Deterministic metaphysics is not always boring
Sideways realities, global determinism, retrocausality, invariant set.
Greetings to all readers and subscribers, and special greetings to the paid subscribers!
Please scroll down for the main topic of this newsletter. But first:
The second Terasem Colloquium of this year will be held TOMORROW on December 14, via Zoom, from 10am ET to 1pm ET. December 14 will mark the 50th anniversary of the last day astronauts have been on the Moon. Speakers: Michelle Hanlon, Giuseppe Reibaldi, Marlène Michèle Losier, Adriano Autino, Keith Henson, Frank White.
You are invited! The Zoom access coordinates are posted here. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow!
Congratulations to SpaceX and iSpace for successfully launching iSpace's Hakuto-R Mission 1, the world’s first privately funded spacecraft intended to land and operate on the surface of the moon. And Congratulations to NASA for successfully concluding the historic Artemis 1 mission with a successful splashdown! “This has been an extraordinarily successful mission,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “It is the beginning of the new beginning, and that is to explore the heavens.” I look forward to see astronauts walk & work on the lunar surface in a few years. The permanent and sustainable return to the Moon is our next step. Then Mars, and then the heavens.
More thoughts on determinism or nondeterminism, predestination or free will:
I lean toward nondeterminism and free will, but I allow other perspectives to challenge my mind. See my reviews of the 2022 books “Existential Physics” (by Sabine Hossenfelder) and “The Primacy of Doubt” (by Tim Palmer).
See also my recent theological speculations inspired by cellular automata (1, 2, 3). Here’s a short summary:
Some scientists insist that reality is deterministic and reversible (information is conserved). This is not what quantum physics says to me, but here I’ll adopt the view of these scientists. Everything is determined by the initial state of the universe in the far past.
A simple model of a deterministic and reversible universe is the Rule 37R one-dimensional cellular automaton, which is reversible and perhaps universal (in the sense that it can compute anything that can be computed). See Stephen Wolfram’s explanations in “A New Kind of Science” (NKS).
But a deterministic and reversible universe is timeless. All times are one and the same, in the sense that the state of the universe at any time can be derived from the state of the universe at any other time.
So setting the state of the universe at a time in the far past is equivalent to (and indistinguishable from) setting the state of the universe at any other time in the past, in the future, or right now at this moment. So we can think that the past determines the future (the conventional view), or that the future determines the past (teleology), or that the present determines the future and the past. The three pictures are equivalent and indistinguishable, so we can choose the picture we prefer on a case by case basis.
A timeless universe is changeless and uninteresting, but change can happen “laterally,” so to speak, beyond what we call time. This concept has been explored by philosophers, scientists, and (science-) fiction writers. According to the legendary science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, “an orthogonal or right-angle time axis could exist, a lateral domain in which change takes place - processes occuring sideways in reality, so to speak” (source: “If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others,” in “The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick”).
Then perhaps our universe is driven (or created - the two concepts blend into each other) by processes occurring sideways in reality. Edits that rewrite the past are “continually taking place” (Dick). Of course we don’t notice because all records and memories are overwritten.
But these processes could create more than one universe, and creating many parallel universes makes sense if these processes are striving toward a goal. This has parallels with the ideas of Rizwan Virk, discussed in a recent Turing Church podcast. If we have counterparts (higher selves or something like that) within these processes sideways in reality, then we have some degree of free will.