From time to time, I encounter individuals making an argument when they don’t really understand how statistics work. This happens most frequently in discussions about visits by E.T. aliens or the inappropriate uses of quantum mechanics. When a chain of events is required to occur before something can be witnessed, the resultant probability is the multiplication of all the individual probabilities. As a concrete example, let us say we buy a lottery ticket where the odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in a million. What are the chances of winning 2 jackpots if only 2 tickets are purchased? Answer: one in a million-million (i.e. one in a trillion). The odds of buying only 4 tickets and winning the jackpot 4 times: one in a trillion-trillion. At what point is it appropriate to say that’s impossible? If someone won 4 jackpots off 4 tickets purchased, there would be a corruption investigation, seeking to find out how the person was cheating. Someone is likely to go to prison even if no crime had been committed. I feel justified in saying: it’s possible, but it will never happen.
Similarly, there are a number of highly improbable conditions that must occur prior to any extraterrestrial civilization can be observed visiting Earth. Multiplying highly improbable by other highly improbables leads me to conclude that it has not happened, especially since there is no credible evidence Earth has been visited. While each condition is technically possible, it would be a big mistake to conclude that anything that is possible must have already happened. Such an outcome (actually being visited) is so improbable that I’m more likely to win either the MegaMillions or Power Ball jackpots ten times. I’m not going to hold my breath.
I must be very peculiar. As @icolan has commented, your post is well written. However, I have taken all this stuff for granted ever since I learned about it at high school nearly 50 years ago. It is also why I never gamble.
On the other hand, perhaps I needed to be reminded that this is not common knowledge.
I am at wits end. Well maybe not that bad, but I think I need to find a different hobby. Here's the thing, I am 80 and live in a retirement facility, don't like the term home. Anyway I am so damned bored here. I think about so many things it makes my brain sweat. I watched a talk on Ted Talk about quantum mechanics and it got me thinking about black holes and dark matter and a lot of other shit.There is no one here with the faculties to understand what the hell l am talking about so I need someone to talk with about my hypothesis.
Everytime I hear about people claiming they saw UFO's, It always reminds me about Star Trek's Prime Directive.
If some alien lifeforms from a distant planet are able make it all the way here to Earth, if they don't want to be seen, how could apes with car keys like us could ever have a chance to see them?!
The universe is so wide, in my humble opinion, it's highly unlikely that we're alone in it. I find it rather plausible that aliens came to or are presently on Earth. But I think it's nearly impossible for any of us to see them.
@sirbikesalot06 Scientists are critical of their own work all the time. They question is the evidence strong enough for the conclusions they've drawn. They ask how could I be fooling myself? What is still unknown and in need for more data? I've never seen any UFO aficionado be critical at all of their own biases or those of other aficionados. Instead those holding to your dogma cherrypick the evidence, make assumptions that are always most favorable to their preexisting worldview, and then expect everyone to believe everything they espouse without question. They have unfounded beliefs taken to be self evident. They challenge anyone who disagrees to prove they are wrong. Tell me exactly how does the belief in extraterrestrial visitors differ from religious dogma?
This is the nonsense I get from people who never really did any research into UFOs. It's basically ignoring all the evidence accumulated by research groups like MUFON and other long time researchers. And yes physical evidence is collected.
So the way I treat people like TheAstroChuck and people who hold similar views are the way I treat climate deniers, flat earthers and Christian Conseratives. Nut jobs that will refuse evidence left and right and I've basically given up. It doesn't matter if you ever get abducted by aliens, you'll complete ignore that to as I read in one book called and I forget the full title "would you believe."
A lot of people also conflate coincidence with probability. An example i like to use that helps to illustrate how bad our brains comprehend big ideas is this:
Imagine you have 5 six-sided dice. You roll the 5 dice... is it more or less likely that the dice will all have an outcome of 6? The answer is that the likely hood is the same as if the dice had an outcome of 5-1-3-4-5. The point is to illustrate that every possible outcome is just as unique and extraordinary because the likelihood of rolling that particular set of "random" numbers is the same as rolling any other set of "random" numbers. Ultimately, the only reason rolling a 6 on all five dice is significant is because it's a pattern we can easily recognize.
This example is meant to help give context to how coincidence is just a significant "pattern" we can easily recognize. Basically, hooman hav dum monki brayn.
Well of course all this is depressingly and reality-checkingly true. But I ask how can we statistically determine the likelihood that alien species elsewhere, that have been around far longer than we, may have invented faster than light drives, mastered worm-hole travel, or discovered pathways in the universe, or similar, which permit them to do what seems impossible to us now? Saying that it is statistically highly unlikely or in effect impossible is, in the end, an opinion only, is it not? Taking your lottery analogy, every week millions of people buy a ticket in lotteries in which the odds for each individual to win are seemingly impossible. Yet, every week, some do.
People also seem to give themselves omniscient powers in determining what is POSSIBLE. People sometimes say, "Anything's possible", when we in fact have no idea if certain things are possible or not. Just because something has not been demonstrated to be impossible does not mean it is possible. "It's possible god exists." "It's possible god created the universe." "It's possible god gave us free will." It may in fact be impossible that a god exists, that universes can be created, that free will is something to be mandated with magic.
Good observation, Sir. We run into them all the time. So much that one is tempted to throw one's hands up and say, "I quit. The world is full of morons." See something in the sky and you don't know what it is, immediately it is being driven by Lizard men from Altair. Something bad happens and several hundred people are killed, immediately there has to be a conspiracy of the Illuminati and the Mossad at work, or it was an inside job for some nefarious purpose. The hand of providence. Bad luck. Karma.
Not understanding how statistics work is one element for sure, but I don't think it's the prime reason for the unreason. I think what is at work is the same thing that gave us the foundations for religions and superstitions. Fear and uncertainty. Neither are acceptable to the majority and they need pat answers, even to the unanswerable, no matter how unreasonable or foundationless, hence little green men must be driving those lights in the sky, dark men in invisibility suits secretly planting explosive charges in the structural elements of buildings, and unscrupulous wealthy men exchanging secret handshakes and wearing Mason's rings are manipulating the economies of the world just so I can't buy a new car this year.