This is something that's been bothering me for a while now. It's something I completely can't explain, and something which I've been unable to find an explanation for that I can understand and agree with. If anyone has any opinions on this, either scientific or philosophical, I'd be really interested to hear them.
We are living, sentient creatures. We appear to have free will, we appear to be in control of our own actions. As far as we are concerned we have choice over what we do, and we have the ability to change our own future. However, firstly we are made out of cells. These cells do not have their own brains and do not have their own sentient thoughts or emotions (at least as far as we know), yet together they make up entire human bodies, capable of independent thought.
Even further, the cells themselves are made up of molecules and atoms. These molecules are essentially inert, and individually are definitely not "living" by any definition I would accept. When we think, when we choose to do something, it all boils down to the interactions and movements of individual molecules which at their level have no fucking clue what is going on and can't influence it. We are somehow a group of completely unthinking objects which are combined in such a way that on the larger scale gives the impression of thought.
If you consider the molecules themselves, they're not able to change their own interactions. They're just obeying the laws of physics and chemistry. Surely their interactions are merely pre-determined by their own, random-but-obeying-laws motion? How the hell can we change how we think, how we act, if we're just a collection of objects obeying the fundamental laws of the universe?
I suspect quantum mechanics breaks a lot of what I've just said to an extent, but it's still extremely bizarre to think that I am supposedly in control of what I do when by my knowledge of physics all the movements and interactions of my component parts are already defined by classical mechanics. If a molecule can't change it's own movement path, how can I ever possibly think or do something which I wasn't always pre-determined to do.
It doesn't seem that weird for me to think that a set of components which are 'dead' on their own can make something which is 'living' - the same sort of thing can easily be seen to be feasible in a car engine or something. All of the valves, crankshafts, fluids and the like are completely immobile when just considered individually, but can come to life when combined, but an engine still just works within the laws set by mechanics and the chemical reactions inside. An engine can't just choose to turn itself off, or do something different, which is what I really don't comprehend. Set in motion any non-living contraption will obey entirely predicable behaviour. It might not actually be predictable in practice due to chaos theory, but in theory it could be entirely predicted. Given all the millions of initial conditions, you could predict the behaviour until the end of time perfectly.
Does this apply to people and other living objects? Given the exact parameters of me, given every single detail and initial condition, would my behaviour be predictable? Am I in true control of my own destiny, or am I merely the macroscopic result of billions of predictable microscopic interactions?
So please, opinions really welcome on this. Especially if someone actually has a decent explanation. I'm pretty sure that it lies in quantum mechanics and the like, but I don't have a good enough understanding to figure it out for myself.