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In many minds, science is still associated with the deterministic
picture of the world, as it was in the nineteenth century.
The modern science, however, draws a picture which is quite different.
The world of the nineteenth century was, broadly, as follows.
Very small particles of matter
move about in virtually empty three-dimensional space. These
particles act on one another with forces which are uniquely
determined by their positioning and velocities.The forces of
interaction, in their turn, uniquely determine, in accordance
with Newton's laws, the subsequent movement of particles. Thus
each subsequent state of the world is determined, in a unique
way, by its preceding state.Determinism was an intrinsic feature
of the scientific worldview of that time. In such a world there
was no room for freedom: it was illusory. Humans, themselves
merely aggregates of particles, had as much freedom as wound-up
In the twentieth century the scientific worldview has undergone a radical change.
It has turned out that subatomic physics cannot be understood
within the framework of the Naive Realism of the nineteenth
century scientists. The theory of Relativity and, especially,
Quantum Mechanics require that our worldview be based on Criti
cal Philosophy, according to which all our theories and mental
pictures of the world are only devices to organize and foresee
our experience, and not the images of the world as it "really"
is. Thus along with the twentieth-century's specific discove
ries in the physics of the microworld, we must regard the inevi
tability of critical philosophy as a scientific discovery -- one
of the greatest of the twentieth century.
We now know that the notion that the world is "really" space
in which small particles move along definite trajectories, is
illusory: it is contradicted by experimental facts. We also know
that determinism, i.e. the notion that in the last analysis all
the events in the world must have specific causes, is illusory
too. On the contrary, freedom, which was banned from the science
of the nineteenth century as an illusion, became a part, if not
the essence, of reality. The mechanistic worldview saw the laws
of nature as something that uniquely prescribes how events should
develop, with indeterminacy resulting only from our lack of
knowledge; contemporary science regards the laws of nature as
only restrictions imposed on a basically non-deterministic world.
It is not an accident that the most general laws of nature are
conservation laws, which do not prescribe how things must br,
but only put certain restrictions on them.
There is genuine freedom in the world. When we observe it
from the outside, it takes the form of quantum-mechanical
unpredictability; when we observe it from within, we call it our
free will. We know that the reason why our behaviour is unpredictable
from the outside is that we have ultimate freedom of
choice. This freedom is the very essence of our personalities,
the treasure of our lives. It is given us as the first element of
the world we come into.
Logically, the concept of free will is
primary, impossible to derive or to explain from anything else.
The concept of necessity, including the concept of a natural law,
is a derivative: we call necessary, or predetermined, those
things which cannot be changed at will.