Are You Just a Machine? Perspectives from Physics

Are You Just a Machine? Perspectives from Physics

How do our mental states fit into the workings of the world around us? If physics can boil down the nature of the universe into series of actions, reactions and instructions, who’s to say that this doesn’t extend to humans? The complexity of the human condition, expressed through both deep religious traditions and scientific investigations, seems to refute this. But what if classically-called “determinism” actually helps us feel a greater connection to the forces that drive the world around us, and the elaborate processes that go into our choices and our humanity?

So, does physics negate free will? Professor Peter Saulson explored these topics and more as part of an event at Temple Emanu-El in Providence, RI on February 26, 2023.

(This post is part of Sinai and Synapses’ project Scientists in Synagogues, a grass-roots program to offer Jews opportunities to explore the most interesting and pressing questions surrounding Judaism and science. Dr. Peter Saulson is Martin A. Pomerantz ’37 Professor Emeritus of Physics at Syracuse University, and also a former member of Congregation Beth Sholom-Chevra Shas in Jamesville, NY, a previously-selected synagogue).

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