God is an infinite state machine

Scott Adams tries to end the free will debate through a reductionist argument using a finite state machine. In response, I ask:

Scott: Does complexity have a limit? Can infinite complexity be considered free will? If so, can you assert that we humans are not infinitely complex? Or, perhaps not at the microscopic level of humans, but rather that collective reality (“the universe” or whatever) is infinitely complex?

As the limit of complexity reaches infinity, it becomes indistinguishable from free will. Just as it’s fruitless to debate the existance of God, it’s equally fruitless to debate the existance of free will as it is both unknowable and unprovable.

The notion of the “infinite state machine” is nothing new. Kevin Kelly writes:

Few ideas are so preposterous that no one at all takes them seriously, and this idea – that God, or at least the universe, might be the ultimate large-scale computer – is actually less preposterous than most. The first scientist to consider it, minus the whimsy or irony, was Konrad Zuse, a little-known German who conceived of programmable digital computers 10 years before von Neumann and friends. In 1967, Zuse outlined his idea that the universe ran on a grid of cellular automata, or CA. Simultaneously, Ed Fredkin was considering the same idea. Self-educated, opinionated, and independently wealthy, Fredkin hung around early computer scientists exploring CAs. In the 1960s, he began to wonder if he could use computation as the basis for an understanding of physics.

In all this, I ask: Exactly what is “free will”? Exactly how is it useful to know whether we have “it” or not? In knowing it (especially if we lack it), how would it change our thoughts or our behaviors? (By definition, it wouldn’t.)



  1. Somewhat related, I actually found myself having a free will debate the other night, but in the context of this question:

    Q: Why would a loving God even allow evil to happen in the first place?
    A: Because he wants us to have free will and not be robots.

    For me, that begged the question:

    Q: Couldn’t an omnipotent and loving God just create humans with free will who just always happen to chose right?
    A: Then the humans wouldn’t have “real” free will.

    I disagree, but for the sake of argument.

    Q: Does the omnipotent and loving God have free will himself?
    A: Yes

    Q: Couldn’t an omnipotent God just create many human versions of himself (like Jesus) who would have free will, not be robots, and always do the right thing?
    A: Yes

    Q: Couldn’t an omnipotent God have deleted Satan as soon as he rebelled so we could avoid all this mess?
    A: Yes

    So, if God could have made us perfect beings with free will, just like him without all that pain and suffering, why do it? If God is truly omnipotent, he doesn’t need for us to suffer, he can by definition find and equal or better way to reach his objective without the suffering. There are no such things as contradictions or paradoxes when you’re truly omnipotent.

    If there was such thing as an omnipotent, loving God, and he was going to require you have faith in him, wouldn’t he AT THE MINIMUM make his most fundamental nature reasonable? Shouldn’t you at least be able to rationalize why he would allow evil to happen?

    For someone who’s requesting blind faith, not only does his basic nature not make sense, but allows all sorts of physical evidence to exist which greatly contradicts just about every book supposedly written by him?

    How unreasonable is that? Believe in me, but here’s a couple of catches:

    1. All my books will contradict themselves as well as most empirical/scientific evidence, especially if you interpret it literally (and why wouldn’t you?)
    2. Make sure you pick the right religion. You’ll need more than faith to figure that one out. You’ll actually have to rationalize which religion best represents the truth.
    3. While you’re searching for the truth to pick the right religion, you’ll probably learn a little bit about the scientific method and other critical thinking techniques which are helpful in teasing out the truth and reality. They have fantastic track records and many great men have used these methods to learn a lot about how the universe really works. If the scientific method shows a false religion is false, then you should take heed. If the scientific method shows our true religion is false, you should ignore it. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you what the true religion is…

    As you can see, your post ignited a power keg in me, but I need to go to sleep now.

    BTW, If you come across any REALLY good arguments, please let me know. I’ve read a bit on the subject and I only keep stumbling on the same old tired arguments. (Lee Strobel’s book “The Case for Faith” is especially insipid. He BARELY scratches the surface on the subject.)

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