Unfolding the Enfolded...

Cosmos, Mind & Soul

Chance & Randomness


In science, chance and randomness play very important roles in the acceptance or rejection of a hypotheses of observed cause-effect relationships. Sample and effect size also play significant roles.

Ideas to Explore

Chance & Randomness

Chance is considered a random cause with known properties. In science, an alternative (null) hypothesis--that the observed result happened by chance--is tested and either accepted or rejected. Science has standards for error rates in rejecting a null hypothesis, the minimum being p<.05. This means that, minimally, the probability (p) of making a mistake by rejecting the null hypothesis (that the cause was just pure chance) when it should have been accepted, is 5 or less in 100, or 1 in 20.

Sample & Effect Size

The size of a cause's effect determines the number of measurements or observations (sample size) required to reach a probability (p) level. If the effect size is large, then fewer observations are needed. And more observations are required to reach higher probability levels, e.g., p<.01, p<.001.

For example, in experiments on the effects of consciousness or intention on random number generators (RNGs), the effect size is very small, so thousands and thousands of observations are required to reach even the lowest (p<.05) probability level. On the other hand, heavily loaded dice may only require a few hundred rolls to conclude at p<.05 that the dice may be loaded.

Alternative Hypotheses

Often, the actual cause might not be pure chance at all but some hidden, unknown, unnoticed, unconsidered or uncontrolled causes. In such cases, the null hypothesis might rejected, but the alternative research hypothesis might not state the true causal relationship.

The real science of science is crafting well-designed and controlled experiments in which all possible causes other than the hypothesized ones are controlled or eliminated, and formulating and evaluating all plausible alternative hypotheses when the null hypothesis is ejected.

Worth Noting

Randomness, the 'Devine Force'

[I]n explaining the formation and evolutionary development of living systems, in order to preserve reductionism, the idea of randomness was the only "driving force" which was allowed as an explanation. That kind of discipline served well to separate science from superstitions, but based on certain observations such as the formation and puzzling rapid progression of the development of life forms, one cannot but wonder whether what has become a dogmatic adherence to randomness as being the only permissible " vital force" in complex structure formation may not have become a superstition in its own right. [Tabor]