Let’s go back to Newtonian physics. Let’s return to the game of billiards. A perfect Newtonian physic playground.
Causality is the understanding that according to the rules of Newtonian physics that govern the way large visually observable objects interact we can tell that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. Causality works with probabilities. There is always a chance for the unexpected and for error.
Let’s say I am extraordinarily good billiards player. I have my pool stick and I examine the billiard table. I decide to hit the cue ball with my stick and aim it so that it the ball will strike the eight ball and send it traveling to end up in the back right pocket on the table.
Causality says I should be able to do this. If I successfully hit the cue ball with my stick with the proper impact and the proper angle it will careen into that eight ball and then send the eight ball to move and go into that pocket.
Determinism says that I will always, 100% of the time will have success. I will never fail. It is inevitable. The outcome is determined by my action and the laws of Newtonian physics.
But, the real world doesn’t work that way.
I can make a mistake.
I being an extraordinary player can do this say 95% of the time. Or even say 99% of the time. See, what I said. But if you watch real players and watch them over every game they play, there is some chance that they will flub up. Old age, having too much to drink, still being angry with a love one, or some worry about work, whatever, something can cause even the best player to make a mistake. That 1% or 5% possibility pops up and you don’t hit the cue ball with the right angle or the right amount of energy and off it goes and fails to hit the eight ball in the needed way and the eight ball travels but doesn’t go into that far right pocket. It goes somewhere other than where I intended.
Causality with probability is how the real world operates.
Causality with probability explains how and why billiard balls move.
The game of billiards is never a pre-determined inevitable outcome.
Determinism is a fantasy.
Probability and causality is a reality.
“In the history of science, Laplace's demon was the first published articulation of causal or scientific determinism, by Pierre-Simon Laplace in 1814. According to determinism, if someone (the demon) knows the precise location and momentum of every atom in the universe, their past and future values for any given time are entailed; they can be calculated from the laws of classical mechanics.”
Laplace lived at a time when Newtonian physics and the idea of a ‘clockwork universe’ was considered a reality. Thus the idea of the universe being deterministic made sense. Now, with the reality of the Quantum physics it seems foolish.
The perfect Newtonian playground is a pool table. Billiard balls getting hit is a perfect example of Newtonian physics and its rules to explain the movement of those balls.
Let me demonstrate the folly of believing that we live in a deterministic universe.
Imagine a game of billiards. All the balls are nicely racked up in that triangle. Two players whose skill level is known are the two players. Now, if the universe was truly deterministic then here is a perfect set up to prove it. Can anyone possibly determine that game of billiards exactly and perfectly? Describing each move in the game before it happens, perfectly and completely with 100% accuracy?
The answer is no.
It is impossible.
Yet, that game of billiards is a played out in a completely Newtonian physics situation. Each move is prescribed by Newtonian physics. Nothing that happens in that game is not determine by the laws of Newtonian physics. Yet, each move, each event can not be perfectly predetermined with 100% accuracy.
Hence the idea that the universe is deterministic is utter nonsense.
The universe does operate according to the laws of quantum physics on the atomic and subatomic scale and the universe operates according to Newtonian physics on the macro scale, but that doesn’t mean it is deterministic. It simply means that it is governed by certain laws and situations and outcomes are probabilities.
As William James wrote in his diary in April 30, 1870: “My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will.” (Robert D. Richardson’s William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism, 2006, pg. 120)