Saturday, September 18

Chapter 12:

In Which we Discuss "Predetermined Choices: random chance and divine providence."
What is random in this life? Is there any such thing as absolute randomness? Can someone be completely random at any time? And if not, what is the alternative?

If we look at the idea of chance as a random act, we begin with the simple, and move on to the complex, right? Let’s look first at a random act such as flipping a coin, and rolling a die, and of drawing a card.
If you flip a coin, it is rather random whether it will land heads or tails (barring any interference from people), isn’t it? Actually, it is not. You have a 50% chance of heads, and a 50% chance of tails on every toss of the coin. If you begin flipping the coin over and over and writing down what comes up most often over twenty flips, there is no way to see this, but, over the course of a thousand flips of the coin, you can see that, the more times you flip the coin, the closer to an exact 50% chance. Over a thousand flips of the coin, you will have approximately 500 heads, and 500 tails (though the numbers vary, the approximate numbers still work). Why is this? This is because of the laws of probability which state that over a thousand tries, you will come to approximately the exact percent (the wording may differ, but that is the gist of it).
But what about dice? Your odds of rolling a six on your first try are 1/6 (one in six). The odds of rolling two sixes in a row are 1/6(1/6), or 1/12, and so on. The odds of rolling any number by complete randomness isn’t even a factor because there are set figures and odds in everything you do.
The odds of drawing the Ace of Spades from a full deck of cards (52 cards) is, as you may have guessed, not that good. It is the probability of getting an ace, and of it being spades. The probability of picking spades is ¼, and the probability of picking an ace is 1/13 (13 cards per suit), all over the number of cards possible (52). The mathematical probability is about a 0.0369822% chance of picking an Ace of Spades on your first try.

As you can see, there is no randomness about any of this so far, but what if we raise the question to life itself? 2 real life problems should suffice: “A tree has three apples on its branches, which will fall first?” Or how about “If you throw a frizbee as hard as you possibly can, what are the chances of hitting a beautiful lady in the head on your first try?”

As to the first problem, the factors involved are: what kind of apple tree is it? How old is the apple tree? Where is this apple tree in the world? How is the lay of the land around the apple tree? What is the average rainfall?
If the apple tree is a Fuji, as opposed to a Granny Smith, your equations must include the growing cycle of the tree, the growth pattern of the branches, the amount of foliage, and the life expectancy of the average apple on the tree. Depending on how old the tree is changes the growth period of the tree (how much nutrient can get to outlying branches, etc.); for a newer tree, the growth period is shorter (typically). If we look at the geographic location of the tree, we can see that, in a colder climate, the fruit will remain longer on the tree because the tree will be heartier, and less likely to lose its fruit quickly, if it is in the desert, it will fall more rapidly. As to the lay of the land, all buildings and landforms must be taken into account, because they can change the wind pattern. How much water the tree gets determines how strong or soft its root system is, determining how much nutrient its fruit gets, determining how quickly the apples will grow, rot, and fall.
Now, if we have looked at something as random as apples falling to the ground and determined that, based on all the factors, we could conceivably determine which apple would fall first.
The alternative, then, is to believe that everything happens by circumstance: everything that happens in our lives reduced down to percentages and determining what has the best odds of happening… or does it?

We must now take into account one other thing: human choice.

As a human, we can choose to step off a building ledge, or run into a burning building to save a life. We can choose to die for another person, or to simply buck the norm. We can chose to go against what people expect of us, or to do nothing at all. Our lives are not programmed to follow a certain pattern because we have the ability to reason and to change ourselves.
However, like most things, if you do one thing over and over, and over again – the more times you do that action, the closer you come to seeing what the probability of doing that action again really are. If you are in the habit of stealing paper-clips, eventually you have conditioned yourself to stealing, and the probability of taking something larger is a greater possibility.

What about God?

God, as we have been told, is all powerful, all knowing, all present, and all loving. This all knowing God saw what you were going to do tomorrow from before He created time. The Psalmist says that before he was in his mother’s womb, God knew him. God tells Isaiah that He knew Isaiah before he was born, and that God had planned great things for Isaiah to do. Would, then, this all powerful, all knowing God predetermine what choices we were going to make?
Imagine God planned everything to happen that ever happened and ever will happen down to the movement of every grain of sand. Imagine, for a moment, God calculating out every possibility and choosing the best course, then creating man to follow that course and not give him the ability to stray from it. Imagine a world of robots who could not think thoughts on their own, could not move on their own, and could not survive on their own.
Now imagine God planning out what He wants to happen to this world, and planning strategies on how to get people to do what He wants them to do without forcing them to do it. Imagine God watching history unfold and intervening to help things go the way they were supposed to go. Imagine a world of people who have thoughts of their own, and can move on their own, but could not survive without God’s helping them live.
Which of those two scenarios sounds like an all powerful God? Which one sounds like an all loving God?

God knows what is going to happen, and not just because He can see the infinite details of life. He can see that, if set in motion, a certain action, carried through to its logical conclusion will lead to a certain end, and knows what choices each person will make. He is also aware that, without Him helping us out, this world would go to pot. He also knows that, in order to show us His love, we can not be forced to love him, but it must be a choice: not a drawing of a card from the deck, not a roll of the dice, not a flip of the coin: it must be our choice to choose Him. By allowing us that possibility, He has shown Himself caring, and just. If we do not choose Him, we have chosen not Him. The opposite of God is Hell: the absence of God.

If God programmed us to only do certain things and not allowed us free-will, than none would deserve Hell, because we were only following what we were programmed to do… just like the animals. But God has given us the ability to choose, and therefore, if we do not choose Him, we stand condemned.

Sunday, September 12

Chapter 11:

Have you ever wondered why there is even a chapter eleven in writing? I'd think authors would want to avoid "chapter eleven" like the plague.