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Can Science and Freewill Coexist?


I would like to bring this discussion to the table because I feel very strongly about both sides of this argument yet I have come to the realization that one cannot exist without the other- or can it?

This article will explore both the philosophy of freewill and the concept of science in terms of whether than can coexist.  When the discussion of religion comes in to play I will do my best to deviate away so nobody of a particular religion is offended in any way.

I am a science person.  If a+b=c then a+b always equals c.  To put this statement in real-world terms, if you touch your bare hand to a hot stove for a period of time, you will get burned.  There will never be a time when you can hold your bare hand on a hot stove and not get burned.  It is impossible (please do not test this theory).

As the study of science has progressed we have learned to accept certain theories and facts.  For example, we know that in the Northern Hemisphere the weather in January and February is going to be colder than the weather in the months of July and August.  Of course weather patterns can change over time but speaking in terms of this year, this decade and most likely this century, the previous statement will hold true.

We know this because we understand the rotation of the earth around the sun and the rotation of the earth on its own axis along with many other variables.  Once we add these variables up we can say, with almost 100% certainty, that the weather will be colder in January and February than it will be in the July and August – in the Northern Hemisphere.

We can even predict weather patterns.  That is the job of meteorologists and even though they aren’t always 100% correct, generally speaking they’re pretty close and that is because they have been able to take different celestial and terrestrial variables and put them into a model that can predict tomorrow’s weather with relative accuracy.

Predicting that it will rain tomorrow is without a doubt predicting the future.  Predicting that a child will be born in approximately 8-10 months is predicting the future.  It may not be predicting the future to the second, but it is a form of predicting the future.  We are able to do this because we have the variables necessary to make a “guess” on when an event will occur.

Okay, okay, so where is this all leading to?  I believe that based on our current ability to predict weather patterns, biological events and even sometimes behavioral outcomes, it is theoretically possible to predict the future – of everything.  That’s right, I said it!!

Will we ever be able to actually achieve this?  No, certain laws of physics do not allow us to model data with such precision, Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. That does not mean the data doesn’t exist in such a way, however.  Even if we were able to measure future data so precisely, would it be a good thing?  Absolutely not!  It would take all the fun out of life, but that is a different discussion.

Now, before you jump to conclusions or begin to form your own counter arguments, I would like to first explain my own counter argument.

I am a firm believer in freewill and freedom as a whole.  Generally speaking, I think freedom is one of the most important aspects of life and every living organism should have the opportunity to experience it.  At a smaller level, I also believe that people have freewill and the choices they make are their own choices and they are responsible for the consequences.

For instance, if I am late for work and decide to speed on the highway I am probably going to get a ticket.  That is not my work’s fault, it is not the police officer’s fault, it is my own fault.  I made the choice to speed in the first place.  It was a conscious choice and if I had wanted to I could have chosen to be late for work instead and not speed.  Or could have I?

This is where my two beliefs collide in a massive supernova-like explosion.  If it is theoretically possible to predict the future given all variables then my decision on whether to speed or not could have been predicted years before.  If someone could have modeled every single atom leading up to the point then they could have accurately predicted that I would choose to speed and not be late for work.  If that is true then what happened to my freewill?  Although it appeared that I was making a conscious choice – was I really?

That is my dilemma and although it does not make my world fall apart, I do ponder it from time to time.

I think, regardless of the correct answer, it is important to understand that whether or not our choices can be predetermined, they still appear to us as though we made those decisions on the spot.  If one goes through life with the mindset that everything is predetermined and that nothing matters then they were obviously bound by fate to have a boring and uneventful life.

I’m glad that I appear to be making conscious decisions even if I’m really not.

Let me know what all of your thoughts on this subject are because I’m sure I’ve missed some points and would like to be enlightened by my readers!

You can also check out the Wired article, “Is Free Will an Illusion?“.

Anson Alexander

I am an author, digital educator and content marketer. I record, edit, and publish content for AnsonAlex.com, provide technical and business services to clients and am an avid self-learner. I have also authored several digital marketing and business courses for LinkedIn Learning (previously Lynda.com).

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