Determinists argue that the whole of the future is determined - albeit not necessary pre-determined by a specific entity. As such they try to convince us that we don't really have free will. They often use masses of 'evidence' to convince us - and it doesn't convince me.
The evidence comes from the interpretation of results of experiments which seem to show that (for example) our muscles prepare for movement before our minds decide to make the movement. At first sight these ideas seem compelling, but then you realise that the results are open to interpretation in more ways than one.
Seemingly 'unconscious' actions only suggest that there is no central 'me' who acts like a CPU in a computer. However, when you consider that our inner awareness is clearly highly distributed through the brain, and that the brain functions fast enough for delays not to be noticeable in everyday life, you realise that evolution did rather a good job.
Worse still, I can't believe that determinists have such a naive view about the predictability of the future state of the universe. I see this on several levels:
- Even on the basis of a truly complete knowledge of the state of every particle and of all the energy in the universe, they miss an important point - namely chaos. Chaos theory acknowledges that even the tiniest deviations from what can (in principle) be measured, will lead to a fundamental unpredictability. It is unavoidable. Increasing the power of your computer only delays the moment of unpredictability.
- Moving into the quantum physics regime (and in this case I am not using the quantum physics metaphor to prove anything, but to question something) they neglect (or deliberately misunderstand and ignore) Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. You just can't know everything about the universe as it is just now. Whether we really understand quantum mechanics or not, it has shown itself to be much better in the predictions business than the philosophy of determinism. I know where I would put my money on this argument.
- This is not even to mention quantum fluctuations . . . particles and their anti-particles being created spontaneously from a quantum vacuum.
My free will to publish this post - or not - can't seriously be questioned.
. . . and Pearce's talk was very interesting, even if (Note: IF) his own views are entirely fallacious! For a philosopher that is not an insult but a challenge.
Small note: Listen to the podcast to see how the opinions had changed by the end of his talk. I suspect that he was not expecting the reaction of an audience of skeptics!