# does "randomness" exist?

by googlemagoogle 45 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

• ##### googlemagoogle

this is maybe largely parallel to the "free will" debate. or if there is such thing like "chance".

many computer languages have a math function "random()". this function usually returns a number in no particular pattern. or so it seems. in fact it's all pseudorandom. there are formulas and processes running within the function that are calculating the next number to return.

i believe "coincidence" is a word we use for unexpected events, that in the larger image are only a logical consequence of other events we maybe do not even know of.

actually it's more of an observation than a belief. and this of course has a huge influence on my view of things, like evolution for example. it's just a logical process. no randomness there.

many times i heard theists say: i just can't accept that everything was created by chance. you don't need to accept that. nothing was created by chance.

• ##### DannyBloem

We were already debating a lot about randomness in one of the other threads,

Anyway computers are determistic, and there is no randomness. The functions like rand() work with some algroritmes that produces semi random numbers. There is a lot written about how they exactly work, and there are different algorithms.

However in nature true randomness does exists. There are some devices that generate real random numbers using this 'features' of nature.

Danny

• ##### googlemagoogle

There are some devices that generate real random numbers using this 'features' of nature.

like what?

• ##### DannyBloem

Like the decay of radioactive elements.

This is something pure random. There is no cause.
You can convert the random decays to random numbers, and you have a real RNG.

Danny

• ##### googlemagoogle

oh. seems like i should have read the different definitions for "randomness" first. i'll be back.

 that's right. i should have some vacation from all my programming work and do my homework instead of playing the philosopher. quantum physics... gotta think about that.

• ##### Pole

1) Actually the tricky thing about the definition of randomness is that we can only define what it is not.

Just like enthropy. The level of "disorder".

2) Randomness in the universe usually combines with deterministic rules giving different probability distributions. So it's just like the wave-particle dillema.

Pole

• ##### Pole

Danny,
I have decided to move my post to this thread:
Danny,
::The point I wanted to make is that that randomness can be used as a building brick, for certain not random things.
Actually I should have been more specific. Probability distribution functions represent the combination of pure randomness and some inherent deterministic rules typical of the specific phenomenon. So in this sense randomness is one of the "building blocks".
::Isn't it so, that those different probability distributions are combinations of more simpler ones? or normal distributions working on non linear things, causing an appearend different distribution, but in the basics just a normal distribution?
Well, a lot depends on the level of analysis. Do you think the distribution rules work at the atomic level? Or below? ;-). Also, normal distribution should not be confused with pure randomness. It's just one of the distributions.
To give you an example of what normal distribution really is. Imagine you have a randomly selected sample of Americans (let's say 1 million) taking an IQ test. Imagine you plot the results for each American on a surface. You mark test participant numbers on the X axis, and tehir respective score on the Y axis. Then you join the 1 million dots to get a line approximating the IQ distribution. Then you take another random sample of the same size and plot another graph. And another 10 samples. Now, for me mathematical randomness would rather mean that each IQ score would be equally probable. So you'd get a flat line for each representative sample (there is a special name for this distribution which I can't remember now).
We know what we get instead is a slightly skewed normal distribution (a bell-shaped gaussian curve). Hopefully, it would be a positively skewed normal distribution. ;-) That means extremely low or extremely high IQs are much less frequent than average values. This by itself means that normal distribution is not equivalent to randomness. It's just very common in nature. It has some cool mathematical properties which make it easy to process and analyse. We still cannot say what is the IQ of the next American we meet, but at least we know what values are more likely than others.
IQ values are generated by so many different factors. Randomness plays a role, but the deterministic part of this phenomenon tells us that it's rather difficult to come across a person with an IQ equal to 200. If you combine the two concepts, you get the notion of probability distribution.
Ok, I'd better stop before skyman kicks my ass for hijacking the thread.

Pole

• ##### Pole

BTW google, fascinating topic, isn't it?

"Randomness" is just a notion used to describe a certain characteristic of what happens around us all of the time. Sometimes people confuse complexity of rules with randomness. This is practical, but not theoretically substantiated.

Also, as I've pointed out in my reply to Danny's post, it's hard to find pure examples of randomness in the physical world since in reality we always have to deal with probability distributions rather than randomness. Randomness is more of a mathematical concept than a physical one.

Pole

• ##### googlemagoogle

yes, i am very much into the "cause/effect" thinking. however i'm a bit confused now about quantum physics and the chaos theory. there's also the "hidden variable" theory that i am atracted to a lot, but i fear that would put me into the same corner as a god-believer.

i've made the mistake to start a thread that i have not researched enough... lol.

keep the comments comming though. i love to get more insight.

• ##### Jeffro

The 'random' generator algorithms generally used by computers basically generate numbers based on the current time (though there is a little more to it), but it is a mistake to draw a conclusion from this that nothing at all is completely random.
Radioactive decay is basically caused by the 'weak nuclear force'. It is not random.
It is theoretically possible that nothing at all is truly random, and that any perceived randomness is simply a result of not knowing (or being able to know) all of the combined determining factors. This of course is difficult to prove.