The problem with the unanswered questions comes from the fact that on one hand because we cannot predict any system's outcome over indefinite time limits it gives the impression that there exists an element of uncertainty. Uncertainty just means you dont know for sure, exactly, at all times for all of time what it will do - it does not mean that the system being observed is chaotic - it means that the methods we use to understand and predict are incomplete.
We, as in the human race, are products of the universe we live within - we possess no "out of the box" perspective to reveal all of the components of the universe we live within. It has only been within the last sliver on the timeline of human existence that we are aware of real things that none of our senses reveal to us directly - electromagnetic fields is a great one - how many radio station broadcasts are bombarding you right now? On that same token, what other "things" make up the universe which we have not discovered yet? To think that we have discovered it all is naive.
It would be my opinion that the universe has an entirely systemic construct - a construct that has only one path - that all events occuring at any point in time are leading to only one outcome based on a fixed set of rules, or laws if you will.
If one believes in the concept of free will it is refuting the possibility that everything is functioning within a set of rules. It would mean that there are incidents where something does an "odd" thing. Consider this for a moment: you take hydrogen and oxygen and put them into a balloon and then put a lighter to the balloon. As soon as the flame breaches the balloon, the hydrogen and oxygen are going to react, causing a rapid release of energy - BOOM!
The oxygen and hydrogen are always going to react in this same manner - they wont take a day off, they wont do anything other than produce the same results each and every time.
If you hold a ball in the air and release it, it will always accelerate towards the ground. Gravity doesn't deviate - it will always do exactly the same thing every time.
Everything works like this. All the known forces behave with the same absolute consistency - it is the only "thing" in the universe that doesn't change.
All of the living organisms on the planet are made entirely from the same stuff everything else in the universe is. Granted, living organisms are highly complex structures, but every atom they are made of has to follow these rules. The complexity of living things is just so great that we lack the ability to understand how all of those atoms within said organism are uniquely following those rules and interacting with all of the other atoms....... and going one step further, how the environment is acting upon the organism. ....But it should be no question that they are following those unchanging rules..... the rules always apply.
It appears to me that there is a really simple test to see if we have real free choice or whether our behaviour is dictated by conditioning and genetics. Find any experiment and do it over and over again - I assure you the same results will always occur.
This is the understanding I stick to but I dont let it interfere with my daily life - to me, in my life experience I am making decisions all the time. There are some things that occur in my life just as anyone elses' of which I didn't make happen - there are also times where I have no control over things. This debate over free will probably spurs out of thoughts similar to this - the actuality of it is that we, as individuals, do not have the ability to be everywhere at all time to observe everything that happens - even if that were possible, you would still have to ENTIRELY know and understand all of the elements that make the universe tick. If we had that ability, there would be no chance, no uncertainty, no chaos. Fortunately for us though, we dont have this ability. Life's uncertainties is a fundamental part of being human - taking that away would spoil the journey.
I think what you missed is the fact that all I am saying is that it only makes the best sense to view the universe as a structured system with unchanging laws governing how everything within it works.
The only thing that allows us the ability to formulate understandings of the universe is because these laws dont change. Have the laws of physics ever changed? I'm not referring to the understandings that people have come up with to explain things - our understanding of the universe has evolved over time. We are revising our theories about how the universe works as we discover new things, but all the things that make the universe tick has always been the same.
When I was suggesting to repeat an experiment over and over again, I was reffering to any simple experiment where you can maintain all conditions identically in each iteration. The hydrogen-oxygen balloon would be my recommendation in that case. You'll always get the same result. My point with this is the fact that living organisms are made of matter - atoms - atoms which have specific characteristics about them which will never change. From a biochemical perspective, the human brain is made of matter. Each one of the atoms within the brain follow a fixed set of rules. You cannot make any of them yield in their behaviour. It just so happens that your brain is also the thing that makes your body do the things it does. To have free will would mean that you have control over how chemical reactions occur in your brain. I'm saying that it would be impossible for that to be the case - the state of chemistry in your brain in one moment is a result of what was happening just before that moment, and the next moment following is a result of the previous, etc etc.... all that chemistry is just following the laws of the universe. There is no difference between us and the fact that hydrogen ignited in the presence of oxygen is always going to do the same thing. We may have many more types of atoms in our bodies, but they all follow a fixed set of laws that we have no influence over. To say that we actually have free will is no different than saying you can keep the ballon from exploding just because you decide you want it not to.
An organism is a significantly complex thing. An organism changes over time and is never the same twice. You mention about the need for having a depth of knowledge that is essentially unattainable in order to know the predict the result of any test, which in that case you have exactly nailed the essence of what it is I am trying to illustrate.
The question is not whether we can obtain absolute knowledge or not - only a fool would think he could - the question is whether or not you think the laws governing everything occuring within the universe are constant or if those laws change. If those laws do not change, we possess no ability as humans or any organism living in this universe to actually have total free will. Everything is set into motion and will obey all the laws to the T. Everything that happens is determined by those laws and you nor I can change them.
Excellent explanation there bud! :) I do see the fallacy in my statements there.
There is one more thing I would like to bring up which ties directly into this topic that I think will be of interest.
The way I see it is our bodies are composed of matter which follows a strict set of operational instructions, if you will. i.e. hydrogen is an element that has a couple different states it exists in - H2 as the diatomic element, H as a single atom within a molecule, and as H+ : the hydrogen ion. There are also isotopes of this element as well, but for the sake of chemical interaction, isotopes can be set to the side. Each of the variations of the hydrogen element have very specific chemical properties - just the same with all of the other elements that exist. Each element has its own unique properties and these characteristics do not deviate - H2 will always behave the same as all other H2 in the same conditions.
Being that our bodies are made of this very stuff that we know behaves according to a specific set of rules, the human body as a whole is a complex biochemical entity that interacts with its surroundings according to the same set of rules that the individual atoms themselves must adhere to. Granted, elements composing molecules within the body are incredibly complex, but this complexity does not allow it to deviate from set laws.
I presume the real question being asked here is actually asking about two things that are quite different. Pre-determinism is looking at the construct of the universe as a whole through the course of time whereas free will is looking at whether an individual has control over themselves. You could actually have both free will and predeterminism happening at the same time - they aren't paired as a dichotomy. Ex: The course of events through time in the universe is absolutely set and there is no uncertainty at all. But at the same time, we as individuals have the free will to choose what we think about the events that take place.
The only conundrum with this theory comes down to a really important question which really is at the root of this whole debate. Is your mind, your awareness, your consciousness a product of the complex biochemistry taking place within the brain or is your mind actually a seperate entity that is influencing the biochemistry within your brain? Predeterminism would lean towards your mind simply being a manifestation arising from the chemistry whereas free-will will state that it is your "mind" that is controlling the chemistry.
Free-will means control - in order to have control, you must be able to manipulate matter with your mind to make your body behave as you choose. As in, actually controlling the electrochemistry going on in your brain. But would this even be possible? The reactions of chemicals aren't dependent on what one thinks - you can't put that flame to the hydro-oxy balloon and think it not to explode.
In predeterminism where the mind is a manifestation arising from the chemistry, our experience would be no different than how we experience it now. The environment we live within, along with all the other living things here, have a sort of equilibrium - an equilibrium that allows life to continue - we are a part of that and our entire lives are a product of this huge system - we only experience our lives in predeterminism, but the variety in our species and the things the environment provides create an experience that fills the capacity of our brains, and in the case of this conversation, probably over-fills it ;-) - it offers all of the stimulus to create the biochemistry within our brains that give rise to our awareness of the world.
What side of the process do our minds actually exist within?
I enjoy being schooled - especially when the paths I take to try and make sense of something are critiqued by another who possesses greater knowledge of those "types of thought" - I feel like a little schoolboy. ;-)
Interestingly enough, the question of whether the mind is a cause or an effect is really the fundamental debate.
If the mind is a cause, then it must be a quantifyable element of force that acts upon the fabric of all components within the universe. We are all aware of many different forces - the forces that physicists have discovered and analyzed. If the mind is a free agent, or a force having the ability to create an effect, we should be able to observe where the mind has such influences.
In another recent reply to this thread by Perdition, he brings to light the concept of the uncertainty that occurs within all processes. It is a very interesting point made at seemingly the perfect time. :) Perhaps the mind's domain is bounded within that realm of quantum fluctuations occuring within the matter that composes our physical bodies. If this is really the case, then we open the door to connecting a cause (the mind's choice) to an effect (the way biochemical reactions take place).
Maybe we, as humans, possess the ability to manipulate the chemistry within our brains by way of influencing the probability of how or when a particular reaction occurs within the brain.
But the catch-22 to this is trying to connect the mind to the body. If the mind "exists" within that layer of probability, or quantum fluctuation, then there must exist a bi-directional flow of influence... i.e., your mind cannot know what the body is doing unless it is receiving information from the body about what the current state of the environment is. If matter itself influences the "fabric" of this quantum field then we have a means to support this concept.... i.e., the body influences the mind, which influences the body, which influences the mind, and so on and so forth.
Perhaps the real answer to the debate is that it is not a dichotomy of "one or the other". It begins to appear as though the real answer is that both of them are a component which has varying effect on the other.