Monday, September 13, 2004

A Meaningful Life, or a lack thereof?

Today I will approach the ever-lasting question of life (most likely in a sloppy, unorganized fashion).

I read more of my Psychology textbook today. I read about statistics. The author spent some time debunking the myths of statistics. He writes about a woman who won the New Jersey State lottery two times, about the draw-three lottery for New York on September 11th, 2002 was 9-1-1, and about being dealt a royal flush in poker on the first hand. Though these events seem like monumental displays of good luck or strange breaks in randomly selected probabilities, Myers argues that any of these events, given the bigger picture, is perfectly reasonable. Given the number of people that play state lotteries, he writes that there should be a reasonable chance that five people daily should win the lottery twice. The probability of being dealt 10 through Ace of hearts on the first try is exactly the same as being dealt some hodgepodge of suits and numbers (1 in 2,598,960). His main point in this section was- do not generalize results (correlation does not equal causation and such) and do not be surprised by "perfectly" random results- most of the time while flipping a coin, you will get long streaks of heads or tails, but the 50-50 chance of things usually shows up in the number of times the pattern switches from one to the other (not a very good explanation, but deal with it). He also points out that many people allow statistical correlations to get the best of their mental processing- even New York Times reporters generalize the outcomes of experiments.

So, this brought me to the meaning of life. If I generally believe in evolution (the adaptation of animals to fit their environments or something along those lines) even in the slightest sense, then would it truly be a statistical miracle that humans developed such higher mental capacities? Perhaps we are not able to see the bigger picture that this could be a purely logical, random occurence of nature. Perhaps we invest in a supreme being and religion much in the same way that people identify with changes in the weather that "cause" their arthritis to "act up". Perhaps, given enough of a timeline, anything could happen.

"For your sake I hope heaven and hell are really there. But I wouldn't hold my breath."

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