Re: Choice and "Randomness" as Illusions

Danny Yee (danny@STAFF.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Fri, 27 May 1994 13:42:06 +1000

Bob Graber writes:
> It is perhaps unfortunate that
> "determine" has a double meaning, one referring to our ability to
> know, another referring to the relations between
> phenomena regardless of our ability to know. So I end with this:
> Determinacy is relaxed not a bit by our inability to determine.

Well you are in good company here, as this was the position taken
by Einstein. However the majority of modern physicists accept
the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, under which
qm indeterminacy is fundamental and not just a product of human

As I said in my last message, I don't think this is at all relevant
to anthropology, but I'm not convinced "determinism" is a useful
concept at that level either. However I do agree with Bob Graber
that we (= anthropologists) are still in the business of studying
causal relationships. I will bow before the unknown, but not before
the unknowable. Just because something is random or nondeterministic
does not mean it is unknowable, as anyone who has studied statistical
mechanics will know. (And there is a whole area of theoretical
computer science devoted to studying non-deterministic automata!)

In other words, nondeterministic != unknowable.

Danny Yee.

P.S. I've done it again; John O'Brien and Bob Graber were happily
arguing away and now I've gone and stepped into the middle.

P.P.S. "!=" means "not equal to" and is C programming semantics.