The story so far…

Blogs are, by nature, last-in-first-out creatures, but there is a continuing linear thread running throughout this one via selected posts. Posts categorized as “The Dice,” with a new post coming every few days, will develop a theme of the ties in this world between the natural probabilities that impact our lives, human volition, and our inevitable “theodicies” by which we interpret these impacts.

You can follow this thread by starting here and following the Dice logo at the bottom of these posts:

Dice

The subject of human volition (i.e., “choice” or “free will”) naturally evolves into questions of ethics and morality. You can skip some of the early math stuff and start with “The first ethical dilemma,” and then follow the Dice logo from there.


Summary of the “Dice” posts to date for your browsing pleasure:

  1. Yes, Virginia, we still draw lots – How political fate can hinge on a game of chance, like much of the rest of life.
  2. The math of lots and the Greek Fates – The Greeks figured out some of this concept called “probabilistic randomness” a long time ago.
  3. Albert Einstein and his dice – part 1 – Why Albert Einstein, contrary to the name of his blog, liked to say that God doesn’t play dice, and why he was likely wrong.
  4. Albert Einstein and his dice – part 2 – A deeper dive into the peculiar way in which Einstein liked to use “God language.”
  5. Taraji P. Henson meets Gottfried Leibniz – The German polymath Leibniz invented not only calculus but also the word “theodicy” (the justice of God).
  6. Why there is always a winner, but it’s probably not you – How the math behind lotteries, a French mathematician and his Law of Large Numbers have had a greater impact on you than you think.
  7. You are a lottery winner! – More on how lottery math brought you into this world.
  8. The probability of coincidence – Why coincidences are not as coincidental as you think they are.
  9. Cancer, probability, normality and theodicy – part 1 – The harder side of probabilistic randomness in four parts, this one looking at the stubborn statistical randomness of some types of cancer.
  10. Cancer, probability, normality and theodicy – part 2 – A look at how even “out of whack” probability distributions become predictable, called the Central Limit Theorem.
  11. Cancer, probability, normality and theodicy – part 3 – More on the tyranny of the “normal” curve.
  12. Cancer, probability, normality and theodicy – part 4 – A look at how various world religions have dealt with the “theodicy” of cancer’s randomness.
  13. Wait for it…wait for it… – Our French mathematician returns with his math on the randomness of time, called “Poisson processes.”
  14. The gun violence lottery – As if the math of cancer is not depressing enough, a look at the probabilistic randomness underlying gun violence.
  15. Will you choose the cake or the fruit? – It turns out that your own “intentional” choices may be more probabilistically random than you think.
  16. Fingers, toes, and Bernie Madoff – How the math of randomness should have brought down Bernie Madoff’s financial scam several years earlier than it did.
  17. The ever-changing river – What happens when philosophers and theologians get hold of Poisson processes.
  18. Do bad things really happen in threes? – No, but there is some interesting math here anyway for pondering the next time you are on hold for customer service.
  19. Me and my homunculus – The search for the “little person” inside my head controlling what I say and do.
  20. The casualties of culture – The math of poverty and and addiction.
  21. Ant choices and “t+1” – The math of “emergence” and collective intelligence.
  22. The first ethical dilemma – Our hunter-gatherer forebears, their ethical choices and probability.
  23. North Korea and Game Theory – The oldest ethical dilemma is still new.
  24. Free will, determinism, and “the nudge” – The Determinists face off with the Compatibilists. Do we really have free will?
  25. Ethics or morality – Is there a difference? – Dealing with overlapping words.
  26. Zeno’s paradox and the infinitesimal – The more you look for some “yes-no” switch in our brains, the farther away it appears to be.
  27. Ethics from the bottom up – Flipping the order in which we think about ethical decision-making.
  28. Hearing, seeing, and choosing in logarithms – part 1 – The math inside our heads is different from the one we usually use on the outside, especially in how your ears work.
  29. Your four (or more) ethical brains – You don’t have an angel and devil on your shoulders, but your own brain is often arguing with itself.
  30. Hearing, seeing, and choosing in logarithms – part 2 – Back to how your head does math, especially in how your eyes work.
  31. King Hammurabi and your “deontology brain” – A big part of your brain likes to make up rules.
  32. The Ten-ish Commandments – The most famous source of rule-based ethics is not what it seems to be.
  33. Divine command ethics – What happens when we assume rules come via lightening bolts.
  34. Making the exception – Every rule has an exception, including this one.
  35. If it’s not illegal... – A lot of very important people like to confuse legality with morality, and vice versa.
  36. Are rules and duties sufficient? – In short, no. Yet much of the world thinks morality is only about rules.
  37. Primal morality and torture – The oldest part of our brain does some pretty awful stuff when it takes over.
  38. Telos: Seeking the “good end” – Looking at morality based on the end goals and consequences of our choices.
  39. Police in my rear-view mirror – We all resort to a bit of “end goal” thinking when we feel a threat.
  40. Iowa, abortion and ethical nuance – What some nuns taught me about “ethical nuance” when it comes to a difficult subject.
  41. Monday morning quarterbacking and unintended consequences – Just because we intend to “do the right thing” doesn’t mean things will turn out well.
  42. Ends, means and the banality of evil – A couple literary references to round out the discussion of ‘end-based” ethics.

More summaries to come…

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