Re: Chicken Soup for the Soul

Arthur V. Chadwick (
Tue, 02 Dec 1997 21:57:05 -0800

Lucy writes:

>To my way of thinking, the decision as to whether something is random or
>patterned is purely subjective. It is a decision based upon statistics.
>God cannot logically be increased or decreased by virtue of any person's
>categorization of a thing or an event as random or patterned. My faith in
>God does not increase or decrease based upon whether or not I can figure out
>the pattern of an event (say, a comet's path). That's the first thought.

Since most of science is just an effort to find patterns and to identify
things that are not random (or that are, but that is a much harder task), I
guess I don't share your "purely subjective" perspective on the world. At
least I like to think that when I identify a pattern in nature and quantify
it (and there are some really powerful tools for doing this), that someone
else will also recognize the same data and agree with me as to the
existence (but not necessarily the meaning) of the pattern.

>The second thought has to do with whether or not a designer would design
>randomly. Of course she would. In fact, I can quickly think of two
>examples of random designing, both of which carry great power and one of
>which costs lots of money to create.
>The people who run the casinos in Las Vegas pay top dollar, major bucks, for
>computer programmers who can design random pay-off systems for slot
>machines. If any gambler can figure out the pattern by observing for long
>periods of time, then the gambler will learn how to "beat the system" and
>the casino will lose money. Programmers work hard to build as much
>randomness into the payoff system as possible. The result? Tremendous
>power - it's called addiction to gambling, exactly what the casino operators
>want. Art - in this system - RANDOMNESS IS THE DESIGN.

I never got the idea that there was anything random about what happens in
Las Vegas. It seems to me that it is just the opposite. You go there
knowing you will come away with less money than you arrived with. You know
that the machines have fixed rates of pay and that the outcomes are not
random at all. But that is another story:)

>My second example has to do with the psychology business. My husband and I
>are both psychologists. The most powerful behavior modification programs
>utilize what's called "intermittent reinforcement schedules." If people are
>reinforced for good behavior within a patterned schedule ($1.00 for every
>good deed, say), the good behavior soon begins to diminish. Folks simply do
>not respond for long periods of time to expected rewards. However, if
>people are reinforced sometimes, but not always, and if they can never
>figure out when they'll get a reward and when they won't, the good behavior
>continues for very long periods of time. Art - in this system - RANDOMNESS

But the system you describe is not necessarily random. Giving rewards
sometimes and not others is a deliberate process in which the frequency is
determined by the investigator. I would guess that a random number table
for rewards would not keep the incentive very high. And choosing a random
number range to use is one of the most critical aspects of the design, and
no researcher would choose the range randomly! So the design is not
random, it merely uses a random element at some low level in the process to
reinforce a non random behavior.

You rightly criticized me for responding in a flip manner. Please forgive

I would also like to hear your comments on the other part of Villee's
ignoble statement. Consider the meaning of confused. My dictionary says
confuse means to mix up, jumble together; to put in disorder (and it gets
worse from there)to mix up mentally, to bewilder, to perplex. I ask myself
the question Would I expect God's creation (the alternative to Villee's
statement of evolution of phyla) to exhibit these properties? I think not.
I am not trying to make a case for anything except bad pedagogy being
dogmatized in the textbooks from which our sons and daughters learn about
science. Whether I believe in evolution or creation makes no difference.
Glenn is forever riding the YEC's for not doing rigorous science, and for
making statements that are not supported by evidence. Well evolutionists
do it too, and in cases like that I cited, their statements are every bit
as harmful. Is the only alternative to Phyletic evolution confused and
random things wandering around on the earth not knowing which way is up? I
think not. Where does he get this idea? To the editor's credit the
staement was taken out in a subsequent edition....