CONTENTS 119 PROBABILITY NEXT
 PROBABILITY: a theoretic discipline designed to make the failure of predictions appear reasonable

Probability is the arcane symbolic and computational basis of modern prophetic utterances. It is the authority which modern soothsayers quote to shield their vulnerabilities. In order to retain public credibility, all professional prophets need to hedge their predictions. They need to allow for the intricate complexity of causal relations where one or more events may or may not result in others. Probability assessment is an attempt to quantify the macro observation, that the occurrence of certain events always seems to channel an energy flow towards a finite variety of outcomes... even though the intricate micro-complexity of the process is for the time being beyond tracking.

Dominating much probability theory are the binomial, multinomial and the gaussian distribution simplification models which eventually seem to infiltrate many aspects. The so-called bell curve, for instance, supplies the computational basis for the measured parameters of a large proportion of the entities investigated in the natural world. Pragmatically speaking, with small samples selected from a population of entities using in a truly random technique, it can be of great utility. Determining the average weight of a large population of worms or wasps without having to measure every single one of them... with an estimate of error included as a bonus... is a very useful trick.

Using such theoretical distributions to model human political populations however, is more humorous than informative. Political pollsters regularly choose small samples of the population to gauge the support for particular candidates. They assume that such samples are distributed according to standard theoretical distributions and compute percentage support levels and an estimation of the error. Firstly however... as is frequently pointed out... the validity and relevance of such results is seriously compromised by the selection method from the population. The pollsters normally use sampling techniques which suit their own convenience rather than the dictates of universal chaos. Secondly, they totally ignore the reality that few individuals would truthfully indicate to a pollster the choice they would make during a controlled democratic election. For some astounding reason...although they themselves see deception on their part as an organizational necessity... they trust the responders to their sample queries to tell the 'truth'. But why would anyone confide their opinions and allegiences to a group that did not have their interests at heart? Many polled individuals would probably lie would they not? They enjoy seeing how incorrect the polls actually turn out to be... its much more fun that way. There is also the added bonus of being entertained by displays of feeding frenzy behaviour when journalists are provided with the results.

Similar attempts at oracular prognostications are equally comic. The numerical probabilities allocated to such events as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, impact by comets, the likelihood of rain, and so on, further detracts from the credible testimony of such numbers. Knowing the empirical frequencies of certain events, like how often a tsunami has occurred in the past, or how many tornadoes came thru a region during the last season, can be of some use to planning one's life, but making a profound numerical statement about the future probability or not of such events, is no more helpful than suggesting that both a rain umbrella and a sun umbrella be available at all times because both rain and sunshine are quite possible. The reality is that the universe is more infinitely creative and ingenious than probabilistic simplifications can ever encompass.

 CONTENTS 119 PROBABILITY NEXT