by Jeff McInnis

Probability is another manmade out-branching of mathematics made possible by x. We know the intent of probability. Probability is a system of mathematical equations invented to estimate answers to complex systems by bypassing them with a relatively simple system of equations.

It satisfies that intent well. The system of probability is used in mainstream science as a bypass method when significant calculations would be required to determine an outcome. In fact, whole industries, such as the gaming industries, have been born by probability. It satisfies very well not only its intent but it also has created whole industries due to its usefulness.

Chance is nearly synonymous with probability. The slight difference being that under the heading of chance we have created several tools meant to utilize the ideas of probability for specific applications. For instance, dice, roulette tables, and coins are useful under the heading of chance. The tools of chance were invented to purposely be so physically complex so as to intentionally make the outcome of a given event practically unpredictable. These tools of chance are therefore useful in games where the outcome of the event needs to be indeterminable within a reasonable amount of time.

The currently popular way of thinking is that the events that chance is meant to predict are random. They are not random. What they are is amazingly complex. They are complex because of the clumsiness of our method of calculations for a system such as this and the physics that are brought to bear on them. The physical laws that attend the roll of a die are incredible. They involve the force imparted to the die by the roller, the hardness of the surface it is rolled on, the hardness of the die itself, the temperature of the room, the air movement or lack thereof in the room, etc. It is a complex system of variables applied to a compact physical entity. However, the physics are not wholly beyond our abilities. If I roll a die, an extremely talented physicist could explain, using multiple sheets of paper and several equations, the physics of the matter and could even determine where a given die would land if the variables could be controlled adequately. Likewise, if the amount of force imparted to a flipped coin could be accurately measured, it can be determined using physics whether heads or tails will show. Admittedly, however, the physics of a matter such as the roll of a die are at the fringe of ability of most people and even many talented mathematicians. Instead, we have used the tool called chance, created by man, to bypass the complicated work for us. The time spent to determine the outcome of the roll of a die would be significant in relation to the practical usefulness of doing so. In fact, the usefulness of a die is in not knowing beforehand what will come up. For this reason, we have invented chance as a way to skirt the onerous calculation that would be required to determine the outcome of the roll of a die.

In my high school physics class I recall begin told that the Advanced Placement Physics students had as an assignment to define the physics of a plate spinning on its edge. It sounded like a fool’s errand to me. However, in further discussion with my instructor it became clear to me how the calculations could be completed and, if the original force that was imparted to the plate could be accurately measured, the side that the plate would land on could even be determined. What at first blush looked like a random outcome, which side of the plate would come up, ended up to be predictable based on the physics of the matter.

The systems usually under the heading of chance (dice, coins, roulette tables) do not conform in any way to the forces of chance but to the forces of nature proximately described by our laws of physics. When someone pulls the arm of a one armed bandit, most would say that chance predicts what pictures will come up in the windows. It is not a matter of chance. Chance is a tool we can pull out to predict, over time and in the average case, what will come up in the window. However, the use of chance is at our discretion. If we pull out the tool of chance and attempt to apply it, it can be useful. However, if we do not choose to utilize the tool of chance then it has no bearing whatever on the situation. The whole issue has everything to do with how much force is imparted to each wheel of the one-armed bandit. Chance is just a useful tool at our discretion to use or not to use, that will bypass the complex system and attempt to predict what will come up without having to go through the complex calculations described above. These outcomes are not random. They are, in fact, very determinable. They can be evaluated and it can be determined exactly what will happen without the use of chance.

Chance, as discussed above, is a manmade tool we can use if we choose to use it. However, it cannot exist alone. It must be coupled with deliberate action within a limited physical constraint. If I roll a die 3 times, what are the chances that I will roll a 3 each of those times? The answer is quite easily determined using the rules of chance. The chance of rolling a 3 the first time is 1 in 6, the chance of rolling it the second time is 1 in 6, and the chance of rolling it the third time is 1 in 6. The chance of rolling 3 threes in a row, as predicted before I roll it even once, is 1/6 x 1/6 x 1/6, or 1 in 216. On the average, I should roll 3 threes after rolling the dice 216 times. I add the phrase “on the average” because chance is an approximation system, not an exact calculation. Over multiple iterations, the results of actually rolling the dice should approach the prediction made by the probability calculation. In other words, I may get 3 threes after 20 rolls in the first iteration. In the second iteration, it may take 400 rolls before I get 3 threes. Over time, the average number of rolls required to get 3 threes will approach 216.

But what does the example assume? It assumes someone is rolling the dice. There is a deliberate action taking place. What if I put the dice gently into a box, put the box gently into the closet, lock the closet door, and leave the room? Now what are the chances of rolling 3- threes in a row? They are exactly zero because no rolling is going on at all. How many years, millennia, or eons would it take before the dice did roll 3 threes all by themselves? Chance requires a deliberate act to be of any use at all.

It also requires that the act be performed within a limited physical constraint. In our dice example above, considering that the dice roller wants to roll 3 threes, what are his chances of taking his 3 dice and rolling 4 threes? None of course. He only has 3 dice. Or consider the archer who has learned archery so well that he gets a bull’s-eye on an average of 2 out of every 5 shots? If he takes a shot at a target at an archery range in Tacoma, WA, what is his chance of hitting the target? 40%, right? What if he puts his bow and quiver into his car and drives to an archery range in Vancouver, WA? When he takes his bow and quiver out of the car and takes a shot, what is his chance of hitting the target back in Tacoma, WA? Zero, since he is not attempting to hit the target back in Tacoma. Even if he was attempting to hit the target in Tacoma, WA, the physical limitations of the arrow are such that it is not at all feasible to hit the Tacoma target. In other words, a deliberate action within a physically limited context had to exist for our tool of chance to be of any help. If there are no physical limitations, the tool of chance had no context within which to help us.

It was
stated above that chance is a tool we can choose to use or choose not to use. It is only useful, then, if we choose to use it. In order to show that chance is man-made and can only work within a specific context, let’s look at it another way. Let’s attempt to separate the chance regarding the rolling of the die from the action that set it in motion. If I set in motion a deliberate act by rolling the die but do nothing to attempt to predict what will be rolled, does a number still come up on the die? Of course. Even though I did nothing to predict what number would come up, a number did come up. The deliberate act of rolling the die can survive quite well without any attempt to apply chance to it.

Let’s look at the corollary. Let’s apply chance to the die but make no attempt to set the die in motion. If I say that I believe a 4 is going to come up, but then set the die down on the number 1 and do nothing else with it, does a 4 come up? Of course not. There was no action taken within which our tool of chance could function. Therefore, the act can survive without chance, but chance cannot survive without the deliberate act.

Chance is a manmade tool. It has become a very useful tool that we use so often as to begin to believe it is something more than it is. It is nothing more than a short-cut around the complex mathematics of completely determinable systems. Chance is also a parasite. It cannot survive without its 2 hosts, deliberate action and limited physical constraint.

So if chance requires a deliberate action to operate, what deliberate action existed to make the various species attempt to get over each successive hurdle toward survival? Why would the organism, at whatever stage it is in the evolutionary cycle, need to attempt different adaptations to an environmental condition? What force has infused it with the desire to overcome its environment? We know that chance needs a limited physical constraint to operate yet we accept that life was formed with no physical constraint whatsoever. Chance only becomes useful as a tool if we accept that there is a deliberate act driving the organism to attempt millions of different combinations of particular physical adaptations in order to overcome an environment. If no force exists and there is no limited physical constraint, our tool of chance is rendered impotent.

If chance is a man-made tool under the heading of mathematics, why do we treat it as if it is above us? It is merely a tool we created for our use. Why do we ascribe to it the qualities of a creator? Why do we say that this or that could have happened “by chance?” Chance is a tool we use to simplify complex systems and it must have a deliberate action to function. It is not an entity capable of creation or any other deliberate act. Yet we have placed chance on a pedestal and ascribed to it amazing abilities. We have used it to bypass a complex creator, a goal for which it was not created.

Jeff McInnis is a contributing author to The Poached Egg