Is the Future Predetermined?

diceThe age old philosophical question about destiny still remains unanswered: as humans, do we really, freely make our own choices? Is there such a thing as fate? While we’ll likely never truly know the answer to these questions, it’s interesting to speculate justifications for applicable theories.

One interesting thought process is very much intertwined with everyone’s favorite school subject: physics. While of course we don’t fully understand the nature of the universe through mathematical equations (yet), what we do understand is astonishingly conclusive: the universe is predictable. Physics, as we have learned over the past several thousand years, is essential to predicting the outcomes of anything–well–physical. So how does this apply to whether or not humans freely make their own choices? Humans are physical beings (may actually not be true, another philosophical debate)!

Yes, humans—and all living organisms in general—are incredibly and beautifully complex. A biochemist can spend his or her entire lifetime studying a single biochemical process in the human body, only comprising of one of millions of processes that occur simultaneously. Does this complexity exempt humans from the laws of physics? Of course not. Let’s break humans down to their basic building blocks: atoms (while atoms aren’t actually the most basic particle known, we will use them for illustrative purposes). Atoms are predictable. We know that we can vectorize and sum the forces exerted on them (mechanical, electrical, magnetic, gravitational, etc.) and predict how they will behave with respect to time. Now, let’s also say that with perfect precision, we can predict how every single atom comprising a single human will behave. If we can perfectly predict each individual unit and its interactions with every other individual unit, we can also predict the whole that the units belong to. This is the basic principle for this theory.

Kinetic theory two-dimensional model_596If I’ve lost you, imagine a flat rectangular tray with many marbles resting upon it. Now, if we were to shake the tray vigorously, giving the marbles energy, the marbles should move around in the tray, making collisions with other marbles as well as the walls of the tray. These collisions are not random! If we used a computer to track the momentum of each marble at the instant the marbles started moving, we should be able to pinpoint the ending location of each marble prior to them reaching their fated destination. This is because our understanding of the forces acting upon each marble allows us to predict mathematically how each marble will behave over the course of time. By doing so, we are essentially predicting the future of the marbles based on the predictable physical conditions they are experiencing. If this concept is applied in three dimensions, and increased in complexity by many orders of magnitude, then we should theoretically be able to predict all events in the future! By definition, all events occurring in the future would be considered predetermined, implying that humans actually do not have true free will. All of our decisions we make are therefore meant to be made.

It may be hard to grasp that civilization arose purely from a random set of particle collisions, especially when the decisions we make everyday make us feel like we are in complete control of ourselves. But what if the movement of my fingers as I type these very letters is just the overall, fated progression of the universe? It’s something interesting to consider–however, for this line of thinking, it’s important to not let it affect the way we go about our lives. That is philosophy in a nutshell: ideas that are interesting and fun to think about but also don’t fucking matter at all. And they shouldn’t matter! Let’s say everything is predetermined, should we stop giving a shit about what happens in the world because we have no free will? You can answer that yourself.

But again, it is a fun idea to play around with and to blame mishaps on. To be honest, I fall back on this theory a lot after heavy drinking nights and waking up next to particularly grotesque women. Sorry lady, the collision of subatomic particles in my penis somehow gravitated to those of your cavernous vagina and now you need to take Plan B. It was fate. And I need to get checked for diseases.


TGL’s advice: philosophize but don’t be a philosopher.