The Instigator
Con (against)
3 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
11 Points

Determinism as a real thing

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/4/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 824 times Debate No: 61290
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (8)
Votes (3)




This is a determinism debate.

Round 1: Acceptance


I accept.

Since Pro has not provided a definition of "determinism", I will:
"the idea that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature."

This should be good practice for the free will debate I'm hoping to do eventually :D
Debate Round No. 1


Since the definition of Determinism is:

"the idea that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature."

The information present in the universe at one given time would be enough to define any event in the future

Proving at least that there is one event that doesn"t follow the definition from above would be enough to prove that determinism is not real.

But of course, one would think that the sun will obviously rise tomorrow, the earth will still exist and animals will keep on breeding to maintain their species. This sounds quite deterministic, but extending this definition to the whole universe is a type of fallacy called "Fallacy of induction".
Now, let"s begin in our quest to:

1.- Find something "truly random"

2.- Something that follows no pattern

1.- Something truly random:
Quantum mechanics describes quantum particles as probabilities, not because we don"t know yet, but because there is nothing there to know. The information is only known once we look.
Let"s explain it with something close to us: a cat.

Schr"dinger"s cat.
In 1935, Erwin Schrodinger, in an attempt to explain the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics, he proposed an experiment where a cat is placed in a box with a sealed vial of poison that will break open at a random time. Now, since no-one knows when or if the poison has been released, until the box is opened, the cat can be thought of as both alive and dead.
This is an example of how quantum mechanics work, all in a simplified hypothetical experiment to make it understandable."dinger's_cat

2.- Let"s finish with the latter, something that follows no pattern:
If we take a series of numbers following a logical order, there would be determination; the previous information would make the following redundant.
Once something doesn"t follow any patterns (that is, the following information cannot be inferred from the previous one), we can say that it is a completely unpredictable system and thus defies the definition of determinism.
Let"s examine it:
"the idea that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature."
This is a deterministic set of numbers:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9"
This follows a logical pattern. But this one doesn"t:
8, 9, 2, 4, 7, 1, 3, 10, 5, 6

For more information, i would suggest watching this three amazing videos i found on the internet:

They might come in handy for your Free Will debate if you side Pro.


Thanks, Con.
I will start by offering my own case affirming the resolution.

Everything, and I do mean *everything*, in human experience up until this point has gone to support the conclusion that determinism is true. Our metaphysical intuitions have even been shaped by our experiences to the point that we are unable to coherently envision an event happening without cause. Not only that, but determinism is philosophically supported as well; it makes logical sense that all events have an antecedent event causing it.
Therefore, it is only reasonable to believe that determinism holds true throughout the universe, unless we are given sufficient reason to believe otherwise. However, it is Con's burden to provide that "reason", which is exactly what he has attempted to do in his opening argument. On to rebuttals...

Con cites a concept from quantum mechanics called Schrodinger's Cat, attempting to show that some things happen completely randomly and without cause. However, this relies wholly on the validity of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, which specifically describes the strange properties of quantum particles as inexplicable and probabilistic.
However, quantum physics is a work in progress, and we have not yet fully understood it; there are several other, newer interpretations that have been gaining recognition recently such as the Many Worlds interpretation [1] and the Bohmian interpretation [2], which are experimentally equivalent to other interpretations, yet explain quantum effects in ways that still abide by determinism. Interpretations such as these are actually favored over the Copenhagen interpretation by Occam's Razor, as they are much simpler, have greater explanatory power, and do not go against the rules that govern the rest of reality.
In order for us to accept Con's claim that quantum mechanics refutes determinism, he would have to show that the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics is exclusively true.

Con goes on to claim that the fact that we can make a list of numbers which follows no particular pattern refutes determinism... this makes absolutely no sense. Numbers are a purely abstract and theoretical construct; just because we make a list of numbers doesn't mean that they actually exist in reality. To refute determinism, Con must show that there are actually-existent things which do not follow any sort of deterministic pattern.

In conclusion, determinism is the most reasonable conclusion we can draw from the available evidence, and neither of Con's counter-examples actually serve as sufficient reasons for us to reject it.
The resolution is affirmed.

Debate Round No. 2


I"ll start by answering each paragraph one by one:

1st paragraph:
Occam "s razor is no substitute for insight, logic and the scientific method.
Here you have a discussion about the validity of Occam"s razor in a physics forum which I find interesting:
Still we can say the same about the many worlds and Bohman interpretation, quantum mechanics is still a work in progress, there will be many on one side and the other.

We are programed to see patterns in the world, and that"s why determinism works so well for us, but the fact that we may see apparent patterns, doesn"t mean they are actually there.
This happens very often and its most commonly experienced by seeing faces were there aren"t any, this phenomenon is called Pareidolia.
The most generic term that would also include our topic is called Apophenia, the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data.
Also, our brain doesn"t help us accept that things aren't easily predictable and that we do in fact often predict this things incorrectly. This can also happen to things that cannot be deduced because of this randomness. This is called Hindsight bias, or the knew-it-all-along effect.
All these effects (and other cognitive biases) often lead us to think incorrectly, in this case, seeing patterns were there are no patterns and literally unconsciously distorting your own memory to believe you knew things before happening (Making them seem possible to deduce from the past).
Most philosophy thoughts come from thinking that gets some influence from experience, and in experience we see events determining other events, and other events we just remember them in a distorted version. But some events being determined doesn"t negate the fact that randomness exists as part of the essential nature of things.
Maybe it"s time for philosophy to take a step forward and get even more abstract.
As Stephen Hawking said "Philosophy is dead". In my opinion, it"s just agonizing because it needs to breathe new, yet unused air.

2nd paragraph:
This set of values you identify as "Theoretical construct and purely abstract" can exist as information in a computer. We can acquire "pure information" through a process called "Data Compression", removing redundancies in data. This "pure information" is completely random.

Now let"s look at the next reason for determinism not being real (Following the video "What is not Random?"):
Entropy may be our answer. Entropy is a fact, it"s part of the laws of thermodynamics, and a measure of disorder. As you can deduce from my previous arguments, order is required to make determinism a valid position.
The entropy of the universe is increasing, that translates into more randomness, disorder (aka less determination).

Where may this growth of chaos come from? Quantum mechanics. But let"s just leave it there, for now.


Thanks for the speedy response, Con.

Con's rebuttal against my case for determinism is essentially an appeal to the unreliability of human cognition and perception, claiming that our natural psychological tendency to seek out patterns in things can result in us believing in false ideas. It is true that this tendency makes it possible for us to see patterns where there aren't any; however, just pointing out the possibility of that happening doesn't logically lead to the conclusion that all the patterns we do see are false...
In addition, we are not necessarily bound to the tendencies of our brain. Take the example of of "fake face" in Pro's second Wikipedia link; it is true that we see a face there upon first sight, but upon closer inspection, we are able to also see that it could just be nothing more than a random arrangement of geometric figures. In other words, humans are capable of objectively analyzing perceived patterns to see if they're actually legitimate. This is an essential part of scientific methodology (the main source of evidence for determinism), as seen by the fact scientists do actively try to avoid allowing correlation/causation fallacy, hasty generalizations, confirmation bias, and other things of the like to interfere in their research.
Thus, the evidence supporting determinism is sufficiently reliable; given that and its philosophical soundness, it is safe to assume that it is true. It is Con's job, now, to give us sufficient reason to disbelieve in it.
Moving onto rebuttals...

1. Quantum Mechanics

My original rebuttal to Con's argument from QM was that it relies on the Copenhagen interpretation, and that other deterministic interpretations are favored by Occam's Razor. Con's only response to that is a denial of Occam's Razor... it is true that it is not always right, as Con points out; however, even in the forum that Con cites, it says "much of science draws on Occam's razor, and mostly it stands up to scrutiny". And, anyways, in this case, there is virtually no other option in deciding which interpretation is superior, as they are all experimentally equivalent. In other words, all of QM's interpretations are based off of the same raw data about particle behavior; they are simply different ways of explaining those behaviors. Therefore, Occam's Razor is the only indicator we have of truth value among them, and it favors deterministic interpretations like Bohmian Mechanics and the MWI.

2. Random Numbers

Con claims that computers can generate numbers which are completely random. But getting into the technical details of the process, we see that 'randomly generated numbers' are actually completely deterministic:
"You can program a machine to generate what can be called random numbers, but the machine is always at the mercy of its programming. 'On a completely deterministic machine you can't generate anything you could really call a random sequence of numbers...because the machine is following the same algorithm to generate them. Typically, that means it starts with a common 'seed' number and then follows a pattern.' The results may be sufficiently complex to make the pattern difficult to identify, but because it is ruled by a carefully defined and consistently repeated algorithm, the numbers it produces are not truly random. 'They are what we call 'pseudo-random numbers,'" [1]

3. Entropy

This is a new argument put forth by Con, which claims that since entropy is a measure of disorder, and disorder is random, determinism is false. However, this is basically a semantics argument. Entropy is actually just "a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system's thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work". It is simply called 'a measure of disorder' for the purposes of simplicity. In reality there is nothing remotely non-deterministic about it.

In conclusion, I have successfully defended my case for determinism and refuted Cons counter-examples.
The resolution is affirmed.

Debate Round No. 3


Pro must still prove that determinism is real. Since determinism implies that absolutely everything is determined, Pro must prove that ALL events are so. So intuition or daily examples are not valid arguments. The work of reason is to find explanation to things (and thus patterns).
That"s why we fail and commit Apophenia many times. We are reaching a field in science which is very complex to understand and it is natural for us to deny something that doesn"t make much sense, but that doesn"t make it false.
I"m not even saying your position is false, I"m not saying mine is true.
I have come to a conclusion, through meditation. I took into consideration both sides and yet I see Pro just assumes through fallacy of induction (and unproven interpretations, just as I am) that determinism is true.
I"m making a point here, which is, none of us both can give a definitive answer at the moment.
All we have are intrepretations, theories and assumptions.
I thank Pro for giving me some alternatives to non-determinism, it has helped me amplify my range of ideas.
I have given many reasons and Pro has also given some reasons too, but I don"t see any more than pointless reasons based on yet unstable bases.
I propose a Draw, to be able to escape from the failure of winning or losing a pointless debate.
We both had reasons yet none of them were absolute, so we cannot reach a true answer. Assuming any position without full evidence would be an error.
My position in "Debates are meant to be won, not to reach truth" is becoming verified
The way to reach truth it"s not to defend a position, but to deny confrontation and to study the topic with skepticism, that is, getting out of the debate.


I completely agree with my opponent's assessment that neither of us can give a definitive answer; definitive proof simply doesn't exist in science. And it is also true that having a debate on the subject isn't the best way to reach the truth. All of what my opponent has said regarding this is true; however at the end of the day, this is just a debate, and we should treat it as such. In a debate, the goal is to win by fulfilling your burden of proof and showing that your opponent has not met their's, which is exactly what I have done. In other words, I decline Con's offer to end this in a draw, and will instead refute the minimal argumentation provided by Con in his final round...

Con drops all his counter-examples, instead turning fully to attacking my affirmative case. He re-iterates his appeal to the fallibility of human perception/cognition without really addressing my response from last round, so I can just extend my original response. He also brings up the claim that I must show beyond a doubt that every event that occurs in reality is deterministic in nature... however, as I've already explained, I don't need to do that because I have already shown why the evidence behind it (all of human experience, innumerable scientific studies, philosophical soundness, etc.) is enough for us to assume that determinism applies throughout the universe and on all levels of reality. With my BOP fulfilled, the onus was then on Con to provide sufficient reason for us to reject determinism; however, he has dropped all his counter-examples...
Hence, the resolution is affirmed.

Thanks to Con for an interesting debate; I learned quite a bit throughout it.
Vote Pro!
Debate Round No. 4
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by UchihaMadara 2 years ago

apparently you're not as good a voter as you are a debater...
con dropped the quantum states argument, bro
Posted by UchihaMadara 2 years ago

dis is gunna be fun.
Posted by TruthGen 2 years ago
Even if the category is "Philosophy" you can use scientific arguments.
Posted by Wylted 2 years ago
I didn't really want it, and he wouldn't want to debate me, because I won't use philosophical arguments. Good luck.
Posted by UchihaMadara 2 years ago
you faltered for too long, wylted :P
Posted by Wylted 2 years ago
I just googled it and yes I believe humans don't have free will. I think science will back me up on this.
Posted by Wylted 2 years ago
I may take this. Let me google determinism first. I never heard of it before.
Posted by RainbowDash52 2 years ago
If you can give a definition to determinism, I might accept.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by Blade-of-Truth 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Conduct - tie. Neither gave reason to award or negate points from one or the other. S&G - Tie. Although I preferred Pro's formatting and spacing, ultimately the spelling and grammar was on-par for both debaters. Sources - Pro. While both utilized sources throughout this debate, Con's sources were of a lesser degree in terms of academic integrity. Pro utilized respected sources from centers of education, whereas Con utilized Wikipedia for a majority of his arguments. This isn't to say Wikipedia isn't respectable, but when compared to the sources of Pro - it's clear Pro earns these points. Arguments - Pro. Con's counter-arguments were soundly defeated by Pro's R3. Con then dropped a majority of his arguments, leaving Pro's standing unchallenged. Pro proceeded to defeat the last remaining challenge in regards to human fallibility by showing the preponderance of evidence he presented compared to Con. This is a solid win for Pro.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: What debate is meant to be, and what separates it from a generalized discussion, is unimportant to this debate. Pro makes a claim that's encompassed in the resolution, which is that determinism is real and governs all events that occur. It therefore becomes Con's burden to poke holes in that logic, and he attempts to do so three different ways. By essentially wasting his last round, Con fails to uphold them, something I thought was reasonably possible with regards to quantum mechanics. The turn to arguments on how we think really distances Con's points from the debate at hand, only insinuating that we must be making mistakes due to our intuitions without evidence of which mistakes we've made. The remainder of Con's arguments, regarding entropy and randomized numbers, receive sufficient response from Pro, and he does enough on quantum mechanics to at least obscure that point enough to make it uncertain. Ergo, lacking any proof that determinism is false, I vote Pro.
Vote Placed by TrasguTravieso 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: It has been determined from the begginning of the universe that I would at this specific moment in time award arguments to Con. That or I have made a rational choice after weighing the arguments, particularly that from the random nature of quantum states. Con did, however, propose a tie, and I will (or have no choice but to) honor their agreement in that respect.