Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday the 13th

Today is Friday the 13th.

Is this an unlucky day?

What is luck anyways?

The questions presuppose a uniform definition of "luck". If you take as a definition of good or bad luck having a disproportionate positive or negative things happen, then of course you must believe in this sense of luck. It is the weakest sense of luck, in that odds are in favor of some people and places having good or bad things happening to them in a row. It has no predictive power. If you flip a coin 1000 times, you're likely to get a long string of heads, for instance, but you will not be able to therefore predict what the next flip will be knowing the previous results. People can have strings of good and bad luck in this sense that can last years, depending on how you count it.

Is it some invisible field that permeates all of space and time? I don't think this is the case. You can imagine certain places or people or things with a negative luck "charge" and others with a positive equivalent. Lucky charms, 4-leaf clovers, etc. might bring luck by drawing in positive "field energy". This is, I believe, what many superstitious types believe, although they may not articulate it in the same way. I could imagine, in this case, having a "luck meter" that would fit in with the doom meter and the coolness meter from Futurama. "

If you are more inclined toward belief in a personal God, then you may dismiss luck as superstitious nonsense, in favor of "Grace" or one of its different incarnations in different religious traditions. This is a distinct sense from the previous two, in that it implies a purpose to things, whereas the "random chance" and "luck field" imply a cold, meaningless, impersonal universe. Of course, this is often falsely dismissed with the argument "bad things happen to good people" therefore it is false. However, nothing is said in this sense about the specifics of a plan or purpose, beyond its existence, so the dismissal argument is not sufficient.

Of course, a well formed Catholic will hold that the abstract personal God is all good, and all knowing. The purpose and plan, though not known in its specifics to finite individuals, is to seek salvation for all. Bad things are allowed by God to bring about a greater good. This is clear, and as such "luck" is dismissed, but grace and providence are understood.

It is an interesting consequence that holding to superstitious luck (i.e. the luck field) requires a belief in an an objective good and bad. If there exists something that causes more good or bad things to occur, then there must be an objective, universal good and bad. My limited philosophical and theological understanding tends to lead me to the belief that the existence of an objective good or bad implies the existence of God. This tends to imply the grace interpretation of luck, which counters the superstitious luck. Therefore I find superstitious luck to be an inconsistent belief.

Things happen, and our modern understanding of physics tells us that other things could have happened. But the world is the way it is, and so it happened the way it did. Why? Random chance? Purpose? Of course, I say that the Universe is formed in reason because Reason formed it. This gives me that there is a greater purpose. When good or bad happen it is not simply luck, or chance, but with purpose.

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