penrose and Capra, who are probably among the best known
proponents of the idea that quantum mechanics has someting to do with
consciousness. But, so far as I can tell, no one has been able to come
with more than vague hand waving - as I read somewhere "just because we
don't understand X and don't understand Y, doesn't mean that X and Y are
the same thing or related."

Anyway, randomness doesn't give you the kind of free will anyone
would want anyway. Would it really make you feel better to think
your actions are the causal consequence of lots of dice-rolling rather
than of your experiences, socialisation, genetics, and so on?

> P.S.
> The head of the department of social anthropology at Cambridge has
> done a nice bit of work relating `fractal' math to kinship and symbolism
> in Papua . . . and Ralph Abraham (mathematician of fractal and chaos theory
> reknown) happens to be quite sure that it does have something to do with
> neurobiology, fluid turbulence et al . . .
> The point I'm making is, since the issue being discussed is still being
> debated by theoretical physcis, neurobiology, and social anthropology . . .
> who are we to say that it is a closed issue prematurely. Opinion is one thing,
> but open alternative theories and their interpretation are another.

The fact that fractal math may be useful in understanding kinship
is no evidence whatsover that quantum mechanics has anything to do
with consciousness. Read has used basic set theory on this list
in discussing kin relations - is that some kind of evidence that
our understanding of the neural system of the nematode worm C.
Elegans is somehow intimately tied up with World War II naval strategy?

Of course, if you are into the "interconnectedness of all things"...

Danny Yee.