The universe is not what it seems to be. All is illusion.
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players” Shakespeare.
“The more precisely the position of a particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known.” Heisenberg
Do molecules have morals? Are there “bad” amoeba and “good” amoeba? Do ants have compassion? Evil wolves and kindly wolves?
We assume there are bad and good people, so at what point do we assume living creatures have a moral code?
Morals presuppose free will. You cannot be moral or immoral, bad or good, unless you have conscious control over your actions.
So, to assume people are bad and good, we must assume people have at least some modicum of control over their actions.
But is this assumption sound? Do we really control our actions?
Every effect has a cause. The actions of every quark, every proton, electron, and neutron, every atom and molecule and field and force, are affected by a previous chain of other quantum particles and forces, which in turn, are affected by others, going back through time.
There is no known mechanism for your brain having free will, any more than your car, your “smart” phone or your refrigerator having free will.
Unless and until someone develops an alternative physics, in which the atoms of human brains do not respond to the other atoms in the universe, or do not direct our actions, beliefs, and emotions, we must acknowledge the physical impossibility of free will.
And this line of logic leads directly to the notion of infinitely pre-programmed time.
If at both the macro and the micro levels, every effect has a prior cause, then there is no alternative to the deterministic idea that everything that will be, already is programmed by what has been.
You might visualize an infinitely long reel of movie film, moving by at light speed, in which the past exists in earlier cells, “now” exists in one cell, and the future exists in later cells.
The past, the present, and the future, as with a movie film, all have been written and all exist simultaneously as a continuum called “time,” immutable by any mysterious, undiscovered, non-physical, nonexistent force we refer to as “free will.”
Is that infinite “movie film” a straight line, with no beginning and no end? Or, is it a circle, where moments of a distant future blend seamlessly into a distant past — also with no beginning and no end? Does trillion-year history repeat endlessly?
Nature is loaded with cycles, repetitions or near-repetitions, that hint time might be something of a helictical circle (like a Slinky, with both ends attached), where cycles are adjacent points on the circle.
The helix is strangely common in nature. Is this time’s imprint on matter and energy?
Viewed that way, the notion of time travel jumps out at you, since merely moving from one cycle to a nearby cycle could take you years into the past or the future. (Wormholes, anyone?)
Yet, even a time jump, which presumably could change the future and/or the past, wouldn’t affect the idea that free will does not exist.
Your decision to time-jump still would be pre-programmed, and the results of your jump already have been written.
I recently was asked, “If everything is pre-programmed, why should I even bother to try?”
My answer is, “You can’t help it. Your every thought and every emotion is determined by the atoms and fields in your brain, and they are influenced by other atoms and fields.
You are an actor in the movie, and your brain’s arrangement today and tomorrow already have been determined by the script.”
If all of this seems fanciful, even absurd, be assured that currently-debated, even accepted hypotheses are no less fanciful.
Consider the “many-worlds” interpretation, which posits that everything that possibly could have happened — i.e. every movement by every quantum particle — actually has happened in a separate universe.
This not only requires an essentially infinite number of universes now, but infinitely more universes a tiny fraction of a second from now — far more complete universes than the number of particles in our universe.
Infinite copies of you, would read infinite variations of this post now, and that number would increase, second by second, infinitely. Fanciful?
Yet it seriously has been considered by such luminaries as Stephan Hawking and Roger Penrose — at least in my current universe. In other universes, perhaps not.
Even time travel or an infinite number of universes does not provide for free will in even one universe, even one planet, even one organism. Consider a common, sci-fi situation in which someone goes back in time and does something that alters the future.
This does not imply the person has free will, since his trip to the past, and his actions there merely would be a projection of the past. Everything has been written, like the pages of a novel.
Somehow, the original quantum particles were created and set in motion. Everything after that has resulted from that original “script.” There is nothing you or I can do to change it.
Though we imagine we can, via force of will, change the trajectory of the universe’s quantum particles, that is an illusion. We can no more change the future than we can change the past.
All is illusion, created by our brains. Hold your hand in front of your face. What do you see? Your fingers?
No, your brain experiences light photons, and converts that sensation into the illusion of fingers. Everything you see, hear, feel, smell, taste, and believe is an illusion, created by your brain’s quantum particles in response to other quantum particles.
Just as you can’t see your fingers, you can’t hear a violin, or taste chocolate, or feel an itch, or believe anything in this post. Your brain’s quantum particles create and interpret illusions.
A hologram can illustrate an object from any angle in 3-dimensional space. It is not a photographic replica, but rather its what your eyes and brain interpret as an organized picture from a seemingly unorganized group of atoms.
A hologram is an illusion.
Some scientists suggest the universe is a hologram, with two-dimensional arrangements of quantum particles interpreted as three-dimensional by your brain.
It would be another example of reality differing from what our intuition tells us.
Heraclitus said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
You cannot experience the same fingers, the same violin, the same chocolate, or the same itch, twice. Every second your eyes experience different photons; your ears experience different sound wave molecules; your taste buds experience different chemicals.
Your brain continually re-interprets these changing inputs into a smooth constant, not because you “will” it to, but because it must.
This leads to the question, “Why is there consistency?” Look at this page. Now look away and look back again. The page still appears to be there.
If all is an illusion, created by quantum particles that began their trajectories billions of years ago, wouldn’t they by now, have become so randomized, that each moment would appear different to my brain?
And indeed, each moment is different. The light quanta coming off your computer screen change trillions of times each second, as do the atoms of your brain, yet the illusion persists that you and the screen stay the same.
Awake or asleep, my brain receives and recreates sensory input, from which it creates the universe you know. Thus, a dream is no less real than an awake experience. It may be different.
Solipsism says that nothing is real and everything is invented by the brain. Descartes wrote, “I think, therefore I exist,” to create a foundation of reality, but never was able to claim the nature of “I.”
The phrase not only expressed the foundation of knowledge, but the limit of knowledge. It purports to be the limit of what we can know about reality.
In summary, I exist as something. I experience a unique existence that is is an illusion created by me. I believe this illusion to be in response to all the particles and fields that may have existed in an infinite universe for an infinite time.
For me, the illusion is extraordinarily powerful. I believe with all my head, heart, and soul that I exist in a certain form, and that you do, too.
Consider railroad signal lights. You see them as moving back and forth, though you know this is an illusion. Illusions are hard to overcome.
My emotions say I have “free will,” though my logic tells me this is not possible.
I believe I decided to write this article, though I know of no scientific basis for my being able to decide anything; it all has been determined from the beginning.
I am an actor in a story, doing what I am programmed to do, neither more nor less. I have come to this conclusion because I must. There are no alternatives.
And all of this begs the question, “Who wrote the “novel?” Who/what created the original quantum particles and set them in motion?
We are limited by the imagination we have been given. We cannot imagine “always.”
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
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