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Category Archives: Philosophy of Science
1. An Allegorical Tale
Imagine that you have been taken prisoner. The judge of this imaginary prison, however, decides that your fate will be decided by chance in the following manner. Every morning during your stay at this prison a card will be drawn from a hat. Within this hat, 100 cards are placed. Furthermore, you are told that 99 of them have the word “death” written on them while 1 of them has the word “life” written on it. If one of the 99 are drawn on a particular morning, you will be killed that morning. If the “life” card is drawn, you will be spared. Not surprisingly, the very moment that you are told this, you expect to die the following day. Luckily, you don’t. This doesn’t take away your dread, however. The rest of the day is just as nerve-wracking as the previous one. However, the next morning, you are spared again. This cycle of dread and redemption continues on for days, then weeks. Gradually, the feeling of dread begins to wane and subconsciously you begin to expect to live to another day. Moreover, this feeling is justified. As long as you were not 100% confident that the judge was telling the truth with respect to the hats contents, the more days you live the more confident you are licensed to believe that the probability distribution of cards in the hat is not 99% chance of death and 1% life, but something much more skewed in the direction of life (this can be argued mathematically with conditional probabilities and Bayes’ theorem). As the months approach a year, you begin to wonder if there were any “death” cards in the hat at all. Read more of this post