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Chapter summaries

2. Is reality deterministic?

Isaac Newton published his theory of gravity in the late 1600s, and the theory was immediately recognized as a brilliant contribution to our knowledge because it is such a simple, highly accurate model for predicting observations of the relevant behavior of nature. Due to its exceptional predictive accuracy together with its exceptional simplicity, the theory engendered the idea that the behavior of the universe is deterministic and could be precisely predicted if we had complete knowledge of its state at some moment in time. The French mathematician and astronomer Pierre Simon LaPlace is famous for asserting this.

So is reality deterministic? In this chapter I show that it is surprisingly easy to prove that reality is indeterministic. Specifically, I prove that spacetime reality is continuous and that determinism requires bounded states. I then prove that bounded states in space are logically impossible because they entail infinite precision. This implies that spacetime reality is indeterministic and that location of an object in spacetime must be given by a continuous probability distribution having infinitely long tails.

I then consider a few examples, and I apply insights from the proof of indeterminism to the following topics: the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, the wave-particle duality, the Zeno paradoxes, identical objects/states/worlds, theism and determinism, theism and indeterminism, and indeterministic causality. In particular, I solve the wave-particle duality and the two most famous Zeno paradoxes.

Reference citation.  Philip Bitar, adapted from Why Human Life Makes Sense, Editions 1/2/3, 2011/2012/2015, p. 116/122/89-90, posted at www.WhyHumanLifeMakesSense.com, 2011-08-26, updated 2012-10-15 and 2015-03-18.