Physics, Earth & Space Icon Physics, Earth & Space

Physicist: Gravity Refutes Free Will

David Klinghoffer | @d_klinghoffer

Atheists share an attraction to using gravity in strange ways to support their doctrines. Evolutionists are fond of saying that evolution is certain as gravity, though as others have pointed out, physicists rarely say that gravity is as certain as evolution. Or as Stephen Hawking explained in his book The Grand Design, “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing,” meanwhile neglecting to indicate where gravity was supposed to have come from.

Now consider the madness of the following idea: If a man wills suicide, jumps from a tall building, and falls, thanks to gravity, to his death or injury, then this refutes the man’s free will. At Mind Matters, neuroscientist Michael Egnor has a fascinating post answering a claim to this effect from brainy Caltech physicist Sean Carroll. Carroll:

If you jump out of a window, the laws of physics say that you are going to hit the ground. You can use all of the free will you want, but it’s not going to stop you from hitting the ground. So why would you think that it works any differently when you go to decide what shirt you’re going to wear in the morning? It’s the same laws of physics. It’s just that one case is a more crude prediction and the other case is a more detailed prediction.

So if the suicide could change his mind in mid-fall, flap his arms, and take flight, this would blunt the argument against his having taken an initial free choice to kill himself?

Haunted by a White Whale 

Egnor explains why Carroll’s case encompasses its own refutation:

Carroll presupposes his conclusion and then uses his presupposition to reach his conclusion. No defender of libertarian free will believes that men can fly at will — no defender of free will denies that we have material bodies that are subject to physical laws. Defenders of libertarian free will argue that men are ensouled creatures — that we are composites of matter and spirit, and that we have powers pertaining to both that take effect in their specific realms. We have physical bodies subject to gravity and we have rational souls and are capable of free will.

This dualism is obvious even in science. Physical laws themselves are not determined by physics. That is, laws of physics — the laws of electromagnetism or the equations of general relativity etc. — are not themselves physical things or physical processes. The laws are mathematical constructs — that is, immaterial constructs — that describe physical processes. The mathematics by which physical laws are expressed is itself not a deterministic physical process. Thus dualism is embedded in nature, and it is not irrational to apply the dualist nature of reality to man himself.

In fact, it is necessary to apply a dualist understanding of nature to man in order to discuss man’s nature at all. Let me explain:

In order to make the argument that man is determined by physics and lacks free will, Carroll must use logic. All propositions in the form of arguments are predicated on logic, deductive or inductive. Logic entails many different rules, analogous to (but not identical with) the mathematical laws that describe physical processes….

Logic is, of course, a massive discipline in itself and it has one striking characteristic: Logic shares no commonality with physics. That is, the Venn diagram of logic and the Venn diagram of physics don’t overlap in any way. Mathematical logic is entirely separate from mathematical physics. You can’t derive modus ponens from Newton’s law of gravitation, and you can’t derive Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem from the equations of general relativity. If Carroll is right that man is governed entirely by the laws of physics, without remainder, then where do the laws of logic come from?

Read the rest at Mind Matters.

Carroll is by far smart enough to realize all this. Yet atheists are driven to such conclusions by their pursuit of what Egnor perceptively identifies as materialism’s Great White Whale — that is, an obsession to track and finally destroy the common sense perception that we are beings exercising free choice. This perception can’t be allowed to stand. If man is all matter, without a soul, as he must be under an atheist perspective, then there can be nothing left to him with which to exercise such a choice.

Gravity and the rest of physics must disprove free will. At some level, most atheist scientists understand this and it haunts them, absurd as it is, as Moby Dick did Captain Ahab.

Photo credit: Shane Rounce via Unsplash.