Atomic theory and determinism

by Shihang

I have recently decided to learn more about science and hence, finished the first of six easy pieces (the lecture series by Feynman). I was reading the chapter on atomic motion, when it struck me how I have not noticed how inherently random things are, how atoms move and vibrate without any set route. Now, determinism has always had a pseudo-scientific bent to it, that we can be reduced to atoms whose behaviour is calculable. Fair enough: as Feynman notes, one theory in biology is that we are essentially atoms and our bodies must be explainable by atomic theory. Yet, atomic motion is random; if we are truly guided on a biological level, and free will is a clever illusion, determinism is not a sensible alternative. Its notion of preset paths is incompatible with the randomness in physics.

{This reminds me of a striking passage from the excellent Lewis Thomas: that we are really controlled by things within cells. Is our conscience just renting a body that does not belong to it? Again, coherent with the literature separating the soul from the body? I’ll quote the text as soon as I can find my book.)