Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"Electrons Have Free Will"

I love this kind of the recent "Science Suggests All Humans Have a Spirit." When such is reported in science journals, and not just conservative Christian magazines quick to oversimplify apologetics or demonize just smells like God is at work (if you have not heard Bono's anointed sermon about God and science...spoken as the intro to "Miracle Drug" at the Brooklyn Bridge concert, it must be heard, not just read ).....
What is next? Will science suggest neutrons are predestined? (:

SEEDS magazine (byline: "Science is Culture") is an amazing resource. A recent letter to the editor nailed it:

"There was a void between the pretentious magazine with the initials SA and the one for dullards (with the initial D), and you have filled it. I've been hankering for something that gives solid coverage..but has enough of a sense of humor and candor to make it cool." (Aaron Case, Stone Ridge NY)

On to the article:

"Electrons Have Free Will"
by Jonah Lehrer
originally blogged here, then printed verbatim in
Free will has traditionally been reserved for big things, like brains and people. But what if free will was embedded in the very essence of everything? What if elementary particles - matter in its most minute form - were also endowed with some existential elbow room?

John Conway and Simon Kochen, two Princeton mathematicians, have given this strange idea an elegant mathematical proof. On the basis of three rhyming physical axioms - spin, fin and twin - they have constructed a theory of sub-atomic freedom. After acknowledging their debt to various quantum paradoxes, they argue "that the response of particles to a certain type of experiment is not determined by the entire previous history of that part of the universe accessible to them." The results are also not a function of information accessible to the experimenter. According to Conway and Kochen, even an omniscient mind, capable of knowing everything about everything, would still be unable to predict the position of the particles.

What, then, is determining the outcome of the experiment? The obvious yet absurd answer is that the particles themselves are determining the outcome. As Conway and Kochen write, "No theory can predict exactly what these particles will do in the future for the very good reason that they may not yet have decided what this will be!" Of course, most of these sub-atomic choices - the mathematicians call them "ineffectual flutterings" - won't affect very much beyond their own trajectory. Nevertheless, their indeterminacy appears genuine. If we are free, then so are they.

-Jonah Lehrer, Seed Magazine,Jan 2007


  1. Fun stuff, but...
    A couple of critical flaws:
    1. You assume we are "free" and have "free will", and comprehensive physics begs to differ.
    2. Just because mathematicians can't find a nice tidy formula to predict these particles' motion does not mean their motion is unpredictable. They are just so egotisctical to think that if they can not create the formula to predict the motion, then it can not be predicted. Absurd!

  2. Hey thanks for ther great feedback.

    I realized reading your point #1, you may have assumed i wrote teha rticle. Sorry, i changed the template on my blog, and it is not clear enough that the article is from Seed magazine. i would have given the writer's name, but it was not given. I will try to fix the quote box to make it more clear,

    you do of course bring up wonderful and appropriete challenges. i am waiting for SQ to respond below. are we/particles free/unpredictable?? reminded me too that as quick as i am to discount reductionistic, too black and white theological aplogetics and 'proofs,' science can fall into a parallel ditch..

    follow some of the debate on the link given, where the article is posted


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!