The Nature of Certainty

Today I’ve decided to begin my journey into the study of probability. It’s truly amazing how everything relates. It’s all tied together. You’re reading one thing and BOOM! A sudden realization manifests itself in your mind, “This reminds me of so and so!” and you tie these things together.

The author in the book mentions how we cannot know anything with absolute certainty. All we have is correlation and a history of observation. “It has been observed that when X occurs, Y follows it”. Does this indicate that X causes Y? Certainly not. All one has done is simply observe the sequence of events and noted that when one occurs, the other follows it. He mentions in a rather succinct and scientific manner, “No prediction about future events based on past experience can be accepted as logical certainty.” He mentions this when he was discussing the establishment of an objective conclusion reached through deduction. This conclusion ultimately rests on inductive reasoning based on a subjective observation and history. Thus this “logical” and “objective” conclusion “is not a certainty but only an inference”. He then goes on to speak about Newton, how he formulated the laws of mechanics based on observation, not only by him, but by humanity since the dawn of history, that bodies fall, and that they fall according to certain patterns. He then used those laws to “predict future events. His predictions however, are not logical certainties, but only plausible inferences.” He then goes on “There is no conflict between causality and randomness or between determinism and probability if we agree, as we must, that scientific theories are not discoveries of the laws of nature but rather inventions of the human mind. Their consequences are presented in deterministic form if we examine the results of a single trial; they are presented as probabilistic statements  if we are interested in averages of many trials. In both cases, statements are qualified. In the first ‘with certain errors and in certain ranges of relevant and parameters’; in the second, ‘with a high degree of certainty if the number of trials is high enough’.”

Thus although one can say with very good certainty that something will happen, such as a rock falling to the ground, one cannot be absolutely certain of this, for there does not exist a way to prove this. Even scientific theories that would say it must fall to the ground have their origins in the history of observations and patterns that when somebody lets a rock go, it falls to the ground in turn.

In application to daily life, leave with this: never be certain of anything. Nothing is guaranteed, and in turn, never be too certain about a cause of something, it’s simply correlation.



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