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Death By Chance.

On NPR a guy who missed the bridge collapse by a minute. He says, (my best recollection) "If I hadn't brushed my teeth, if I hadn't changed a Band-aid, I'd have been on that bridge."

On MSNBC a girl who was in the car with her mother right behind the famous school bus. They pulled off because they had to pee.

In ancient times people believed in fate or the gods.

When I was growing up everything was upbringing, your environment in the broader sense of the word.

Nowadays Americans tend to believe in free will with quasi-religious reverence. Americans frequently go so far as to deny that any other force but free will can determine the path your life takes.

Of course now some Americans are finding a new, more scientific angle on old-fashioned fate: DNA.

The two cases cited above show that there's another force, inextricably bound up with free will, environment and heredity: random chance.

The guy decides to brush his teeth. Free will. Maybe he had a genetic predisposition to tooth decay. So free will occasioned in part by DNA. Or maybe he'd just been raised well. In any case the effect of his decision to brush his teeth was determined by chance.

You mix together your heredity and your environment. You choose your path. Then you roll the dice to see what really happens.

Brush your teeth, forget to pee before you leave the house, you live. Equally tiny, insignificant factors put other people on that bridge at the wrong time.

Best not to dwell on it.

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“Death By Chance.”

  1. Blogger Transplanted Lawyer Says:

    I'd opine on whether there is a meaningful difference between chance and fatalistic determinism, but that would involve some fairly intense dwelling on the subject.

    So should you brush your teeth or not? It's impossible to tell in advance whether taking that extra two minutes puts you on the bridge when it goes down or not quite on it yet. The real lesson here is that maybe you aren't nearly as much in control of your life as you would like and it's scary to see things like that collapsed bridge which force us to confront that fact.

    All you can really do is try your best and make the most of the time you've got. This seems to mean not searching for an elaborate philosophical excuse to avoid brushing your teeth.

  2. Blogger Dave Schuler Says:

    “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

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