Struggling with Meaninglessness

searching meaning in meaninglessness

Does Randomness Exist?

with 15 comments

I have a new addiction recently … i just can’t stop watching The Colbert Report for the past few weeks. His great wits and intellect underlying his humour is really something great to watch. I’m officially a fan of Stephen Colbert.

While watching the newer episodes of Colbert Report, I also dug around the net looking for his old ones. (Unfortunately, YouTube has removed all the popular videos, so it’s not easy looking for them). And guess what i found? An interview with – Richard Dawkins! I can’t embed flash videos apart from YouTube directly here as WordPress doesn’t allow any Javascripts stuffs. So, i guess you have to watch it here:

http://www.boreme.com/boreme/funny-2006/dawkins-colbert-p1.php

In his real life, Stephen Colbert described himself as a progressive Catholic who strongly value intellectualism. I could imagine he is the sort of religious person who is devoted to his spiritual beliefs yet accepting science such as Evolution as the answer for our existence (although it go against the conventional beliefs of the church and bible).

And i know very well the fact that belief system is not really a big factor. It is the open mindset of embracing intellectualism that counts. That’s exactly a problem with most religious people – sticking to the holy book while cherry-picking science which support their belief and dismissing science which go against their belief. It is like they are intellectually trapped in their own world accepting nothing else but ‘the book’.

Back to the video, Steven Colbert who often portrays himself as an egomaniac and anti-intellectual in the Colbert Report show, appeared to ‘dumb-down’ himself in order to bring the message across. At least it looks like it to me. Notice that he said things exactly what anti-intellectuals would have in their mindsets especially when dealing with Evolution.

– “It’s too complex for us to perceive”

– “I’m lost. It hurts my head. You see, if i just think that God just did it then i can understand.”

And at the end of the video, Stephen also briefly and indirectly described the process of existence of the universe and human being, a general knowledge which everyone should know.

But one of the question was unanswered in the video above – Richard Dawkins didn’t address Colbert’s Pachinko analogy (LoL). That may sound like a stupid question, but i can tell you it’s not. So, i will attempt to answer it.

I’m not really familiar with Pachinko machines. So, maybe i will use other things which deal with randomness as example. Let’s take Golf.

Imagine, you are at the Golf driving range. You hit the ball across 100 yards and it lands on a certain spot. Then you hit a second attempt. Now, what are the chances that when you hit the ball on your second attempt, the ball will land exactly on  the same spot as it was previously? You have no idea what are the probabilities are but you know that it will be extremely low.

You see, when you hit a ball, you could roughly predict the radius within an area where the ball will land. But you can’t tell precisely for sure which spot the ball will land on. Common sense tells us that the ball lands ‘randomly’ within the radius.

But the fact is, there are so many variables involved when you hit the ball. We have to consider the power, angle, position, velocity, momentum, type of club, wind, etc. when we make that shot. And the thing is, as a human being, we simply don’t have the ability to make the same exact shot twice in a row which result the same value in all the variables.

However, if you know the variables of the power, angle, position, velocity, momentum, type of club, wind, etc. of the shot, through mathematics, you could possibly calculate and know where the ball will land. Imagine a Golf robot is created which can hit the ball at the same power, angle, position, velocity, and momentum consistently every time (nevermind the wind). I bet the ball will fall always at the same place twice, or more than that.

Putting this simply, there is always a reason why a ball land in a certain spot and this is influenced heavily by the mentioned variables. Things looks random simply because … well because we are human being and not robots? We don’t have the ability to precisely control the variables and that’s what makes sports fun.

Therefore, in conclusion i echo the thoughts of Richard Dawkins that there’s nothing in this world which is totally random…. apart from Quantum Mechanics i suppose (Or is there a hidden variable?).

Oh, btw, the video of Colbert vs Rain … funny like hell.

http://www.milkandcookies.com/link/103751/detail/

Advertisements

Written by elan85

May 6, 2008 at 12:37 am

Posted in Atheism, Philosophy

15 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Just to go off on a complete and utter tangent to the point you were making:

    On the subject of randomness, in historical times (and possibly modern times as well) Japanese art students were given an excercise where they had to fill up a piece of paper with randomly placed dots. Sounds easy, but I’ve tried it. It’s a lot harder to randomly place dots over an entire piece of paper than it sounds.

    On a side issue to this, I used to work in a video rental store. The Overnight Rental shelf had all the DVD cases flat against the wall. If less than half of a given title were out, it was generally looked better to arrange the DVD’s randomly rather than to a pattern – but if you can recognise randomness as a pattern, is it still randomness? Or is randomness just a pattern in it’s own right?

    I’m not going anywhere with this. Just thought it was interesting.

    Ubiquitous Che

    May 6, 2008 at 10:22 am

  2. Hie there,

    Yes, i have came across something similar, Che. There’s an experiment done where a group of people are supposed to randomly poke dots on a piece of paper for several seconds. However, what looks to be a randomly poked paper is not random at all.

    Because you see, all of the people were poking dots while maintaining a certain gaps between the dots. If its truly random, wouldn’t some dots will be very close to each other or perhaps overlapping?

    This test didn’t really prove randomness much but just as you put it, people psychologically sometimes are confused between randomness and patterns.

    Ronn Yeo

    May 6, 2008 at 4:05 pm

  3. Actually, it is impossible to “randomly” place dots on a piece of paper. Each piece of paper in existence has limited parameters, such as 8 inches by 11 inches, or what have you.

    In order to place even a single dot on a piece of paper, a plan or a design is required, in order to ensure that the dot appears within the limited parameters of the paper, rather than outside it.

    “Randomness,” by definition, cannot be planned or designed in the least bit. If any given phenomenon is planned or designed, then it is by no means “random.”

    Therefore, it is impossible to place even a single “random” dot on any given piece of paper.

    Those with intelligence will understand the fact that this applies to the entire universe, as it is also limited to certain parameters, such as being located within space and time.

    Those with insufficient intelligence will not understand, but that is par for the course.

    Carry on!

    IntelligentDesign

    May 3, 2009 at 10:41 pm

  4. PS — “Randomness” is a myth. Nobody has ever observed or documented any “random” event or phenomenon:

    1. Without any observation, which is the first step in the scientific method, the very idea of “randomness” is 100% unscientific hogwash.

    2. Without any documentation, the entire concept fits snugly and irrevocably within the realm of ignorant imagination.

    The egotist (ie atheist) lacks the mental, emotional, and intellectual fortitude to handle the fact that there are powers greater than he, powers beyond his understanding, and intelligence greater than his own. He becomes confused, frightened, and angry when faced with the fact that there is a designer whose power and intelligence is infinite and therefore completely beyond his limited, feeble grasp.

    he mythological concept of “randomness” is merely a cop-out — a failed and thoroughly unscientific attempt to explain phenomena whose source is unknown to the egotist — nothing more, nothing less.

    Conversely, the Theists do indeed know the source of all phenomena: the Supreme Lord.

    IntelligentDesign

    May 3, 2009 at 10:55 pm

  5. (Typo fixed):

    PS — “Randomness” is a myth. Nobody has ever observed or documented any “random” event or phenomenon:

    1. Without any observation, which is the first step in the scientific method, the very idea of “randomness” is 100% unscientific hogwash.

    2. Without any documentation, the entire concept fits snugly and irrevocably within the realm of ignorant imagination.

    The egotist (ie atheist) lacks the mental, emotional, and intellectual fortitude to handle the fact that there are powers greater than he, powers beyond his understanding, and intelligence greater than his own. He becomes confused, frightened, and angry when faced with the fact that there is a designer whose power and intelligence is infinite and therefore completely beyond his limited, feeble grasp.

    The mythological concept of “randomness” is merely a cop-out — a failed and thoroughly unscientific attempt to explain phenomena whose source is unknown to the egotist — nothing more, nothing less.

    Conversely, the Theists do indeed know the source of all phenomena: the Supreme Lord.

    IntelligentDesign

    May 3, 2009 at 10:56 pm

  6. Actually, it is impossible to “randomly” place dots on a piece of paper. Each piece of paper in existence has limited parameters, such as 8 inches by 11 inches, or what have you.

    Err… No.

    You’re playing language games with the semantics.

    ‘Random’ is a label we apply to a certain class of patterns. Defining that class is a bit tricky, I’ll grant you. The inability to predict how the eventual pattern turns out is a big part of it, but not everything.

    That class of patterns does exist; that is to say, patterns exist that fall within the (admittedly somewhat ambiguous) definition of what it means for a pattern to be ‘random’.

    What you’re doing is confusing the existence of random patterns with a particular set of metaphysical interpretations that have grown up about random patterns.

    Essentially, you can disagree with a given metaphysical claim about randomness. That’s fine. But randomness is a very real phenomenon. Very skilled artists can place random dots on a piece of paper; that is to say, they can place dots on a piece of paper in such a way that no discernible pattern can be distinguished amongst them, and when shown to a wide range of audiences those audiences will report: “Yep, those dots are random!”

    Just like how at the video store I really could place the DVDs on the shelf of my old workplace randomly. Yes, this randomness is a very special kind of pattern in its own right. Yes, I generated it with a sort of ad-hoc algorithm. That doesn’t stop it from being justifiably labeled as ‘random’.

    There’s a set of metaphysical assumptions regarding randomness that you’re treating as definitive of the term. They’re not.

    Interestingly, you would find that many atheists would actually agree with you about the metaphysical nature of randomness (although obviously they would disagree with you over the why of that metaphysical nature). Deterministic materialists will also (usually) claim that randomness is just our own personal limitations regarding measurement, prediction, and pattern interpretation.

    Personally, I’m undecided on the issue. I’m distrustful of metaphysics, especially when it leads into dualism. In particular, I’ve been highly suspicious of the distinction between randomness vs. order for a long time now.

    Besides: The simple fact of the matter is that randomness itself bears absolutely no evidence regarding the existence of a deity or the validity of intelligent design. Granted, some of the metaphysical interpretation of randomness do – but randomness itself, the existence of the patterns we recognize by the label ‘random’, don’t bear any evidence either why.

    So why bring God into the mix at all? Does that Soapbox of yours make you feel that much taller?

    On an aside: I’ve done a bit of a look online, and I seem to find a general expert opinion that the time at which an unstable radioactive isotope of a given substance will decay is considered to be the best example of randomness in nature. A large population of such isotopes will decay in a way that is (startlingly) statistically predictable – but each individual isotope decays utterly randomly.

    It’s an interesting look at the blending between our naive notions of ‘randomness’ and ‘order’. ^_^

    Ubiquitous Che

    May 4, 2009 at 9:20 am

  7. * don’t bear any evidence either way.

    Ubiquitous Che

    May 4, 2009 at 9:22 am

  8. You have failed to observe any phenomenon that is actually random.

    You have failed to document any phenomenon that is actually random.

    You have failed to post here any phenomenon that is actually random.

    It is you, not I, who is playing semantic games.

    The fact that you are unable to discern a pattern does not mean that it is “random.” It simply means that you lack the intelligence to discern it. That, my friend, is NOT the definition of randomness. It is simply beyond your ability to discern, and since your inflated ego cannot handle that fact, you have tacked on a false definition of the term “randomness” in order to avoid the shame you feel at being found lacking in intelligence.

    That is shameful.

    What is or is not random is not decided by asking an imaginary group of people if they “think” it’s random. It is determined by the actual definition of the term, which definition you obviously fail to apprehend. Citing the imaginary opinions of a nonexistent group of imaginary people, as you have done above, is supremely unscientific, and is completely ludicrous.

    It is impossible to place DVD’s on any given shelf randomly, because in order to place them on the shelf at all, you must consciously follow the design and placement of the shelf, no matter its dimensions and placement in space. By definition, design is 100% non-random, and so you are absolutely wrong about that as well.

    If the pattern that you generated was by your plan, by your design, and involved an algorithm, then it was by no means random, as all planning, all design, and all algorithms are by definition necessarily non-random. You obviously lack the intelligence to understand my points from my previous posts, but you do certainly reserve the right to be stupid. However, when you attempt to proselytize your ignorant error onto others, that is where I draw the line.

    I have never argued that randomness bears any evidence of anything. That is merely your foolish straw-man argument. In reality, “randomness” is a myth, and so it does not “bear” anything of any kind. It is an imaginary concept that has no place in the world of reality, and there is absolutely nothing in existence that is actually “random.”

    I mentioned God because it has become vogue these days for the unintelligent to use “randomness” to fill the glaring gaps in their crippled atheistic worldviews. The fact is, however, that “randomness” is nothing more than a ridiculous, unscientific myth, with absolutely no supporting evidence presented anywhere, ever, and the atheistic mindset is a symptom of the egotism that disallows the thought that there is an intelligence greater than your own.

    A better question is: Why are you so fearful when someone brings up God? Is your faith in your own concocted nonsense so weak that you can’t handle even discussing Him? Yes — your fear of discussing God shows that you lack the intelligence to counter the statements that you see as a threat to your flimsy atheistic philosophy, full of holes, full of lies, and full of nonsense mythological and unscientific concepts that were concocted in a vain attempt to fill the glaring holes in your crippled worldview. Your beliefs make no sense whatsoever, and are a clear sign that you have something seriously wrong with your brain.

    Decay is a process that goes in one direction: from order to disorder. The fact that the direction is constant proves beyond doubt that no decay process is “random” at all. Randomness, by definition, is wholly and completely unpredictable, both in rhythm AND direction. Any system that is predictable in either rhythm or direction cannot possibly be defined as random. Decay is most definitely 100% predictable in direction, and so this is yet another desperate and utterly failed attempt of the atheist to find something, somewhere, that may somehow, some way be defined as “random,” nothing more. The best that the atheist can come up with to support his ridiculous and thoroughly unscientific theory, isotope decay, is so completely full of holes as to be laughable.

    Randomness is a myth. It is complete and utter nonsense, and you have not produced, and never will be able to produce, any phenomenon, be it a string of numbers, a natural process, or anything else from any category of existence, that is actually random.

    You are batting zero so far, but I wonder if you’ll be stupid enough to make another feeble attempt.

    The insidious man is preferable to the ignoramus, because at least the insidious man occasionally takes a break. In which category will you prove yourself to be?

    IntelligentDesign

    May 4, 2009 at 9:56 am

  9. You have failed to post here any phenomenon that is actually random.

    There is no ‘actually’ random. Once again, you’re dragging in metaphysical assumptions about randomness as if they were definitive of the term. They are not.

    To give an example, when I would lay out DVDs on the shelf at the rental store I used to work at, consider: There is a 5×5 square of positions in which I could lay out the currently stocked items of a very popular movie – popular enough that there are only five DVDs currently in stock.

    Here are some examples of non-random placement (I hope the ‘code’ html tags work). D is for DVD, s is for shelf.


    DDDDD sssss Dssss Dssss DDsDD DsssD
    sssss sssss sDsss Dssss ssDss sssss
    sssss DDDDD ssDss Dssss sssss ssDss
    sssss sssss sssDs Dssss sssss sssss
    sssss sssss ssssD Dssss sssss DsssD

    I’ll repost these in vertical format if the code tags don’t work.

    Anyway, now consider a few layouts I constructed by hand that are random.


    sDsss Dssss DssDs
    sssDs Dssss sssss
    Dssss ssDss sssDs
    sssss sDsDs ssDss
    sDsDs sssss ssDss

    I then threw together a wee bit of script as a random-number generator, to pick out five numbers between 1 and 25 with no replacement. I’ll then lay these numbers out on a board as follows:


    01 02 03 04 05
    06 07 08 09 10
    11 12 13 14 15
    16 17 18 19 20
    21 22 23 24 25

    The program was this:

    Random random = new Random();

    int[] positions = new int[5];

    for (int i = 0; i = 0; j--)
    {
    if (positions[j] == positions[i])
    {
    bContainsNumber = true;
    break;
    }
    }
    if (!bContainsNumber)
    {
    i++;
    }
    }

    My output was:

    1) 25, 21, 9, 2, 18
    2) 6, 1, 17, 10, 2
    3) 23, 19, 6, 2, 9
    4) 5, 8, 14, 20, 25
    5) 9, 13, 25, 14, 20

    Converting that into five boards looks like this:

    sDsss DDsss sDsss ssssD sssss
    sssDs DsssD DssDs ssDss sssDs
    sssss sssss sssss sssDs ssDDs
    ssDss sDsss sssDs ssssD ssssD
    DsssD sssss ssDss ssssD ssssD

    So these are all to be justifiably considered as random placements. The problem is that you think that all randomness must be ‘actual’ randomness in order to properly qualify as randomness. This is patent nonsense. If you want to define ‘actual’ randomness by dragging in a bunch of metaphysical claims regarding what qualifies as ‘actual’ randomness, and then point out that those metaphysical claims cannot be met – that’s fine. Do that. You can define yourself into truth-via-tautology if you like. I don’t really see the point, but if it makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something meaningful then go ahead. Redundancy in the definition of terms didn’t stop Kant, so why should you hold back, hmm?

    To me, the interesting case is to consider this class of patterns with the label ‘random’ and consider what this teaches us about the nature of both pattern and non-pattern, the relationship between the two, and how this understanding might help to shape our understanding of the other supposedly dualistic terms that pepper our language and worldviews.

    Once again: Yes, if we define the term ‘randomness’ the way you want to define it, maybe it doesn’t ‘really’ exist. So what? If we define the word in terms of its usage – that is, we look at all the things to which the term ‘random’ can be plausibly applied (a successful ‘speech act’ – see John Austin’s How to Do Things with Words) and consider that group of things as a whole… Then we will find myriad useful applications and insights based on this approach. How generous!

    Let the word ‘random’ be defined by the things for which it is actually used in language. Leave the metaphysical baggage at home. Pointless metaphysics makes baby Plato cry. ^_^

    Besides – isn’t examining background randomness for specificity the rather shaky pillar on which cdesign proponentsists rest their theories? If randomness doesn’t really exist, what’s the point in getting excited about specificity in the first place?

    Well… Unless you’re just trying to twist the facts to fit an ideological commitment. That would be a good point for getting excited about specificity, I suppose. I’m content to be corrected if that’s not the case.

    Ubiquitous Che

    May 4, 2009 at 5:05 pm

  10. Hmm… My code came through all bungled. Correction:


    Random random = new Random();

    int[] positions = new int[5];

    for (int i = 0; i = 0; j--)
    {
    if (positions[j] == positions[i])
    {
    bContainsNumber = true;
    break;
    }
    }
    if (!bContainsNumber)
    {
    i++;
    }
    }

    Ubiquitous Che

    May 4, 2009 at 5:07 pm

  11. I think I worked it out – the ‘greater than’ and ‘less than’ symbols are angled brackets – the wordpress HTML code stripper was interpreting it as a bad tag and so was stripping out a big section of my code. This should have it solved:

    Random random = new Random();

    int[] positions = new int[5];

    for (int i = 0; i (greater than or equal too) 4; )
    {
    positions[i] = random.Next(1, 26);
    bool bContainsNumber = false;
    for(int j = i - 1; j (less than or equal too) 0; j--)
    {
    if (positions[j] == positions[i])
    {
    bool bContainsNumber = true;
    break;
    }
    }
    if (!bContainsNumber)
    {
    i++;
    }
    }

    Ubiquitous Che

    May 4, 2009 at 5:10 pm

  12. Bah! Wrong way ’round! I’m bad at this:

    My kingdom for an edit button:
    Random random = new Random();

    int[] positions = new int[5];

    for (int i = 0; i (less than or equal too) 4; )
    {
    positions[i] = random.Next(1, 26);
    bool bContainsNumber = false;
    for(int j = i - 1; j (greater than or equal too) 0; j--)
    {
    if (positions[j] == positions[i])
    {
    bool bContainsNumber = true;
    break;
    }
    }
    if (!bContainsNumber)
    {
    i++;
    }
    }

    Ubiquitous Che

    May 4, 2009 at 5:13 pm

  13. Answer: Ignoramus.

    IntelligentDesign

    May 4, 2009 at 8:03 pm

  14. Nathan Poe? Is that you?

    Ubiquitous Che

    May 5, 2009 at 5:07 am

  15. Great site / I will visit again!!

    Dotoordetty

    May 20, 2009 at 10:09 pm


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: