X-Message-Number: 9099
From: Stephen Bogner <>
Subject: Re: Probability
Date: Tue, 3 Feb 1998 15:15:11 -0700


I think that Robert Ettinger is correct in so far as he asserts that it is 
possible to reasonably estimate outcomes on the basis of prior experience 
with systems of a similar nature and complexity.  I personally have no idea 
about how I would begin to establish the confidence of such an estimate, 
unless it was by measuring the variance between the "similar" systems and 
quantifying the significance of that variation.  For example, if a small 
mammal was restored from suspension, I think that it would be reasonable to 
assign a "high" or "very high" likelihood (even an actual probability, 
perhaps) to the statement that a large mammal will also be restored within 
some specific period of time. I could make this statement even though no 
large mammal had ever been restored - and I would likely be correct 
(especially if I chose a long time period).  Even though there would be no 
actual data about large mammal restorations and, strictly and scientific  
ally speaking, no actual basis for calculating a "probability" for such an 
event, I could nevertheless make such a statement with a high confidence 
about its validity. The trick, of course, is that the similarity between 
the systems means that they are not actually independent in a statistical 
sense, and I am really making a statement about a class of systems, and not 
about "large mammals".  I think that statements like "the probability of 
recovery is unknown and unknowable" discount the "system similarity" of 
those systems that we do know something about, and are unduly pessimistic 
on that account.  Obviously, some systems are more similar than others, and 
as research progresses we gradually move closer to the system of interest, 
and can make better and better predictions.

However, the subjective nature of the estimates in Mr. Ettinger's ball game 
example would seem to reduce it from the status of "scientific (ie. 
reproducible) probability" to "educated guess", some guesses being more 
educated than others.

It is perhaps only of philosophical interest, but I would submit that it 
may also be possible to have outcomes that transcend "probability", because 
they are shaped by conscious intervention.  Of course, many will argue that 
consciousness is itself a stochastic phenomenon.
Stephen Bogner, P.Eng.		

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