Here’s a video Philosopher’s Cabin asked me to review. We met its author, Sabine Hossenfelder, before, when she was trying to explain how black holes enhanced Diversity, or the other way around, or whatever.
Watch first, then we’ll discuss.
Not only have we met Hossenfelder before, we’ve met all her arguments, too. Her first is that if only people knew they could not make choices, they would make better choices. Her second is that everything is models, and the models say she doesn’t exist.
She begins by saying she knows people don’t want to believe they don’t have free will. Which is, you have to admit, hilarious. If there is no free will, people have no choice but to believe as they do. Everywhere and all the time. Including believing they have free will.
But if you can believe you have free will, you have free will. Because if you can make a choice, you can make a choice, and that’s what free will is. And no, my dear woke enemies, no one ever claims all actions we make are freely chosen. That’s absurd, and easily seen to be false. I never think how much acid to squirt into my stomach after eating. It just happens, and I suffer or benefit, and with no choice. But I can choose to have that second cookie or not.
I want to emphasize that “all the time” above, because it escaped Hossenfelder’s notice. Since if there is no free will, there is never free will, there is no point in trying to talk people out of it. They’d have to make a choice not to believe, which they can’t. Because it would require free will.
So the premise of her entire video is silly. If there is no free will, I had no choice but to say she is silly—a counter argument she anticipates, but dismisses with a sneer. She never attempts to answer this specific sane rational logical convincing argument, because, we assume, she cannot.
Since I do have free will, I will not say what I really think of her efforts, as this is a family blog. Instead, I will pick on how she pronounces “science”, which comes out of her mouth like “sow-eye-ence”. Such fun. And don’t even get me started on that blue thing she’s wearing. Don’t get mad, Hossenfelder, I had no choice but to tease you. If you want to tease me, wait until you hear me speak German.
Hossenfelder says there are better things to worry about than the lack of free will. Alas, if there is no free will, you have no choice but to worry, if you do worry, and you have no option to change your mind and worry about better things.
We know there is free will, because we make choices of the sort Hossenfelder wants us to make, indeed sometimes agonize over them. The observations are there, and certain. How it is we have it, well, that is a different question. I don’t know. Do you? But to say we don’t have what we observe to have because we can’t explain how we have it is like a woke man saying that since he can’t understand how only women can get pregnant, that therefore some men can get pregnant. It is absurd.
Hossenfelder, like many before her, thinks she has solved the question of how we “really” don’t have what we observe we do have. And that is models. Models mean, “in a nutshell, that the whole story of the universe in every single detail was determined already at the big bang. We are just watching it play out.”
Some physicists have the bad habit—this is the choice they made—to measure a thing, model that measurement, and say that the measurement and model is the thing. The map becomes the territory. Physicists are thus exactly like the carpenter with only a hammer who thinks he can build a whole city with only that hammer. Except with physicists it’s rulers. They believe that what can’t be measured with their rulers doesn’t exist. Even if they can see it, hear it, taste it, or think about it. Because a ruler can’t be put up to a thing, like free will, to them, disproves its existence.
Our Sabine says to dismiss her models as incomplete is to “deny scientific evidence”. Now where have we heard that before?
As a side note, Hossenfelder is also wrong, quite quite wrong, about quantum mechanics, and her claim that “nothing determines [QM] outcomes.” Something does. Something must, or they would take no outcome at all, ever. She makes the same mistake here with her ruler. Since she cannot figure out what the cause is—that cause isn’t in her model—she says there is none.
There are some laughs in the video. She says, “If you have done one thing, there is no evidence you could have done something else because, well, you didn’t.” As as logical argument against free will, it’s right up there with “You’re a poopy head.” She says people who want to play word games is “fine by me” but that she “will continue” to choose “to complain that’s just verbal acrobatics.”
I spilt my beer at the laugh line near the end. “Just because free will is an illusion,” says our Sabine, “does not mean you are not allowed [to choose] to use it as a thinking aid.”
Bonus Argument: The NPCs who respond in comments with dismissive self-satisfaction nearly prove Hossenfelder’s main contention.
Buy my new book and learn to argue against the regime: Everything You Believe Is Wrong.