Newton vs free will

Published by Tony Quinlan on

From Scarlett Thomas’ The End of Mr Y:

"Newtonian cause and effect suggested that someone wound the original clock and set it ticking, and that every single action in the universe could be predicted – if you had something powerful enough to do the prediction.  There’s no free will in that world: a world where everything can potentially be known.  In that world, I’ll get up in the morning and do what I have been programmed to do: as though all my actions are just computer-game dominoes, triggered by other computer-game dominoes.  It’s what happens when you try to combine God and science.  It’s narrative, pure and simple.  There’s a beginning, a middle and an end. And the middle is only there because the beginning is; the end is only there because the middle is.  And in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.

Take away that cause-and-effect narrative and you have the quantum world, disturbing enough in its own way, with all the possibilities of multiple universes and infinite probability.  But if you don’t take it too seriously, and if you factor in evolution and economics, and everything else that’s taken for granted in our world, then you have at least the illusion of free will."