Monday, March 24, 2014

Chance and reality …

… the improbability principle: why coincidences, rare events, and miracles happen everyday by david j. hand - / daily review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

 … Accidents, miracles and coincidences interrupt the predictable, mathematical flow of existence. They give us a sense that anything is possible, that life doesn't move along determinate, numerical paths. The fact that The Improbability Principle is so counterintuitive proves that we're hardwired to think this way. We believe in coincidences not because we are ignorant; we believe in them because it's in our nature. A case in point: All good stories hinge, to some extent, on the premise of chance. When something improbable produces a negative outcome, we call it a tragedy. Irony—as Hand points out, a kind of coincidence—is a pillar of comedy. When something unlikely produces a positive result, we call it a miracle. We have developed these mechanisms because the mathematical explanation can't always satisfy our appetite for meaning. 
Perhaps more or less unlikely events perform the function that stress does in verse, giving life its rhythm. That it is in our nature to believe in coincidences tells us only that we have that our nature gives insight into, well, the nature of things. Perhaps mathematical explanations are meant to satisfy, not our appetite for meaning, but simply our curiosity.

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