1. Welcome to Religious Forums, a friendly forum to discuss all religions in a friendly surrounding.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Our modern chat room. No add-ons or extensions required, just login and start chatting!
    • Access to private conversations with other members.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

Featured The Certainty of Improbability

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by Debater Slayer, Nov 15, 2022.

  1. Debater Slayer

    Debater Slayer Veteran Member
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2011
    Messages:
    25,713
    Ratings:
    +28,139
    Probably everyone has seen or heard of the standard six-sided die. When fair (not loaded), each number from one to six has a probability of 1/6 of being the outcome in a throw.

    Now imagine a die with a billion faces, or a lottery with billions of participants. The probability of each individual face or ticket becomes extremely small, but in each of these situations, throwing the billion-sided die or drawing a ticket out of the billions in the lottery is guaranteed to yield one of these extremely unlikely outcomes.

    When you have a space of individual, discrete outcomes in a situation where a lack of outcome is impossible, you are certain to get one of them even if they number in the trillions. You can't, for instance, throw the hypothetical, fair billion-sided die and have it not land on one of the faces, each of which has a probability of one in a billion of showing up after a throw. You can't randomly pull a ticket from the billions in the lottery and not have a winner on your hands, unless you initially placed some blank tickets in the pool.

    Why, then, should one assume that if an event is unlikely or perceived to be so, it must have been caused by an intelligent agent? For example, if wind blows over the billion-sided die and causes it to land on one of its faces, is the extremely unlikely outcome the result of intelligent planning, or is it merely the result of the certainty that a thrown die will yield an outcome when it lands no matter how unlikely said outcome is?
     
    • Winner x 6
    • Like x 5
    • Useful x 2
    • Informative x 1
    • Friendly x 1
  2. exchemist

    exchemist Veteran Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2018
    Messages:
    17,510
    Ratings:
    +18,828
    Religion:
    RC (culturally at least)
    This is one of the clearest explanations I have read of the fallacy of ascribing intentional action to low probability outcomes.

    Your post should be compulsory reading for all creationists. :D
     
    • Like Like x 5
    • Friendly Friendly x 1
    • Optimistic Optimistic x 1
  3. beenherebeforeagain

    beenherebeforeagain Rogue Animist
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2011
    Messages:
    23,331
    Ratings:
    +9,560
    Religion:
    Modern Animist
    Hmmm...

    Well, the fact that there is a decision-making system in the first place might be evidence of cause by an intelligent agent...as what would be the odds of a random system coming up with a fair die that is connected to a set of possible outcomes?

    Note: Don't expect any coherent argument out of me on this, it's just something that came to mind...:D
     
    • Like Like x 2
  4. George-ananda

    George-ananda Advaita Vedanta, Theosophy, Spiritualism
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2012
    Messages:
    16,419
    Ratings:
    +6,400
    Religion:
    Advaita and Spiritualist and Pantheist
    We can only judge likeliness. If something seems to be an accumulation of billion to one chances coming together we can speak of the likeliness that it was not random.

    Let's say we're thinking of complex life evolving on a barren starting earth. There I feel many sequential steps of incredible odds must have occurred to the point that I think intelligent involvement is the most likely explanation.
     
  5. beenherebeforeagain

    beenherebeforeagain Rogue Animist
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2011
    Messages:
    23,331
    Ratings:
    +9,560
    Religion:
    Modern Animist
    Another thought that comes to mind...and I'm not certain as to how relevant it might be...is that of path dependence.

    from Wikipedia:

    "Path dependence is a concept in economics and the social sciences, referring to processes where past events or decisions constrain later events or decisions.[1][2] It can be used to refer to outcomes at a single point in time or to long-run equilibria of a process.[3] Path dependence has been used to describe institutions, technical standards, patterns of economic or social development, organizational behavior, and more.[4][1]

    In common usage, the phrase can imply two types of claims. The first is the broad concept that "history matters", often articulated to challenge explanations that pay insufficient attention to historical factors.[1][5][6] This claim can be formulated simply as "the future development of an economic system is affected by the path it has traced out in the past"[7] or "particular events in the past can have crucial effects in the future."[1] The second is a more specific claim about how past events or decisions affect future events or decisions in significant or disproportionate ways, through mechanisms such as increasing returns, positive feedback effects, or other mechanisms."


    That is, a certain result may look to be random--or intelligently planned--based on a series of prior steps that make this particular observation appear more or less probable than any other outcome...
     
  6. Yerda

    Yerda Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2004
    Messages:
    9,901
    Ratings:
    +2,822
    Religion:
    Nothing in particular
    I shuffle a pack of cards. The order of the cards in the shuffled pack has a probability of 1 over 52 factorial. Mindblowingly unlikely. Technically an intelligent agent did cause it (for a certain understanding of "cause" and "intelligent") but we could substitute me for a card shuffling machine.
     
  7. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2011
    Messages:
    22,150
    Ratings:
    +17,255
    Religion:
    Druidry

    Ironically, one can use the same argument you presented as a justification. If there is a dice with a billion faces on it, at least some of those faces are going to have "intelligent agent" on them, however it is you are wanting to define that. Inevitably, one or more of the die rolls is going to involve such an agent. And if you believe the entire die itself is an "intelligent agent" (or perhaps more accurately, you believe the hand rolling the dice is the "intelligent agent") than all outcomes involve said agent.

    Not how I tell the story, but the logic follows.
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Informative Informative x 1
    • Useful Useful x 1
  8. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane My own religion

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2018
    Messages:
    16,013
    Ratings:
    +4,686
    Religion:
    The Wrong One
    No, the assumption that objective reality is fair and thus we can trust it to be natural, is precisely the problem. That is how we get methodological naturalism. That is not a fact, it is the axiomatic assumptions that objective reality is fair and natural.
     
    • Optimistic Optimistic x 1
  9. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane My own religion

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2018
    Messages:
    16,013
    Ratings:
    +4,686
    Religion:
    The Wrong One
    One problem is that we don't have a complete theory of everything and thus your example is as speculative as God did it.
     
  10. Nakosis

    Nakosis Time Efficient Lollygagger
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2011
    Messages:
    22,403
    Ratings:
    +12,069
    Religion:
    Scientism
    It is very easy to assume a casual chain after the dice has landed on a particular side. The genius of hindsight.
    One thing I had to come to learn to accept was how bad we humans are at predicting the results of the next dice roll.
     
  11. Subduction Zone

    Subduction Zone Veteran Member

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2017
    Messages:
    64,800
    Ratings:
    +43,970
    Religion:
    Atheist
    Why assume that some of the faces has to have "intelligent agent" on it?

    Right now we do not even know if an intelligent agent is possible.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  12. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2011
    Messages:
    22,150
    Ratings:
    +17,255
    Religion:
    Druidry

    We.... don't? Do you consider yourself an intelligent agent? I kinda thought this was a given since humans tend to think of themselves as "intelligent agents." This is also true of many other species.
     
  13. Subduction Zone

    Subduction Zone Veteran Member

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2017
    Messages:
    64,800
    Ratings:
    +43,970
    Religion:
    Atheist
    "Intelligent agent" does not usual refer to a human being. That did not appear to be the definition that the poster that I was responding to used. The use of that phrase is usually an out so that one does not have to say "God did it". Or in this case "There has to be a possibility that God did it". That was the argument that I responded to. And as I said, we do not even know if such a God is possible. To include a God on the faces one has to be at the very least possible.
     
  14. osgart

    osgart Nothing my eye, Something for sure

    Joined:
    May 1, 2017
    Messages:
    5,226
    Ratings:
    +2,750
    Religion:
    Independently religious with no affiliation
    A constructed event or an orchestrated event is far different then an happenstance improbable event.
     
  15. MikeF

    MikeF Proponent of RAEism
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2020
    Messages:
    1,987
    Ratings:
    +1,114
    Religion:
    None
    Mixing metaphor? Is that the right term?

    In the die analogy, no face represents an explanation of some other event. The whole event is simply which face is up. Doesn't matter what is written on it other than to tell them apart.

    In the case of explaining an observed event in abstraction, the ways in which one could construct an explanation are infinite. However, not all of those infinite explanations are possible. In the die scenario, each face is actually a possible outcome. See the difference? We can imagine solutions or possibilities that cannot happen since we are working in abstraction, and with abstraction we can make any assumptions we wish that will logically result in our desired conclusion, or even create and define abstract elements that if existed (but are not evidenced or defy natural law as we know them) would allow a logically possible conclusion. This is why care must be taken when using logic. We can be logical about impossible things.
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
  16. lewisnotmiller

    lewisnotmiller Grand Hat
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    May 6, 2013
    Messages:
    24,562
    Ratings:
    +18,152
    Religion:
    atheist
    I'm a little confused by '...that is how we get methodological naturalism.'

    I self-describe as a methodological naturalist and that threw me. Could you explain what you mean?

    Cheers!!
     
  17. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2011
    Messages:
    22,150
    Ratings:
    +17,255
    Religion:
    Druidry

    I can't speak to that, and didn't make those same assumptions you did when reading the OP. I did not assume "intelligent agent" meant any particular kind of agent. I'm simply pointing out that "intelligent agents" are a thing that exist and could be faces on another die, and that one will come up at some point or another. Why wouldn't they? Even if somehow they didn't, it is still not hard to posit that that which rolls the dice is the "intelligent agent" which means intelligence and agency are involved in everything that ever happens.

    Again, I'm not saying I agree with this, but the logic does follow if you get outside of your own head and assumptions for a little while. If you can't entertain possibilities, then this won't work for you. I can see it even if you cannot. :shrug:
     
  18. Subduction Zone

    Subduction Zone Veteran Member

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2017
    Messages:
    64,800
    Ratings:
    +43,970
    Religion:
    Atheist
    If you do not properly define you terms then you have no grounds for complaint if someone interprets those terms as others have used them in the past.

    If you meant to use them as being a person then what appears to be your point can be refuted with a "So what? "
     
  19. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2011
    Messages:
    22,150
    Ratings:
    +17,255
    Religion:
    Druidry

    Huh? Sorry, you've utterly lost me here. What now about terms? What now about grounds? Complaining? Who what why now? I'm really kind of confused now... and I think we're having two completely different conversations at this point. So... I give up?
     
  20. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest Abnormal before it was fashionable
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2010
    Messages:
    223,441
    Ratings:
    +87,835
    Religion:
    Atheist
    A simpleton's example....
    100,000,000 people each buy a lottery ticket.
    Bob wins. He says...
    "It's a miracle! The odds were 1/100,000,000.
    This is effectively impossible. Therefore God did it."
    Any winner could say the same.
    But the odds are 100% that someone would win.
    Winners merely feel an improbable result from
    their own perspective.
     
    #20 Revoltingest, Nov 15, 2022
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2022
    • Like Like x 3
Loading...