Another bit that has been doing the rounds in my head that is more a question, a thought experiment, rather than a conclusion.
Sometime ago, I wondered if ‘free will’ existed at all and the answer veered more towards to ‘No’ rather than the ‘Yes’. But, what about the choices that we make? I decided to do computer engineering rather than mechanical, or I decided to buy this stock, versus that, or I decided to play cricket versus football etc. These were some of the most intellectual examples of the presence of choice (and hence free will) that were offered to me. But the lack of apparent sophistication of this justification cannot hide its inherent elegance, its simplicity, in convincing us that ‘we’ are in control.
My own logic for arguing otherwise (i.e. choice being an illusion) is even more simpler and thus (in my view, anyway) elegant in its own right: Our decisions/ choice/ will is based on our past experiences, since our past experiences aren’t in our control, the choice we make based off them can hardly be called ‘free’. Yes we are ‘free’ to choose to study computer engineering, but if you were born in the 1960-70s in India, chances are you were so exposed to the wealth and power of the young computer wizards everywhere (not the mention a fast track to the coveted green card), that when the time came to chose, if you had the necessary qualification, the choice was basically already made.
In my reading of some of Swami Vivekananda’s works (this is one person I greatly admire and hope to share more about some day), I came across his observations that were in the ball park of: In this universe of time, space and causality free will doesn’t exist. He went on to elaborate on this, but currently locked out of my house and access to my books (and not possessing a photographic memory) I will refrain on commenting further on Swami Vivekananda’s thoughts on this issue. But the gist as I remember is this, every action in this universe bound by space and time is the result of a previous action usually in the past and the cause for further action sometime in the future. As such, there is very little chance of any act in itself to be independent, hence free.
This line of thought, finds resonance in the Bhagwad Gita (another topic on which I would love to comment, but when I know enough). The Gita begins with Arjuna, the warrior, refusing to do battle against his kith and kin. To convince him of the need to do his duty without worrying about the results, his friend, philosopher and guide (…and God, for those given to simple terms) first rebukes him, taunts him, dares him, tells him of the benefits of winning but finding Arjuna obstinate the discussions go deeper and deeper into the nature of reality. At the first glance, this appears as a discussion that can go either way, Arjuna has a choice: he can either fight or flee and he and Krishna are out there on the battlefield (which also I find symbolic, that your biggest questions about the nature of truth will not necessarily come while meditating peacefully in a beautiful forest or in an Ashram, they will come when it is their time to come and you must be prepared to still your mind for them) debating the pros and cons of each option. My line of thought was different…if Arjuna had a choice (i.e. to fight or not) why don’t his enemies? Did they not have a choice, especially when I knew that some of them did not want this fight? This apparent injustice was sorted out for me towards the end of the Gita (when Arjuna is convinced to fight and takes up arms) when Krishna tells him that he was always destined to fight this war and win it, but he was also destined to have doubts which would result in Krishna delving into the nature of reality that is the Gita. So basically, no one in this story had a choice at all, which brings me again to the question, that existence of free will is not a ‘given’.
While I agree that basing this alone on what is given by religious thinkers is not the proof one would like, I am not a physicist to come up with the proof. I do have my logic for questioning the existence of ‘free will’ which I outline before commenting on Swami Vivekananda and the Gita.
An interesting off shoot of this ‘logic’, is then if there is no free will, then is it possible to predict the future with stunning accuracy? Leaving all vestiges of logic completely, I think yes. Having personally witnessed some really good astrologers at work has increased my interest in that science or art or whatever. Again, I am only stating my thoughts here, as uninformed as they are: The emotive classification of planets and constellations as they are nowadays done in Vedic astrology as ‘good’ or ‘harmful’ is in my view wrong. The sages who gave us astrology recognised the ‘’inevitability’ in the universe and created astrology to predict where it would go. After all, they may have reasoned, if a comet’s path, time of re-appearing etc can be determined with pinpoint accuracy why cant human lives be so predicted as well?
In my thought experiment I imagine the universe as a big mechanical structure where every object that moves has a constant, cyclical relation with every other object in the universe. So the rishis that invested astrological charts decided to find out where the universe was going, How did they do that, by using markers. The markers where the nine biggest things they could see in the sky for most of the year. They could have done it with one object but then the predictions would not have been very accurate as that one object would have varying relations with varying other objects (but a constant, cyclical relation with each of them). Having nine markers improves the ‘hit rate’. So Saturn is not ‘bad’ as is thought of in
today, but only a marker. If the planet were to be replaced by a large enough stone to be a marker, the prediction would not change. It is where the universe is going, if that is a tough place for some people, so be it! Which is also why I find astrologers who keep harping on how the moon affects tides on Earth as ‘proof’ of the effectiveness of astrology, stupid. They clearly don’t know the logic of their work in the first place. In any case the obvious disconnect of a physical effect versus predictive quality is clearly lost on these village idiots. India
There have been thinkers like Krishna Murti who have devised the Krishnamurti Paddhati (K.P.) for even more accurate chart and predictions. But overall, if what I say were to be correct, astrologers can incorporate more markers, with super computers today, they can possibly use like a million markers rather than nine to make birth charts deadly accurate in forecasting. Unfortunately, apart from some like K.P. today’s astrologers may lack the understanding of the impact of where the universe is moving to improve on their craft. They have become mere repeaters, and mediocre ones at that