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Old Feb 18th 2012, 03:14 PM
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Default Re: Scientific determinism

Quote:
Originally Posted by Donkey View Post
As I said, semantics. One doesn't need to describe something for it to exist. I imagine there are plenty of non-terrestrial things that we have yet to describe. Demanding that we accurately describe something before it truly exists is high human arrogance.
And I don't think anyone (well, not anyone here) would argue that existence depends on description, only that description and existence are distinct concepts.

And, depending on the discussion in question, I think the distinction can be an important one. For example, I've more than once heard the phrase "nothing can violate the laws of physics," which generally signals a confusion between the existing material universe (which simply is what it is) and our descriptions of it (which may or may not be entirely accurate).

However, I doubt you personally have any confusion as to that point and I don't think it's terribly relevant to the question of whether or not the universe is deterministic.

Although, I suppose one might rephrase the initial question: given a perfectly detailed and accurate understanding of the behavior of matter/energy and of an initial set of conditions, would it be possible to predict, with perfect accuracy, all future conditions? If the answer is "yes," then the universe is deterministic. If the answer is "no," then the universe is not.

What I find intriguing about quantum phenomena (well, one of the things, and I should admit my understanding is pretty marginal) is the notion of "limited" determinism implicit in probability. That is to say, the universe is not deterministic in the sense that Cause-1 could lead to either Effect-A OR Effect-B (e.g. the atom may decay or it may not). But neither is it wholly random, since Cause-1 cannot lead to Effect-C (e.g. the atom spontaneously turns into an aardvark).
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