Freedom is mysterious to us: we cannot "explain freedom" or bring freedom within a system of existing concepts. I suggest that there are two reasons for the mystery.First, our minds are filled with misleading and even false imagery put there by our culture and education, imagery I call The Mechanical Cosmology. Second, our minds are not capable of "explaining freedom." Our intelligence has only a limited repertoire of methods for obtaining knowledge. Our knowledge comes only in certain forms. These methods and forms are insufficient to construct an explanation of freedom. I propose an alternative approach to freedom that does not look for an explanation or rely on a supposed cosmology. The alternative approach would proceed through constructions involving a novel class of devices (described in terms of Quad Nets). The constructions would be guided by psychological and spiritual principles, as set forth in this Testimony and related pages. My views and principles are decidedly different from those encountered within The Mechanical Cosmology. The approach begins with criticism of The Mechanical Cosmology, as seen from a perspective where personal freedom as described in A Witness for Freedom is of chief importance.
According to the modern scientific view, there is simply no room at all for "freedom of the human will." Everything that happens in our universe is either completely determined by what's already happened in the past or else depends, in part, on random chance.··· Return to to the top of this Page
"I believe it is the atomic hypothesis (or the atomic fact, or whatever you wish to call it) that all things are made of atoms - little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another." (Page 1-2, emphasis in original.)Central in Feynman's statement is the word "all" and it is another version of The Mechanical Cosmology. It is false and the falsehood goes to the heart of the these Pages. Most "things," including brains, are not made of atoms, they are made of materials. As Clifford Truesdell and Walter Noll observed in The Non-Linear Field Theories of Mechanics (3d ed., Stuart S. Antman 2004) at 1:
"Matter is commonly found in the form of materials. Analytical [classical] mechanics turned its back upon this fact, creating the centrally useful but abstract concepts of the mass point and the rigid body, in which matter manifests itself only through its inertia, independent of its constitution; 'modern' physics likewise turns its back, since it concerns solely the small particles of matter, declining to face the problem of how a specimen made up of small particles of matter will behave in the typical circumstances in which we meet it. Materials, however, continue to furnish the masses of matter we see and use from day to day: air, water, earth, flesh, wood, stone, steel, concrete, glass, rubber..."Materials are not simply "made of atoms" - there is a character to a material that typically requires for its expression a volume of material at least large enough to be seen by a person. Each material has a particular character in a given situation and the character can change when the situation changes, e.g., liquid water boils to become steam or freezes to become ice as the situation changes from jug to stewpot to refrigerator. Factually, a piece of wood is not "made of atoms." No matter how many scientists work at it, no matter how much money and time is spent, no matter how many "atoms" are provided: there is "no way" to make a piece of wood out of "atoms." I state this as a fact rather than a cosmological principle - factually I can be proved wrong. Another fact is that there is only one known way to make a piece of wood and that way starts with a seed. Even laboratory extraction and nurturance of the essential germ plasm would involve the equivalent of a seed. "Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree." (Joyce Kilmer.) Further, shifting attention to the biological processes, I suggest that a tree is "made out of" light at least as much as it is "made out of" constituent "atoms." A piece of wood is made by biological processes that run on light. Factually, all food originates with light and the energy that fuels our brains has its source in light. Light is certainly not the atomic stuff that Feynman describes in the extract quoted above. Light is a rather different area of physics investigation and light maintains its mysteries despite all the physicists' skills. Light is not material because no material particle can travel at the speed of light (the effective mass would be infinite). People have known important facts about light for thousands of years because we have always used "light" to refer metaphorically to a powerful benevolent influence in our lives that is other than a material substance. The metaphor extends to influences that we do not see with our eyes. "God is light, in him there is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5.) In my religious beliefs (based on Quaker writings and teachings but not to be ascribed to other Quakers), I use the word "Light" to refer to the presence of God that is within each adult person and that each person can sense and know. A person adhering to spiritual disciplines attends to the Light and seeks to make his or her choices and selections under the direction of the Light. Feynman falsely declares that "all things are made of atoms." His "atoms" are conceptual inventions that work well at modeling some situations but they are by no means universally applicable to all situations. They fail to reach the facts of persons, personalities and freedom. In domains of physical science, they fail to reach the character of physical materials in many situations. Such character and changes in such character are of paramount importance in the alternative approach. ··· Return to to the top of this Page
"One puzzling phenomenon is the boiling of water, and the freezing of water is no less mysterious. If we take a liter of water and lower the temperature, it is not unreasonable that it should become more and more viscous. We may guess that at low enough temperature it will be so viscous, so stiff, as to appear quite solid. This guess about the solidification of water is wrong. As we cool water we see that at a certain temperature it changes to ice in a completely abrupt manner. Similarly, if we heat water it will boil at a certain temperature, i.e., it will undergo a discontinuous change from liquid to water vapor. The freezing and boiling of water are familiar examples of phase transitions. These phenomena are in fact so familiar that we may miss the fact that they are strange indeed, and require an explanation. ... So here is a problem for theoretical physicists: prove that as you raise or lower the temperature of water you have phase transitions to water vapor or ice. Now that's a tall order! We are far from having such a proof. In fact, there is not a single atom or molecule for which we can mathematically prove that it should crystallize at low temperatures. These problems are just too hard for us." (Emphasis in original.)The brain models discussed in Quad Nets are described in terms of phase changes. Methods of description are drawn from principles of pure thermodynamics, which does not rely on The Mechanical Cosmology. Quad Nets and later writings are detached from The Mechanical Cosmology. Through detachment, I follow an alternative approach that avoids certain defects and limitations that follow from and beset The Mechanical Cosmology. I further suggest that my approach provides insight regardless of whether Quad Net models have any validity. Most important, in my approach, there is an arising of a flicker of experience that occurs during a phase change. Phase changes are occurring continually in many places in a brain, often repeatedly. Individual flickers of experience aggregate to form a collective body of experience, like stitches being continually woven into a tapestry. This imagery is consistent with results of brain research by conventional (cosmological) neuroscientists. As a matter of fact, a person's experience surely does arise from activity of the person's brain. How that arising occurs is simply not anywhere to found in cosmological physics. [I see nothing to be gained by crediting speculations about principles of a cosmological nature, e.g., quantum gravity (Penrose) or novel collective non-local quantum mechanical transitions in scattered neuronal microtubules (Bohm's followers). None of these provide any insight into the actual nature of experience or its arising.] My alternative view to the arising of experience is presented in Page 2 of this Testimony, setting forth the principles of Quad Net models for lay persons. Quad Net models lead to further suggestions. First is the psychological suggestion that brains generate families of possibilities related by resemblances and that a person acts by selecting one possibility to become actual, e.g., choosing and making a move in a game. Second are suggestions about the nature of institutional disciplines (physical science, civil law and the Christian religion) and their role in the development of civilization. No cosmology is involved in my models. Each institutional discipline depends on its own principles, which have cosmological tendencies that depend on the subject matter of disicpline. Some institutional disciplines, e.g., civil law and the Christian religion, have developed alternative approaches that avoid cosmological traps and closemindedness. This is a construction approach where the basic construction unit, the selection, has (1) a psychological aspect based in personal experience of activities involving exercises of human intelligence and (2) a material (physical) aspect based in supposed operations of our brains. I describe the psychological aspect in terms of observations of my experience and of behavior of others. I interpret the physical aspect through operations of a class of "Quad Net devices" that I have proposed. The physical aspect and psychological aspect depend on each other and each is used to help describe the other. From another perspective, the construction unit, the selection, models a choice in human experience. I suggest a physical and psychological model of consciousness where the unit of consciousness is consciousness of making a choice, which includes consciousness of the possibilities involved in the choice and consciousness of matters of comparison and contrast between and among the possibilities. There are large areas of human activity - such as work tasks, games and purposeful travel - where this model deals with the substance of the activity. The chief features of the selection can be viewed from the physical aspect or from the psychological aspect. Viewed from the physical aspect, the chief features are as follows: A selection is a process that tracks and controls certain phase changes as they occur in time. The simplest selectional processes are cyclical or repetitive. During a selection, two or more ("multiple") possible courses of action change into a single actual course of action. The multiple possible courses of action belong to and make up a repertoire and the actual course of action belongs to the repertoire. The actual course of action emerges as the winner of a competition among the multiple courses of action. The change from multiple possible courses of action to a single actual course of action occurs during a critical moment in the process. A critical moment is a moment during which there are overall changes and it is difficult to describe. Indeed, the critical moment marks the mysteries of consciousness and freedom that I believe are beyond our understanding. A chief feature of the critical moment is the transient co-existence of the multiple possible courses of action. Each appears in a germinal form that is itself weak but that is capable of growth. During the critical moment, all the possible courses of action co-exist and they are in competition. They are susceptible to influences and influences may shift the balance one way or the other, back and forth. Possibilities turn into each other; and fragments of one possibility can be combined with fragments of another possibility. As the critical moment proceeds, however, the competition resolves into the single actual course of action, which is expressed through muscular action. The alternative method for the investigation of the arising of experience follows a path of device construction. The proposed thermal devices are not mechanical devices. Quad Net device parts are not machines, such as computers. Instead, they are devices that control phase changes and thus resemble cooks' ovens, potters' kilns and metallurgists' furnaces. I hold that we cook up our experiences, not that we calculate them. The focal activity of an ideal Quad Net device part is selection. The change from "multiple possible courses of action" to a "single actual course of action" is a phase change. Through application of "universal" principles involving phase changes and benefiting from necessary speculative assumptions, I suggest that a selection in a Quad Nets device part or assembly models a selection occurring in our brains that we experience as choice. I suggest that selection in Quad Nets helps to reveal the nature of freedom that is occurring in our brains. In Quad Nets, the principle of selection is called "shimmering sensitivity." At a critical moment, there are two or more ("multiple") possible activity patterns available for selection. The multiple activity patterns are momentarily co-existing, giving rise to shimmering. During such a critical moment, one activity pattern can easily change to another activity pattern and back again, in whole or in fragments. As selection proceeds, one possible activity pattern dominates and become selected. The selected activity pattern is that which actually generates muscular activity. E.g., a person performs a particular muscular act. The other possibilities then cease to exist, even as possibilities. Multiple activity patterns co-exist (e.g., in fragments of germinal forms) at the critical moment but, as the process proceeds, only one can survive to be selected and the others perish. During the selection, there are influences that come, e.g., from the senses or from memories that are stimulated by the present situation. Sometimes, a very tiny shift in balances of influences can lead to a distinctly different activity pattern being selected, giving rise to sensitivity. Shimmering sensitivity is the physical principle of freedom. I suggest that the same principle operates in brains as in Quad Net device parts and that, during a selection made by a person, a brain part passes through a "critical moment" when it is in a condition of shimmering sensitivity. Multiple possibilities are co-existing and turning into each other and the selection may depend on tiny incremental influences. Consider a situation at a potluck dinner you are attending where you get to choose your dessert, either a piece of homemade nut bar or a bowl of brandname ice cream. As you approach the table with the two desserts, two or more activity patterns co-exist in your brain. You will select an activity pattern to choose the dessert. If you select one particular activity patterns, you will pick up a piece of the homemade nut bar. If you select another particular activity pattern, you will pick up a bowl of brandname ice cream. Perhaps there is a third possibility where you walk away without picking up anything. Let us suppose that, at the outset, you have no pre-selected choice and you approach the table ready to select or even to turn away empty-handed. All three possibilities are present in your mind. You may feel an impulse to pick up the nut bar or you may feel an impulse to pick up the bowl of ice cream and the impulse may shift between the two. Suppose the ice cream is your favorite flavor and you hear from someone else at the table that the nuts are walnuts, which you generally think taste like sawdust. But then you hear that the walnuts come from a tree in Joyce's own backyard and, knowing of Joyce's excellent cooking skills, your decision shifts again. As parts of your brain (repeatedly) pass through critical moments, you experience and re-experience the selection of the homemade nut bar - indeed you visually experience the nut bar itself - and you pick it up. The selection is an exercise of freedom. ··· Return to to the top of this Page