What is free will? The answer to this question depends on who you ask. Philosophers, scientists and theologians have been arguing about free will for centuries. Although they’ve come up with hundreds of variations, their theories boil down to a few basic ideas:
- Free will is a thought process that includes the ability to have intentions and choose between alternatives.
- Free will is not the same as free action. You might intend to eat and choose what you want to eat, but if there’s no food available, you aren’t free to carry out the action of eating.
It may seem obvious to you that humans have both intent and choice, but let’s take a brief look at some of the arguments posed against free will.
- Fatalism, destiny, and predestination share the common belief that whatever happens, has to happen because nothing else can happen.
- Determinism is the belief that what’s happening to you today is the result of things that happened in the past. Determinism relies on cause and effect. Most proponents of determinism believe that cause and effect are so far removed from each other; we don’t see the connection and falsely believe we have free will.
Determinism takes on many forms, but here are a few of the most common:
- Scientific determinism is based on the theory that conditions existing at a certain point established a set of universal laws that determines the future.
- Biological determinism says that our intentions and choices are fixed by our genetic makeup.
- Theological determinism is filled with paradox. Religious leaders claim that God’s will takes precedence; therefore, God determines everything that happens. But they also claim that God gave humans free will, and it’s this “gift” that makes humans morally accountable.
A Quantum Approach to Free Will
Fatalism, predestination, destiny and determinism have all been dealt a death blow by quantum physics. Why? Each of these belief systems is built on an inflexible set of laws, but physicists have discovered that we live in a universe of potential and probabilities. There are laws that govern the operation of the universe, but those laws allow for a wide range of eventualities that support free will.
The material world and the quantum (subatomic) world operate in extremely different ways. In the material world we see separate forms, but at the quantum level the universe is one thing: a seething field of interdependent, indivisible energy. And most important to free will, subatomic energy remains in a state of “potential” until it’s acted on by conscious choice.
Quantum scientists have also discovered that consciousness permeates everything in existence. Although we’ve been taught that consciousness is a brain function, research is demonstrating the brain is a sophisticated receiver for consciousness that exists outside space/time. In this scenario, conscious intention interacted with energy and brought the world of matter into existence keeps it running. The synergy between conscious choice and energy makes free will is an essential component of the universe. Let’s look at an experiment that proves the point.
In the material world we assume that history is made up of a particular series of events that can’t be altered. If we reject free will we need this to be true since some stable force or natural laws must be controlling us, and that would result in a stable history. But physicist John Wheeler’s delayed choice experiment demonstrates that not even history is immune from conscious intent and choice. Wheeler’s experiment proved that subatomic particles retroactively and reversed a previous result even when it far too late for a change to be made. Wheeler effectively demonstrated that even the past remains in a state of potential that can be acted on by consciousness at any time
How is Free Will Affecting Your Life?
We can think about intentions and choices in terms of our day-to-day life, but free will is affecting you in ways that probably go beyond your wildest imagination. Since consciousness exists outside time/space, where are you? Where are your intentions created and your choices made? Are you the mind that exists outside space/time, or are you the body that exists in the material world?
Physicist David Bohm realized that our universe exists at two levels, one level is real and the other level is a virtual reality. If we jump to the conclusion that the visible world of matter is real, we would be incorrect. Our world is a virtual reality projected from consciousness much as a movie is projected on a screen using film and a projector. Consciousness and energy that make up the quantum level are the only reality.
Why does the universe work this way? Everything is the universe, including our projected virtual reality, is one thing. Many physicists now feel that this “one thing” is Ultimate Reality. In other words, “God” and the universe are synonymous. Like a body, universal oneness cannot support a war within itself and survive. For consciousness to truly have free will there had to be a safe way for the choices that are not in harmony with oneness to be made. Instead of ripping apart the universe, consciousness harmlessly projects our dualistic virtual world of separation and specialness.
From the quantum perspective, there is no doubt that free will exists. In fact, choice plays an indispensible role in the foundation of the universe. Because consciousness has free choice, we can continue projecting virtual reality as long as we wish. On the other hand, we’re also free to stop anytime and wake up to reality. We do have free will, the choice is ours.