Published: 2013-02-19

I believe in determinism: I believe there is no soul and no free will. But that is not a problem.

I believe that everything happens in accordance with fixed rules (of physics, chemistry, biology, ...). So there is the current state of the universe, that is the location, charge, movement, vibration and everything else of every molecule there is. And there is this fixed (although large) set of fixed rules. And then there is nothing else. And the state of the universe changes according to these rules. So the follow-up state is fully determined already by the current state and the set of rules. Following this logic, the current state was already determined in the same manner by the previous state and the rules. And the previous state was also already determined. And the one before, and the one before ... all the way to the start of the universe (big bang or whatever that is). There is no choice, no free will, no arbitrary deviation.

Even if the rules are not fully determined, as current quantum mechanics research suggests—this non-determinism is only on the sub-particle level. And for us, it is mere random. On the particle level, there are still all those rules that define how our body and our brain, and thus our mind, behave. The rules of physics, chemistry and biology still apply to our body. Even if the universe is not fully deterministic, our body and mind still is. This means that ultimately we are nothing more but moist robots. Our brain is the biological equivalence of a CPU and our body the biological equivalence of a robot.

And even if there was such a thing as the soul. Something that nobody could ever scientifically show. And something that is totally disconnected from our body. Even if. Then still it wouldn't make sense. What determines this soul? Is it the way you behave? At mornings we are grumpy until we drank some coffee. And if we are depressed, we take a pill to change our mood. If not, this depression could make us kill ourself. Pretty much free will if you ask me.

Or is it the decisions that we make? Because in any given situation, there is always an optimal decision. It may be very hard to find, because there is so much to consider: our own goals, the rules we decided to adhere to, the probability of success, the gains and losses, the rest of the world. And then there is all the psychological hardship that makes it hard to chose the optimal decision. But no matter how hard it is to find this optimal decision, there is still just one. Or there are several equally good decisions and then it doesn't matter which one you chose (making your decision random). If it would matter which of the equally good decisions you take, then this simply means there is something else to consider that you forgot to take into account. Do not misunderstand me: I do not say humans always take the optimal decision. But this only results of their imperfection and the difficulty to decide which decision is optimal. If they could, they would take the optimal decision. Anything else simply wouldn't make sense. And this again, means that choice and free will are irrational and obsolete.

Some people, when faced with this logic, somehow deduce that we don't need to move on. That our struggle in life is pointless. That, since everything is determined anyway, we could just as well give up, sit back, and watch as things happen the way they will happen anyway. But you cannot escape: you giving up is determined as well as you pushing on. You cannot do anything else, but watch as things happen the way they will happen anyway. Because you are one of those things.

But the notion of determinism is not a new concept. Only now it is a logical and scientific implication. Before it was known as the will of God, fate or destiny. And how did people cope with that? Let me just point you to The Last Samurai:

Katsumoto: You believe a man can change his destiny?
Algren: I think a man does what he can, until his destiny is revealed.
I'd love to read your response.
Via Twitter:

A short essay on determinism and why it is not a problem: via @handmadeinsight
Or mail me: moc.sthgisni-edamdnah@jrelsseor