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Chance

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Mad Scientism Shiny Box

Mad Scientism Shiny Box by twilightzero via Flickr

The idea of chance has several meanings. For this entry I’ll be focusing on the belief that things just happen with no rhyme or reason—that is, that some events are impossible to predict and also have no overriding cause or meaning. While this definition combines several hair-splitting philosophical views,¹ it does seem to capture the general mood of what we mean by the idea of chance.

The concept of chance is often contrasted with other belief systems, such as fate and providence.

While some seem to see the idea of chance as the logical answer in view of certain observations, it’s not. It is nothing more than a human concept. And to attribute something to chance implies a basic assumption that can’t be proved—namely, that some events randomly occur with no overriding plan, purpose or meaning. This belief can arise when people are faced with large amounts of data too vast to discern an overriding plan and purpose (as with the various data encountered in daily life).

Some statisticians, of course, would reply that the belief in an overriding purpose cannot be proved either.

My point is that the one commonality among the belief in chance and the belief in a divine or cosmic plan is belief itself.

Many religious persons freely admit that they believe. They may claim that their beliefs are supported (but not proved by) experience combined with reason. But rarely will a sincerely religious person claim to know, and if they do, upon further questioning they’d probably admit that their supposed “knowledge” is really belief, or reason to believe

On the other hand, some superficial and, perhaps, a few duplicitous scientists claim that their hypotheses – proposed explanations tied into a particular approach – are “proved” by observation and reason. This isn’t really true science but many scientists and lay persons fall into this kind of believing without admitting it, or even knowing that they’re just fooling themselves (and usually others).³

Again, the bottom line in this discussion of chance is that both religious and scientific viewpoints appear to be premised on belief.

Related Posts » Scientism, Tyche

¹ See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chance

² Granted, there are always fanatics who claim to “know” and cannot (or don’t want to) momentarily step aside from their beliefs.

³ This being one definition of scientism.

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