СодержаниеFree Will of a Penny → Часть 1

“Explain free will, ” I said.

“Imagine a copper penny that is exactly like an ordinary penny except that for this discussion it has consciousness. It knows it is a coin and it knows that you sometimes flip it. And it knows that no external force dictates whether it comes up heads or tails on any individual flip.

“If the penny’s consciousness were like human consciousness, it would analyze the situation and conclude that it had free will. When it wanted to come up heads, and heads was the result, the penny would confirm its belief in its power to choose. When it came up tails instead, it would blame its own lack of commitment, or assume God had a hand in it.

“The imaginary coin would believe that things don’t just ‘happen’ without causes. If nothing external controlled the results of the flips, a reasonable penny would assume that the control came from its own will, influenced perhaps by God’s will, assuming it were a religious penny.

“The penny’s belief in its own role would be wrong, but the penny’s belief in God’s role would be right. Probability—the essence of God’s power—dictates that the penny must sometimes come up tails even when the penny chooses to be heads. ”

“But people aren’t pennies, ” I said. “We have brains. And when our brains make choices, we move our arms and legs and mouths to make things happen. The penny has no way to turn its choices into reality, but we do. ”

“We believe we do, ” the old man said. “But we also believe in the scientific principle that any specific cause, no matter how complex, must have a specific effect. Therefore, we believe two realities that cannot both be true. If one is true, the other must be false. ”

“I’m not following you, ” I said.

“The brain is fundamentally a machine. It’s an organic machine with chemical and electrical properties. When an electrical signal is formed, it can only make one specific thing happen. It can’t choose to sometimes make you think of a cow and sometimes make you fall in love. That one specific electrical impulse, in the one specific place in your brain, can have one and only one result on your actions. ”

“We’ve been through this. Maybe the brain is exempt from the normal rules because of free will or the soul. I know I can’t define those things, but you can’t rule them out. ”

“Nothing in life can be ruled out. But the penny analogy is a simple explanation of free will that makes sense and has no undefined concepts. ”

“Being simpler doesn’t make it right, ” I pointed out. I needed to say something that sounded wise, for my own benefit.

“True, simplicity is not proof of truth. But since we can never understand true reality, if two models both explain the same facts, it is more rational to use the simpler one. It is a matter of convenience. ”


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