Does Free Will Exist? Part #1

Today i’d like to talk about the age-old question: “Is there a Free Will, or is everything predetermened” from a modern, scientific standpoint. In advance, one thing must be clear to all of us: We are in our core nature biased towards the idea of Free Will, because of Social Conditioning. From the earliest ages, we are growing up with the assumption, that we are free in our decision-making and are therefore responsible for our actions and their effects for our lifes


The idea that Free Will is actually an illusion challanges one of our deepest believes of the fundemantal structure of our reality. That being said though, we are still able to discuss the topic on a physical and philosophical level.

1. Time


The flow of Time is actually a highly debated topic in modern physics. There are a number of famous Physicists, including String theorist and best-selling Author Brian Greene, that propose time or more precisely the flow of time is just a Illusion produced by our Brain. There are mainly two discoveries in Physics, which lead to this idea:

  • Time is not fundamental: This is a consequence of Einsteins special Theory of Relativity, which shows, that space and time change for observers in different inerertial conditions. For an static observer, the time of a moving Object appears to be slowing down with increasing speed. For a observer moving at the same velocity as the object however, the time is just normal. Also time near massive objects slows down. This effect is pretty easy to measure and our gps-satellites have to take this effect in consideration when measuring position and speed of an object on earth. This so called “Time dilatation” has some interesting applications like the “Twin Paradox”. Imagine two twins both born at the exact same day. Now one of the two twins got elected to be part of a space mission on a futuristic Spaceship, travelling at almost the speed of light. The mission is sceduled to take 10 years. After 10 years the Space-Twin will have returned to earth wanting to meet his brother. However when he lands, there will have been 80 years passed on Earth and his Brother already died an old man. Special Relativity makes time-travel into the future possible, so the future must therefore already exist argue phyisists.
  • Time is quantized: Time as well as space have a smallest unit, beyond whom our current undestanding of Physics breaks down. The smallest length is called “Planck Length” and the smallest possible time is the duration light needs to pass through a planck lenght called “Planck Time”. If there is no time smaller than the planck time, that means there is no such thing as a flow of time. It actually is a chain of frames, that are just so small, that we have the illusion time is flowing.

So are those two arguments enough to prove, that the future already exists? Well they are definetly indications for this idea. Another one is the so called “Arrow of time”. In our perception of reality, time, in contrast to most other properties of our universe, has a direction. It appears to be always flowing always in one direction, from past to future, but when looking at the maths, it becomes clear that this it’s just not necessary for the equations to only run in one direction, they are fully reversible. In the last couple years however more physisists start to accept time as a real property. According to them the arrow of time is caused by  the second law of thermodynamics, which tells us that the entropy (The amount of chaos and randomness) in a closed system will always increase over time and you need energy to decrease the entropy to its initial state. So there is definetly some direction in those functions. Another famous theory is that the arrow of time is caused by quantum entanglement.


So from our current understanding of physics we can’t say whether the future is already determined or not. This obviously leads us back to the Free Will discussion, because if the future already exists, that means we live in a deterministic world where there can’t be any Free Will, right? There are actually theories like Everett’s “Many World Interpretation” which suggest, that future and free will can exist at the same time. Before many-worlds, reality had always been viewed as a single unfolding history. Many-worlds, however, views reality as a many-branched tree, wherein every possible quantum outcome is realised. In every moment of a decision we make, there are different realities containing every possible outcome(with different probabilities), and just us choosing one limits us to that reality. Therefore reality can actually be seen as a wave, kind of like how when we observe a quantum wave of a particle, it is limited to a certain position which we then can observe.

I hope you enjoyed the first part of this series, next time i will talk about the implication of Neurosience to the Free-Will discussion. These posts are not meant to persuade you, I want you to think about it yourself and build an own opinion on the topic.

If you have constructive critisism leave me a comment down below.

Cheers, Jan

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”



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