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Is randomness really random? Or are we being outsmarted by nature?

hannahgisele's picture

This week had me thinking again about the kinds of things we consider to be ‘random,’ and what our reasoning is for labeling them as such. Do we define things this way because we simply cannot understand them? Or is ‘randomness’ really the appropriate title? In Professor Dalke’s section on Thursday, we attempted to compile a list of basics that should be included in any generic high school level syllabus about evolution. After considering the basics, we contemplated ‘order’ as a final topic. As a class, the consensus seemed to be that the order of evolution is, in fact, random.


During our conversation the week before, we talked about chance and probability in relation to evolution. From what Professor Grobstein said in class, he seems to believe that things moved around randomly until they became the way they are now. That feels almost unnatural to hear when said in a definitive way because we are pattern seeking creatures. We strive to find reasons or other entities (e.g. God) to attribute chance to, and ‘randomness’ insinuates that we can’t play a role or have an affect on the way things are. On the other hand, if the ‘order of evolution’ and ‘chance’ are governed by a set of rules or patterns that we have yet to understand, we still lack the control we crave to change things at our will.


In effect, it seems that whether things are random or fixed in a way that we have yet to understand, that we cannot control our surroundings, or the patterns by which our universe operates. In a way, the concept of randomness flatters our intelligence as we discredit nature’s ability to outsmart us.



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