No Such Thing As Luck

I discovered that there is no such thing as ‘chance’ when I played tennis as a teenager. I realized that that which we call ‘chance’ is really only that for which we can locate no cause, nor identify any particular orderliness.

For example, imagine that a tennis player hits the ball to his opponent, but instead of going cleanly and smoothly over the net, it clips the net and dribbles over onto the other side of the court, falling short and preventing the other player from getting to the ball in time to return it. Spectators shout, “Lucky shot!” – all the time unaware that luck, or chance, isn’t involved at all. For if we analyse it, what is actually happening here? In order for the ball to clip the top of the net and dribble over to the other side as it did, and in the way that it did, many things had to happen. The ball had to be hit at a certain speed and with a certain amount of spin or slice; it had to be hit from a certain distance from the net and from a certain angle. But because we are unaware of these factors – speed, angle, degree of spin and/or slice, and so on – we call it ‘luck’ or ‘chance’.

But it’s not really luck, or chance, at all. If we could replicate all of those prior conditions – the exact same speed, angle, degree of spin and so on – we would be able to replicate that particular shot over and over again. Thus in real terms there is no luck or chance in tennis – only shots which are hit under conditions that are not known to those who are watching.

Scientists talk about order emerging out of chaos, which is fine – so long as we realize that the chaos they describe is apparent chaos only. And ‘apparent chaos’ simply means a set of conditions which are ordered, but the order of which is not yet known to us.

As Einstein said, ‘God does not play dice’. There is no chance or randomness in creation, but only the appearance thereof.

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