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

The Universe is deterministic

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Post Voting Period
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after 1 vote the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/21/2016 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 9 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 605 times Debate No: 85327
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (7)
Votes (1)




I really want to discuss about this because I'm not sure of my opinion.

I think that the universe must be deterministic because of its excellent design and for the limits that existence itself has.
However, if this is true, it means that we will never be free, which is really upsetting hahaha.

To clarify some points:
* It would be interesting to focus on the metaphysical implicancies of this issue and the relation with free will, religions, time-space composition and future prediction.

* Determinism is the philosophical position that for every event, including human interactions, there exist conditions that could cause no other event. Other debates often concern the scope of determined systems, with some maintaining that the entire universe is a single determinate system and others identifying other more limited determinate systems (or multiverse). Numerous historical debates involve many philosophical positions and varieties of determinism. They include debates concerning determinism and free will, technically denoted as compatibilistic (allowing the two to coexist) and incompatibilistic (denying their coexistence is a possibility).

*Free will is the ability to choose between different possible courses of action. Some conceive free will to be the capacity for an agent to make choices in which the outcome has not been determined by past events.

Accept the challenge if you want to debate in a educated way and always open to new ideas. I want to learn and the challenger should want the same


I accept the challenge.

Pro is making a positive fact-claim, so the burden of proof is on him to show that determinism is true. All I have to do to negate the resolution is refute his arguments in favor of determinism.

Looking forward to a good debate.
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks spacetime for accepting the challenge.

This issue has been bothering me from a long time. Hours of thinking made me reach to this conclusion. The Universe is deterministic. Let me clarify that it is deterministic not in a superstitious way, like some sort of destiny or God which controls us, but more like saying that we don't have totally open option.

Basic Statement:

The Universe is determined because its existences is limited to a certain amount of options.
Let me reduce it a bit. Imagine that you have to make a choice. In our Universe this means that you have to choose between A or B. You can't choose whatever you want, you have to choose A or B. You can't choose C, or R or 4 or whatever. Just A or B. In this way we have a certain degree of choice but we don't have the complete freedom, we are limited.

I have 2 arguments that support this thesis.

1 The nature of our existence scientifically limits us.

Imagine a battleship board. You are in space 8A. The thing is that you want to be in 8A and in 3F too, both at the same time. As you know, we can't be in two different places at the same time. As you see, our freedom of choice is limited by the laws of nature.

The nature of our existence makes the Universe determined. The laws of nature limit what we can do. We can do everything that is coheherent with them. But we can't do what we want, we can't chose to do the things nature doesn't allow us to do. This prove my deterministic statements.

2 The complex design of the Universe needs determinism.

Our Universe is almost perfect. The details it has are incredible. The possibility of all the coincidences that make us as we are happening at the same time is minimum. If only one little thing had happened to be different, our life would be very different, maybe impossible to exist.

I believe that our life as it is would have been improbable without a determined Universe. There must be some kind of determination to allow this to happen.

¿What happens with free will?

If what I proposed here is correct, we don't have total free will. We can chose between certain determined options but we can't choose whatever we want. I was first disappointed with the absence of free will in this thesis, but I'm a bit consoled by knowing that we have some kind of degree of choice.



spacetime forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


I don't have anything to ad to my argument and since CON forfeited I can't rebut either.

Hope next time CON doesn't forfeit!


spacetime forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


condeelmaster forfeited this round.


Sorry for forfeiting the past 2 rounds.

Remember that the burden of proof is on Pro to show that determinism is true. I'll still provide arguments against determinism, but as long as Pro's affirmative arguments are refuted, I win the debate.

Unfortunately, most of Pro's round is rendered irrelevant by his own misunderstanding of what exactly determinism and free will are. As Pro himself stated in Round 1, determinism is the idea that "for every event... there exist conditions that could cause no other event." In other words, determinism doesn't give us *any* choice at all between A and B, because either A and B would already have been necessitated by antecedent conditions. There is no room for free will under determinism, because free will, by definition, implies some degree of freedom from external causal constraints.

Contrary to Con's claims, free will doesn't entail the ability to choose C or D when A and B are the only available options. As long as there is a choice between A and B, then we have free will. Again, this is all in accordance with Pro's R1 definitions. Pro is attacking some strange, totally unconstrained form of free will which allows people to defy the laws of reality itself, but literally no one supports that, nor am I required to defend that in this debate. Pro's concluding statement essentially concedes the debate by admitting that limited free will exists. I agree, and that's why determinism is false.

Pro also argues that the perfect, complex design of the universe mandates determinism, but it's a complete non-sequitur. There's no link between apparent fine-tuning and determinism. The universe could also have deterministically developed to be "imperfect" (whatever that means) and lifeless. There is no reason to believe that determinism provides a more likely context for the universe to be the way it is than indeterminism. Reject this incredibly underdeveloped argument.

So none of Pro's arguments actually show that the universe is deterministic. This alone is reason enough to vote Con, but let's also examine some positive reasons to reject determinism.

(1) Quantum Mechanics

Scientific inquiry into quantum mechanics has revealed that at reality's smallest scales, determinism is most definitely false. There are numerous discoveries which support this. First and foremost, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle shows that "the position and the velocity of an object cannot both be measured exactly, at the same time, even in theory. The very concepts of exact position and exact velocity together, in fact, have no meaning in nature" [1]. In other words, it isn't possible for a particle's movements to be fully determined by its antecedent conditions because their antecedent conditions are not fully defined to begin with -- their movements necessarily occur with some degree of randomness.

Another proof of indeterminism comes from virtual particles, which have been empirically observed to randomly appear & disappear without any cause or explanation at all. In fact, these "quantum fluctuations" are constantly occurring throughout vacuums, and positive energy density is widely known to be a definite property of empty space [2].

Most importantly, electron movements in atoms have long been known to be spontaneous and acausal -- the best that physicists have been able to do to describe electrons' locations is calculating probability distributions (i.e. there is X% chance of finding Y electron at Z location). There have been various attempts at explaining the movements of electrons in a deterministic manner, collectively known as "hidden variable theories," but they rely on violations of Occam's Razor -- in order to remain sound, they have to assume the existence of variables for which there is no evidence whatsoever.

On top of that, most hidden variable theories have already been shown to be impossible by John Neumann's statistical proofs. The only one that hasn't is Bohmian Mechanics, and not even its own developer thought that it was likely to be true: "Bohm's original aim was not to make a serious counterproposal but simply to demonstrate that hidden-variable theories are indeed possible... Bohm said he considered his theory to be unacceptable as a physical theory due to the guiding wave's existence in an abstract multi-dimensional configuration space, rather than three-dimensional space" [3].

The takeaway from all this is that science has definitively refuted determinism.

(2) Free will exists

To make this point, I will be utilizing a pragmatist approach to epistemology, which functions primarily off of prima facie justification, falsificationism, and abductive reasoning. I will only further justify this approach if Pro takes issue with it. From a prima facie standpoint, it's incredibly obvious that free will exists -- ALL of us consciously experience decision-making at literally every instant of our lives. Given this, under pragmatism, we should only doubt that free will exists if given an overriding reason which falsifies our prima facie notion of its existence. It's Pro's job to provide that overriding reason.

However, pretty much all free will deniers attempt to derive overriding reasons from neurology, so I'll offer a pre-emptive rebuttal to that general approach. Even a cursory glance at the state of modern neuroscience reveals that it's a vastly incomplete field. Neurologists haven't managed to explain even phenomena as fundamental as consciousness -- little progress has been made in filling in the gap between our subjective, first-person mental states and our physical, third-person brain states. Given that we have such limited knowledge of how the brain functions, it becomes rather silly to appeal to neurology in an attempt at overriding the tremendous prima facie justification of free will's existence.

Therefore, free will probably exists, which once again refutes determinism.

The resolution is negated


Debate Round No. 4



Firstly, I have to point out that the first part of Con's argument is totally invalid. Using different definitions for the same concept is a fallacy. Con stated that "There is no room for free will under determinism", but, as you can read in round 1: "concerning determinism and free will, technically denoted as compatibilistic (allowing the two to coexist) ". This means that proving free will doesn't disproves determinism.

Anyway, as I said before free will is " the capacity for an agent to make choices in which the outcome has not been determined by past events.". That being said, if you can only choose between A or B you don't have free will. If you can only choose between two option, the outcome of that choice is already determined: It would be A or B, thus free will wouldn't exist. The real and complete free will would exist if the choice you do couldn't be prior determined in any way.

Also, the possibility that a deterministic Universe could have been determined to end up "bad" doesn't disprove that It could have been determined to end up like this. Proving that X could cause Y doesn't mean that X couldn't cause Z. This doesn't negate the causal relationship between Z and X. You can't say that X could just cause one thing. However, It is possible to say that Z couldn't be caused by anything else than X, this is what my argument says, and that's why it's correct.

So, by now, all the Cons arguments where unsuccessful to show my arguments are incorrect or invalid.

Quantum Mechanics

First of all, the whole quantum mechanics has been already rebutted by Con himself. Later in his argument He says that the neurological approach to prove that free will doesn't exist is invalid because neurology is an incomplete field. As far as I'm concerned, quantum mechanics is as an incomplete field as neurology, maybe even more incomplete and uncertain. This means that the whole quantum mechanics argument against determinism is invalid, thus Con unsuccessful to disprove determinism.
Anyway, quoting Daniel Miessler :"Quantum randomness leading to an alternative outcome does not count because humans don’t willfully influence quantum randomness."

Free will

As I said earlier, free will doesn't make determinism invalid. So if you prove free will you are not disproving my claim that the universe is deterministic.
Nevertheless, I can give arguments disproving free will.

"Experience teaches us no less clearly than reason, that men believe themselves free, simply because they are conscious of their actions, and unconscious of the causes whereby those actions are determined." B. de Spinoza Ethics .

you say that the proof of free will is that we experience choice making, but as Spinoza explained, being conscious of your actions doesn't mean you have free will. You are indeed conscious of your actions, but unconscious of the causes of such actions, thus you feel like you have free will but you don't.

As you can observe, Con can negate the resolution, and provided that I can prove it, the resolution is affirmed.

More arguments in favour of determinism

Determinism is the base of science

Quoting Bertrand Russell: "The law of causation, according to which later events can theoretically be predicted by means of earlier events(determinism), has often been held to be a priori, a necessity of thought, a category without which science would not be possible."

The base of all scientific knowledge is determinism. The statement that events are determined by prior events is what makes science possible. So if we say that the Universe is not deterministic, we are saying that science is invalid. That would be absurd, because all of our arguments are based in science, and if science is invalid, both opinions, pro and con, are invalid too.

Causation is undeniable

The law of causation is indeed undeniable. Every event has a cause. You can't think of an event that happened without a cause. That being said, if all events have a cause, all events are determined, ergo, the universe itself is determined.

Libet's experiments

Libet asked people connected to EEG to move their hand in arbitrary moments. The results showed that there was brain activity before the actual decision-making moment occurred. This proves that decisions we feel we make are actually the result of neuronal activity which occurs before conscious decision making.

Quantum Theory

Many people think that QT is non deterministic, but It isn't. Instead it is very deterministic.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that Heisenberg was talking about how particles were. He was actually talking about how we measure them. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle tells us that we can't precisely measure 2 quantities, that's it.
When statistical mechanics come to play, QT becomes deterministic. A particle's path can't be fully described, but it can anyway be predicted. As a matter of fact, as far as prediction goes, the quantum motion is as predictable as the classical motion, but the key is that it describes wave functions that cannot be easily expressed in ordinary language. This probabilities, are determined, thus proving determinism.
Also, the Schrödinger equation makes the QT a perfectly deterministic theory, having systems described by a wave function which develops based on the previous states of the wave, all this ruled by an equation. As I see it, very deterministic.



Thanks to Condeelmaster for the debate.

I'm going to have to change up the formatting a bit for this round.

(1) Definitions

Pro has objectively lost the definitions debate. Determinism mandates that *everything* which happens is fully determined by its antecedent conditions, whereas free will clearly exempts human actions from that rule. Therefore, the existence of free will contradicts determinism, and Pro has offered no substantive rebuttal to my reasoning. Instead, he just appeals to the philosophical doctrine known as compatibilism. But, as anyone who actually understands compatibilism can tell you, that doctrine doesn't actually do anything to resolve the apparent contradiction. It simply says we can pretend that free will exists for all practical purposes (e.g. criminal justice) even if it doesn't exist in reality. It still maintains that determinism and free will are incompatible on a metaphysical level, so Pro cannot defend both of them.

Pro also attempts to make me defend an absolutely ridiculous definition of free will. Like he himself said, free will is "the capacity for an agent to make choices in which the outcome has not been determined by past events." This means that *any* capacity for choice -- even if it's only between two options A and B -- counts as free will, because until the moment of decision, it is impossible to determine (with certainty) which option will be chosen. Pro says that "the outcome of that choice is already determined: It would be A or B." That's nonsensical -- the fact that it could be A *or* B implies that it is NOT pre-determined. Free will does not grant agents the ability to transcend reality and create brand-new options -- it only grants them the ability to have some degree of control over their actions and choose between the options available to them.

(2) Cosmic Fine-Tuning

Pro misunderstands who has the burden of proof here. HE is the one who made this argument. It was HIS responsibility to provide the necessary support for it. Instead, he simply asserted the improbability of cosmic fine-tuning sans determinism, without providing any evidence at all. Therefore, his argument is not logically sound, and should be rejected.

(3) Quantum Mechanics

Pro's rebuttal to this argument is ridiculous. Quantum mechanics may be a work in progress, but that doesn't mean that our current knowledge of it is automatically invalidated. I provided three separate lines of evidence, each of which independently affirmed indeterminism, and Pro needs to directly address them in order to win the debate. On the subject of Heisenberg's Principle, he asserts that the uncertainty is only epistemic in nature, but my source (and literally every reputable authority on physics) clearly states that it has ontological significance as well. Recall that a particle's position and velocity cannot be simultaneously determined *even in theory* -- "the very concepts of exact position and exact velocity together, in fact, have no meaning in nature." Therefore, particle movements must be random to some extent.

Pro then goes on to assert that electron movements are deterministic simply because electron locations can be quantified using probability distributions. But that just misunderstands what is meant by a "probability distribution" in this context. To illustrate the concept more clearly, I will use a simplified example of one. Let's say that a given electron has a 30% chance of taking Path X and a 70% chance of taking Path Y. All this means is that if the electron is brought to that junction an infinite number of times, then the ratio of instances in which it takes Path X vs. Path Y will approach 3:7. However, for each individual trial, there is no determinant of which path the electron will take until the moment at which a path is taken. So even if probability distributions can be calculated, electron movements themselves are still spontaneous, acausal, and random.

Pro also says something incomprehensible about Schrodinger's wave-function, but the wave-function is mathematically understood as a probability distribution, so whatever point Pro was trying to make is likely addressed in the previous paragraph. And Pro also completely dropped the virtual particles argument. It is undeniable -- QM falsifies determinism.

(4) Basis of Science

The purpose of science is to investigate how reality works -- not to confirm Bertrand Russell's personal belief in determinism. If scientific inquiry reveals that determinism is false, then intellectual honesty requires that we reject it. Yes, most scientific theories tend to abide by the law of cause/effect, but that doesn't change the facts -- QM has falsified the notion that determinism holds true in all cases. However, that doesn't mean all the causal scientific theories are wrong. They deal with a totally different scale of reality than QM, so their accuracy is not threatened at all by QM's radical implications. Pro's assertion that QM's falsification of determinism somehow invalidates all of science is beyond absurd.

(4) Causation undeniable?

Actually, causation is easily deniable. Last round, I cited an experiment which clearly showed causation being denied by the random appearance & disappearance of virtual particles in a vacuum. b00m. This argument is refuted.

(5) Free Will

Firstly, note that free will doesn't have to exist in order for determinism to be false, so even if you don't buy this argument, the resolution is still negated via QM. However, if free will *does* exist, then determinism is definitely false. Recall that I have already provided a very strong prima facie justification of free will. Thus, the only reason to doubt free will's existence is if we're given an overriding reason to reject the prima facie justification. Of course, I argue that Libet's experiment does not even come close to falsifying the existence of free will. Here's a brief summary of what happened in the experiment:

The experimenter gave the test subject explicit instructions to move his hand, and to record the time at which he consciously decided to do so. Equipment detected that subconscious neural activity associated with preparation for hand movement had occurred before the test subject's conscious decision to move his hand.... my response: so what? The fact that his body was automatically getting ready to engage in hand movement after being specifically directed to do so is not only totally unsurprising, but also to be expected. There is no rational basis for the claim that Libet's experiment falsifies free will.

Also, worth noting -- I'm not claiming that quantum randomness is responsible for free will. As indicated last round, I'm claiming that free will could exist as a result of some currently-unknown neurological mechanism, which is perfectly plausible considering how little we know of how the brain works at its systemic/organizational levels.


Pro has given no valid reason to believe that determinism is true, whereas I have given several to believe that it is false.

Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 5
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by spacetime 9 months ago
Whoops. Sorry about the forfeits. Will post the last two rounds for sure.
Posted by canis 9 months ago
If it is deterministic it is what it can be. If it is not deterministic it is what it is.
Posted by WaraiOtoko 9 months ago
Every interaction is either 1,0 or both and eventually you can plot it as these interactions have only 1 possible path. Am I correct in assuming this is what you're suggesting?
Posted by MagicAintReal 9 months ago
Cool, yeah they're just suggestions. Still a good idea for a debate.
Posted by condeelmaster 9 months ago
Good suggestions MagicAintReal. I think I will take some of them. Thanks
Posted by MagicAintReal 9 months ago
Good topic, I think you should add definitions to your first round, so that the true sentiment behind this resolution isn't ruined by someone distorting the word "deterministic."

If you're going to include the free will consequence of such a universe, you should also define free will and include a focus on it in the resolution.

Our universe is deterministic, and does not allow for free will.
Posted by Sunfire315 9 months ago
This will be interesting...
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by PeacefulChaos 9 months ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Since both sides forfeited, I'm not considering conduct. I was not convinced by PRO's argument that, if we have only 2 options, we have no free will. Rather, it would be correct to say we have limited free will. As CON pointed out, even if we are able to choose among a limited set of options, the fact remains that we still have that ability to make a choice. As this is in accordance with the definition of free will, we would thus have free will. Additionally, PRO's rebuttal to CON's argument concerning Quantum mechanics was rather weak. I thus present the win to CON for arguments.