Re: free-will - etc.

Danny Yee (danny@STAFF.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Tue, 31 May 1994 13:20:18 +1000

> The reference to thinking consciousness - thinking unconsciousness
> simply means that as long as there are alternative theories and alternative
> explanations about quantum behavior . . . one being that quanta exhibit what
> can be described as rudimentary free-will . . .

This I don't understand. Having free-will involves one's desires
having causal potency (= the ability to change things), no? How can
quanta be said to have desires? In what way to quanta have anything
remotely resembling free will?

> the other being that they do
> no . . . and, no resolution in the debate by theoretical physicists . . .
> then to propose that one idea or the other is absurd and not worthy of
> consideration is simply pedantic closed mindedness, and not good science
> nor good anthropology.


If an attempt to define free will is *logically* flawed or just
plain confused I don't see why I can't reject it out of hand.

As for resolving the debates of theoretical physicists, nothing I
have claimed has any consequences for theoretical physics whatsoever
- I specifically said that whether determinism was true or not
was a question for the physicists and that I took no position on

> As to neurophysiological processes . . . take a look at Stuart Hameroff's
> latest work on microtubules . . . and the theory of quantum structure in
> the brain which is developing out of it.

Someone else mentioned this. I get my Scientific Americans surface mail,
so I haven't seen the article yet. I'll let you know what I think of it
when it arrives. I find it extremely hard to believe the phrase
"quantum structure of the brain" is more than empty verbiage, though.

> Regardless of if a person is willing to posit an interconnection model
> or not, your position seems to be to have a closed mind to anything except
> your own point of view . . . and in this case, that point of view is getting
> some large holes shot in it by cutting edge research in both physics and
> neurobiology.

Well I don't see any contradiction between my views and either physics
or neurobiology, and I believe I have a reasonable idea of what's
happening in both fields.

I am actually a strong believer that the entire "human epistemological
enterprise" is connected; I just think that some of the connections are
more direct/important than others. So QM trivially has consequences
for anthropology via physical chemistry, biochemistry, genetics,
evolutionary biology and ecology. I just think that attempts to find
direct connections are fruitless and are mostly motivated by religious/
metaphysical reasons rather than scientific evidence. (Note
that noone jumps up and down about how QM may influence ecology!)
If people weren't trying to defend badly defined conceptions of "free
will" there wouldn't be any interest in such an outside possibility.

I'm not closed minded. If someone comes up with useful work in
neurobiology or psychology that uses basic QM directly then I'll be
really interested; until then it's all hot air.

Danny Yee.