What Are the Odds?

A very great deal of confusion among educated men is caused by the sloppy locution in the English language which allows us to say chance “caused” something.

Indeed, at times I believe the whole of the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics is merely a confusion of words.

Chance is the word we use when we know the boundaries of an outcome but not the specifics. Some variables are known (the coin is balanced and has only two sides) and some are unknown (I flip the coin in the air, but I do not tell you either the starting position of the coin nor whether the number of turns is even or odd).

Because of the unknowns, you can only narrow down the possible outcomes to two: heads or tails.

Please note that the coin does not turn into a spherical cloud having whose position and momentum cannot be certainly known, and this spherical object, which has both head and tail facing each direction, suddenly when it lands collapses into a silver disk, and the act of looking at the one side, say, heads, is rapidly communicated by spooky action at a distance to the other side and collapses its hitherto indeterminate features into the opposite face, say, tails.

Please note also, however, that we reject the coin-spherical-cloud theory only because if I tell you the initial condition of the coin and the number of turns, odd or even, you can deduce the outcome of the coin toss with deterministic accuracy.

A Quantum-Mechanics type formula describing the probability cloud formed by a spinning coin (heads or tails) which has no determinate orientation until it is observed would fit the observed data perfectly, because the cloud theory is a theory about the condition of the coin when we are not observing it.

The theory that the coin’s orientation snaps into existence when observed but not before versus the theory of coin local realism (where the odd or even number of coin turns is a hidden variable) are both theories that fit the observed facts. The reason why one is preferred to the other is an a priori  metaphysical assumption, namely, that objects persist and do not depend on the observer for their reality.

We do not use a quantum mechanical formula to describe coin tosses for aesthetic reasons having to do with the elegance of the assumptions needed: there is no need to assume the coin is a cloud if the hidden variable theory (namely that the coin’s orientation exists even when not observed to exist) accounts for the observed results.

Now, the chance of this universe being in its current condition and none other cannot be stated, because we have only one trial. If you walk into a room, and I have dice already sitting on the table, and you do not know whether I threw the dice or placed them carefully there, you do not know if the dice are loaded, and in addition you do not know how many faces each die has, then there is no probability to calculate.

The chance of this universe being as it is and not some other way is one out of one trial, or 1/x, where it is not know if x is even a number or not.

The multiverse theory solves nothing because it does not even address the issue involved.

Suppose we say that life could not have arisen if the gravitational constant [6.67408 × (10^(-11))(m^3) (kg(^-1)) s(^-2) ] were even tenth part off from its current value. What are the odds that our current value and none other would arise in this or any universe? One in ten?

Or suppose we say that if it were one millionth part off from its current value? Is the “chance” that this universe could arise and none other one in one million? What if, again the universe tried to arise one billion time, and only one in a million universe had the correct gravitational constant values to come forth? Does that mean there are one million universes?

No. The answer is that these are all meaningless questions.

There are two possibilities. One is that the gravitational constant is a physical reality caused by some prior physical event, and that this event has many tiny and changeable variables, so that a slight shift of one of these variables would cause a difference in the gravitational constant. The gravitational constant hence is not constant, since there was a moment in time (even if this was an infinitesimal part of a second while the Big Bang was happening) before which it was fixed, then an event which fixed it, and then moments in time continuing to this hour when it continued to be fixed.

In this case, the gravitational constant is like the temperature. If it is 72 degrees now in my room, it is theoretically possible that under different conditions, it might have been 71 degrees or 73.

The other is that the gravitational constant was not caused by a physical event, but that it is a formal relation or ratio between two parts of what is actually one continuous thing. In this case, the gravitational constant cannot be changed, and it cannot be one fraction above or below its current value, for the same reason a triangle cannot have two sides or four sides, but three, no more, no less.

If some day we detect changes in the gravitational constant, and narrow down the possible causes of that change to one event or circumstance, then we can deduce with some certainly that the gravitational constant is like a temperature value and not like a how-many-side-does-a-triangle-have value.

Until we can answer that question, we do not know whether the gravitational constant is a formal ratio which must be what it is and can logically be nothing else, or if it is a value dependent on something which could exist under other circumstances.

Once we answer that question, we still will not know, and will never know, how many other possible universes exist, nor will we know out of a sample of one hundred possible universes how many have our gravitational constant.

This is because a universe, by definition, is something outside of which no information, barring a supernatural suspension of the laws of nature, can arise (or, rather, if it can arise, then the local area we thought was the whole universe is mislabeled.)

Not until we start getting results from exo-continuum probes can any statement about how many trials out of a hundred a universe can start up and be suited to create life as we know it. If we knew what created life as we know it. Which we don’t.

Even if I counted the number of time life arose in a set of one hundred parallel universes, each with a different gravitational constant, so that I could tell you that the chance of a universe being created with a gravitational constant conducive to life as we know it was one in one hundred, that does not mean that the one on one hundred chance caused this universe. It means that something which crops up only one in one hundred times just so happened to crop up in this universe, and not in the one next door.

And, beside, if we find out that ninety nine out of a hundred possible universe are filled with life forms made of living music, or living colors, or pure intellect with no physical form, and that we and only we abide in a universe with stars and planets, matter and energy, and one-dimensional time, then the unlikeliness of our universe neither points to chance being the cause of the universe, nor points away.

You cannot tell if something is random chance or created by design unless you know the purpose for which it is allegedly designed, and then you can make a judgment call on the efficiency of the design, and an aesthetic judgment on the beauty of the design, but you cannot deduce what it is meant for, or even if it is meant at all, unless you know beforehand what aim it serves. In the case of the aim of the universe, that is a metaphysical or theological question where physics and statistics must place their hands over their mouths: they have nothing to say.

Even in that case, the cause of the gravitational constant being one thing rather than another will have a cause, just as the exact degree of pressure of my thumb flipping the coin is what causes an even versus an odd number of flips of the coin, not chance. Chance merely means you know not why the coin landed heads this time because I did not tell you how often it turned in midair.

It does not mean a goddess named “Chance” decided to ensure I not win five coin tosses in a row, and reached out with her delicate yet invisible hand and tilted the coin to determine that it must land face-up.

That is the most gross type of superstitious magical thinking, and scientists, or anyone else, who indulges in such mental confusions should thank their lucky stars they do not live in a Christian commonwealth.

Christendom is the only place in human history where witchcraft and fortune telling has ever been outlawed, and once men were forbidden from trying to rule nature by magic, then and only then did their faith that a rational God made a rational universe, hence their faith that every effect has a cause, give them the mental outlook needed for science to be possible.

Saying chance causes events is antithetical to that outlook, unscientific and unchristian at once, and philosophically unsound.



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