Archive for the ‘chance’ Category

If leaderless chaos be all, rest content that in the midst of this storm-swept sea Reason still dwells and rules within thee

September 24, 2009

The universe must be governed either by a fore-ordained destiny, an order that none may overstep, by a merciful Providence, or by a chaos of chance devoid of a ruler. If the theory of an insuperable fate be true, why struggle against it? If Providence watches over all and may be inclined to mercy, render thyself worthy of celestial aid. But if leaderless chaos be all, rest content that in the midst of this storm-swept sea Reason still dwells and rules within thee. And if the tide swirl thee away, let it take thy flesh and spirit, with all the rest ; for Reason it cannot take.

…if there be a God all is well ; if chance governs all, see that it govern not thee.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 12.14; 9.27

But if all is chaos, then reason is meaningless because it implies reason assumes the laws of logic. Laws of logic cannot pertain in a chaotic universe. If chaos is all then Reason goes to the wall. Why believe in an island of rationality when all we see is sea of chaos? But our belief in reason suggest another One who is Reason itself, the grounding all rationality, who became flesh and dwelt among us.

Our number came up in the Monte Carlo game

September 8, 2009

We would like to think of ourselves as necessary, inevitable, ordained from all eternity. All religions, nearly all philosophies, and even a part of science testify to the unwearying, heroic effort of mankind desperately denying his own contingency. …The universe was not pregnant with life nor the biosphere with man. Our number came up in the Monte Carlo game. Is it any wonder if, like the person who has just made a million at the casino, we feel strange and a little unreal?… then man must at last wake out of his millenary dream; and in doing so wake to his total solitude, his fundamental isolation. Now does he at last realize that, like a gypsy, he lives at the boundary of an alien world. A world that is deaf to his music, just as indifferent to his hopes as to his suffering or his crimes… If it is true, as I believe, that the fear of solitude and the need for a complete and binding explanation are inborn—that this heritage from the remote past is not only cultural but probably genetic too—can one imagine such an ethics as this, austere, abstract, proud, calming that fear, satisfying that need? I do not know.

The ancient covenant is in pieces; man knows at last that he is alone in the universe’s unfeeling immensity, out of which he emerged only by chance. His destiny is nowhere spelled out, nor his duty.

Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity, 1971

Chance (does not make men free agents)

August 3, 2009

But what is chance? Either chance is the inexorable proclivity (inclination or predisposition toward something) of reality to happen as it does, appearing to be chance because we do not know the reason for what happens (making chance another name for our ignorance of the forces of determinism), or it is absolutely irrational. In the first case, chance is just unknown determinism and not freedom at all. In the second case, chance is not an explanation but the absence of an explanation. An event occurs. No cause can be assigned. It is a chance event. Not only might such an event have not happened, it could never have been expected to happen. So while chance produces the appearance of freedom, it actually introduces absurdity. Chance is causeless, purposeless, directionless.

James Sire, the Universe Next Door, 4th ed., p.95