“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)
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