Interesting math shows up a lot during our time on this planet. One particular form of cancer is diagnosed in 14 out of 100,000 Florida residents every year. In the last decade, this has never been higher than 15 out of 100,000, or below 13 out of 100,000. There are correlated risk factors, but in the end it comes down to a bit of a crap shoot as to whether you are one of the fourteen.
A Virginia House of Delegates election held in November 2017 came down to a tie vote out of 23,000 votes cast. Party control of the state legislature hung in the balance depending on who got the seat. In the end, the winner was decided by a very old method of random selection. The future changed significantly based on that “roll of the dice.”
The United States averages about one act of mass gun violence every day (defined as four or more people killed or injured). On many days there are zero reported incidents, but sometimes there are two, three, or more. What I find tragically interesting is that the probability distribution of these incidents is very close to that of a classic American lottery that averages one winner per day, but sometimes has multiple, or zero, winners.
These are the kind of news stories that I like to write about in this blog. Whether you believe in “God’s hand,” Fate, or “the natural order of the universe,” we are all impacted daily by different kinds of probability. Indeed, your very birth was a bit of a “lottery win.”
In western culture we heavily draw on three ways of analyzing this crossroads. From the ancient Greeks and other cultures, we get the concept of fate. And from 18th-century German mathematician/philosopher/theologian Gottfried Leibniz we get the term theodicy, which literally means “the justice of God,” and which gives a name to the various ways we use “God language” to explain why good and bad things happen to us.
Finally, in this example election noted above we get politics, which is, in my “positive days” definition, the process by which “good people disagree.” In my “bad days” definition, politics is the odorous pit from which nasty people try to exploit their power over the rest of us.
So, in this blog you will get my attempt to correct some misapprehensions that may be afflicting the conversation. The math will be held to as accessible a level as I can make it (with the risk of being technically inadequate at times). The theology will be as non-sectarian and historical as possible. And I will try to keep the political commentary to the perspective of “concerned sane person,” with a soft spot for the people who have historically borne the brunt of the “nasty ones.”
The title of this blog comes from a comment credited to Albert Einstein, that “God does NOT play dice with this world.” This phrase is typically used out of context, and is widely misunderstood by religious believers. In addition his intended meaning is probably wrong from the perspective of modern physics.
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A number of posts sequentially develop my concept of probabilistic randomness, theodicy, volition/choice, and a resultant view on ethics, linked through the icon below. You can click on it now and follow the icon’s links through a sequential thread, or browse this set of posts at “The Story So Far…”
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