Philosophy Cartoons

Humor meets contemporary analytic philosophy

Determinism January 21, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — interessovat @ 12:00 am
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The Perry Bible Fellowship

Determinism is the view that everything that happens is determined to happen, due to the initial conditions of the universe in conjunction with the laws of nature. In other words, according to determinism, if we knew everything about the laws of nature, and everything about every particle in the universe, we could predict the future with 100% accuracy. We can form an analogy with billiard balls on a table. In a perfectly controlled system, hitting the cue ball in the exact same way given the exact same setup of the balls on the table will always cause the exact same results.

The idea behind the comic seems to be a macabre twist on the determinist story. A giant RESET button that sets the universe back to its initial state would, theoretically, only cause the exact same chain of events of this universe to happen again. (In fact, who’s to say that this hasn’t already happened? Oooooh…)

With the discovery of modern physics and quantum mechanics, contemporary scientists have swung decidedly toward indeterminism, whereby there are some events that are not caused by previous events, but are “uncaused.” An electron is said to act in an entirely random way when observed, such that we cannot possibly know both the speed and the position of any electron. Skeptics of this view claim that there is some cause to the way that electrons behave, but that our science simply has been unable to find it so far.

For more on this topic, including the alleged threat to freedom by determinism, try the SEP article on Causal Determinism or my sadly deprecated other blog.