Chance, Coincidence, Cause, Correlation & Conspiracy

(I apologize that turned in more of an essay than a blog... read your own risk... ;)


There was a recent discussion that perked my curiosity. Initially I didn't want to get too involved, but the thread got the better of me: Good Luck - Worse curse ever


The deinitions are as such (via

  • Chance - the absence of any cause of events that can be predicted, understood, or controlled: often personified or treated as a positive agency: Chance governs all.
  • Coincidence -  the condition or fact of coinciding.
  •   Cause - a person or thing that acts, happens, or exists in such a way that some specific thing happens as a result; the producer of an effect: You have been the cause of much anxiety. What was the cause of the accident?
  • Correlation  - mutual relation of two or more things, parts, etc.
  • Conspiracy -any concurrence in action; combination in bringing about a given result.
With getting into notions of predestination and fatalism, I do not believe all items are causal. I don't believe in "getting up on the wrong side of the bed". While there may be a governing law of nature with the 'Butterfly Effect', living and acting on such a worry can be handicapping. I know many people who are avid Conspiracy Theorist. You look hard enough, you can probably find a (poor) reason for anything...

However, I believe that people too often confuse coincidence with cause (and hence use one event to predict the other). Unfortunately effect is not bidirectional. In mathematics, the term is "Commutative." Addition is commutative, Subtraction is not. A+B == B+A but A-B != B-A.

The Latin term for the fallacy is "cum hoc ergo propter hoc". (see Correlation does not imply cause)
What that means means from a mathematics and statistics views, when we study something at a point in time, we can only determine the correlation coefficient. That is the likelihood that one effect happens, another happens. We can't say that if one effect happens, it will cause the other event.


For example, if we were study precipitation, looking at a downtown street when it rains, we would probably see a high correlation between rain and umbrellas.  However, if we wanted it to rain, no matter how many umbrellas we gave it, it might never happen more often than usual (ignoring Murphy's Law).


So what does this all mean?


Why did I just blog that? Mostly it's probably to jot down the thoughts out from my head. However the real answer is that the book of Job had a profound effect on me over 10 years ago. In the end, God doesn't explain "why" to Job, only confronts him and asks him what right does he have to even ask such a question. (See Job 41-42)


I wanted really wanted an answer from God that he would explain the bet with Satan. He would tell Job it was for strengthening of character or that it was his own good in the end. However, the simple truth is that it's the same answer God gave Moses: "I AM WHO I AM" (See Ex 3:14) God is simply his own definition.
So.. when I posted that God should worshiped because he is God, that in essence is the cause-effect relationship of pure worship. In my mind, worship based on getting favours from God or responding to favour given isn't causal for pure worship. In the very essence, if the cause (the "favour") is removed, so too is the worship.
40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40 NIV via

Rocks curry no favour. They have no end-goal. As far as I know God has no real plan for them, yet why would they cry out? They cry out simply declaring something that is fact: God is Holy Holy Holy.
I truly believe if the true root of our worship is based on the ideals that we should be worshiping the one and true God because he should be worshipped, we won't be caught up in the "healthy & wealth gospel". Good or bad times, we have the same root cause for our worship.

But what about Thankful heart? But what about asking for God's mercy and favour? 

I think these are valid parts of worship, but they should not be the cause. God by his very nature is good, and if we are truly "adopted", he wants the best for us. When he gives us good things, we should in turn be thankful. Also, it's natural to believe that God who loves will give us good things if we ask him. That falls in-line with the Father-Child model that Jesus has given us.
However these are coincident parts of worship, like by-products. Without getting into another essay, you really can't have worship without thankfulness, because I believe that combination isn't really possible. You worship God because he is God, good God give out good things. Good Gods aren't evil.  
Ergo: if you are truly worshipping a truly Good God, you'll probably get some good stuff and be thankful. 

Views: 32

Comment by Wayne Pau on January 5, 2011 at 2:39pm

Another great example of coincidence vs. conspiracy happened in the last few days. Although the reports in the new vary greatly, anywhere between 2000 to 5000 red-wing blackbirds "drop dead" literally in Beebe, Arkansas. Very sad:


Red Wing Blackbirds


Very soon afterwords hundreds of thousands of drum fish died. I've seen this quoted as high as 500,000 and also as 15 tons. In this case again, a very very specific species effected and very close to the blackbird incident, on the Arkansas River, near Ozark.


100,000 drum fish washed up


Beebe and Ozark are about 125 miles apart (according to Google Maps). Because they happened so close, some were associating the two effects (including radical Christian groups who said it was the "end of days"). However, officials said the issue with the fish was most likely a disease, since it was so species specific. The birds on the other hand seem to die of some sort of mass trauma.


Is it the "end of days"? Freak accident?

Comment by Wayne Pau on January 5, 2011 at 2:44pm

As an update, it seems this issue is more of a epidemic now.


More dead fish and birds


The death toll is spread to Louisiana, where at lest 500 more birds were found dead. Now it seems other species of fish and birds are dying too. However tragic, the this hasn't been the largest mass death toll of fish in the area. In 1976, sudden drop in water was attributed to 15 million fish dying:


"The last time the Chesapeake saw such a massive fish kill was in 1976, records show, when about 15 million spot died due to the cold."




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