The Nature of Probability.

When you read that text at the bottom of a poll or survey, which says “19 times out of 20, with a margin of error of 5%, this poll is correct”, it has meaning. If I tell you that 50% of people prefer green beans to brussel sprouts, what I am really saying is that 19 times out of 20, if you re-ran this poll, somewhere between 45% and 55% of people would prefer green beans. It could be 47%, it could be 53%.

And the 20th time? Oh, it could be 12% or 98.2%. In the 20th time, all bets are off. That’s the very nature of probability.

I am seeing so many people offer prayers for my nephew. I have offered many of my own. Unsure if anyone was listening, but offered up all the same. The prayers, they are ascending.

And so many of them I see, they seem to ask for a miracle.

At some point, maybe a long time ago, maybe only a few short months ago, cells began to grow in Andy’s brain. Grow where they should not have. They are there now. They will be there when the biopsy is done on Thursday at 1. They will be there when a pathologist affixes them to a slide and stares at them under a microscope. When they are examined and graded. When the cytology report is written. When a diagnosis is made, when a course of treatment is prescribed. Those cells are immutable fact.

I believe in Genesis, after a fashion when it tells me that God (or the universe or just physics) created light. When the earth, which was formless was made into sea and land and sky. And I believe in the first chapter of the Gospel of John. When we are told that a light has been made to shine in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

I don’t believe that there are miracles. I believe at the start of time God (or the universe or just plain physics) created rules. The macro rules which give us gravity and plate tectonics, and the micro rules, which cover the division of cells. I don’t believe that God will suspend those rules, however much I’d like him to. At least in this case, for a little bit. That wasn’t what he promised. The earth began. The rules were set. The clock started. And then he gave us a light and he promised us nothing would put it out.

I don’t ask for a miracle. I’m willing to hold out hope that maybe, just maybe, this could be the 20th time. Not a miracle, just a mystery deep in the heart of probability.

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2 Responses to The Nature of Probability.

  1. a says:

    Much luck to Andy – I hope he hits the right odds…

  2. Debby Hornburg says:

    I’m not so much a believer in miracles. I’m starting to believe that God is a destination, not an entity. People DO beat the odds. It happens every day. I hope your nephew is one of them.

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