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LATEST DIALOGUES Panel: Quantum Theory and Free Will

A panel discussion recorded at SAND14 with Chris Fields, Henry Stapp and Donald Hoffman.

Quantum theory incorporates two seemingly-contradictory ideas about free will. On the one hand, an observer can choose both the system to measure and the kind of measurement to make; given these choices, the theory predicts a probability distribution over the possible outcomes and nothing more. It is quantum indeterminism. On the other hand, a system that no one is looking at evolves through time according the dynamics that are perfectly deterministic. No one is “looking at” the universe as a whole – all observers are inside the universe by definition – so the time evolution of the whole universe must be perfectly deterministic. This clash between indeterminism and determinism is sharpened by the existence of a strong theorem, the Conway-Kochen “free will theorem,” that says that if human (or any other kind of) observers are assumed to have free will, everything
else in the universe, even electrons, has to be assumed to have free will, too.

Is this conflict real, or might it dissolve on further analysis? This panel will examine some of the strikingly different views advanced by physicists on this question, illuminating the concept and role of entanglement in the process.

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Science and Nonduality provides a forum where preeminent scientists, philosophers, teachers, artists and a large, international community gather to explore and advance the new paradigm emerging in spirituality, that is both grounded in cutting-edge science and consistent with the ancient wisdom of nonduality — the deep understanding of the interconnectedness of life.
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One Response to “Panel: Quantum Theory and Free Will”

  1. November 21, 2014 at 2:01 pm, Mit Jones said:

    What if there were an ongoing experiment taking place and during the course
    of this experiment a number of observations had be made and recorded. Is the person performing the observations choosing or are the requirement of the experiment dictating the choice.

    When we are talking about free will, we are talking about cause and effect. We see the effect of the man’s arm raising but what was the cause. He said “I will my arm to raise” like the experiment the arm had to raise to complete the act. By the time the man said “I will my arm to raise” the decision to raise the arm was already made.

    This discussion does not address the issue of free choice, related to time, If time is not linier then our reality is unfolding as events, we in this case would be an event. Like an actor on a stage we all have our parts to play, from my point of view I don’t think we are allowed to change the script.

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