[FOUNTAIN]Chance, or choice?If a tile fell from the roof of the house next door and hit you on the head, is it an accident or a conspiracy of the neighbor?
It is hard to get a clear answer on philosophical grounds. Ancient Greek philosopher Democritus, who first wrote of the existence of atoms, said that “everything existing in the universe is the fruit of chance and necessity.” If my neighbor had always gazed at me suspiciously, it would be a conspiracy. Otherwise, it would be an accident.
Consult physics, and things get a little clearer. According to Albert Einstein, things are never coincidental. He believes “God does not play dice with the universe.” All events are interconnected by the law of necessity, and there is no room for chance. My neighbor must have pushed the tile or intentionally neglected maintenance of the roof so a tile would fall as I walked along. Arabs agree with Mr. Einstein. They believe an old proverb: “A chance is a law of necessity on a secret journey.” While some events might seem accidental, there are always interrelations of cause and effect.
However, modern science accepts accidents as a part of reality. Experiments sometimes prove something impossible to logically explain. A vacuum tube is a wall where strict laws of energy are applied. Electrons with not enough speed would climb the wall but slide off. However, some will make it across the obstacle. It is pure chance.
This does not mean arbitrariness rules in physics. There, a law of numbers is applied. Who dies and who lives might seem pure chance but by surveying a large population for a long time, we can estimate the average lifespan. While you never know which electron will cross the wall, you can predict how many will clear it. Computers are an application of this theory.
A similar series of predictable chances is occurring in the real world today. The promotions and appointments for positions at the government and subsidiary organizations seem to be a collection of predictable chances. Even though the decisions were made independently, all the newly appointed officials happen to be friends of the president and come from the same region. Despite such derision as the “Republic of Busan Commercial High School,” the government claims the choices were all coincidental. The appointment process must have been like poet Tristan Tzara’s way of writing a poem. He once cut out words from a newspaper, let the wind blow the pieces and wrote a poem based on the sets of accidentally assembled words. The newspaper of his choice must have been the alumni newsletter of Busan Commercial High School.
by Lee Hoon-beom
The writer is the head of the JoongAng Ilbo’s weekend news team.