Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-31-1991

Abstract

How small do probabilities of events have to get before we refuse to attribute those events to chance? Smallness of probability is itself not enough since events with extremely small probability occur all the time. But when such events are also prespecified, it becomes difficult to attribute their occurrence to chance. Typically we search for a causal account of how chance was offset. Lacking such a causal story, however, are we still justified in asserting that an extremely improbable prespecified event was not the result of chance? This question is relevant to such diverse areas as prophecy, miracles, parapsychology, gambling, and complexity theory, with the complexity of living systems being of especial interest. The unifying principle here is design. I shall argue that design is unavoidable whenever prespecification and small probabilities collide.

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