September 10, 2007
Caption: Does this wild turkey move from choice, chance or necessity?
El Cabrero has been thinking about determinism lately. I couldn't help it...
Determinism is the idea that all things follow strict laws of nature and causality. That seems to have been a driving--if contested--force in the development of the natural sciences. After all, the apparent laws of physics seem to hold up pretty well to repeat observation most of the time. The speed of light doesn't vary a whole lot from day to day.
While most people would probably agree to the rule of law and causality in much of the natural world, it gets a little stickier in the case of living things and especially people. If strict determinism was the universal law of nature, it would be pretty odd to exempt ourselves from the rest of the world.
But is it?
The iconic physicist Albert Einstein spent much of his later career fighting a desperate rearguard action against quantum theory, which he ironically helped to launch. Quantum investigations--don't even ask me exactly what that means--seemed to suggest indeterminacy and a universe at least partially based on chance and probability.
In opposing this view, Einstein was probably more driven by temperament and philosophical preference than evidence.
In a long running and friendly debate with quantum theorist Niels Bohr, the deterministic Einstein used to insist that "God does not play dice with the universe."
Bohr countered by saying, "Who are you to tell God what to do?"
While the thoughts of Einstein and Bohr--let alone God--are far beyond this simple goatherd, I can't help believing that God loves dice--and that maybe dice-ness and God-ness are not two entirely separate things.
(Note: the contemporary physicist Stephen Hawking once said that "God not only plays dice, but sometimes throws them where they cannot be seen.")
Next time: Spinoza's stone.
IF CUTTING TAXES WAS ALL THAT MATTERED, consider this.
MORE ON THE UTAH MINE DISASTER can be found here.
RE: DOMESTIC SPYING, this is not a shock.
STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT. On a global scale, the difference in life expectancy between the rich and the poor is now 30 years, which is nothing to sneeze at. Prepositional correction: at which this is nothing to sneeze.
"UNLEASHING" DISASTER CAPITALISM. Here's an item by the UK Guardian about "markets" and violence.
GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED.