Determinism Extended
to Better Understand and Anticipate



A Bridge between Science and Philosophy
for Rational Thinking







































Determinism Extended
to Better Understand and Anticipate



A Bridge between Science and Philosophy
for Rational Thinking


Version date: January 7, 2009




















Purpose of this text

This book shows first that philosophical determinism does not keep its promise when it asserts that it is possible to predict the future and to mentally reconstruct the past.


It then shows how the principles of causality and of scientific determinism are natural consequences of fundamental properties of the Universe.


It then clarifies those two principles, and extends their definition so that they govern the evolution properties of all laws of nature. Those laws then follow extended determinism, whose constructive definition structures it like an axiomatic system; we then prove that it is the only principle that governs all physical laws of evolution.


The book then shows how randomness and chaos intervene only in specific situations of nature, and how extended determinism takes all those situations into account. It also shows how predictability limits also originate in various forms of imprecision, of complexity and of nature's refusal of precision.


Since rational decisions require understanding and predicting, they require knowing extended determinism. The book uses recent scientific advances in the fields of quantum physics and genetics to show limits of the possibility to predict evolution results and to obtain the required precision.


The book then draws the consequences of extended determinism on rational thinking: in spite of his free will, man remains enslaved by the desires originating in his genetic inheritance, his acquired culture and knowledge, and his living context. The book explains how he can, nevertheless, follow the precepts of critical rationalism to find scientific truths, and to what extent he can understand the world and himself.


Last, the book shows the absurdity of pseudo-scientific notions such as "The anthropic principle". It also describes the modern scientific solution of the old philosophical issue of the "First cause".


This easy-to-read book is therefore a contribution to rational thinking intended for intellectuals with modest scientific background who wish to bring it up-to-date in the fields of quantum physics, cosmology, information technology and genetics.


Given the length of the book's complete text, about 503 pages [Book], it is recommended to read first the summary of its main ideas, which is 15 times shorter [Summary]. All scientific terms such as "eigenvalues" and "matter waves" are explained in the book; understanding them fully is not necessary in this introductory text.


[Book] "Determinism Extended to Better Understand and Anticipate
    A Bridge between Science and Philosophy for Rational Thinking
"  (503 pages)


[Summary] "Contributions of Extended Determinism to Rational Thinking"  (35 pages) -

Philosophical determinism



The traditional definition of determinism was published by the French mathematician, physicist and astronomer Pierre-Simon de Laplace in his book of 1814 "A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities"

"We should consider the present state of the Universe as the effect of its previous state and the cause of the state that will follow. An intelligence which, at a given time, would know all of the forces that govern nature and the respective states of all its beings – assuming it is vast enough to analyze that data – would grasp in the same formula the movements of the largest bodies of the Universe and those of its lightest atom; nothing would be uncertain for it, the future and the past alike would stand before its eyes."

(That intelligence is often called "Laplace's demon").


According to this founding text, philosophical determinism asserts that:

§   The future is completely determined by the present;

§   The future is completely predictable given perfect knowledge of the present;

§   Perfect knowledge of the present suffices to mentally reconstruct all of the past;

§   For each present situation there is a single causal chain (of events or situations) that starts infinitely far in the past and extends infinitely far in the future.


Philosophical determinism is contradicted by some facts

Philosophical determinism, which promises the possibility to predict all of the future and to mentally reconstruct all of the past, is contradicted by several phenomena of nature quoted in the book. Since a single counterexample suffices to contradict an assertive statement, here is one.

Radioactive decay (nuclear fission)

The atoms of a sample of uranium 238 will decay (decompose) spontaneously, without any cause other than passing time; an atom of uranium will decay into an atom of helium and an atom of thorium. The number of atoms of uranium 238 that decay per unit of time follows a known law: 50% of the atoms of a sample of arbitrary size will decay in a fixed amount of time T called "the half-life of uranium 238"; then half of the rest (one quarter) will decay during the next period of time T; then half of the rest (one eighth) will decay during the next period of time T, etc.

Natural (spontaneous) radioactive decay is attributed to the instability of the excitation energy of the neutrons and protons of a radioactive atom's nucleus. That energy varies spontaneously – a phenomenon deemed impossible in traditional deterministic physics, because it attributes an atom's decay to chance. Due to a tunnel effect, that excitation energy may sometimes exceed the potential energy that holds the nucleus together (known as the element's fission barrier), causing such a considerable deformation that the nucleus decays. The tunnel effect and its spontaneous nature can only be explained using the mathematical tools of quantum mechanics, which contradict traditional determinism by introducing spontaneous variations of energy levels and probabilities in the occurrence of an event.


Contrary to the promise of philosophical determinism to predict the future, it is impossible to know which atoms will decay during a given period of time, and when a given atom will decay. Radioactive decay follows a statistical law that applies to a population of atoms, but does not predict the evolution of a given atom.


In addition, when a sample contains decayed atoms, it is impossible to know for any one of them at what time it decayed, which contradicts philosophical determinism as a principle for mentally reconstructing past events knowing the current situation.


Therefore, philosophical determinism cannot keep its promises to predict the future and mentally reconstruct the past: this principle is false in the case of radioactive decay. And since, according to critical rationalism explained in the book, a single counterexample suffices to disprove an assertion, we shall consider philosophical determinism erroneous, in spite of the fact that its definition is in some dictionaries.



Causality and determinism

Ever since man needs to understand the world around him and predict the evolution of situations, knowing determinism is important for rational thinking. And since philosophical determinism does not keep its promise to predict, we will delve into the issue of understanding and predicting on a less ambitious basis. We will start over from the causal postulate on which philosophical determinism is based, and ignore for the time being its promises to predict the future and reconstruct the past.


The causal postulate

Ever since man existed, he noticed links between situations and phenomena: a given situation, S, is always followed by phenomenon P. A natural process of induction made man assert a general postulate "The same cause always produces the same effect". Reflecting on the conditions that governed the chains of events he observed, he inferred the following causal postulate stated below as a necessary and sufficient condition:

Definition of the causal postulate

§   Necessary condition: in the absence of the cause, the consequence does not happen; every observed situation or phenomenon was preceded by a cause, and nothing may exist without having been created.

§   Sufficient condition: if the cause exists, its consequence happens (it is certain).

However, that consequence is an evolution phenomenon, not a final outcome: we renounce the promise to predict the result of the evolution and retain only the postulate that it is initiated.


In some favorable cases, the causal postulate meets the need of rational thinking to understand and predict:

§   The necessary condition allows explaining a consequence by following the flow of time backwards up to its cause;

§   The sufficient condition allows predicting a consequence by following the flow of time forwards from its cause: the evolution is certainly initiated.


Scientific determinism

In order to better understand and predict, rational thinking requires an addition to the above causal postulate; it needs a rule that guarantees stability (reproducibility) in time and space.

Stability rule

The same cause always produces the same effect: the effect of a cause is reproducible. The physical evolution laws consequences of a given cause are stable; they are the same everywhere and at all times.


Consequently, a stable situation never evolved and never will; it is its own cause and its own consequence! Taking into account an evolution after time t requires changing the definition of the observed system. In fact, the flow of time can only be observed when something changes; if nothing changes, time seems to stop. The stability rule is not trivial; one of its consequences is Newton's first law of motion, the law of inertia:

"The velocity vector of a body which is motionless or moves in a straight line at constant velocity will remain constant as long as no force acts on the body."

As far as determinism is concerned, this law implies that motion in a straight line at a constant velocity is a stable situation that will not evolve until a force is applied to the body; such a stable situation is its own cause and its own consequence!


The stability rule allows inducing a physical law of nature from a collection of cause-consequence sequences: after seeing the same cause-consequence sequence many times, I postulate that the same cause always produces the same consequence. We may now group the causal postulate and the stability rule to form a principle that governs all laws of nature describing a time evolution, the postulate of scientific determinism.

Definition of scientific determinism

The postulate of scientific determinism governs the time evolution of a situation due to laws of nature, in accordance with the causal postulate and the stability rule.


The deterministic nature of a law of the Universe does not entail the predictability of its results or their precision. Philosophers who believe the opposite are mistaken.


Scientific determinism and predicting

In the definitions of the causal postulate and of scientific determinism we renounced predicting evolution results. Since we know that a cause initiates the application of a law of nature, predicting an evolution result requires predicting the result of such a law.


Nature recognizes situations-causes and automatically initiates applicable laws each time, but it does not know the concept of result, a notion of interest only to humans. This remark allows us to eliminate right away a cause of unpredictability independent of nature: supernatural intervention. Obviously, if we admit that a supernatural intervention may initiate, prevent or alter an evolution, we renounce predicting its result. We will therefore postulate materialism; we will also assume that no intervention originating outside our Universe or independent of its laws is possible. The opposing doctrines of materialism and spiritualism are described and debated in Part 2 of this book, before Part 3, which is devoted to determinism.


Three types of reasons that prevent predicting the result of a deterministic law of evolution are imprecision, complexity and chance.



Since the causal postulate and scientific determinism do not promise to predict a result, they do not promise to predict its precision either, when it is predictable; and this is regrettable since man often needs precise results.


Here are cases where the precision of the calculated or measured result of an evolution law may be considered inadequate by man.

Imprecision of the initial values of an evolution, or of a result's measure

An evolution law applies to variables. If those variables are known with insufficient precision, the calculated result may also be too imprecise. If a quantity is measured, that measure's precision may be inadequate.

Imprecision or non-convergence of calculations

If the calculations required by a formula or to solve an equation are not sufficiently precise, the result may be imprecise. This problem is serious, for example, when solving a system of equations requires inverting a matrix with thousands of rows and columns: inadequate precision may produce degeneracy, which makes calculating the inverse matrix impossible. It may also simply produce a result that is insufficiently precise.


When a physical phenomenon has a mathematical model, a computing algorithm in the model may sometimes be unable to provide its result, for example because it converges too slowly. Sometimes, the algorithm stops because a calculation is impossible: the book shows such a case in wave propagation.


Sometimes a very small variation of a phenomenon's initial data, too small to be controlled, produces a considerable and unpredictable variation of the result of a phenomenon whose law is precise. This happens, for example, for the direction in which a pencil standing vertically on its tip will fall. It also happens when predicting the position, thousands of years ahead of time, of an asteroid whose motion is perturbed by the attraction of planets.


Chaos is a phenomenon that amplifies effects enough to switch from one solution of a mathematical model to another. It occurs, for example, in turbulent flows of liquids and in genetic evolution of species, often producing solutions grouped near particular points of phase space termed attractors. In practice, chaos limits the predictability horizon.

Quantum physics

The book quotes several laws of physics where nature limits precision. Examples:

§   When a corpuscle moves in a field of electromagnetic force, its position and velocity cannot be determined with an uncertainty better than half the width of the accompanying wave packet. No matter how fast a photograph is taken (in a thought experiment), the corpuscle will always appear fuzzy.

Worse still, the more precise the determination of position, the less precise that of velocity, and vice-versa.

§   Nature's precision refusal may cause quantum fluctuations. Example: at a point of void space between atoms or even between galaxies, energy may vary suddenly without any cause other than nature's refusal of its precision and stability. This energy variation ΔE may be all the greater that its duration ΔT is small. On average, however, the energy at the fluctuation point remains constant: if nature "borrows" energy ΔE from surrounding empty space, it returns all of it less than Δt seconds later.

This phenomenon is far from negligible: a short while after the Big Bang when the Universe was born, it caused the formation of areas of high energy density that later became galaxies. From a predictability standpoint, it is impossible to predict where a fluctuation will occur, or when, or with what energy variation ΔE.

§   At atomic scale, nature allows superpositions of equation solutions. An atom may travel several trajectories simultaneously, producing interference fringes in Young's experiment, when it interferes with itself by going through two parallel slits several thousand atom diameters apart.

A molecule may be in several states at the same time. Example: quantum mechanics predicts that an ammonia molecule NH3, whose shape is a tetrahedron, may have its nitrogen atom vertex on one side or the other of the plane of its 3 hydrogen atoms. It predicts that this plane (whose 3 hydrogen atoms are light) may spontaneously switch to the other side of the (heavy) nitrogen atom vertex because of tunnel effect, without any intervening physical force or absorption of a photon's energy. The hydrogen triangle may oscillate between the two symmetrical positions with a frequency in the range of centimetric wavelengths. This prediction of quantum mechanics is confirmed by radio astronomy observations, both in light absorption and emission by ammonia molecules of interstellar space.

When an experiment determines the state of an NH3 molecule, nature chooses randomly which of the two symmetrical states it will reveal. Its choice is not completely random, it is an element of a predefined set of two elements called spectrum of eigenvalues of the experimental setup: natural randomness is limited to the choice of one of the values of the spectrum, all values of which are known precisely. In the case of the above ammonia molecule, nature chooses between two solutions, each with a certain predefined energy and shape.

§   Nature's refusal to satisfy man's need to know is spectacular in the non-separability phenomenon. The book quotes an experiment where two photons produced together (termed entangled photons) make up a single whole object even when the photons are 144 km apart: if one is absorbed, the other disappears immediately; the consequence is propagated from one to the other at infinite speed since they are part of the same initial object, which conserves its wholeness while it is deformed by the photons' motions.


In quantum physics, many human wishes of result prediction, precision or stability are denied by nature.

Relativity and causality

The book describes in detail a property of space-time, due to the speed of light, which compels one to reflect on the definition of the causality that governs the transition from one event to another. In certain specific cases, two events A and B may be seen by some observers in the order A then B, and by others in the order B then A! The first group of observers will know that A occurred before B, and will draw consequences different from observers of the second group, who will see B appear before A.



The overall effect of many perfectly deterministic phenomena may be unpredictable, even if each phenomenon is simple and its result is predictable. Example: consider a small closed container that holds billions of identical molecules of a liquid or a gas. Since these molecules have a temperature above absolute zero, they keep moving; their kinetic energy results from their temperature. Their agitation makes them bounce into each other and against the container's inner surface, their motion obeying well-known deterministic laws. In spite of their deterministic motions, it is impossible to know the position and velocity at a given time t of all molecules, because there are too many; therefore, it is impossible to calculate (predict) the position and velocity one second later of one particular molecule, because in the mean time it has bounced thousands of times against other moving molecules and against the container's inner surface.


That impossibility is very general: the combined effect of many deterministic phenomena with predictable individual evolutions is an unpredictable evolution, whether these phenomena are of the same type or not. From a philosophical point of view, we can assert that the complexity of a phenomenon with deterministic components generally produces an unpredictable evolution.


In theory that unpredictability does not exist, but in practice it does. It does not affect nature, which never hesitates or predicts the future, but it prevents man from predicting what nature will do. Nature's unpredictability grows with the number of simultaneous phenomena, their diversity, and the number of their interactions.


Actually, interactions between phenomena also affect their determinism. An evolution whose result affects the initial conditions of another evolution affects its stability rule, therefore also the reproducibility of its determinism, which hinders even more the prediction of its result.


That is why even though the most complex phenomena (the phenomena of living beings, of man's psyche, and of human society) are based only on predictable deterministic physical evolutions, their results are generally so unpredictable that man is under the impression that nature does anything. We shall come back to this issue below.



From a philosophical point of view, we should stop believing in chance as a principle of unpredictable behavior of nature. The Schrödinger equation of evolution, whose results are probabilistic matter waves, is deterministic in the traditional sense, and so is Newton's second law of motion, which is also based on energy conservation: a given initial situation always produces the same result, which is sometimes a set of results instead of a single result. No unpredictability there, nature is never unorthodox: in a given situation, its reaction is always the same.


Man must get used to the fact that some situations produce multiple consequences: either several laws of evolution acting in parallel, each producing a single result, or a single law of evolution producing multiple results. Therefore, when man tries to know the result of evolution (for example using a measuring device), nature chooses one randomly among those resulting from the initial situation and displays it.

Nature's choosing process follows a simple rule governed by a form of determinism that applies to a set of alternatives instead of applying to a single alternative: if a given experiment is iterated a large number of times, each possible alternative appears the same number of times. This set determinism also governs other phenomena; example: radioactive decay of uranium 238, where determinism governs the proportion of decaying atoms per unit of time, not the choice of a particular atom that will decay.


Similarly, there is no randomness in the position, the velocity or the energy of a corpuscle, there is indetermination, a refusal of nature to grant us the possibility of infinite precision that would make us feel comfortable; and this refusal is due to the wavelike nature of each corpuscle.


The unpredictability associated with local energy fluctuations is not due to chance, either. It is a consequence of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, which states that during a short time interval Δt an energy is not defined with an uncertainty less than ΔE, where ΔEt  ½ä (quantity which is a constant of the Universe). Those fluctuations only embody a refusal of precision on the part of nature, a refusal that only lasts for a short while and does not alter the average local energy. We should accept the existence of those fluctuations as we accept the imprecision on the position of a moving corpuscle, located "somewhere" in its wave packet: in none of those cases does nature act randomly by doing anything. Other examples of nature's limited precision are given in the book in sections that describe chaotic phenomena.


§   Randomness affects the predictability of consequences, not consequences proper (evolution laws or situations); predictability is a human wish nature ignores.

§   In nature's laws, randomness occurs only when an element is chosen in a predefined set of values of a measurable quantity or of applicable laws of evolution.

§   A random choice by nature always obeys one of its laws, nature choosing an alternative among the solutions allowed by that law. The choice never violates another law; in particular, it never violates thermodynamics or conservation of matter+energy.

§   Let us not confuse chance (unpredictability) with indetermination (nature's refusal to be precise).

§   More generally, determinism and predictability are different concepts: the latter does not necessarily result from the former (definition of scientific determinism).


Conclusions about predictability

We now know that there are three types of reasons that prevent or limit the prediction of consequences: imprecision, complexity and chance. The latter compels us to make clear the causal postulate: in the sentence "if the cause exists, its consequence happens" we must interpret consequence of a situation as a possibility to be a plural, multiple consequences.


Imprecision, complexity and chance reflect the intrinsic nature of the laws of the Universe, that man cannot circumvent, and against which rebelling is out of question. Therefore, predicting a result (or results) should be done as the case may be, each law being a particular case.


Let us see details of this subject. We saw above, in the section about chance, that in some situations nature had multiple reactions:

§   Either by initiating several evolution laws simultaneously, each law acting independently and providing a single result.

This happens, for example, in quantum physics, when the trajectory of a corpuscle between a point A and a point B is comprised of an infinite number of simultaneous trajectories, each taking a different path with a different velocity vector, but all trajectories ending in B at the same time.

This also happens when a corpuscle's trajectory is defined, at each moment, by a packet of superposed waves. Those waves are matter waves that describe probability of presence amplitudes that add up taking their phases into account. At a given time, if we could see the corpuscle, it would appear fuzzy near the center of the wave packet, as if it were composed of an infinite number of imprecisely superposed corpuscles.

But man never sees several consequences at the same time, he can only see their result (always unique); and in the case of a corpuscle traveling with its wave packet, that result, at a given moment, is a fuzzy position and an imprecise velocity.

§   Or by initiating a single evolution law giving multiple superposed results that exist simultaneously.

That state superposition may last for a while only at atomic scale. At macroscopic scale, the interaction between the state superposition and the environment (that occurs, for example, during a physical measure) terminates the superposition and communicates to the experimenter only one of the superposed states, chosen randomly. The transition from the superposed states to the unique state is termed decoherence, and it is irreversible.


In each particular situation, in order to predict its evolution and the result (or results) of that evolution with the maximum precision allowed by nature, we shall now take into account all of the laws of nature, by redefining determinism in a constructive way and terming it extended determinism.


Extended determinism

The book provides a detailed explanation of the Universe's properties that incite postulating causality. In this introduction, I will only enunciate those properties.

Properties of the Universe from which causality is derived

§   By uniformity of the Universe, I mean its homogeneity (same properties everywhere) and isotropy (at each point, same properties in all directions).

§   By stability of the Universe's properties, I mean the stability rule (reproducibility through time and space) of scientific determinism.

§   By coherence of the Universe's laws, I mean that they complement each other without ever contradicting each other. To be precise, they respect the three fundamental principles of logic: non-contradiction, excluded middle and identity, enunciated in the book.

§   By completeness of the Universe's laws, I mean the fact that nature has all the laws required to react to all situations and account for all phenomena (this is Kant's postulate of complete determination).

In short, nature never improvises; it does not have occasional laws; randomness is limited to choosing between predetermined evolution laws or between predetermined results of a particular law.


In the rest of this text, we shall postulate the uniformity, stability, coherence and completeness of the Universe's laws, and we shall define extended determinism as follows:


Extended determinism is the principle that governs the evolution from a cause to its consequences due to all applicable laws of nature.


Constructive definition of extended determinism

Usually a definition describes a word's meaning. Since such a descriptive definition is not suitable for extended determinism, I use below a constructive definition that allows an infinite extension of this notion deduced from properties of the Universe's laws.


Construction: extended determinism first includes scientific determinism, defined above. Then it includes the evolution rules of all the laws of nature, incorporated as follows:

§   We consider all the laws of evolution of the Universe, one by one, in an arbitrary order;

§   Consider one of those laws. If its evolution rule is already included in extended determinism, we ignore it and consider the next law; if its evolution rule is not included yet, we incorporate it in the definition of extended determinism;

§   Whenever we incorporate the evolution rule of a new law, we verify its coherence with rules already included, in order to conform to nature where no evolution law contradicts another law in a given situation. In principle, this verification is useless if the wordings of the laws respect the coherence rule of the Universe's laws.


Validity of this constructive approach

As defined above, extended determinism is an axiomatic system, whose axioms of facts are the initial conditions of the various evolution laws, and whose deduction axioms are the corresponding evolution rules, according to the following semantics: if a situation satisfies a given set of conditions, then it evolves following a given rule – a rule that may correspond to one evolution law, or to several evolution laws initiated in parallel.


The theoretical validity of that approach was studied and justified by logicians. They showed how an axiomatic system may be complemented gradually, by adding new axioms whenever facts or deduction rules appear that may not be derived from existing axioms, but whose addition is suggested by the field's semantics.


The practical validity of that approach results from its respect of the scientific method, which adds new laws to existing laws or replaces them, as knowledge progresses. The construction of extended determinism adds new rules of evolution from causes to consequences as required by new laws, excluding redundancies and contradictions.


Universality and uniqueness of extended determinism

Universality of extended determinism results from its constructive definition, which takes into account all the laws of the Universe: all those that are known at a given moment, and all those that will be discovered subsequently, as they are being discovered.


Uniqueness of extended determinism may be proven as follows. Being an axiomatic system, extended determinism is a set of fact rules and deduction rules, each rule originating (by construction) from at least one law of the Universe. Now consider a second extended determinism, S, supposed distinct from the first, F. Each rule R of S comes from at least one law of nature, a law that was taken into account when building F, since F was constructed from all the laws of nature; therefore, this rule R of S also exists in F. With the same reasoning, each rule of F also exists in S. Therefore, S and F having the same rules are in fact the same set, QED.



This is what I wanted to do. I needed about 500 pages to express it, sorry about the length. Writing the initial text in French required about one thousand hours, then translating it into English doubled that duration because English is not my mother tongue.






Advice to the reader


About mathematical formulas

This text contains many mathematical formulas in order to be as precise as possible. To a reader with adequate scientific knowledge they justify some statements regarding determinism. However, reading and understanding those formulas is not indispensable to understand the text; a reader who does not have enough scientific background - or who just does not care to read those formulas - may skip them.


About the text's style and structure

Philosophy texts are often structured like a novel, with few intermediate level titles, which leaves it to the reader to understand where he is in the succession of ideas. This text is structured as a five-level hierarchy of titles and subtitles, like a course. This should help the reader better understand the section he is reading, and quickly come back to a passage he already read.


About reading on a computer monitor

Both formats of this text, PDF* and HTML**, may be read on a computer's monitor to take advantage of the many hyperlinks that provide one-click access to the definition of a word, to additional information, or to a bibliographic reference on the Internet. A mouse click provides a return path to the previous display. The table of contents itself is a list of hyperlinks that provide direct access to sections of the five-level structure. Finally, it is much easier to find a given word in a computer text using the CONTROL+F keyboard command than it is to find it in a printed document; and copying a passage from one computer text to another is possible, whereas a printed text requires scanning and optical character recognition.


Hyperlink references whose name begins with a D, such as [D1], are at the end of Part 1. References whose name begins with an M, such as [M3], are at the end of Part 2. References that are integer numbers such as [200] are at the end of Part 3.


To avoid reading what you already know

The extensions of determinism that are the subject of this book make up its Part 3. However, since determinism is based on materialism, the definition and implications of materialism and its opposite, spiritualism, are summarized in Part 2. In addition, since the debate between materialism and spiritualism touches on the issue of God's existence, the three arguments for this existence stated during the previous centuries are in Part 1. So:

§   If you know those three arguments for God's existence – or if you are simply not interested in that subject - skip Part 1, which only contains a reminder of these arguments, and of the refutations stated to disprove them;

§   If you know the definitions of materialism and spiritualism, and the arguments in favor of or against each of those doctrines, skip Part 2, which is only a reminder of these definitions and arguments provided as an introduction to the issues of determinism.


However, it is better to read Part 3 from the beginning because it calls into question what many readers know about determinism.


*     PDF version:

·          in English:

·          en français :


**    HTML version:

·          in English (this text):

·          en français :




Table of contents


1.     The three proofs of God's existence. 30

1.1   What men expect to find when they think of God. 31

1.1.1        André Comte-Sponville's definitions of God and religion. 31

1.2   Man conceives of God in his own image. 32

1.2.1        The contradiction that explains the search for a proof of God's existence. 32

1.3   How can God's existence be proved?. 34

1.3.1        The cosmological arguments. 34

1.3.2        The ontological arguments. 35

1.3.3        The teleological arguments. 36

1.3.4        Kant's moral argument 37

1.4   Arguments without value. 39

1.4.1        Causal weaknesses of cosmological arguments. 39             Contingency is a vain hypothesis. 39             There is no proof of the qualities attributed to God. 39             Conclusion about cosmological arguments. 39

1.4.2        Weakness of ontological arguments. 40             Understanding the error of an ontological argument 40             An example from arithmetic. 42             An example from cosmology. 42             Generalization: reasoning by analogy or induction is dangerous. 42             A mathematical example of the inventiveness of our mind. 43             A culture or a religion cannot be universal 44             Consequences of the multiplicity of religions. 45

1.4.3        Weakness of teleological arguments. 46             Some phenomena of life are governed by genetic software. 46             Weakness of creationist arguments. 47             Psychology of creationism.. 48             The concept of a God who is both a creator and intelligent is contradictory. 48

1.4.4        We should reason using only representable concepts. 49

1.5   Agnosticism and atheism.. 50

1.5.1        Pascal's wager. 50

1.5.2        Atheism, positivism and altruism.. 51

1.5.3        Exists, does not exist or exists differently?. 51

1.6   Conclusions. 53

1.7   References. 54

2.     Materialism and Spiritualism a refresher 56

2.1   Materialism and spiritualism: definitions. 57

2.1.1        A concise definition of materialism.. 57

2.1.2        A concise definition of spiritualism.. 57

2.1.3        Materialism versus spiritualism.. 57

2.1.4        What came first: mind or matter?. 59

2.2   Biological life, materialism and spiritualism.. 60

2.2.1        Explaining observed phenomena by a superior finality. 60

2.2.2        The confrontation between materialists and spiritualists. 61

2.2.3        Materialistic explanations and levels of abstraction. 62

2.3   Arguments of spiritualists against materialism.. 63

2.3.1        Teleological arguments. 63

2.3.2        Contradiction with the second law of thermodynamics. 63             Definition of entropy. 63             Boltzmann entropy. 64         Understanding the second law of thermodynamics  65             Entropy and living beings. 66             The spiritualists' objection and Prigogine's answer 66             The spiritualist scientists who listen to their intuition rather than to reason. 67

2.3.3        The creationism versus evolutionism controversy. 68             Darwin and the role of chance in evolution. 68             Arguments of spiritualist scientists. 69         Modern science must be rejected because it is not realistic  69         Modern science leads to spiritualism   70         Evolution may be real, but because God intended it! 71

2.4   A comparison of materialism and spiritualism.. 72

2.4.1        The concept of first (initial) cause is dangerous. 72

2.4.2        A concept of useful reality is necessary. 72             Convergence of scientific knowledge – Example: planetary motion. 73

2.4.3        Objectivity and subjectivity. 74

2.4.4        Why are so many intelligent people spiritualists?. 75

2.4.5        The limits of rational explanations - Materialism and ethic. 76

2.5   Materialism and spiritualism cannot be proven or disproven. 77

2.6   The Nietzschean critique. 78

2.7   Materialism and determinism.. 81

2.7.1        Summary and conclusion about materialism.. 81

2.8   References. 83

3.     Determinism Extended - a Contribution for Rational Thinking. 86

3.1   Traditional determinism.. 87

3.1.1        Determinism as a scientific principle. 87             Definition of traditional scientific determinism.. 87         Determinism, predictability and difference between science and magic  88         Stochastic determinism   88         Determinism and absence of cause - Chance  88         Examples of deterministic phenomena and computability issues  89             Time-symmetry of traditional determinism.. 90         Possibility of reversing the flow of time  90         The single causal chain of traditional determinism   90             Time symmetry and reversibility. 90         Sample time symmetry  90         Sample reversible phenomenon  90         Irreversible phenomenon  91             Local and global determinism.. 92         The principle of least action of Maupertuis  92         The Fermat principle of fastest path of light 92         Quasicrystals  93         Statistical determinism   93         Conjugate variables  94         Conclusion about global determinism   94             Determinism, algorithms and computability. 94         Evolution laws described by differential equations and determinism   95         Exclusions  95

3.1.2        Determinism as a philosophical principle. 96             Deterministic reasoning. 96         A philosophical remark about reality and possibility  97         Determinism does not apply to human thinking  98             Critique of the chaining of causes and consequences. 98         A given situation may be preceded or followed by several laws of evolution  98         Irreversible transformations  99             Determinism, measures and objectivity. 99             Determinism and man's free will 100

3.1.3        Sample physical law that is both time-symmetrical and reversible. 100

3.1.4        Conclusions about traditional determinism.. 101

3.1.5        The purpose of this text and the efforts it implies. 102             He who does not know must put up with situations without understanding. 102             He who understands can. 103             A few learning tips. 104

3.1.6        This text's limited ambition. 106         A text cannot contain a description of itself or a comparison to itself 106         Scientific knowledge of the Universe is necessarily incomplete and based on postulates  106         Limits of this text 107

3.2   Extending determinism to suit physics. 108

3.2.1        Uniformity of the laws of nature. 108             Properties of the laws of the Universe. 108         Consequence of the uniformity of the Universe: invariance in a displacement 109         The scientific laws of the Universe are coherent (non-contradictory) 110         Completeness and generality of the laws of nature  110             Origin of the causal postulate. 111

3.2.2        Definition of extended determinism.. 111             Complements of this definition. 112             Justification of this definition of extended determinism.. 112             Constructive definition of extended determinism.. 112             Scales of determinism.. 113             Mnemonic statements. 114             Contributions of extended determinism to logical reasoning. 115

3.2.3        Causality and predictability. 115             Generalization: human thinking is non-deterministic. 117

3.2.4        System and state. 118             Degrees of freedom of a system.. 118         Equipartition of energy between the degrees of freedom   118             Phase space - Quantum state of a system.. 119         Quantum state  120         State vector 120         State space  120         Physical reality and representation in state space  120         Phase space of a force field and associated state space  121         Equipartition of energy in a force field – Atom stability  122

3.2.5        Contradictions of traditional physics and of its determinism.. 122

3.2.6        Some astonishing physical forces. 123

3.2.7        Evolution and transformation. 124             An interaction requires an exchange of energy. 124

3.2.8        1st extension of determinism: plurality of final states. 125             A concise introduction to quantum mechanics. 125             From contingency to probability. 126             Extending determinism to imprecise and probabilistic results. 126         Wave-particle duality results in dual determinism   128         Corpuscle trajectory  129         Theory of chemical resonance  132         Impact on determinism - Randomness  132             Fundamental equation of quantum mechanics (Schrödinger) 134         Quantum mechanics cannot describe phenomena without time symmetry  136         Quantum mechanics ignores gravitation and its relativistic curved space  136             Describing macroscopic systems. 137

3.2.9        2nd extension of determinism: superpositions. 137             States superposition and decoherence. 137             Trajectories superposition. 138             Conclusions on state and trajectories superpositions. 138             The determinism of Hugh Everett's tree-structured multi-universe. 140

3.2.10     3rd extension of determinism: quantization and uncertainty principle. 141          Quantization of energy levels and energy exchanges. 141          Nature's 3 most fundamental constants. 141          Particle position and velocity. 141          Wave packet spreading. 141      Description of a corpuscle's wave packet 141      Spreading of a corpuscle's position matter wave  143      Photon wave  144          Uncertainties affecting the simultaneous determination of 2 variables. 144          Remarks about uncertainty and imprecision. 146      Physical origin of the Heisenberg uncertainty during a measure  147          Uncertainty due to the Compton Effect 147          Measures, uncertainty and objectivity. 148      Each quantum physics measure alters the measured value  148      Planned measure and actual measure: an example  148      Copying a quantum state - Cloning using molecular copy  150      Measuring using a large number of particles  150      Conclusions about objective and measured reality in quantum physics  151      Constraints due to non-independent variables  151      Objectivity of measures  153      Ignorance and hating mathematics  156          Quantization of interactions and impact on determinism.. 158      Difference between quantization and uncertainty  158      Quantized energy exchanges and energy conservation  158      Consequences of the quantization of interactions: another extension of determinism   159      Quantization of vibrations - Phonons and friction  159      Mechanical and thermal effects of light 160      Photoelectric effects  161       Impact of various imprecisions on determinism.. 161

3.2.11     4th extension of determinism: conservation and symmetry laws. 163          Invariance of values and of laws of physics. 163          Invariance of laws of physics with respect to space and time. 164          Invariance and conservation laws. 167          A void full of energy. 167      The void of quantum physics  168      Planck distance, time, density and mass  169      Cosmic space is far from empty  171      Cosmic expansion  171          Conclusions about symmetries and conservation laws. 173

3.2.12     5th extension of determinism: complexity, unpredictability, computability. 174          Result of a large number of deterministic phenomena. 174      Statistical mechanics  175          Determinism + complexity = unpredictability. 175          Modeling complex systems. 176          Statistical analysis of complex systems. 178          Complexity and medical decisions. 178          Remarkable results of some computable processes. 180      Algorithm for calculating pi - Random sequence of integer numbers  180      Studying population dynamics  181          Determinism and duration. 183      Real numbers and non-computable problems  184      Undecidable propositions  186          Computability, determinism and predictability. 187      Computability of a prediction  188      Deterministic phenomena with unpredictable consequences and philosophical errors  190      A critique of Popper's position on determinism   190      Achieving computability through limitations and approximations  195          Determinism and convergence of processes and theories. 195       Determinism and stability of the law of evolution. 196       Formal logic - Propositional calculus - Predicate calculus. 197   Formal logic and symbolic logic  197   Propositional calculus  198   Predicate calculus  200       Insolvable problems - Fermat's theorem - Diophantine equations. 200       How certain is the existence of a proof in an axiomatic system?. 201       Deterministic chaos: sensitivity of an evolution to initial conditions. 201   Multiple attractors  203       Accidents of genome replication and evolution toward complexity. 205       A heuristic approach of determinism.. 206

3.2.13     6th extension of determinism: irreversibility. 207          Explaining the unidirectional flow of time. 208          Radioactivity and stability of atomic and nuclear particles. 208          Irreversibility is real, not appearances. 210          Entropy decrease - Dissipative structures - Self-organization. 211          Genetic program and determinism.. 212      Genes and human behavior 213      Cell renewal and persistence of personality  214      Evolution of the genetic program   215      Evolution of a population  216      Evolution due to a modification of gene expression  217      Conclusion about genetic determinism   218          Life, organization, complexity and entropy. 219      Appearance of life and evolution of species  219      Indisputable proofs of Darwinian evolution  220      The stubbornness of creationists  221          Gravitational collapse and irreversibility – Black Holes. 221      Pauli Exclusion Principle  222      Chandrasekhar limit mass - Supernova  223      Neutron stars  224      Black holes  225      Masses and dimensions in the Universe  226      Gravitational attraction in the vicinity of a collapsed star 228      Succession of events when a body falls into a black hole  230      Irreversibility of stellar fusions and of gravitational collapse  231      Black holes evaporate! 233          The Big Bang, an irreversible phenomenon. 234

3.2.14     Universes with more than 4 dimensions. 234

3.2.15     7th extension of determinism: Relativity, flow of time. 235          Relativity and irreversibility. 237          Virtual particles – Quantum electrodynamics. 238

3.2.16     Attitude toward determinism.. 239          Consequences of the laws of nature on determinism.. 239      Validity of the laws of quantum mechanics at macroscopic scale  239      Extended determinism may sometimes abolish distances and durations  242      Multiplicity of possible consequences  243      Unpredictability of the final state or of the evolution itself 244      Collision of two independent causal chains  244      Difficulty clarifying the initial circumstances or the process  245      Impossibility to navigate the causal tree backwards  245      Materialism and determinism of the laws of living beings  246      Irreversibility  246   Relativity  247          Recommended attitude toward determinism.. 247      A critique of the methods of thought of some French philosophers  247      Freedom of thought 248      Open-mindedness  249      A law is always true, it cannot have a probability of being true  250      The anthropic principle  251

3.3   Levels of abstraction and determinism.. 255

3.3.1        Density and depth of abstraction. 255

3.3.2        Understanding using abstraction levels. 257

3.3.3        Thinking using levels of abstraction. 258             Turing machine. 258             Computer language hierarchies. 259             Handling complexity using hierarchical levels. 260             Complexity and mental processes for building abstractions and memorizing. 260

3.3.4        Biological information levels and genetic determinism.. 262             Information stored in genetic software. 262             Artificial living beings completely defined by their genetic code. 263             Objections of spiritualists and how to disprove them.. 263             Each functional level has its own software level 264             Value and efficiency criteria, and assessment mechanisms. 265             The non-stop signaling in our brain. 266             The two levels of physiological determinism.. 267             Recognition of shapes, structures, processes and intentions. 267             Intuition first, then justification. 269          The non-stop parallel evaluation of hypothetical situations. 270          Memorizing and acquiring experience – Cultural determinism.. 270      The physiological mechanisms of memory  270      Experience acquisition  271      Selective memory  273          Artificial desires and satisfactions – Addicting drugs. 274          Thoughts may also act as drugs. 274

3.3.5        Non-algorithmic or unpredictable psychic mechanisms. 275             Definitions. 275         Algorithmic mental mechanisms  275         Deterministic mental mechanism   276             Consciousness. 276         A quick refresher 276         Consciousness and the action of mind on matter 278         Consciousness and non-algorithmic thinking  278         Conclusion about the algorithmic and deterministic nature of consciousness  281         Is thinking a consequence of the brain's existence?  282         Man's information model 282         Consciousness mechanisms are often non-deterministic  283         Other examples of human reasoning beyond a computer's capability  283         The art of deceiving adversaries – The two types of uncertainty  284             Current research on deception strategies and decision under uncertainty. 285             Distinguishing unpredictable behaviors and free will 286             Distinguishing ability to break the rules and free will 286

3.3.6        It is difficult to explain a behavior at macroscopic level based on behaviors at atomic level 287

3.3.7        Determinism when the level of abstraction changes. 288             Natural phenomena. 288             Artificial phenomena. 288

3.3.8        Autonomy of each level of abstraction and holistic comprehension. 289             Holism.. 290

3.3.9        Differences between mental representations of different people. 291

3.3.10     Complexity, open-mindedness and supernatural causes. 293

3.4   The determinism of living beings. 296

3.4.1        Definition of living beings. 296

3.4.2        Living beings and determinism.. 296

3.4.3        Thermodynamic possibility of naturally increasing complexity. 296

3.4.4        Software/physiological modeling of living beings. 297             Nervous transmission: an all-or-none mechanism.. 297         Principle  297         Actual working  297         Parallelism   298         Adaptability  298             Architectural and functional organization. 299             Action and assessment algorithms. 299

3.4.5        Is it possible to create artificially a life-like behavior?. 300             Synthesis of amino acids. 300             Genetic engineering. 300             Software model and basic functions of life. 301         Non-determinism, unpredictability of man and materialism   301             What can a computer understand?. 302             Understanding, imagination and certainty. 303

3.4.6        Intelligent being, determinism and predictability. 304             Fairness, trust, cooperation and psychological determinism.. 306         The game of "take it or leave it" 306         Kant's point of view   307             Competition between reason and affects – Hidden knowledge. 308         Importance of automatic behavior in human thinking  310         Love at first sight 311         Hidden knowledge  311             Competition between reason and intuition. 313         The "Traveler's Dilemma" game  313         A man will follow only conclusions that conform to his values  314         An objectionable reasoning  315         The science of economics is based on an objectionable postulate  315             Intuition mechanisms. 316             The two stages of decision-making. 316             It's my wish! 317

3.4.7        Conclusion about the determinism of living beings. 317

3.5   Determinism in societal sciences. 319

3.5.1        Utilitarian theories of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. 319

3.5.2        Today's fears and regrets. 319

3.5.3        An analogy between Darwinian evolution and market economy. 320

3.5.4        Globalization is a deterministic consequence of competition. 321             Globalization, determinism and laws of physics and economy. 322             Economic consequences of globalization. 322         Globalization is indispensable to get poor countries out of poverty  322         Globalization is indispensable to solve global pollution problems  325         Globalization fosters integration of national economies  325             Causes and human drawbacks of globalization. 326         Always dissatisfied, men keep creating desires and some accuse globalization  326             Globalization should be accepted. 327

3.5.5        Cooperate or confront: a societal determinism.. 328             Cooperation in primitive human societies. 330             The English industrial revolution. 331

3.5.6        Historical determinism and natural ethics. 332             Ethics, in early human societies and today. 332             Conclusion: there is a natural ethics. 335             Modern sociocultural selection. 335

3.6   A critique of determinism.. 337

3.6.1        Conditions for determinism to be disobeyed. 337

3.6.2        Conclusion: determinism must be postulated. 338

3.6.3        Critique of the scientific method and of scientific truth. 338             The formalists. 339             The intuitionists. 339             The Platonists. 340             The 18th century rationalists. 340             The empiricists. 341             Karl Popper's critical rationalism.. 341         Definition of a scientific truth  342         Definition of a scientific theory of an experimental science  343