Quantum Mechanics and Libertarianism

by Max Andrews

One of the most important premises behind quantum physics is to understand its indeterminacy.  My question is whether or not a theist can use this as an argument for libertarianism.  Subatomic particles behave in indeterminate ways (i.e. if you know the location of a particle you do not know it’s velocity and vise versa).  It should be noted that this doesn’t negate the laws of causality.  Without the laws of causality science absolutely breaks down.  It’s really an issue of probability with quantum physics.  The case a libertarian may make is that because quantum mechanics function in an indeterminate way, only with a probability, then nothing can be determined, everything is random.  Atheist Daniel Dennett and agnostic Stephen Hawking hold to this view of soft-libertarianism (as naturalists).

I certainly think this may be a good argument for a naturalist.  The best case that can be made for the naturalist is that neurological functions of the brain are random and what we do as agents is merely random.  However, for a theist, particularly a Christian who holds to the doctrine of creatio originans, this is problematic.  That is, God acts on an existing subject to preserve its existence an maintains the existence of the things he has created.  This begs the question, to what extent does God sustain the universe?  I think an obvious answer would be everything (i.e. atoms, particles, strings).  This isn’t to say that God causes every article or moves every particle, but he acts on them in a sustaining manner so that it may continue to exist.  What it does say is that despite the randomness there is still purpose because it is controlled and sustained by an agency (God).  For the Christian [entailing this doctrine], can the argument from quantum mechanics serve as an argument for libertarianism?  I would advocate that libertarians abandon this argument, it doesn’t work.  If anything, for a Christian, this could be used as an argument against free agency by the naturalist (an argument for naturalism).  There are better arguments for free agency to use.  I’ve heard this one before and libertarians need to abandon this.


4 Comments to “Quantum Mechanics and Libertarianism”

  1. I would agree and I’m also not so sure libertarian free will is taught in the Bible. There are a few verses I’m having trouble with on this issue.

    About the law of causality. I think it would be self-defeating if quantum mechanics invalidated the law of cause and effect.

    “Quantum mechanics (the cause) invalidates the priciple of cause and effect (the effect)”

    The law of cause and effect seems to be operating as it’s being invalidated.

  2. hey max – you are amazing! i just responded to a forum comment about some theology, and kinda gulped and wished i was more grounded, like yourself. you really challenge me, because i still feel like a baby christian after 15 years!

    go max go!
    -r

  3. Before I offer my response, I’d like to first point out that your objection to what I’m about to say is addressed quite nicely by your own self in the following post: http://maxandrews.wordpress.com/2010/07/10/objection-by-implication/

    Now, I shall continue =).

    The best and most clear example that is ever much in the face of us is the fact that ALL things have a soul and spirit, and are thus alive and moral beings and can thus sin. On theological grounds, you would disagree with this, but i believe this is contrary to Scripture and Science. By very definition anything that is NOT of a determinate system is by very nature indeterminate. What in nature is there that exists that is indeterminate? The ONLY thing is free will. Now, please note by “indeterminate”, i do not mean that it is not determined by anything, merely that it is not determined by something other than itself. In other words, if a being chooses something, its action is NOT determined by anything other than what it chooses to determine for itself by virtue of free will choice. In that sense, everything is in a determinate system because everything is being determined by something, but in another sense, everything is not in a determinate system, because some things are not determined by outside forces or laws. Subatomic particles have FREE WILL, and this is the only explanation for their indeterminancy, if indeed they actually have indeterminancy. If you deny that subatomic particles have free will, then to be consistent, you must reject the fact that sumatomic particles are indeterminant. But, remember, do not the objection by implication fallacy, my friend =).

    Note that I am a Molinistic Compatibilist, and as such, I reject libertarianism as silly =).

    You said: “It’s really an issue of probability with quantum physics.”

    My response: Why yes, the same thing we find with humans and free will. What a coincidence! =)

    The libertarian that argues that everything is random is just as absurd as the hard determinist. For randomness denies determinate systems, but we have clear proof that at least some determinate systems exist, and are not random, and thus making an argument for naturalism is impossible, because there is NOTHING that is random. Randomness is a philosophical impossibility. It only appears random because we are unaware of what’s going to happen. Logically speaking, there is no basis at all for randomness in philosophical thought. Everything that happens is intentional. There are no unintended happenings. A being may intend for something they desire to happen, but ultimately another greater being’s intention will be made, such as God. Thus, everything that happens is perfectly intentional, since Yahuwah has knowledge of everything, and whatever He chooses to do effects every intention that occurs and Yahuwah knows this completely.

    You said: “This begs the question, to what extent does God sustain the universe? I think an obvious answer would be everything (i.e. atoms, particles, strings). This isn’t to say that God causes every article or moves every particle, but he acts on them in a sustaining manner so that it may continue to exist. What it does say is that despite the randomness there is still purpose because it is controlled and sustained by an agency (God).”

    My response: God does sustain everything, correct. But now that brings up a great question: do the particles themselves have free will, or is a free will agent controlling what those particles do? This is beginning to sound a lot like the Calvinism debate… This would be the best argument against my position (and actually, the only one that is even logically possible), by saying that the particles simply do not have free will, but their every move is being controlled by the Creator. The question then to be asked is, why? Why would God be controlling their every move? In what way does their significance have to do with God’s plan? Can God control an indeterminate system? No; the system would by virtue not be indeterminate, because it would be being determined by God. But, with that said, why would God try to confuse us? Everything God controls in science, that is, everything material, is in a determinate system based on laws, and everything that is controlled by free will is in an indeterminate system not based on laws in any way. So why would God control something in an indeterminate system? It does not make any sense to me. I think the determinacy of all material things and indeterminacy equaling free will is strong proof that these indeterminate things observed at the quantum level are not controlled by God, because God only controls the material things; He has never once been known to control indeterminate systems, ever. If its not a material system, then it goes to show that it is indeed an indeterminate system, and is therefore free will. Thus my argument that subatomic particles, and essentially all things have free will (all basic parts have free will, but not all combinations have free will; for instance current computers does not have free will).

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