The problem of determinism v free will
Stabroek News
November 30, 2001

Dear Editor,

The answer to Dr. Ian Mc Donald's question (SN 18.11.01), "Does God know everything?", is found by looking at what God Himself has to say in the scriptures.

God knows all things. [1 John 3:20].

God has perfect knowledge of all things. [Holy Qur'an 2:30]

God knows all beings. [Bhagavad-Gita 7:26]

The Scriptures acknowledge that man has been given the power to choose to believe what he wants; but they also advise mankind not to believe in any other thing or being whether in himself (self- determination) or another or in some thing or fate (or whim of nature) independent of God. Submission to the will (call it "whim" if you want) of God is the purpose of this life, and the entrance requirement to His eternal life.

The government of God has guaranteed that man can make his own choices. But no matter what man chooses, the consequences are all known to God, who wants to save man from his mistakes.

Determinism vs. Free Will

Determinism finds paths in knowledge by relating clusters of information via chains of reasoning. When a test condition is imposed, the Aristotelian two-valued logic of deterministic processes means that the outcomes are true or false - no intermediates.

Stochastic processes on the other hand have probabilities attached to every stage. Their computation can be thought of as a multi-valued, often 'fuzzy', logic.

I often use the following illustration. A ceremony is to take place at 8 a.m. but one of the participants has lost the notification of the time. He tries to find out by first asking for someone who knows. If he succeeds and finds an organizer whom he recognizes, the answer will be determined. If however he only finds non-participants who have heard about the ceremony, then he might have to evaluate responses like, "I believe it is sometime in the morning", or "I think it is 8 o'clock".

The most successful physical theory ever devised by man, that of quantum electrodynamics, is remarkable in that it summarizes uncertainties in the position and motion of an atomic particle to 1 in 100 000 000 000 000 (1 in 1014). But by the time the supercomputers of the world reach that accuracy to determine the momentary state of even one electron in one atom, billions of fluctuations and interactions would already have taken place. And the actual getting around to testing that accuracy experimentally would entail major expenditure in equipment and time.

Weather forecasting is a typical example of trying to determine inherently stochastic problems. It is useful enough to continue being used.

The omniscient God, however, would be able to instantaneously resolve every human being and weather into their myriad clusters of atoms and interactions. And it should indisputably be within His jurisdiction to exert a strong influence over His created things without coming into conflict with His guarantee of free will.

Free will and determinism would then be reconciled - by the mind-blowing immensity of divine mathematics, computing all things for all times.

Yours faithfully,

Alfred Bhulai