The Great Explainer Discusses Coincidence

Dr. Isaac Asimov, head-and-shoulders portrait,...

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This is something I run into a lot with paranormal believers: the reflexive tendency to attribute anything, any odd event that they can’t make immediate sense of, with supernatural meaning, as something inexplicable…”beyond science” as it were.

But you know…Somehow I think not…

Ike Asimov was keenly aware of this in his dealings with people in general – and not just kooks – but perfectly sane, otherwise reasonable people unaware of the laws of probability, which, let’s face it, are pretty hard for even the smartest of us without the hands-on training to understand them.

Humans suck at intuitively judging probability, particularly such things as the Monty Hall problem, the Birthday Paradox and the Law of large numbers for starters.

It’s why humans had to invent statistics, to allow us to overcome that natural handicap through education. It’s one reason we have education, such as that sometimes is…

Knowledge is power, and not just knowledge we can use for practical purposes, but knowledge for its own sake, contrary to instrumentalist ideology.

People are entirely too disbelieving of coincidence. They are far too ready to dismiss it and to build arcane structures of extremely rickety substance in order to avoid it. I, on the other hand, see coincidence everywhere as an inevitable consequence of the laws of probability, according to which having no unusual coincidence is far more unusual than any coincidence could possibly be.

Isaac Asimov

Dr. Asimov, you’ve hit the nail right on the head, and I doubt at this point that I could have put it better myself. Peace out…

2 thoughts on “The Great Explainer Discusses Coincidence

  1. I see you have revealed my great secret in that I too, used to be a MHDM (thats “medem” or Monty Haul Dungeon Master)…oh wait no, thats *Hall* not *Haul* damn Engrish language always missing me up with those antonyms, synonyms, phonemes, and onomatopoeia’s.

    Seriously though, nice article. I was just prodding around my own book collection and found Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Taleb. My aunt gave it too me a year or so ago, its a good read, if a bit dense.



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