Sunday, October 16, 2005


It is a somewhat sound statement to say that there is no such thing as randomness. In rolling a dice, for instance, the actual outcome of the roll is determined not by chance, but rather by the force of throw, the wind resistance, the exact way in which the wrist was turned, and surface it hits, and a variety of other variables that exist in the act of throwing it.

These variables, are, of course, so multitudinous that it would be near impossible to catalogue them all. Instead, we express our predictions of the dice as a probability, a one-in-six chance of it going one way or another. It is conceivable that we might be able to map all the variables involved in dice rolling someday, and that at this point we could, given enough information, determine exactly what number would be rolled.

The argument against randomness is used frequently in deterministic arguments. The dice is rolled in the fashion that it is due to the strength and emotional state of the person throwing it, and they are throwing it at the surface that they are due to their experiences up until that point, et cetera. Even more commonly, this deterministic argument turns into a theistic argument, that the seemingly random actions were either designed by a watch-maker type God or that they are guided by an omnipotent God. Both these explanations are unacceptable to me.

God has always been used to explain the unexplainable, and seemingly random events are the very definition of unexplainablity. Instead of defining random as "unexplainable," though, I posit that random means something different. Random, in the sense that we use it, simply means "that which we do not have sufficient data to compute the future of accurately."

This doesn't solve the problem of determinism, which I don't deign to do, at least not today. I can say, though, that such a variety of elements go into every occurrence in the world around us that it would be impossible, ever, to pinpoint every variable. For this reason, even if we live in a deterministic universe, we will never know exactly what is planned, and for this reason must live as if we were choosing freely. Determinism, then, becomes a sort of moot point; it doesn't change how we live or what we do.