[My friend Dave is a determinist, an extreme determinist. In the piece below he presents his conception of determinism and what it implies. To see and hear him make the case for determinism, you can view his philosophy video by clicking here]
Chances Are Zero or 100%
In a deterministic universe no one is in control—everything must happen according to completely determining causal relationships.
Everything in the universe affects everything else. Many scientists believe the universe periodically contracts to become a very dense little ball, which subsequently explodes. After these ‘big bangs’ the universe gets pretty large. And yet everything always remains connected by at least gravity and often a number of different forces. The universe can be described as a field. Each particle of the universe is joined by gravity with every other particle so that the sum total of all the particles affects each individual particle.
From the moment of the big bang, everything has interacted in a chain of events leading up to the present. The universe will now continue unfolding until it contracts back into a small dense ball once again. At this point another big bang will occur and so on...forever.
At each point in time the universe has a configuration, which has been determined by the configuration of the universe in the previous point in time. The next point in time will have a configuration that leads from the current one, and so on. By configuration is meant the pattern of the universe’s constituent parts. The parts may be called matter, or they may be called energy, since the two are interchangeable. But whatever the parts are, and however they are arranged, it is all determined by what has gone on before.
Each of us is made up of some of the stuff that makes up the universe. And like all the other stuff, we fully interact with the rest. The behaviour of the stuff of which we are made is determined by its interaction with all the other stuff in the universe. We are not somehow independent autonomous beings—we are made up of stuff, such as atoms and molecules, which has the same characteristics as the rest of the universe and follows the same patterns.
The idea that we somehow have free will to act other than according to the universe’s dictates is inaccurate. We have evolved to feel like we control ourselves, but that is an artifact of the functioning of our brains. We are simply matter and energy in the form of human beings.
The universe functions in a very definite way. It follows a completely determined cycle of events from big bang to big bang in a never-ending succession. If we knew everything there is to know about the universe we would see the patterns—we would know the cycles and what is coming up next. There would be no need for probability because we would know exactly what was going to happen next... and next... and next...
However, since we do not know everything we have to guess what will happen next. Depending on how confident we are we assign a probability to these guesses.
To be more accurate about the future, I think it would be better to say things will happen with zero probability, or a 100% probability, and that unfortunately we may not know which.
Chances (of whatever) are either zero or 100%.