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Effects of remote, retroactive intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients with bloodstream infection: randomised controlled trial

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 22 December 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:1450

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Free will, determinism and Laplace's demon.

In addressing "Some Logical and Philosophical Objections and a
Parallelism to the Newcomb Problem" I quoted the statement that, "When one
tries to decide on the best strategy to follow when making one's choice, a
paradox results. Two widely accepted and supposedly equally valid
principles in logic (the evidential expected utility (EEU) principle and
the causal expected utility (CEU) principles respectively) give opposite
strategies as optimal...", and asked if "this [might] be a philosophical
formulation of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle?"

The uncertainty principle holds that it is not possible to define the
position and momentum of a particle at the same time. In his book,
Universe in a Nutshell", Steven Hawking claims that acceptance of the
validity of this fundamental law in quantum mechanics renders LaPlace’s
scientific determinism false. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle may,
however, be interpreted as proof of the validity of the Alice hypothesis
which posits that bosonic forms of existence, in which all movement
occurs, alternate with fermionic ones, where all matter resides in a
succession of incrementally different static forms.

If then, as the Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel claims (1), free will is
exercised uncosciously and, as posited in the Alice hypothesis, all
thought and executive decision making occurs within bosonic phases of
existence and fermionic complexities are dictated by antecedent bosonic
simplicities (2), what is free will? Might it be the products of an
individual unconscious, a collective unconscious, and/or a "Creator's"
unconscious? Might it, and even the power of prayer, be the product of
all three.

Laplace strongly believed in causal determinism, which is expressed
in the following quote from the introduction to the Essai:

“ We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of
its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain
moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions
of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast
enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single
formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of
the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the
future just like the past would be present before its eyes.[22] ”

"Determinism is the philosophical proposition that every event,
including human cognition and behavior, decision and action, is causally
determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences"(Wikipedia). Pierre-
Simon, marquis de Laplace is credited with being the father of scientific
determinism. Laplace's Demon: "This intellect is often referred to as
Laplace's demon (in the same vein as Maxwell's demon). Note that the
description of the hypothetical intellect described above by Laplace as a
demon does not come from Laplace, but from later biographers: Laplace saw
himself as a scientist that hoped that humanity would progress in a better
scientific understanding of the world, which, if and when eventually
completed, would still need a tremendous calculating power to compute it
all in a single instant" (Wikipedia).

When asked by Napoleon why he hadn't mentioned God in his book on
astronomy, Celestial Mechanics, Laplace replied, "Je n'avais pas besoin
de cette hypothèse-là" (I had no need of that hypothesis) (Wikipedia).

1. Eric Kandel. Free will is exercised unconsciously. In: John
Brockman. What Is Your Dangerous Idea? -- eLetters for Cavalcanti, 171 (4) 328[Read eLetter] Might
biochemical fermionic complexities be dictated by antecedent bosonic
simplicities? Richard G Fiddian-Green (26 August 2004) ...

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

08 February 2009
Richard G Fiddian-Green