The problem of free will is this: do we have a choice to make the decisions we do with no force from anywhere else, or are our decisions determined by factors that are beyond our control?
In one version is a body of belief, held by hard core Atheists, that the universe is deterministic. In other words, everything that happens is a result of events that happened previously and is therefore theoretically predictable. This doesn’t stack up even in terms of known science. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle shows that the universe is not deterministic but always carries a degree of uncertainty at the quantum level. Obviously, this uncertainty must carry through to physical level. We can also surmise that it carries through to the level of thoughts and is related to the mind body problem (I’ve discussed this here)¹.
There is some evidence that brain activity precedes action. For instance, if I am given a choice between action A and B and I think I’ve decided to choose A action rather than B action, a scan of my brain activity could enable someone to predict what action I will take before I’m aware of taking it. Of course one issue here is whether this is always 100% correct. but even if it is, it doesn’t mean that there was no free will – it simply means the decision was made in a way that I wasn’t consciously aware of. If I know someone very well I may be able to predict their behaviour. Does that mean they don’t have free will? Even if I turn out to be 100% correct in my predictions?
The problem of free will can be resolved if we consider the universe as a space-time continuum. Human beings are aware of three spacial dimensions and half the time dimension, that is we know the past but not the future. It’s because we are unaware of the future that we have what we think is free will. If we knew how the future would pan out we would know there was only one outcome and therefore there would be no free will². However, if consider the universe from the perspective of a being that is aware of the fifth dimension, it can stand outside of space and time. Such a being can look to the future outcome or back in to the past as if it was opening a book at a page and reading on. To such a being there was no free will. The outcome is already written.
Free will only exists in four dimensions. If we move to five or more dimensions there is no free will.
In Islam is the concept of ‘The Book’. In the book everything is written. There are accounts of people reaching states of meditation or drug induced states where they are able to read ‘The Book’ and see the outcome of any event. This could be conceived as understanding the universe from the fifth dimension. However, there is also the concept of ‘The Pen’. The pen writes the book and therefore can theoretically change what is in the book. It’s as if this is conceiving the world from a sixth dimension. There is also the concept of ‘The Throne’ where Allah Almighty (God) sits, writing with the pen. This could be conceived as being in the seventh dimension. Suplication to Allah Almighty can bring about miracles.
It is possible for states of understanding that go beyond four dimensions to be achieved by human beings through mystical study and meditation.
The level of debate can be gleaned from this article which sidesteps the whole notion of determinism and simply investigates whether people believe in free will because it makes them better people. Similar arguments, of course, are used regarding belief in God. That is, they say that people believe in God simply because it makes them feel better. If you subscribe to this level of debate it may not be worth your while reading on.
I’m setting aside the notion of the many-worlds theory which holds that at every moment a new universe is created that holds an alternate outcome. Obviously if you subscribe to this theory then free will is a reality.
By Philip Braham on August 12, 2018