Why was Einstein wrong about Heisenburg’s uncertainty principle, when he couldn’t accept the evidence for Heisenburg’s conclusion, and said “God does not play dice!”? How did even one of the brightest geniuses misunderstand the fundamental nature of probability. This not to disparage Einstein, a great thinker and groundbreaking physicist, but he is nevertheless not inerrant, he is only a man. And, as you will see, probability itself is a measure of our limitations. Also you will see how the world is often misled by a misunderstanding of the nature of probability.
Werner Karl Heisenburg determined, because of quantum mechanics, that it was impossible to know both the momentum and location of an electron precisely, simultaneously. In other words, you could measure and know the position, but not the precise momentum, or you could measure the momentum but not the precise position at any moment in time. Einstein famously responded “God does not play dice!” He could not believe an electron could have a definite momentum or location, but not both. The problem with this understanding goes to the heart of understanding probability.
Probability is a measurement of knowledge and the certainty of the knowledge that we have, or in the case of subatomic particles, that we even can have. In philosophy, the term for knowing, comes from the Greek epistimo, and from that we get the science of epistemology, or the science of knowing. There is a long history of philosophers pondering how we know things, and what that means. Ontology is another branch of philosophy, coming from the Greek root ontos, which means “to be.” This is the science of being or existence. A thing can exist without our knowing it. If it exists, this is by definition 100% existence. It’s meaningless to talk about percentages, because something either exists or it does not – it’s like pregnancy, you are or are not pregnant. There is no such thing as 50% pregnant. Knowing whether it exists is another matter, because we humans are limited in our knowledge, and, as Heisenburg pointed out in the case of an electron, sometimes we are limited in what we even can know. To say we cannot know things completely is not to say they do not exist. The electron has a momentum and a position, but we cannot know both at the same time. In other words, we have limitations (and perhaps that has to do with our existence in only four dimensions, but that’s another topic).
We humans cannot know anything with 100% certainty, and this is what the science of probability is all about. Probability is a measurement only of how certain we can be of any fact. This is why the highest standard in a court of law is beyond a reasonable doubt, not absolute certainty. Probability is not a fixed static measurement either. I may know something with only 50% probability today, say tomorrow’s weather, but tomorrow morning I may be more certain of the weather, say 75% certain, and so forth.
Let me give you an example of how this works. Suppose I flip a coin, and ask you what the probability is it will come up heads. You would say 50%, right? That’s because you know the coin has two equal sides, one head and one tail. You don’t know which side will come up on any given flip, but you know it will be either heads or tails. So if you predict heads, you will be right half the time. However, suppose I have more information. Suppose I have measured the modulus and elasticity of the metal in the coin (how much force it takes to bend it and how fast it snaps back), the density and viscosity of the air, the modulus, elasticity and friction coefficient of the floor, the exact dimensions of the coin, and so forth. Suppose I have a high speed camera connected to a computer which measures the trajectory and angular momentum (rotation) of the coin. So, while the coin is up in the air, after you’ve flipped it, I have a lot more information and can calculate this particular flip is 80% likely to land tails. Then what’s the probability it will land tails? 50% or 80%? It all depends on how much you know. After it’s landed, and I look and see that it’s settling in on one side tails, what is the probability it will end up tails? Close to 100%. So, probability isn’t a determination about what can happen or what will happen, but only a measurement of our certainty of knowing it, based on information we have at the moment. If God were to reveal something, because His knowledge is not limited by definition, it would be 100% known to be true by God, because He knows the entire population, He knows everything. We may only be able to calculate how certain we are, perhaps, that God has communicated to us, beyond our reasonable doubt. But this does not mean there is no absolute truth (100% true), just how certain we can be of it. Faith is really what takes us to action (which is a yes or no decision, not a % – I either marry my wife or I don’t, I either cross the street or I don’t, etc).
Not long ago I was watching Morgan Freeman narrate a program called “The Meaning of God.” He was exploring the meaning of miracle and one interviewee pointed out that 100 flips of a coin tails in a row would be a miracle. We’d suspect something intentional or nonrandom was going on. The interviewer then said, 7 billion people on the planet flipping coins many times, means that sooner or later someone somewhere will flip a coin with 100 tails in a row. It’s rare, but like the lottery, there is a probability. It’s not zero. Where it happens, the person observing it would be amazed and consider it not a coincidence, but, like miracles, it’s just a rare event, but our minds interpret it as a miracle because it’s so unlikely. A man recovers from cancer, someone avoids a fatal accident, and we believe it’s a miracle. Morgan Freedman says something like, “and maybe it is, who’s to say what a miracle is?” Perhaps he smiles and says something like “maybe miracles happen all the time.”
If you didn’t know the fundamentals of probability, you would be fooled by this logic. Let me explain. Forget the fancy formulas and the number crunching and the sophisticated math. Start with the fundamentals, because everything else is built on this. Everything else will be clearer. Probability is defined as an estimate that a sample of a population will represent the entire population (of facts, data, people, objects, or whatever you want to measure). For example, suppose I give you a jar with 200 green marbles and 800 red marbles, and you can’t see into the jar to know how many of each are in the jar. I tell you how many marbles are in the jar, but not how many of each color. You do experiments, taking out ten marbles at a time, and find after a while you get samples averaging 82% red. Probability is able to mathematically tell you within a certainty of 95% confidence there are 82% + or – 5% red marbles. In other words, you’ve taken enough samples that you can be 95% confident there are 77-87% red marbles in the jar (assuming you’ve random sampled, and the assumptions you’ve randomly sampled, etc, are valid) You’d be wrong if all the red marbles were at the top of the sample and you didn’t get as many blue ones near the bottom for example, but let’s assume you’re sampling was random. In other words the entire 1000 marbles are anywhere between 77 and 87% blue you can say with 95% confidence. All good and well.
However, suppose I ask you how many green marbles there are in the population. You would say none, because you’ve never observed one. This would be like asking how many times the coin could come up “cats” or “dogs”. It makes no sense, because nobody has ever observed a coin coming up cats. If it came up one time in a million, you could say the probability is one in a million perhaps, but if it’s never been observed, it is meaningless to calculate a probability. There is no probability. In other words, it is unknown. There is no % certainty of it. Does that mean it is not possible? No. We humans cannot know what is possible. That is why the courts don’t use possibility as a standard to take away someone’s life or liberty, but the highest standard for making a decision is “beyond a reasonable doubt”.
When evolutionists claim there is a probability, given enough time, that life arose by chance, it’s not scientific. It has never been observed since the dawn of recorded human observation. See the article on “Creation not observed so it’s not scientific” article for the scientific evidence for and why Creation IS scientific.