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Probability theory

Kleptin
Posts: 5,095
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6/2/2012 4:59:04 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
I'd like to set forth a notion for discussion.

The mathematical study of probability is an extremely flawed human science. For people who like arguing the probability of a universe spontaneously coming into existence as evidence for an intelligent creator, probability seems a legitimate piece of evidence.

The general assumption is that if we can somehow attribute a number to these things, it can generate useful information about existence.

I submit that any application of probability is useless and offers absolutely no relevant philosophical information because probability is a desperate attempt for humans to make *sense* of a situation. Not a valid mathematical determinant of an event occurring.

In other words, when we say that something has a 1 in 10^20 chance of occurring, we are not offering evidence that something quite possibly did not occur by chance. We are saying that there is a very small chance we can *understand* this event occurring by chance. It is a representation of our flawed ability to interpret and comprehend.

Taking it a step further, if someone implies that something has such a low probability of happening, that it is essentially mathematically impossible, it doesn't actually imply that we should consider it impossible. We should be saying that we wouldn't be able to comprehend the situation if it did.
: At 5/2/2010 2:43:54 PM, innomen wrote:
It isn't about finding a theory, philosophy or doctrine and thinking it's the answer, but a practical application of one's experiences that is the answer.

: At 10/28/2010 2:40:07 PM, jharry wrote: I have already been given the greatest Gift that anyone could ever hope for [Life], I would consider myself selfish if I expected anything more.
Kleptin
Posts: 5,095
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6/2/2012 5:00:15 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
^I meant "any SUCH application of probability". As in, applications of probability to determine the odds of something existing.
: At 5/2/2010 2:43:54 PM, innomen wrote:
It isn't about finding a theory, philosophy or doctrine and thinking it's the answer, but a practical application of one's experiences that is the answer.

: At 10/28/2010 2:40:07 PM, jharry wrote: I have already been given the greatest Gift that anyone could ever hope for [Life], I would consider myself selfish if I expected anything more.
Wnope
Posts: 6,924
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6/2/2012 5:17:09 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
For instance, would you say probability theory has no usefullness in predicting the results of a thousand coinflips (where you only care about which side lands face up)?
Ren
Posts: 7,102
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6/2/2012 5:37:55 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/2/2012 4:59:04 PM, Kleptin wrote:
I'd like to set forth a notion for discussion.

The mathematical study of probability is an extremely flawed human science. For people who like arguing the probability of a universe spontaneously coming into existence as evidence for an intelligent creator, probability seems a legitimate piece of evidence.

The general assumption is that if we can somehow attribute a number to these things, it can generate useful information about existence.

I submit that any application of probability is useless and offers absolutely no relevant philosophical information because probability is a desperate attempt for humans to make *sense* of a situation. Not a valid mathematical determinant of an event occurring.

In other words, when we say that something has a 1 in 10^20 chance of occurring, we are not offering evidence that something quite possibly did not occur by chance. We are saying that there is a very small chance we can *understand* this event occurring by chance. It is a representation of our flawed ability to interpret and comprehend.

Taking it a step further, if someone implies that something has such a low probability of happening, that it is essentially mathematically impossible, it doesn't actually imply that we should consider it impossible. We should be saying that we wouldn't be able to comprehend the situation if it did.

Hmmm.

That's not how I've interpreted probability.

I think probability is more something like... how many potential events that may occur with a given treatment, weighed against the number of events that can result form that treatment.

Let's take, for example, a coin flip, since that was already mentioned. As we know, if you were to flip a coin, there is a 1/2! chance of it landing on either side (which is really just 1/2, or 0.50, or 50%). In other words, with the given treatment (coin flipping), there is two potential events that may occur (landing heads- or tails-side up), and only one of those events can occur (it can only land on one side).

However, that isn't entirely true, really, because it is possible for a coin to land on its edge and roll, for example. Although the chances of it occurring are likely marginal, there's a chance that it may not tip over once it stops rolling. I, personally, have witnessed this.

However, there are so many factors at play, it's probably impossible to determine the likelihood that it would land on its side, so we simply exclude it. Interestingly, that doesn't seem to compromise the general premise that there is a 50/50 chance of a coin landing on either side, because the marginal nature of the probability that it would land on its side leaves many gaps between each instance where the probability of each coinflip is 50% one side, and 50% the other.

This isn't to say, however, that we don't understand everything that goes into flipping a coin. A physicist could completely extrapolate a coin-flip, and (most if not all) forces involved, and that wouldn't detract from a degree of probability, because there always remains 2-3 options, and only one potential result.

That is what makes superposition such a hot topic in the quantum world. It's not what it suggests -- in terms of the physical manifestation of it, it isn't that special a state. However, what makes it special in terms of quantum physics is that it alters the number of options you have, as well as the potential outcomes, to alter the probability of the universe as it pertains to matter in that state.

That doesn't mean that we don't understand it, or can't predict it to an extent. It simply means that the dynamics change.

Eventually, it won't seem so radical to think on a level where we expect more than a single outcome or response from a given treatment or question.

I hope.
Kleptin
Posts: 5,095
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6/2/2012 11:25:57 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
I actually meant in cases where probability is used to derive "evidence" for an occurrence that has already taken place. Example: The universe exists the way it does.
: At 5/2/2010 2:43:54 PM, innomen wrote:
It isn't about finding a theory, philosophy or doctrine and thinking it's the answer, but a practical application of one's experiences that is the answer.

: At 10/28/2010 2:40:07 PM, jharry wrote: I have already been given the greatest Gift that anyone could ever hope for [Life], I would consider myself selfish if I expected anything more.
Ren
Posts: 7,102
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6/3/2012 12:17:24 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/2/2012 11:25:57 PM, Kleptin wrote:
I actually meant in cases where probability is used to derive "evidence" for an occurrence that has already taken place. Example: The universe exists the way it does.

That doesn't sound very scientific.

At all.
Ren
Posts: 7,102
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6/3/2012 12:18:47 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
In fact, I'd consider it illogical.

And, if it were generally accepted that such premises were illogical, then we can automatically weed out arguments like them as soon as we encounter them, making it much easier to arrive to more reasonable conclusions more efficiently.

Sounds like a utility for formal logic, to me.
Kleptin
Posts: 5,095
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6/3/2012 12:55:21 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/3/2012 12:17:24 AM, Ren wrote:
At 6/2/2012 11:25:57 PM, Kleptin wrote:
I actually meant in cases where probability is used to derive "evidence" for an occurrence that has already taken place. Example: The universe exists the way it does.

That doesn't sound very scientific.

At all.

I agree. However, the theists don't. I'm just toying around with ideas.
: At 5/2/2010 2:43:54 PM, innomen wrote:
It isn't about finding a theory, philosophy or doctrine and thinking it's the answer, but a practical application of one's experiences that is the answer.

: At 10/28/2010 2:40:07 PM, jharry wrote: I have already been given the greatest Gift that anyone could ever hope for [Life], I would consider myself selfish if I expected anything more.
Ren
Posts: 7,102
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6/3/2012 1:06:15 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/3/2012 12:55:21 AM, Kleptin wrote:
At 6/3/2012 12:17:24 AM, Ren wrote:
At 6/2/2012 11:25:57 PM, Kleptin wrote:
I actually meant in cases where probability is used to derive "evidence" for an occurrence that has already taken place. Example: The universe exists the way it does.

That doesn't sound very scientific.

At all.

I agree. However, the theists don't. I'm just toying around with ideas.

That's curious; in another thread, you indicated that you consider theists just as logical as everyone else.
RoyLatham
Posts: 4,488
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6/4/2012 12:29:00 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
The probability of dealing any one hand of bridge is so small l that it would occur once in a million million times the age of the universe. Yet every time the cards are dealt, you get one of these negligible-probabilty events.

A problem with computing the probability of the universe is that we don't know how many universes there are. They may lurk in different dimensions.