What Is Random?

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Preston Harold sets us up for his next section of chapter 6 by asking a major question, which needs to be qualified before it can be answered:

A question may now be posed: is man somehow psychically involved in a parallel operation to nature’s supreme law? Before this question can be answered, it is pertinent to note that…absolute vacuum has not yet been achieved. Nor has absolute zero temperature been achieved – note that Jesus’ words pointing to the increasing disorder as love grows “cold” (Matt. 24:12) are congruent with scientists’ finding that the lower the temperature the greater the disorder. Nor has absolute power ever been exerted: operation of the second law of thermodynamics opposes. Not even the word, random, is absolute in it’s meaning, it takes a strange turn – by definition, random means haphazard course of progress, without definite aim, direction, rule, or method, but biologically speaking, “as if” enters the picture: “Made as if at random but controlled so as to bring together certain individuals or classes, or to make representative.” (Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary)

So randomness is hidden within a greater purpose that we cannot immediately perceive; something that seems not to make sense to us with limited vision may be working toward a greater whole if we choose to take in the long view.

A funny story about randomness…

Back in the early ‘90s a friend of mine was telling me about his latest shopping expedition to find a new CD player. He was specifically looking for a 5 or 6 disc changer that would either play the CDs in order one after the other or would “shuffle” the discs, playing discs and the songs on them randomly until all the songs on all the discs had been played. He told me, “Yeah, the sales guy said that over time when you choose the shuffle option that the disc player becomes less random.” I asked him how that was possible. He said it must have had something to do with the way the changer was programmed. I told my friend that it didn’t matter in what order the disc player played the songs, that once that “random” option was chosen the order in which the songs were played WAS totally random, even if the player began at the first song on the first disc and played every song on it in the original sequence and then through each subsequent disc’s original sequence through to the last song of the final disc. My friend thought about it for a second, chuckled, and said, “You’re totally right!” He shook his head and couldn’t believe the sales guy unknowingly played him so well. The lesson is that once we invoke the word “random,” even perfect order is a consequence of the randomness we invoke. Ahhh, the power of words!

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Preston Harold claims if we take a step back, we will see that there is a hidden order behind the randomness we perceive. Until next time, peace.

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