Chance in natural processes
Chance in natural processes
Man can always believe the impossible, but man can never believe the improbable.
Oscar Wilde
It has been argued that we know nothing of processes dictated by chance (randomness). In fact many natural processes involve chance and we can know at least two important things about them, i.e. the nature of the process and it's probability.

Radioactive decay is a good example. There are (roughly) 4 types of decay - alpha, beta and gamma particles and fission. For any given isotope we can know the type of decay and it's probability (half-life of the isotope). Although we can't know which atom will decay (a property of random processes), we do know the probability.

Other examples of random physical processes include diffusion of gases and chemical reactions.

The card game blackjack is an example of probability in everday life. Participants are dealt two cards, one face down and one face up. The object is to get as close to 21 as possible without going over. If your two cards add to 11 or less you can safely draw another card. In the actual game you look at others' cards and estimate the probability that drawing another card will put you ahead of them or put you over 21. Knowledge of probability is an advantage.

In conclusion many natural events are random but this doesn't preclude knowing either their nature or their probabilities.

With regard to evolution, though we can't predict specific mutations, we can identify different types of mutations and know, at least roughly, their probabilities. In the future we may be able to estimate the probability that a specific type of mutation is beneficial. At present we don't have enough data.

Probabilistic reasoning is a major component of scientific thinking and one of Piaget's formal reasoning skills.

The improbability principle