This may end up being one of my more provocative entries, but the winter holidays have afforded me an entire week without work, so I figure now is as good a time as any to delve into some of the more serious subjects.
Let’s start by throwing a die. At the time the die leaves your hand, there is no way to predict what number will show when the die comes to rest. This simple action is the backbone for many games of chance and gambling outlets bank on the inability of their patrons to reliably predict the result a thrown die. Colloquially, we may refer to this action as random, because there is no way for us to predict the outcome – however I would argue that this action is merely unpredictable and not in fact random.
I suppose now we’re getting into semantics.
What is the difference between random and unpredictable? Referencing the Dictionary and the Encyclopedia (as I’ve done for this entry), you may find some inconsistency. However, in my mind the definition is as follows:
Unpredictable: An event, of which the information available on the contributing variables is not sufficient to accurately define the outcome. (Think rolling the die – the contributing variables are: the height from which the die is rolled, the velocity of the roll, the weight of the die, the angle of release, etc…)
Random: An event that has no contributing variables and thus whose outcome is impossible to predict.
With these definitions in mind, I will restate my thesis: there is no such thing as random. That is to say, there are no events that have no determining variables.
Here’s where things start to get sticky. Let me be clear – I am not making an argument for determinism (the theory that fate exists), and I’m not saying there is no free will. All I am saying is that there is no proof that random events exist.
Now, let’s cut to the chase.
As I see it, there are currently two popular theories of how humans came to be. Theory one, which is the popularly held scientific theory, is that a very long series random mutations coupled with natural selection has defined our traits as we see them today. Theory two, which is also very popular, is that there are higher powers and/or divine beings that have influenced the way people have developed. Regardless of the theory to which you personally prescribe – I think everyone would agree that these theories are decidedly distinct. If you were to have a debate between advocates of each of these theories, it would likely be a very heated debate that would last for a long time. In fact, at first it may appear that these viewpoints are opposite and maybe even irreconcilable.
However, given my assertion in the first portion of this entry, I would argue that people who believe in evolution (random mutation) and people who believe in God, actually have a lot more in common than they might have thought:
At the core, they both believe in something that they cannot prove.