- You toss a coin and it always comes up Heads. Does that mean the coin is loaded? What does any other sequence of Heads and Tails tell us? When can we be certain that an outcome is random? In fact, we can never tell from the results whether an outcome is random or not because any particular sequence of outcomes has an equal probability of occurrence. If a coin is fair, 10 Heads in a row has a probability of about 1 in 1,000, but so does HTHTHTHTHT or HHHHHTTTTT or any other sequence of 10 tosses. We can get suspicious and investigate by other means whether the coin is loaded or not, but absent those other findings, the outcome does not tell us anything about the Randomness of this process.
- Randomness is a useful theoretical concept like Circle, Line, or Point. It is OK to refer to slot machines in a casino as random because, for all intent and purpose, this is true and “close enough”. But it is not OK to extrapolate “randomness” to the whole universe and make it the centerpiece of a philosophy.
- So where is “random” abused? Everywhere an explanation hinges on randomness, and nowhere more than in the Darwinian attempt to explain the various lifeforms. As shown, randomness just cannot be demonstrated, therefore in the Darwinian explanation, randomness is only assumed. “Natural selection” then intervenes to cancel any previously possible randomness, in the same manner a person would choose only Heads from among a previously more or less random coin toss sequence – the outcome of the combined process is clearly non-random. It’s not a random coincidence that no mosquitos live freely in Antarctica and no polar bears live willingly in Sahara.
- Why even bother with randomness in nature if (a) randomness just cannot be proven, and (b) “natural selection” overcomes any randomness anyway? Why lead on with “natural selection is blind, mindless, and purposeless”? How would one even prove these claims about “natural selection”? “Purposeless” is akin to random, and proponents hope that a random process modifying another random process results in a still random system that perhaps has not been designed by a Creator. These people go as far as enlisting domestication as an argument for “purposeless” evolution when in fact domestication is clearly a purposeful process serving its designers (mankind).
- The Infinite Monkeys theorem affirms that randomness could create Hamlet or The Odyssey (but the argument is really about life forms, not about literature). Indeed, a random process could theoretically generate these masterpieces. And if we allow for many alternative targets (like any document ever created), the probability of success goes up substantially. Quite likely, the “monkeys” would have duplicated many other information (like chemical formulas) way before typing Hamlet. But monkeys care about bananas, not Hamlet, so the random output remains meaningless until an educated reader assigns meaning based on his/her prior knowledge. Hamlet and Odyssey are important precisely because we recognize them as non-random. They fit in our history and culture and have been preceded and followed by other non-random creations. Creators, not Randomness, provide meanings.
- What about a random Universe that nonetheless is ordered like ours? Aren’t we like the “random” snowflakes or the “random” sand dunes? Once again, randomness cannot be proven, although people are entitled to their own beliefs – be they supported or not by observations. And if the Universe is assumed random, everything happening within that universe at every single time is either random or a follow up to a series of prior random events. As shown above, any hint of purpose within a random universe changes the nature of the universe from random to purposeful. For the universe to be random, there would be no escape from randomness and “blind, mindless, purposeless” – including every action of every life form and every thought of every human.
- This is however contrary to our perception – we observe purpose and deliberate actions following other deliberate actions, if not everywhere, at least in most of our daily interactions with humans and other life forms. But what if our perception is misleading and we really are in a random universe? Evolution itself is meaningless in a random universe as are all the associated concepts: purpose, organization, selection, survival, fittest, selfish, altruistic, advantage, species, mutation, individual, life, etc. It is not clear why even the “laws of nature” should be permanent and ubiquitous in a random universe.
Con: There is a process A which can be random or not — we do not know. Now the outcome of process A can tell us two things: 1. The outcome can be consistent with a process A being random, in which it tells us that process A could be random. 2. The outcome can be inconsistent with a process A being random, in which it tells us that process A cannot be random.
Pro: 1. It could be or it may not be as shown. Or it could be a combination as in “only 1 to 6 outcomes w. uniform distribution – see dice”. Therefore it doesn’t tell you “it is”. For “could be” to have any value, you must attach a probability. And you can’t because any random sequence can also be non-random generated! There is no such thing as: “given this outcome, there’s an X % probability the process is random”. Check you statistics book! 2. It could still be random with almost zero probability. We generally take that as “not random”. What trips you is the asymmetry between random and non-random. While non-random (design) can easily look random, it’s almost impossible for random to look non-random for anything larger than a few bits. Data communication systems do their best to output random-like data for protection and for communication efficiency. On the other hand, ‘infinite monkey’ experiments have and will always fail: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinite_monkey_theorem
Pro: I give you a 10000 trials as follows 101010…10. Can you say it’s “random”?
Con: 1. Yes of course. If, after 10.000 trials, we have 50% “1”, then this is consistent with 1 and 0 production being random. 2. If, after 10.000 trials, the outcome is 10% 1 (and 90% 0), what does that tell you about the “randomness” by which 1s and 0s are being produced? According to your claim “nothing”.
Pro: 1. “It’s consistent” means absolutely nothing. Fact is, you cannot say FOR SURE. As you know, I designed that sequence, so no, it’s not random. I also designed a sequence that incorporates randomness: “flip coin and then reverse output for the other 9999 outputs”. 2. Yes, “nothing” is the right answer – not from the outcome. Remember it’s a black box – you don’t know the stats – it might be a 10-face die with one 1 and nine 0. It can also be a loaded coin or even a fair coin and your trial is just one of many trials (hand picked or freak outcome). Of course, if you already know the system, you don’t learn anything new from one set of outputs, so the answer is still “nothing”.
Con: What about Occam’s Razor?
Pro: Occam’s Razor is no guarantee, and intelligence out of randomness is not a coherent simplest explanation. There’s way too much magic in the “primordial soup”, “abiogenesis”, LUCA, arising of everything, cosmological inflation, quantum fluctuation, and so on. What is more Occam’s Razor simpler and conforming to observation than “only Intelligence Creates”?