Category Archives: Theodicy

Free will, determinism, and “the nudge”

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Over thousands of years, humans have placed a lot philosophical and theological baggage on the overlapping concepts of free will, choice and volition. We have developed elaborate systems of ethics and religions to articulate “the right” choices to be selected from the array of options open to us daily. Yet there remains a split among neuroscientists as to the nature… Read more »

The casualties of culture

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How “normal” are you in terms of interacting with the culture around you? A continuing theme of this blog is that we can view a lot of medical and social problems as various aggregations of “probabilistic randomness.” That is, many conditions in nature at least appear to occur randomly, but with predictable patterns to that randomness. And when you see a… Read more »

Me and my homunculus

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Homunculus is one of those great words to have in your back pocket. You never know when it might come in handy, and it is a fun word to say. Traditionally, the homunculus was a small physical representation of a human used in the practice of alchemy during the 16th century to symbolize their attempts to re-create human life by… Read more »

The ever-changing river

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The Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus was noted for saying that “No man ever steps in the same river twice.” He recognized that the fundamental nature of the universe is that it is ever-changing and ever-moving. You might think of him as the first to understand and articulate, long before the idea of “Poisson processes” as explained in an earlier… Read more »

Will you choose the cake or the fruit?

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Call it “choice” or call it “free will,” we struggle daily when trying to figure out why people do bad things. Most of us go through our day thinking we are in control of our own choices, and we assume that others are as well. We can’t even entertain the thought that perhaps some other force if affecting how we… Read more »

Wait for it…wait for it…

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If you were a horse soldier in the Prussian Army in the late 1800s, you were obviously not at any risk of dying in an automobile accident, but there was a persistent, yet low-risk, problem with soldiers dying from being kicked by their horses. Polish/Russian statistician Ladislaus Bortkiewicz famously found that these “random” deaths did indeed form a pattern, in this… Read more »

Cancer, probability, normality and theodicy – part 4

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Said no one at any funeral ever: “I figured out the probability for why he died.” [1] Part Two and Part Three of this series of posts looked why the statistics for cancer, automobile accidents and other unfortunate life events are often so rigidly probabilistic in narrow ranges in aggregate. In other words, we can often predict “How many?” down… Read more »

Remembering Lenore and George Romney

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With Mitt Romney possibly returning to politics to run for U.S. Senator from Utah, and with his niece, Ronna Romney McDaniel as current Chair of the Republican National Committee (although she has now dropped the “Romney” at the President’s behest), I decided to engage in a little remembrance as a demonstration on how political positions can change 180 degrees, and… Read more »

You are a lottery winner!

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In an earlier post I described why you are probably not a big lottery winner, but there is one case in which you already are one. The mathematical odds in favor of YOU being here to read this were incredibly low. Yet Poisson’s Law of Large Numbers presented in that earlier post, paired with an understanding of birth rates and… Read more »