Particles Have “Free Will”?

clipped from

The gist of it is this: They say they have proved that if humans have free will, then elementary particles — like atoms and electrons — possess free will as well.
Princeton mathematician John Conway (best known in geek circles for his “Game Of Life“) and his colleague Princeton mathematician Simon Kochen, are apparently about to give a series of lectures in which they intend to demonstrate that elementary particles have “free will”. However the advance press is quoting them as saying that these particles have free will “if humans have free will”, which, of course, I have demonstrated many times that we DO NOT.

I’ll have to invite Conway onto the show to debate this in more detail. He and Kochen are obviously super-smart guys, so I look forward to seeing what evidence they have that humans have free will, let alone elementary particles.

GDay World Live 001

I did my first (well, first in a long, long time) GDay World Live show on uStream tonight and it was a lot of fun! Thanks to everyone who joined in. I talked for an hour and forty minutes! WTF!?

I talked about:

    Free Will
    Why Christianity Is Dangerous
    Why Capitalism Is Broken
    The Israel – Palestine Conflict

You can watch the whole thing below or download it in FLV format.

Perfect Timing and Inches

I’ve been thinking tonight…. that it’s all about INCHES.

Okay… so I stole that line off of Al Pacino and Oliver Stone, but it’s been in my head tonight, so I’m claiming it.

Life is a lot about timing.

When you meet someone special, if it’s a month too soon, or a month too late, it doesn’t work out.

If you start a business, and you’re a year too soon or a year too late, it can make all the difference.

I don’t know how you know when the timing is right. Maybe people smarter than me know. Or maybe we don’t ever know. Maybe it’s just chance, or the holographic universe frakking with us. Maybe things are either meant to be or not. Maybe it’s all a cosmic joke.

All I know is that timing is a magic ingredient that either makes it work… or not.

I’ve been very lucky in my life. I’ve had good and bad timing with a few things. I started working at an ISP in 1996. That was good timing. I started working at Microsoft in 1998. That was bad timing – the share price that had climbed for 12 years climbed for another two years – then plummeted. I started podcasting in Nov 2004 – that was good timing, too. Maybe sooner than the market was ready for it, but early enough to get an opportunity to study the market from the outset and build a bit of a brand in an industry from the ground floor.

“In any fight, it’s the guy who’s willing to die who’s going to win that inch.”

In my personal life, too, I’ve had good and bad timing. I’ve met people exactly when I needed to and I’ve met people when it was too soon or too late, either in my life or theirs. You can’t predict that. And you can’t do much about it when it happens. It’s just timing.

In retrospect though, perhaps when I thought the timing was bad, it was actually right. The person/business/job that I thought would have been perfect for me, actually wouldn’t have been.

I know people will say “you make your own luck” but that’s VERY unscientific. It might sell self-help seminars, but it doesn’t stand up to examination. There is no free will. There is only physics. Or the hologram making it LOOK like there is physics. Either way, we ain’t in control.

Perhaps it’s like poker. Sometimes you get the right cards in the right hand and if you know what to do with them, it works out profitably. But if you get the right cards in the wrong hand… well, you can lose your wallet.

I don’t know. Too deep for this time of night. I just thought I had to get it out there. Timing. Inches.

G’Day World #324 – Dr Susan Blackmore on Free Will

G’Day World #324 – Dr Susan Blackmore on Free Will

You’ve heard me say I don’t believe in free will. Well tonight I’ve got world famous author, speaker, psychologist and memeticist Dr Susan Blackmore on the show to explain why SHE doesn’t believe in free will either. We discuss the reductionist perspective, what neuroscientists she’s interviewed believe, and how to live your life once you’ve discarded the idea of free will completely.

Read Sue’s blog

Buy Sue’s book The Meme Machine

The music on today’s show is “Discipline” from the new Nine Inch Nails album “THE SLIP“, which is licensed under a creative commons attribution non-commercial share alike license.

NIN encourage you to
remix it
share it with your friends,
post it on your blog,
play it on your podcast,
give it to strangers,


The Slip

My Free Will Flowchart

As I’m continually finding myself discussing the subject of free will with people recently, I created this flowchart to better explain my perspective on the issue.

Free Will Flowchart

If you have rebuttals and answers to the questions I pose on the negative side of the chart, please contribute them here in the LOTU forum.

On Humility

I was talking with some people tonight about humility. Most people probably wouldn’t consider me a humble person. It depends, however, on your definition of humility.

As with most things religion touches, I think it has screwed up our idea of humility. The typical conception of someone who is humble is someone who is self-deprecating, self-effacing, deferential – humiliated before GOD.

Merriam-Webster sez:

1: not proud or haughty : not arrogant or assertive
2: reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission
3 a: ranking low in a hierarchy or scale : insignificant, unpretentious b: not costly or luxurious

But I prefer to think of the word based on its etymology:

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin humilis meaning low, humble, from humus earth; akin to Greek chthōn earth, chamai on the ground.

This is also possibly the root of the word “human“.

You know how much it must irk me to quote from the Christian mythology book but I’ll take poetry where I find it:

Genesis 2:7 And Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul.

Genesis 3:19 In the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you will return.

Where am I going with all this?

I explained to some friends tonight that our bodies are made, as the book says, from dirt – which is just a poetic way of saying that the sperm and ovum which came together to create your body were formed out of the nutrients eaten by your parents which came from the ground. Plants literally eat the minerals out of the ground, the animals eat the planets, and the human animals eat both, thereby eating the “dirt” second-hand. This “dirt” – or as I prefer to call it, these “chemicals” – are what you are. Your entire body is made up of chemicals from the ground. We’re made up mostly of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen (the last three which were all formed in the explosions of stars, which is why Joni Mitchell sang “we’re all stardust”), with some salts and trace elements.

(photo by idan x)

Your brain is also made up of this “dirt”, this humus, and as regular readers know, it is my suggestion that every thought you’ve ever had in your life was 100% the result of a simple electro-chemical event in your brain. Dirt can think! Free will is an illusion. We aren’t in control of chemistry. We’re just along for the ride.

If you accept that this is all you are – that every action you’ve ever done and every thought you’ve ever had was the result of a simple electro-chemical event in the brain – then you realize you are just dirt. That everyone else is just dirt. Just chemical reactions. Hitler. Gandhi. Buddha. Not Jesus, because we know he was probably a fictional character. Napoleon. Jack The Ripper. George Bush. Saddam Hussein. All just dirt. Everything they ever did in their lives, everything you’ll ever do in your life, is governed by the laws of chemistry and physics which all sprung from the Big Bang, 14-point-something billion years ago.

Even that thought you’re having right now – “Reilly is so full of shit, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about” – that, too, is 100% based on the laws of chemistry. “You”, the dirt, had no “control” over it. It’s just chemistry. Don’t feel guilty about it – it’s just chemistry. You have no control over the laws of chemistry (unless, of course, you are a student of Professor Charles Xavier, in which case I grant you special compensation and you can leave class early).

So – that’s my definition of HUMILITY – knowing that you are just humus, just dirt. That everything you do in your life (or don’t do as the case may be) is 100% the result of chemical reactions which started with the Big Bang all that time ago. You can’t take credit for it. You weren’t even there. In fact, most of the atoms making up your body didn’t even exist. They came later.

If I’m right – and if you don’t think I am, come prepared in the comments section below with rational arguments – then you can neither justify feeling guilty or proud or angry or love. Can you love dirt? Can you be angry with dirt? Should dirt feel guilty for being dirt? Should it feel proud for being dirt?

Do you think perhaps this is what the writer/s of the Talmud or Genesis were trying to convey when they spoke of people being made out of animated clay or of the earth? Were they trying to explain that we are all just chemistry? And that TRUE humility comes from that knowledge?

The person who says “I’m not just a chemical reaction – I have FREE WILL! I am in control of my actions!”: is what they meant by a person with pride?

Instead, I quote Popeye: “I yam what I yam”. The dirt that made me is configured in a particular way, thanks to the laws of chemistry, and it is going to do what it has to do. “I” (whatever “I” am) is just along for the ride.