Is Chance/Probability Real? Not a Chance!: Chance does not exist; there is no power of probability

Chance, examined rationally, is a non-existent agency; a concept, not an actuality in nature, and therefore does not describe how the material reality which is man’s universe actually manifest as “events” or “outcomes”. It is a figment–a concept of man’s mind; a way he organizes his surroundings in order to subdue them in service to his own affirmation, promotion, propagation, and comfort (for individual man is the only rational Standard of Truth,and thus himself is that which must be affirmed by his own concepts).  So it is useful, perhaps on an emotional level, in abstractly organizing our lives with respect to choices made on behalf of certain desired outcomes, but it cannot be rationally credited with having any real power–that is, causal power–over any event or series of events.

Now, I realize that  many of us will think this obvious and simple logic.  But when we consider how often our realities are expressed in, and our choices and beliefs guided by, ratios, the “cause and effect” paradigm, actuarial tables, various mathematical renderings of probabilities, gambits and gambles, we can see just how an innocent concept such as “chance”, meant to perhaps describe, not govern, is assumed and defined almost subconsciously as having some kind of control; of BEING some kind of existent force of nature; that chance is somehow a legitimate means of knowing or having some kind of real control over the outcome of an event, process, or idea.

The ironically titled Law of Probability is often employed as a means of ensuring success in a wide range of endeavors (which is also ironical), from business, to politics, to sports, economics, and financial investments. And this is not necessarily an illegitimate use of the “chance” concept; but it does, due in large part to its complicated mathematical formulation, conflate the conceptual, purely abstract form of chance—which is its only true and rational form—and the “natural”, “actual”, “causal” form–which is a false and entirely irrational form.  Still, I want to emphasize that I am not denying the emotional efficacy of the Law of Probability (though it is not literally efficacious to specific outcomes, because it doesn’t really exist…but rather MAN is efficacious to the promotion of himself, and he uses his conceptual Laws to accomplish this). And I’m not even suggesting that the law is intended to provide a specific outcome…it does not.  But it is very often employed with the assumption that its use will raise the probability that the employer of the law will succeed more than he will fail. Which of course makes the Law of Probability subject to itself (for what is the probability that the Law of Probability will result in an increase in success with respect to a given objective?). And this of course is a contradiction in terms which results in an endless circular relationship, going nowhere and thus resulting in no useful or knowable thing. Which begs the question: How can we rationally expect any actual efficacy of the Law of Probability?

At any rate, in the interest of stripping “chance” of any right to be called casual, and thus a legitimate means of defending any belief or position, be it religion or atheism or science or philosophy or politics or or morality, or personal ambition, or anything, I have written this essay.

*

First, it is important to understand that the notion of chance can only be developed by observing what has already happened. That is, we cannot come up with ratios or probabilities or any quantifiable units of “chance” or “probability” without having engaged in some study of  how objects interact prior to the notion of the “chances” of those interactions occurring or not occurring at some future time, or in what particular manner. And thus, I must admit I find it ironic that the notion of chance is developed by observing events in real time, whereby the events–ALL needing to have already happened prior to the “Law of Probability” being created and employed–have in reality absolutely nothing to do with chance at all. Chance then (and its formal development into a mathematical formula) is entirely irrespective of itself. Yes, I find this irony infinitely amusing. In other words, you can only develop the Law of Probability from what you absolutely know is true, empirically so–from that which renders chance itself utterly irrelevant. The Law of Probability itself therefore has zero to do with probability. And somehow, this seems fatally disconnected, logically speaking. Imagine a law of gravity which has nothing to do with gravity. Or a law of thermodynamics which doesn’t recognize the concept of temperature. Or Einstein’s famous equation, E=MC2, which doesn’t acknowledge energy, or mass, or the speed of light. Puzzling, to say the least. What HAS occurred is mutually exclusive of what MIGHT occur. But that doesn’t stop people from lauding and frantically employing probability as a means of ensuring the advantage. Because once you inject the magic of the great “Sovereign”, Mathematics, somehow that which is purely conceptual, ethereal, and illusory becomes real and empirically causal. By the power of that great scientific deity, the Equation, pure conceptual abstractions are popped into existence from literally nothing at all.

And they call people who believe in God mystics.

*

If an event occurs, then it, in a manner of speaking, has a 100% chance of occurring. Though, this is really an impossible contradiction in terms—obviously 100% “chance” equals the actual manifestation of the event in reality, at which point chance is moot. This of course renders chance as it pertains to the event entirely irrelevant. Similarly, if an event does not occur, then it, in a manner of speaking, has 0% chance of occurring. But this too is a contradiction in terms.  An event which does not occur does not actually exist—that is, an event which does NOT occur–that is, is NOT–is a contradiction in terms. There is no such thing as an absence of a thing.  And thus the event is not an event; it is nothing…and so yes, NOTHING, by definition, has ZERO chance of occurring. There is no chance that something which does not exist will ever exist.  For existence and non-existence—a thing and the absence of a thing—are mutually exclusive; categorically and infinitely incompatible. Which make chance in this case—the 0% chance of an event occurring—not simply irrelevant, but the very concept of chance itself is again moot—is mathematically zero—is absent—is a purely placeholder–when we attempt to apply it to things that are observed to NOT be (again, a contradiction in terms I know—you cannot observe that which is absent—but you understand what I mean). Chance is BLANK.

And so, if an event occurs, then chance is beside the point. And if the event does not occur then chance is similarly rendered beside the point. The very concept then of the Law of Probability has irrelevance and impotence as its singularity, for as soon as an event is observed to be, or it becomes apparent that the event will not be–that is, is NOT–the Law ceases to have any relevancy.  Which means that it cannot be said to have ever had any in the first place.  The event and the Law of Probability regarding its occurrence are utterly mutually exclusive things. The Law has no actual power; and I might argue that it cannot really be rationally shown, and certainly not proven, to even have any theoretical power, because chance and probability and the conceptual constructs which represent them, do not internally acknowledge the existence of chance and probability in the first place.

My point is that chance and real events are mutually exclusive. Events either are—100%–or they are not—0%. And this, again, is utterly exclusive of chance, which can only “rationally” be expressed as a percentage of 1-99. That is, chance is only ostensibly “rational” as a percentage of event probability between 1 and 99%. But events, once they manifest as happening or as NOT happening (the absence of happening, or zero mathematical existence), either ARE or are NOT. Period. Events do not partially occur or partially NOT occur. A 50% chance of happening does not magically become a 100% chance of happening once the event is seen to occur. And a 50% chance of not happening does not magically become a 100% chance of not happening once the event is NOT seen to occur. Once an event does or does not occur, chance becomes entirely irrelevant. It becomes functionally nothing. Chance and events have nothing really to do with one another, and so all laws of probability are fundamentally flawed, I would argue. Chance has no causal, actual, nor, I submit, even theoretical power. It is an abstraction without a home.  Perhaps not entirely useless, but entirely irrelevant, as it can never actually be shown to possess any efficacy, because its development has nothing whatsoever to do with with what it pretends to “effect”, so to speak.

Another example which may or may not prove helpful.  Suppose a gunsmith designs a rifle which only works 90% of the time.  Would we say that the rifle “works”…that is, as its general description?  As its foundational essence?  A working rifle?  No, we would not.  It is a broken rifle. (For it is a contradiction in terms to declare that a rifle is designed not to work, the gunsmith can qualify it as “working”. If you design something not to work, it’s still not working, even if you intended it to function that way.  Further, if it was intentionally designed NOT to do what a rifle is legitimately supposed to do–shoot–then one could rightly call the designer, and thus the design, fundamentally flawed at the level of the very roots of reason.) The fact that it shoots properly 90% of the time does not change the fact that its essence is one of rank dysfunction.  For the 10% of the time it does not work, in those instances, it 100% does not work, and thus, negates the idea that it can be labeled, ever, a working rifle…for 90% does not constitute a whole; that is 90% working is NOT working, by definition; and because the 100% dysfunction of the gun when not working must be applied to its essential description.  “A working gun” is an absolute concept; it cannot be parsed.  If when it does not work it does not work at ALL, then it is not a working gun, no matter that 90% of the time it does work.  Because the 100% not working (in the instances it fails) MUST be considered when describing the general nature of the gun.  That is, again, it’s a gun which does not actually work.  It does not actually do what the person in this example wants it to do, which is work, period.  The outcomes of its usage consistently fail, even if only 10%.  It consistently fails–and thus failure is a part of its endemic nature–because, again, when it fails, it utterly (that is, 100%) fails.  What I am getting at is the inability of one to call “working” a rifle which is designed only to work 90% of the time.  “Working” and “not working” are mutually exclusive concepts, and so when describing the overall nature of the rifle we must consider this fact, plus the fact that people who shoot rifles want the ones they buy to WORK.  The very idea of a rifle purposely designed to NOT work is irrational on its face.  But at any rate, one cannot consider a rifle  “working” when 10% of the time it does not work; and further I’m attempting to highlight the irrationality of one seeking out and consistently employing such a gun when the goal is efficacious outcomes commensurate with a working rifle.

The Law of Probability is like a rifle that is designed to only work part of the time.  That is, to NOT actually work–that is, not a “working” theory–because by its appeal to chance and probability, as opposed to certainty and inevitability, it is NOT going to be effective in gauging the outcome of an event by design, perhaps as much or even more so than it WILL be effective.  It is a formula that is specifically designed to NOT do what the user actually wants it to do (guide them to the outcomes and objectives they desire) perhaps up to 99% of the time.  It is not a LAW, its a Law of “Chance”, which means the very nature of it as a “law” is on its face an utter contradiction.  And so I ask, is there really any means by which we can argue that chance and probability are ever the most rational way to organize our lives, let alone are actual and causal? You can’t call a theory a working theory if a certain percentage of the time it consistently (100%) does not work as an endemic function of its purposed nature.

Is it any wonder why so many people are made destitute by gambling addiction and why so many people prefer to cheat in order to beat whatever “system” with which they happen to be engaged?

Now, as far as application of the ideas in this essay go, it is important for both atheists and Christians, for instance, scientists and philosophers, mystics and empiricists and rationalists, to remember and understand that material reality IS. Those things that ARE simply ARE. There are no laws which govern their interaction; for how they interact is always rooted in the infinity of their existential IS, which is without beginning or end. And in this case, actual things, which are the roots of these interactions–these events which we hold up to various determinative laws, are not a function of any actual outside theoretical construct, like probability. Therefore, any idea, philosophy, principle, doctrine, creed, model, mechanism, or statement of faith, etc. should provide NO appeal to such a notion. Chance should have no place in legitimate science, philosophy, politics, economics, religion, or even one’s own ambitions, only reason. The infusion of chance into causal explanations of the universe or anything in it, including and especially man and his actions, automatically disqualifies these explanations from any sort of rational consistency…or consistency at all, for that matter.

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17 thoughts on “Is Chance/Probability Real? Not a Chance!: Chance does not exist; there is no power of probability

  1. “First, it is important to understand that the notion of chance can only be developed by observing what has already happened.”

    Not trying to be argumentative or overly critical, but it seems to me there are some instances where that is not necessarily true.

    For example, if I have the numbers 0 thru 9 in a fish bowl, I can calculate my probability as being 1:10 that I will pull out the number 4. Likewise, if I roll a die, the probibility is 1:6 that I will roll a 2. These are mathemetical calculations derived without having to perform any prior observable outcomes of rolling the die or drawing the numbers from the fish bowl.

    On the other hand, there are outcomes based on subjective performance of the observable entity, such as sports teams, horse races, or the stock market. In examples such as these, then yes, future outcome is risk-calculated based on past performace, by observing something that has already happened. Perhaps these are the kinds of examples to which you are referring. Or did I misunderstand what your were trying to say?

  2. Well, I didn’t have that particular example in mind, but since you brought it up, I would say the argument is the same: probability or “chance” has nothing to do with what number you actually pull out of the fish bowl, because the conclusion of the choice being absolute–you did or did not pick out the number four- renders probability moot. What probability predicts and what actually happens are mutually exclusive.

    But more to your point, you could not calculate probability in this example without already knowing that when you reach in a bowl to pick out one of ten things you are inevitably going to pick out one of the ten things, which seems obvious, and this is because we ALREADY have a full understanding of the components involved. The notions of “things”, the act of “choosing”, and the concept of “numbers” are prerequisites for that example. And none of these things, combined as such in the example, are themselves subject to chance.

  3. As for the die…yeah, you would need to have observed a die rolling and observed that for any given roll, any of the six sides may come up. This may seem hyper literal, but the point is that probability is not really ever observed. We have actions and outcomes. Period. Probability is a means of “quantifying” the outcomes, but it is unique in that it doesnt have anything to do, ever, with any of the outcomes it predicts. And I understand this is the point, but my argument is that probability can never be proven efficaciuos by design and so it shouldn’t be relied upon to serve as an argument for an idea, philosophy, construct, plan, etcetera.

  4. “Chance, examined rationally, is a non-existent agency;”

    Did you recently convert to Calvinism? They also say there is no chance, because they say God predetermined everything.

    I verily believe that there is such a thing as chance. It is, after all, one of the things that the depressant who wrote Ecclesiastes complains of.

    I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. (Ecclesiastes 9:11 KJV)

    If there is no chance, then how do my dice operate when I’m playing Monopoly? Are you going to tell me along with Mark Driscoll and other lunatics of that sort that God is personally controlling those dice? God must just want me to land on Boardwalk and lose really bad, right? Come on!

  5. David,

    First, you are conflating chance with choice. Second, quoting the bible is not an argument because the men who wrote the bible are as susceptible to rational inconsistency as anyone else (not to mention heavy doses of metaphor, allegory, and hyperbole “I am the worst of sinners”). And third, are you suggesting that chance is an actual force which guides the dice from your hand to the board? Wouldn’t the fact that the dice land on a SPECIFIC side negate chance as said causal force? Are you arguing that the dice had a 100% chance of landing on, say, double fives once you observe the outcome of the roll?

    “100% chance” is a contradiction in terms.

  6. So you aren’t actually denying that there is chance, or put better, that change “happens,” but rather than chance exists as an entity or is a causal force. You’re saying chance is an explanation for the random, not a god which makes things happen. Ok, well, why didn’t you just say that in English then? And I wasn’t quoting Ecclesiastes 9:11 as a magic text like “the Bible say it, that settles it” but because its a classic example of someone writing down an observation that universal to mankind: Life isn’t fair; chance plays a large part in success.

  7. Argo, I have a question for you unrelated to the topic. Do you believe God gave the Israelites laws He knew they were unable to keep…on purpose?

  8. “You’re saying chance is an explanation for the random, not a god which makes things happen.”

    Well, sort of…it’s not a bad way of putting it, I suppose. I understand that the distinction I’m making is glaringly obvious and yet at the same time utterly camouflaged in an endless forest of Platonist thinking. And that is: Concepts human beings use to organize the environment and their relative existence to it are not, in fact, causal and actual in and of themselves. The notion of chance I consider an excellent way to illustrate this, because it is a notion which NEVER proves efficacious to an outcome because it is mutually exclusive BY DEFINITION. Outcomes ARE, because they are rooted in material objects in a material universe which IS. Since you cannot separate the movement/actions/behavior of people and objects, and since these objects and people ARE, then all actions and outcomes likewise ARE. But “chance”, and its cousin “random-ness”, and its corollary “probability” are always MIGHT. But what “might” be never, ever actually materializes. The very concept of chance itself is utterly exclusive of reality on its face.

    So, for instance, when a Christian makes a claim that humanity MUST have been a function of intelligent design (the conscious, purposeful work of a self-aware agent) because chance precludes any other explanation, we can safely dismiss that argument on the grounds that chance does not, in fact, and by definition, ACTUALLY determine anything. Now, I’m not saying “intelligent design” is false itself but I am simply submitting that if one is to make an argument for a particular belief, one must be certain not to employ ideas which cannot in reality possibly support that belief.

    The ultimate goal of this essay and indeed this blog is to place the causal power to effect efficacious, actual, meaningful change in the world squarely at the feet of self-aware agents, and they alone; namely, God and Man. Because appeals to outside “forces” of nature, for example, or the power of chance, or luck, or mathematical formula, or subjective concepts (“manliness” or “femininity”, “patriotism”, “God’s sovereign Will”, for example) always subordinate the individual to someone else, and this is tyranny.

    Finally, the dichotomy is not between determinism and chance (random occurrence), but between the individual’s awareness of SELF relative to his environment (and thus his ability to act with respect to himself as the singular existential frame of reference…in other words, to “choose”) and ALL external notions or “forces” to which we might seek to subjugate him. Like “determinism” or “chance”.

  9. I will say that the real question isn’t whether or not man can keep the law, but WHY should he endeavor to keep it in the first place? That’s the real question, and the answer to that is the answer to the point of the law and to why Christ eventually came.

  10. Argo, I agree with what you are saying. There was a point to the Law. They had been living among pagans (who had laws,btw) for centuries and God wanted them to focus on Him and His way.

    I am becoming more and more concerned about people who believe that God instituted laws He knew they were “unable” to keep. The issue is about human ability.

  11. Lydia,

    Let’s pretend for a moment that the whole “Man cannot keep the Law” trope isn’t simply about the desire and ability of a few men to wield categorical power over the masses. Which it is, and what this whole nonsensical doctrine is ALL about.

    First, to decide that man cannot keep the Law you first need to define “can’t”…and what I mean by that is we must make the distinction between “can’t” and “won’t”. And most Christians do not make that distinction, but conflate the two, as if they can both be true. It’s another “paradox” so to speak, which is simply a euphemism for “contradiction” and it is an irresponsible and cowardly punting of the GIANT problem of placing a “paradox” square in the middle of one’s root spiritual plumb line, “the Law”.

    “Can’t” and “won’t” are separate issues entirely. Therefore, it is spurious to declare something inane like “man won’t because he can’t”. That doesn’t mean anything, because you’ve got two entirely fucking different things going on there. If man can’t, then whether he will or not is irrelevant. Man’s desire to keep something he cannot keep cannot make him either moral or immoral. Thus, having a “heart” for God, but never actually doing what God wants done cannot logically result in a greater moral position than that of the man who does not have a heart for God. If man’s inability is at the heart of the problem, then that inability MUST circumvent or extend beyond man’s WILL. That is, man’s will has NOTHING to do with the reason he cannot keep the Law. So man’s “desire” to do right has no moral value…again, because its not his will, its his NATURE which is the stumbling block. And “orthodox” Christianity makes it clear: ALL men have the same “sin nature”. So…fuck intention. You can’t be saved by your own will, because what you want to do is besides the point. What you DO do is all that matters; and because you are WHOLLY evil, what you do do is always baaaaaad.

    Now, to WILL is an action. Yes, of the mind, but DESIRING is a willful behavior, impossible without the consent of the agent, in the same way that walking or running, or giving CJ a moral pass on blackmail are actions which are a direct function of the agent. So, unlike the rhetorical charlatans in congregations of “orthodoxy” we need to understand that it is impossible to declare that wanting to do good is NOT, itself, a GOOD act. A desire to do good must be preceded by the ability to recognized that which is good, and to concede its goodness, and this must be a function of the agent himself. Therefore, to declare that those who wish to do good and keep the Law are unable to do so because they are TOTALLY depraved is a false premise. In other words, if man can recognize goodness as good (and even more, DESIRE to do good), then man must be able to DO good…that is, good works. And in that case, man must be able to keep the law. His “sin nature” cannot be used as the excuse for why he needs Jesus to fulfill the law for him.

    So, the overall point I’m trying to make here is that if man cannot keep the law because his NATURE prevents him from doing so, then the Law cannot even be defined in the first place. It is not Law, because it is irrelevant. Man has no frame of reference to define as relevant nor efficacious something for which he cannot possibly have a frame of reference. If I say “the Law of being someone else”…well, what the fuck does that mean? What does it mean to be someone we are not? It’s impossible by definition, and thus there is no frame of reference for even understanding it. And so it is nothing. Useless. Functionally zero.

    Second, suppose we are speaking in a more academic manner…suppose we are saying that God gave a law that man cannot keep because it’s just “too much to do” or something like that. Not enough hours in the day. Well, unless God is willing to make the Law more manageable, then this problem falls essentially in the category of the aforementioned “nature” dilemma. By man’s nature, he requires a certain amount of time and energy to accomplish a certain task. If that task exceeds man’s natural capacity to fulfill it, then then the task becomes irrelevant. If it can’t be done by man because man’s nature won’t allow its fulfillment, then it cannot morally serve as the judge of man. It is irrelevant in all respects. It must be modified, discarded, or it considered obsolete.

    So…all logic points to the fact that if God gave man a Law to keep, man must have been able to keep it, or the very act of the Law and the giving of it is irrational and irrelevant.

    But there’s even more. For example, what is the Law without man? Has it meaning? Has it relevancy? No. So then, who is really in charge of the Law? Is man at the Law’s mercy or is the Law at man’s mercy? And if we look carefully at what the Law seeks to uphold, we can begin to see its overall point. Without man, the Law is oblivion. So…who really needs to obey who? And what does it really mean to “keep” the Law?

  12. And still more….

    Should man’s desire to keep the Law be irrelevant? WHY should man WANT to keep the Law…doesn’t it matter? Should the man who does not desire to obey the Law be forced by threats and violence and larceny and prison? AKA the Mike Huckabee “government for a Christian nation” approach. What if those people, though they don’t obey the Law, do not violate other people? Don’t steal, or lie, or abuse, or frighten or threaten. Are they still unsaved? Are they still outside the Law? If we say yes, then we have conceded some sort of mystical power to the Law, because upholding human life is tacitly admitted to NOT be the point of the Law. But what is? Anything else subjugates man to something outside himself, which makes man moot and obligates him to death. But if we say no then we are accused of heresy, or God hating, or madness, or universalism. If we say no then man doesn’t really need Christ because he doesn’t really need the Law.

    It’s a damned if you do/don’t scenario, which makes this conversation very, very interesting indeed.

    Do you see where this needs to go? Do we see what the Christ is all about yet?

  13. Jason,

    Thanks for that link. I am writing an essay about it as we speak. Hope to get it published to the blog in the next couple days. Again, thanks!

  14. “So…all logic points to the fact that if God gave man a Law to keep, man must have been able to keep it, or the very act of the Law and the giving of it is irrational and irrelevant. ”

    This is what I think, too. Otherwise, what does that make God but a tyrant who lied. I also agree there is a huge chasm between “can’t and won’t”. They sell “won’t as “can’t”.

    “But there’s even more. For example, what is the Law without man? Has it meaning? Has it relevancy? No. So then, who is really in charge of the Law? Is man at the Law’s mercy or is the Law at man’s mercy? And if we look carefully at what the Law seeks to uphold, we can begin to see its overall point. Without man, the Law is oblivion. So…who really needs to obey who? And what does it really mean to “keep” the Law?”

    Ah, this is where they make their case that the law was to prove how Holy God is because man “cannot” keep it. It was God proving to man how unable he is to obey God which seems to contradict everything.

    Of course, I “cannot” keep the law today because if I pitched a tent away from the house after having a baby and lived there for the prescribed amount of time, my neighbors would have me arrested. :o)

  15. ” If we say no then man doesn’t really need Christ because he doesn’t really need the Law.”

    Oh my word. That is so true. Excellent point.

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