Chaotician’s view of free will

This is a passage from Edward Lorenz’s The Essence of Chaos, pg 159-160.  I find it insightful.

What, then, should we choose to believe–that everything has been determined, or that we are free to make decisions?  I believe that the appropriate answer is obvious if, like mathematicians, we introduce certain premises before attempting to reach conclusions.  Let our premise be that we should believe what is true even if it hurts, rather than what is false, even if it makes us happy.

We must then wholeheartedly believe in free will.  If free will is a reality, we shall have made the correct choice.  If it is not, we shall still not have made an incorrect choice, because we shall not have made any choice at all, not having a free will to do so.

Actually, out of the context of the book, this seems pedestrian.  It’s only after have staggered through 158 pages of examining nonlinear dynamical systems that this passage really act as a gut punch.  Because it is, especially after examining what it means to live in a deterministic universe where small deviations in initial conditions lead to substantial deviations orders of magnitude larger in the final results.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *