Friday, May 1, 2009

Science and Religion

I could get long-winded really easily on this topic, but I'll spare us all.

In short, there is no real conflict between real science and real religion. Science tells us how the heavens go, religion tells us how to go to heaven. (I didn't make that up; I'm stealing from, and paraphrasing, one of the prelates involved with the Galileo affair.)

While I was working as an engineering technician, I had the equivalent of four university-level courses in statistics. (I got good enough -- or arrogant enough -- that I argued with management about the best tools for predicting traffic growth.)

Take ten coins, and flip them all at once. Now the chance of any one coin coming down heads or tails is exactly 50-50 (assuming the coin doesn't land on its edge or hang in the air). So you would maybe expect to get five heads and five tails tossing ten coins. But in fact your chance of getting exactly that is a bit less than 1 in 4, that is, it's 252 out of 1024; because there are 1024 different ways ten coins can fall when you flip them all at once.

The reason for this is that a coin has two faces, you have ten of them, and the number of ways they can fall is 2^10, 2 to the 10th power, 2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2, 1024.

One more example. Say you get into a crap game. Each die has six faces, you have two of them, and the number of ways they can fall is 6^2, 6 squared, 6x6, 36. If you analyze the 36 combinations, you will find that you can throw a seven only 6 ways, so your chances of getting a win, "take all the money," on your first toss is only 6 out of 36, or 1 in 6. Some places, an 11 on the first throw is a winner, and the chance of a win on the first toss is then 8 out of 36 or a bit less than 1 in 4, but the principle is the same, and the point is your chances of getting exactly what you want are not in your favor. Moral: don't get into crap games.

The basic point is that the toss of one coin or ten, or the toss of one die or two, is a random event, but when you start collecting and recording a large number of them, you will see a pattern.

Behind what looks like chaos there is order.

And the order was put there by God. It didn't happen by itself, because nothing can come from nothing.

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