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Laura Copeland PH 407H May 29 2004 The Christian Fathers Free Will and Physics The freedom of man has been a topic for debate throughout history One of the issues that dominated early Christian thought was the relationship between the sovereignty of God and the free will of individuals Today the debate continues but this time between determinism and free will The obstacles today that stand in opposition to free will are natural laws that appear to determine each subsequent event In older times the greatest obstacle to be overcome in understanding how man could be free was understanding how man could be free in light of a God who was sovereign and foreknew every event Many great Christian fathers wrestled with this idea including Augustine Martin Luther and Thomas Aquinas They stand as models of great Christian intellectuals who sought to understand the truth of man s nature in light of the knowledge they had Augustine affirmed both the foreknowledge of God and man s free will He asserts both that God knows all things before they come to pass and that we do by our free will whatsoever we know and feel to be done by us only because we will it He then goes on to explain what he means by this claim One of the rst issues he must address is how God can still foreknow events if we are freely causing them To this Augustine explains But it does not follow that though there is for God a certain order of all causes there must therefore be nothing depending on the free exercise of our own wills for our wills themselves are included in that order of causes which is certain to God and is embraced by His foreknowledge for human wills are also causes of human actions and He who foreknew all the causes of things would certainly among those causes not have been ignorant of our wills From God s end He could have taken into account what we would will and so He could still foreknow all events This still leaves the question of if whether or not our wills or actions are still free if they are foreknown To answer this question though one must first understand what is meant by will As Augustine explains our wills therefore exist as wills and do themselves whatever we do by willing and which would not be done if we were unwilling Our will is that part of us which might most closely by associated with choice In willing something we are choosing to do it In not willing something we are choosing to not do it Augustine offers an explanation of how this will of ours can be free while still foreknown by God It is not the case therefore that because God foreknew what would be in the power of our wills there is for that reason nothing in the power of our wills For he who foreknew this did not foreknow nothing Moreover if He who foreknew what would be in the power of our wills did not foreknow nothing but something assuredly even though He did foreknow there is something in the power of our wills Therefore we are by no means compelled either retaining the prescience of God to take away the freedom of the will or retaining the freedom of the will to deny that he is prescient of future things Augustine s argument hinges on the idea that God foreknows all things and that He foreknew our will And he thinks the fact that God foreknew our will actually is a reason to believe in the power of our will because God could not foreknow something that does not exist Thus instead of God s foreknowledge eliminating our will it actually affirms it It allows God s prescience while retaining human freedom Martin Luther similarly admits that God did give man free will However he defines this will differently than Augustine According to Luther I confess that mankind has a free will but it is to milk kine to build houses etc and no further for so long as a man is at ease and in safety and is in no want so long he thinks he has a freewill which is able to do something He believes that man s free will has the power to do what he wants when those things he wants are easy However he observes that when man is faced with difficult situations they often do not do what they want And so in this sense man s will fails to be free He also notes that man does not have freedom of will when it comes to spiritual conversions Luther argues that 1he will of mankind works nothing at all in his conversion and justification and that only after the Holy Ghost has wrought in the wills of such resistants then he also manages that the will be consenting thereunto Man s ultimate fate is not in his power to decide He is subject to the Holy Ghost to bring about a conversion as well as for the Holy Ghost to further disposition His will so that he will continue in his faith While Luther does grant man some freedoms in easy and daytoday activities he denies man s freedom when it comes to harder issues such as spiritual issues In this sense Luther s idea that man can be both free and predestined can be understood Man is not free to save himselfithat is predestined by God But man is free in other areas of his life Thomas Aquinas takes a View of freewill more similar to that of Augustine The way he de nes it is more in keeping with it being something true of our choices and not as limited as Luther makes it out to be Aquinas believes that man acts from judgment because by his apprehensive power he judges that something should be avoided or sought But because this judgment in the case of some particular act is not from a natural instinct but from some act of comparison in the reason therefore he acts from free judgment and retains the power of being inclined to various things The components of freewill as defined here include making judgments based on reason and not instinct and being able to discern which outcome of a choice will be more desirable than the other He also describes freewill as 1he cause of its own movement because by his freewill man moves himself to act Thus freewill is also the source of man s movements and actions Aquinas also distinguishes freewill as a power as opposed to a habit To help explain how human free will and a sovereign God can both exist Aquinas distinguishes between universal and particular causation He says A thing can escape the order of a particular cause but not the order of a universal cause For nothing escapes the order of a particular cause except through the intervention and hindrance of some other particular cause He gives the example of a tree burning from the cause of a fire can be deterred by another cause of throwing water on it And so particular causes are subject to the in uence of other causes whereas nothing can deter a universal cause Man s free will would fall under the category of particular cause and therefore be subject to the in uence of other causesiparticularly God s will which would be the universal cause Man does have free will but like other particular causes it can be in uenced one way or another by the universal cause Since these Christian fathers wrote their views on free will new challenges have come into play that must be addressed The development of Newtonian physics pointed towards a deterministic universe that neatly followed a set of rules for how it should operate1 This idea taken to its fullest extent would result in the predictability of all events One of the more famous quotes that exemplifies this is by Laplace and goes as follows We ought to regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its antecedent state and as the cause of the state that is to follow An intelligence knowing all the forces acting in nature at a given instant as well as the momentary position of all things in the universe would be able to comprehend in one single formula the motions of the largest bodies as well as the lightest atoms in the world provided that the intellect were suf ciently powerful to subject all data to analysis to it nothing would be uncertain the future as well as the past would be present to its eyesZ This intelligence does not refer to the omniscient God of the Christian fathers but rather to a naturalistic intelligence which somehow evolves to reach the necessary capacity The next major scientific theory that greatly in uenced the debate on determinism and free will was quantum physics It questions the predictability that the Newtonian mechanics depends on To a certain extent events are predictable but once a certain level is reached predictability becomes impossible This is seen when looking at the human brain If we analyse what we know so far about the human brain we do indeed nd it to be 1n and 1 1 39 terms down to a particular level But if we keep on going the quest for determinism runs into quantum uncertainty 3 This problem of a universe that is no longer as predictable as man assumed it to be is further supported by physicist JC Maxwell He recognized that there exist many physical situations in which any uncertainty however small in our knowledge at one time leads to increasing uncertainty 1 Peterson 883 Z Atmanspacher 471472 3 Barrow 167 in determining the future state Even if we had the perfect laws of Nature in our possession they might be of no use in predicting the future in such circumstance 4 The developments of quantum mechanics for the most part ruled out the strict determinism of Newtonian mechanics leaving indeterminism Events were no longer predictable and hope of an intelligence that would one day be able to perfectly predict the future was lost More modern theologians have dealt with the new advances in science and have integrated them to still leave room for human free will John Polkinghorne is one example of a theologian who is also a physicist He argues that 1he indeterministic character of quantum measurement implies that the universe itself is indeterministic 5 This breakdown in determinism then leaves room for alternative causation The chaos theory allows divine action to take place without interference in the laws of the natural order 6 And where there is room for divine action there would also be room for human free will He defines human freedom as 1he strong sense of the freedom to do some act and the freedom not to do it 7 He believes that any explanation of reality that does not account for human intentionalityi allowing man to choose to do or not do an actiis insufficient Polkinghorne also presents an argument that points to the necessity of human freedom for human reason to work He starts by considering the fact that man has had what we believe to be a rational discourse over the topic of free will and determinism The debate about human freedom or determinism has a long history but I cannot myself believe that debate to have been a sequence of mouthings by automata rather than a rational discussion The exercise of reason is closely allied to the exercise of freedom for to put it crudely but directly if the brain is a machine what validates the program running on it With Thomas Nagel I believe that An evolutionary explanation of our theorizing faculty would provide absolutely no con rmation of its capacity to get at the truth Such a capacity requires human rational judgment to enjoy an autonomous validity which would be negated if it were the byproduct of mere physical necessity8 4 Barrow 308 5 Peterson 883 6 Peterson 882 7 Polkinghorne l2 8 Polkinghorne l2 If man is nothing more than a series of events and our thoughts are nothing more than physical reactions in our brains then no room is left to actually validate any of those thoughts There is no reason to think they are actually true And so for a theory such as determinism to claim to be true it must present an explanation for how man can reason anything to be true at all This is something determinism fails to do An alternative theory must then give man the freedom to be unbound by strictly the physical reactions in his brain Some part of him must be free to analyze and process data if he is to really be able to reason Polkinghorne represents a modern theologian s answer to the question of whether or not man has free will One can only guess what the Christian fathers would have thought if they had today s scienti c knowledge available to them As men who seem eager to discover the truth it would be interesting to see how they assess human freedom in regards to science Freedom is something they all value and they all emphasize the importance of man s ability to choose one action over another This is what they are defending when they mean freedom If modern theologians such as Polkinghorne have found ways to reconcile physics and human freedom then no doubt the Christian fathers would be able to do so as well Human freedom has survived the con ict with an omniscient God a deterministic universe and quantum physics One can only wonder what challenge human freedom will come up against next and if it will continue to survive Bibliography Aquinas Thomas Summa Theologica Atmanspacher Harald Ontic and Epistemic Descriptions of Chaotic Systems Computing A quot 39 V SystemsiThird Y quot 39 Conference Ed DM Dubois American Institute of Physics 2000 Augustine The City of God Barrow John D The Universe That Discovered Itself Oxford Oxford University Press Luther Martin Table Talk Peterson Gregory R God Determinism and Action Perspectives from Physics Zygon 354 2000 881890 Polkinghorne John The Faith of a Physicist Princeton Princeton University Press 1994 Ravichandran 1 Ram Ravichandran Albert Stetz PH 407H May 25th 2004 Om Mani Padme Hum Mantra Of Avalokiteshvara 39What is that by knowing which all things are known 39What makes my mind think my eyes see my tongue speak my body live 39 39What happens when this body dies 39 7 Upanishads The ideas and theories of modern physics have altered the foundations of physics since its birth in the early 19m century Scientists such as Edward Schrodinger Werner Heisenberg Niels Bohr many others probed the intricate universe of sub atomic particles and uncovered a sort of mystical world Ideas such as the waveparticle duality Schrodinger s equation EPR paradox have amazed scientists and inspired students to seek an alternate reality On our quest to explore the universe are we discovering that we are a part of an in nite web of interconnectedness The philosophies of the Eastern religions Hinduism Buddhism and Taoism are as mystical as they are poetic The philosophies contained in the texts of these religions can be interpreted in more ways than one and applied to a number of contexts One such context is modern physics since modern physics has hinted certain ideas and used certain terminologies which correspond to Eastern philosophy 1 Existence of ether in Hinduism The Upanishads say First with regard to the worlds The earth is the former element heaven the latter ether Ravichandran 2 their union Hindus believe that the ether is a composite mixture of the elements of wind and the sky Devout Hindus believe that the ether is a part of the 39Brahman The Ultimate Being According to the Taittiriya Upanishad He who knows Brahman which is conscious which is without end as hidden in the depth of the heart in the highest ether he enjoys all blessings at one with the omniscient Brahman 2 Unity and Interconnectedness According to Fritjof Capra author of The Tao of Physics the most important characteristic of Eastern Culture is the awareness of the unity and interconnectedness of all things and events and the experience of all phenomena in the world as manifestations of the basic oneness As we explore the subatomic world we observe that particles and all phenomena involving them are interconnected They cannot be studied as isolated parts of the whole High energy collisions of subatomic particles are the prime method of study used by physicists to study properties of these particles The collisions are recorded on Bubble Chamber photographs which are reveal properties of particles These photographs are taken when particles are accelerated around a circular track until a desired energy level is reached Then they are made to leave the accelerator and sent into a bubble chamber where they collide with other particles making visible tracks which are photographed Capra writes 39Matter has appeared in these experiments as completely mutable All particles can be transmitted into other particles they can be created from energy and vanish into energy Hindus believe the Brahman to be the unifying thread in the cosmic web The Ravichandran 3 Upanishads ask 39What is the cause of the cosmos and answers 39Brahman It is written in the Upanishads that He on whom the sky anal earth anal the atmosphere Are woven anal the wind together with all life breaths Him alone known as the one Soul In Buddhism the idea of a cosmic web plays a greater role Capra writes that the essence of the Avatarnaska Sutra one of the scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism is the description of the world as a perfect network of mutual relations where all things and events interact with each other in an in nitely complicated way The scriptures of Tantric Buddhism called 39tantras39 Tantra 7 Sanskrit meaning 39to weave a reference to the unity and inter dependence of things and events The EPR paradox and Bell39s theorem explain the idea of interconnectedness of electrons In 1935 Einstein along with two other colleagues Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen published a paper arguing that the quantum theory was incomplete Imagine a particle disintegrating into two electrons A and B in such a way that their spins total zero and they are separated some distance The instant we perform measurements on particle A B acquires a spin up or down opposite to that of A as if implying a sort of inter connectedness between the mutually exclusive particles A and B In 1964 John Bell devised a theorem to test and confirm the EPR experiment in a laboratory In 1976 the experiment was performed and the paradox was experimentally con rmed This brings an interesting question Ifthe quantum theory is correct the particle should be 39correlated39 even if they are separated by light years How can the two particles be inter connected According to the Hoa Hu Ching The Tao gives birth to One Ravichandran 4 One gives birth to yin and yang Yin and yang give birth to all things The complete whole is the complete whole So also is any part the complete whole But forget about understanding and harmonizing and making all things one The universe is already a harmonious oneness just realize it quot 3 Inseparability of the human observer and the observed One of the fundamental ideas of classical physics is that the observer must not in uence the factors involved in the experiment The quantum world forces the observer to be a part of the measured universe of the experiment Physicists studying sub atomic particles in the bubble chamber found it impossible to observe the experiment without affecting it The choice of what to observe affects the outcome of the experiment The Schrodinger s cat paradox gives a clearer idea Schrodinger proposed the famous cat paradox which involves a cat stuck in a box with a nuclear device The device contains a single atom of a radioactive material which would decay into a different element and an alpha particle The device is arranged so that when it detects the alpha particle it releases a poisonous gas which kills the cat The box contains a peephole so that we can look to determine the state of the cat There are basically two states the cat can be in the live state or the dead state When we look into the peephole a minute later and find the cat dead then the state describing the cat live disappears So by looking into the peephole we have killed the cat When we look into the peephole and see that the cat is alive then the dead state disappears and the cat has a 50 probability of surviving the next minute and so we Ravichandran 5 have extended the cat39s life by looking into the peephole Some years later E Wigner added to the argument by supposing that he couldn39t bear the thought of seeing the cat dead and so arranges for his assistant to look into the box and telephone him in his of ce and let him know if the cat is alive or dead If we regard the assistant and the telephone as a part of the measuring apparatus then Wigner killed the cat by lifting the phone and listening to the voice of his assistant In Eastem mysticism the universal interwoven ness has always included the human observer and his or her consciousness and this seems true for atomic physics From the cat paradox we understand that in the atomic level particles can be understood in the interaction between the process and measurement Capra quotes Heisenberg who says Natural science does not simply describe and explain nature it is part of the interplay between nature and ourselves In atomic physics not only it is necessary for the human observer to be a part of the observation of properties of a particle but is even necessary to de ne these particles We cannot talk individually about these properties but they are meaningful in the context of the objects relationship with the observer The observer is never separate from the observed world The Upanishads say Brahman is life Brahman is joy Brahman is Void Joy verily that is the same Void The Void verily that is the same joy 4 Complementarity and the Union of opposites Complementarity exists in quantum mechanics in a way that the physical properties of particles do not always possess determined values The Uncertainty principle was put forth by Wemer Heisenberg in 1927 It states that it is not possible to make a Ravichandran 6 simultaneous determination of the position and momentum of a particle with unlimited precision and also it is not possible to make a simultaneous determination of the energy and the time coordinate of a particle with unlimited precision We can only calculate the probabilities of nding a particle at a given position with a certain momentum or at a given time with a certain energy level The principle indicates the interrelationbetween velocity and position as well and energy and time This sense of oppositeness is similar to the idea of the 39Yin yang39 in Taoism According to Capra Buddhism teaches that since all opposites are interdependent their con ict can never end in the total victory of one side but will always be a manifestation of the interplay between the two sides The principle being the Yin Yang is divided into two opposites two principles that oppose one another in their actions yin and yang All opposites one perceives in the universe can be explained by one of the opposite forces The Chinese call the unity lying between the Yin and Yang as the Tao and the dynamic interplay of the Yin and Yang as the essence of all natural phenomena and all human situations In the second paragraph of the Tao Te Ching having anal not having arise together Di icult anal easy complement each other Long anal short contrast each other High anal Low rest on each other Voice anal sounal harmonize each other Front anal back follow one another Capra writes that in modern physics examples of the union of opposites include the sub atomic level where matter is both destructible and indestructible and force and matter are different aspects of the same phenomena The Union of opposites 39s also displayed in Ravichandran electrons where they have either spin up or spin down but can never have both up or down The ability of a particle to behave either as a wave or as a particle is another example of the complementariness that exists between particles As a Hindu myself the topic was of great interest and forced me to understand some of the Hindu philosophy as well as some of the religions surrounding it The philosophies of these Eastern religions revolve around ageold knowledge that cannot be expressed in words The texts of Rig Veda Upanishads IChing and others provide metaphors in a beautiful colorful sense that seem to re ect the ideas of modern physics but not con rm the ideas nor support the ideas The Sages of the East saw an in nite interconnected universe from one Supreme being be it Brahman Tao or Tathata and expressed it as creatively as ever The ideas of these sages may be correct Maybe we are trapped in an in nite web of interconnectedness and to break from the web is to gain complete consciousness attain nirvana Peace nally Om purnamadah purnamidam purnaat purnam udacyate purnasya purnam aadaaya purnam eva avashishyate That is in nite this is in nite From That in nite this in nite comes From That in nite this in nite removed or added In nite remains in nite 7 Bibliography Bussey J Peter Eastern religions and modern physics wwwcisorguldscba1ticlesbussey1htm Fritjof Capra The Tao of physics Berkeley Shambhala 1975 From New Physics to Hinduism 39II I 1 www 39 cnmNewAgeAnnendisz htm Krane Kenneth Modern Physics New York Wiley 1996 ZukaV Gary The Dancing Wu Li Masters New York Quill 1979 RaVichandran 8