Leading astronomer gets it wrong about free will and fate

Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb recently wrote an essay in which he examines whether human beings have free will and how long the human race will survive. Loeb is a prolific and often fairly thoughtful scientist who has a refreshing propensity for thinking outside the mainstream. However, his recent essay in American scientist, titled “How Long Does Mankind Have Left?” Is far from the mark. I think he deeply misunderstands human nature and human destiny.

Loeb speaks on the issue of human free will:

The Standard Model of physics assumes that we are all made up of elementary particles with no additional constituents. As such composite systems, we do not have freedom at a fundamental level, because all particles and their interactions follow the laws of physics. From this perspective, what we interpret as “free will” only encapsulates the uncertainties associated with the complex set of circumstances that affect human actions. These uncertainties are important at the scale of an individual but moderate when it comes to a large sample. Humans and their complex interactions elude a sense of predictability on a personal level, but perhaps the fate of our civilization as a whole is shaped by our past in an inevitable statistical sense.

Avi loeb, “How much time does humanity have left?” To American scientist (May 12, 2021)

The Standard Model, of course, does not in any way assume that we are made of only elementary particles, and it does not relate in any way to human freedom. It is a model of elementary physical forces and particles and, of course, the human mind and human destiny transcend the elementary laws of physics. Very little about human behavior or thought, whether on an individual or collective basis, is described in any way by elementary physical laws. For example, Loeb’s argument that we have no free will is a proposal, a statement that can be true or false. There is no state of matter – brain matter or otherwise – that is propositional, which means that no brain state can be a propositional state of mind.

Avi loeb

What Loeb is saying is that each of us is an aggregate of molecules and nothing more. If this is true, then our minds (if we have minds) are governed entirely by the laws of physics and not by the laws of logic, reason, and rhetoric. If we are meat, and only meat, then we have mass, temperature and chemistry but we have no rationality, opinions, propositions or logic.

It follows that, if Loeb is right, there is no reason to pay attention to what he says, any more than to pay attention to the sound of the wind or the sea. Loeb’s metaphysics is self-refuting nonsense. Logic and reason are not laws of physics and therefore transcend physical properties.

The main subject of Loeb’s essay is not free will but the question: Where are we in the lifespan of the human race? :

The most vital societal challenge is to prolong the longevity of humanity. In a recent lecture given to alumni of Harvard, I was asked how long I expect our technological civilization to survive. My answer was based on the fact that we are usually in the middle of our lives, as Richard Gott originally argued. The chances of being a child on the first day after birth are tens of thousands of times lower than being an adult. It is just as unlikely to live only a century after the start of our technological age if this phase is to last millions of years into the future. In the more likely case that we are currently witnessing the adulthood of our technological lifespan, we will probably survive a few centuries but not much longer. After publicly declaring this statistical verdict, I realized what a horrific prediction it entails. But is our statistical fate inevitable?

Avi loeb, “How much time does humanity have left?” To American scientist (May 12, 2021)

I will set aside Loeb’s troubling assertion that our most important collective responsibility is longevity, rather than, say, integrity, compassion, or holiness. Is a billion years of depravity better than 10,000 years of humble goodwill? I am puzzled by Loeb’s bizarre claim that longevity, rather than virtue, is our most pressing societal goal.

Loeb’s twisted values ​​are an inevitable consequence of atheism, which postulates no existence beyond this lifetime and implicitly values ​​survival over ethics. Moreover, Loeb commits a fundamental error which is inevitable if one assumes that atheism is true: he assumes that the fate of mankind is ruled only by chance and necessity – by chance and the laws. nature statistics. In other words, according to Loeb, human fate is Gaussian and we are more likely than not in the middle of the curve. His implicit assumption in attributing such randomness to human fate is that our origins and fate are foolish. In the words of Richard Dawkins:

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people will get hurt, others will get lucky, and you will find neither rhyme nor reason nor justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties that we should expect if there is, deep down, no purpose, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind and ruthless indifference.

Richard dawkins, To River out of Eden New York: Basic Books, 1995, p. 133.

Big bang explosion in space
Big Bang Artist Design

Yet this Gaussian nihilism about human fate is nonsense. A thoughtful, objective examination of the very science of cosmology clearly indicates causation by a Spirit of immense wisdom and immense power. The Big Bang, the very laws of physics, the development of dozens of physical constants to make human existence possible, the existence of instrumental causal chains in nature that require an immobile motor as a primary cause, the genetic code as the foundation of life, and the amazing nanotechnology in living cells – and even the sheer regularity of natural processes – can only be explained by a smart designer. Science designates a Creator remarkably similar to the Creator described and worshiped by the great monotheistic religions.

Evidence in cosmology, just like evidence in biology and all the natural sciences, points to creation and a transcendent plan and purpose in human destiny. Our destiny is defined by the Spirit who created both the universe and us, and is not determined by random statistical fluctuations. We are children, not of Gauss, but of a Creator. Our destiny is determined by the immense Spirit that created the cosmos and created the very laws of physics that Loeb has dedicated his life to studying.

Our free will also plays a role – human freedom, purpose, and forethought are a miniature reflection of the freedom, purpose, and foresight evident in the creation of our universe.

It is unfortunate that Loeb – a man of such scientific achievement – is so blind to reality, so blind to his own freedom, and so blind to the true Source of human destiny.

You can also read:

Mind matters offers a number of articles on neurosurgeon Michael Egnor’s free will, including

Can physics prove that there is no free will? No, but it can make physicists inconsistent when writing about free will. It’s hilarious. Sabine Hossenfelder misses the irony of insisting that people “change their mind” by accepting her claim that they … cannot change their mind.

Does “foreign hand syndrome” show that we don’t really have free will? A woman’s left hand seemed to have a mind of its own. Did it? Alien Hand Syndrome doesn’t mean free will isn’t real. In fact, it clarifies exactly what free will is and what it is not.

Corn is true determinism? Does science show that we are destined to want whatever we want? Modern science, both theoretical and experimental, strongly supports the reality of free will.

How can simple products of nature have free will? Materialists do not like the result of their philosophy, but distorting logic will not change it.

Does Brain Stimulation Research Challenge Free Will? If we can be forced to want something, is the will still free?

Is Free Will a Dangerous Myth? The denial of free will is a far more dangerous myth

Also: Do quasars provide proof of free will? May be. They certainly exclude the interference of the experimenter.


Can free will even to be An illusion? Michael Egnor reiterates liberating implications of quantum indeterminacy
Also, by Robert J. Marks of Baylor University: Quantum Chance Gives Nature Free Will Whether or not quantum chance explains how our brains work, it can help us create unbreakable encryption codes

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