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Cause and Effect in a Deterministic Universe

December 1, 2011

Classical physics assumed a deterministic universe. This has profound implications for cause and effect. Let’s assume that we know the entire state of the universe and all its objects at a given time, and we know how everything behaves. That knowledge would allow us to determine the future completely. In general, physics uses this to explain cause and effect … but let’s look at it a bit differently. If I can predict the future from now on forward that means I could do the same at any given time, even billions of years in the past. The universe itself “knows” everything about itself and how it behaves, so the future to it is already mapped out and has always been mapped out. We are part of that universe and respond to its forces, fields, particles, etc. so all our futures are already mapped out.

When the Big Bang happened billions of years ago, everything was determined by the initial configuration. What we see, what we hear, how the particles in our neurons are going to behave due to those stimuli, how our brains are going to decide what to do based on those neurons, etc., all that was determined billions of years ago. The fact that you stumbled upon this blog and are reading this sentence right now was, you guessed it, determined billions of years ago. This is the dreaded “free will” debate.



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