Sunday, October 17, 2010

The olive theory

Say you meet someone who shares the same birthday (date and month) as you, has a particular last name that seems to conform to the round-robin list of last names your school friends and now their spouses have, whose sister's name is the same as your sister's, who drinks coffee with exactly three quarters of a teaspoon of sugar, who loves olives (since you hate them) and who is a fan of Lost. That must be too much of a coincidence right? I mean, certainly this is God himself intervening, so he's got to be the one for whatever reason?

So you've heard, 'Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous', but do you truly believe that? Sure, I believe in angels and miracles, the power of prayer and faith moving mountains and as much as the two concepts may seem intertwined they are not.

Predictable human logic picks out clusters of coincidence from a myriad of ocurrences without investigating the layer below the too good to be true coincidences, the layer of the skeptics. That's where the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy comes in, I have been guilty of attributing greater significance to something that was perfectly probably only a natural order of events at various stages of my existence and I might still do it.

'You can't ascribe great cosmic significance to a simple earthly event. Coincidence, that's all anything ever is, nothing more than coincidence. There's no such thing as fate, nothing is meant to be'. This is a quote from 500 days of Summer, it's not verbatim but it struck a chord.

Back to the fallacy, this is what it says 'The fallacy gets its name from imagining a cowboy shooting at a barn. Over time, the side of the barn becomes riddled with holes. In some places there are lots of them, in others there are few. If the cowboy later paints a bullseye over a spot where his bullet holes clustered together it looks like he is pretty good with a gun.By painting a bullseye over a bullet hole the cowboy places artificial order over natural random chance.' Go read it all here and on wiki too.


Austine J. Crasta said...

The article you referred to in here describes 'The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy' which in philosophical terms would be classified as an "Informal Fallacy" i.e., an argument whose stated premises fail to support their proposed conclusion.

On the other hand, even though rejected by positivist schools, there always remains the possibility of genuine metaphysical enquiry that is free from fallacies. Without this one would lose the meaning of the very ground of existence and reality, and would ultimately arrive at some sort of a philosophical nihilism, itself a fallacy.

RZD said...

The only conclusion the fallacy made is to let randomness be and let coincidence be without attributing greater significance to either if you can't and that's something I could agree with. It's more about rationalism than anything else.

I am not familiar with metaphysical enquiry, but it must allude to something at a deeper level almost equivalent to your belief in a God you can't see.

Bini said...

I don't believe in pure coincidence at least I try myself just not to let it pass as coincidence:)..Somewhere i believe that coincidence have a deeper purpose to something out there:)..