Alternative universes

I saw a very interesting program in a series about science entitled “Genius” that was presented by Stephen Hawking, the British astrophysicist.  In episode three, in order to give three contestants  experiences whereby they would have to draw certain conclusions about “Why we are here?” Hawking and others devised three experiments, briefly described here.

Experiment one had their dinner plates suspended above the table and spinning. This looked like magic!  But it didn’t take long for them to realize this was due to spinning magnets under the table and magnets on the bottom of the plates.  So as someone has said “science is the nearest thing we have to magic.”  The conclusion was that the laws of physics operate everywhere at all times and there is no such thing as magic.

The second experiment was a graphic demonstration of how their brain waves showed that there were actually changes occurring in their brains at least one second before they made a conscious decision to push a button that exploded fireworks.  This was interpreted to mean that their brains had decided unconsciously before they had done so consciously when to push the button.  This was taken to mean that free will is a myth.

The third experiment had dozens of people wearing photos of the same faces as the three contestants, also wearing the same color coded clothes, lining up behind each of them on a grid.  Each time a buzzer sounded each of them moved one step to left or right.  It didn’t take long before the whole field was covered and it was obvious that there were many possible solutions, in other words, many possible parallel universes in which different choices could have been made.

I feel that the last two experiments could be subject to different interpretations.  In the case of the brain waves, isn’t is obvious that the brain must take a finite time to react when a decision is about to be made.  The electromagnetic wave does not prove that the decision had already been made by the brain unconsciously before the conscious decision, it only means that there was brain activity before the conscious decision and that could have been the brain preparing itself for the decision.  For example, a pianist strikes hundreds of keys in playing a concerto without referring to music.  He or she has in their brain a plan of which notes to strike before they are actually touched, this must require a prior decision in the brain, with an accompanying electromagnetic wave, before the actual key is struck.

Because the fundamental particles of nature obey quantum mechanics, which includes a degree of uncertainty, it is assumed that it is impossible to predict the future state of the universe.  The interaction of a large number of potential reactions to a given state of the universe therefore encompasses a huge potential number of outcomes.  But, as I see it, these outcomes are purely that, potential, only one outcome really exists in reality and that is the one that is actually selected or chosen as the finite outcome of the choices that were made by those who are faced by choices.  All the other choices are theoretical, they did not actually come to pass, only the reality of the choices made at every second is what is real.  Therefore there is only one actual universe at any given instant in time.  This allows the determinism of classical mechanics to be subsumed into the world of uncertain outcomes where there is free will, thus satisfying both.



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