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Uncertain Living in the Averaged World

The other night one of the local PBS stations re-ran "The Elegant Universe" hosted by the moderately hot Dr. Brian Greene, the show being based on his book of the same name. And then over the weekend I had some friends over. One couple had trouble finding a baby-sitter that night so they brought their little girl along and we set up a TV and VCR in the bedroom for her so she could watch a movie of her choice (which turned out to be "Matilda") while her adult betters made asses of themselves in other parts of the apartment. Late night party conversation wandered onto the topic of Mothra. The next morning I looked up Mothra on Wikipedia and either learned or re-learned that the adult form of your caterpillar-moth continuum is called "imago". Later that morning, there was a clue in the New York Times Sunday Crossword puzzle that read: "82 Across: Stage after pupation". 5 letters. By accident, on Saturday we had rented both the videotape and the DVD of "Matilda". Since I had never seen the movie and since I had the DVD still hanging around, last night I decided to pop it in and watch it. This morning I read in the Guardian that scientists -- having already found a pheromone that seems to light up the brains of heterosexual women and gay men -- now think they have found a chemical that floats the boats of lesbians and heterosexual men.

Which just about covers everything, I guess.

I was thinking that what the fundies should be afraid of is not so much the teaching of evolution in schools, but the teaching of physics. In particular, quantum physics.

Society is the macro-world where the possibility exists that ice will miraculously pass through the side of your glass tumbler and end up on the bar, but the probability of it doing so is unimaginably remote. People, you and me, as individuals, live in the quantum world where the probability of randomly learning a word you will need later that morning for a crossword puzzle isn't anywhere near that remote. Same for the probability that your particular brain will light up when you smell the presence of a particular chemical, without regard to whether you are in the "correctly gendered" body, "appropriate" for that chemical. Also, the probability may be small, but by no means impossibly small, that you will be a bright and heroic little girl born into an absolutely gawd-awful family but who eventually finds a teacher who recognizes your gifts and so you both, thereby, end up saving each other from horrible lives. There is even some chance that you are an adult male of a certain age who has never seen a movie called "Matilda", supposedly for little girls, but who sees it more or less by accident one night and who is -- you are a little embarrassed to say -- moved at points to tears by the little girl's pluck. You are accidentally reminded of your own childhood as a supposed weirdo, and how it resembled in some ways Matilda's childhood, though you weren't anywhere near as lucky as she ended up being.

"You never can tell" is an expression that was invented for those of us living down here at the quantum level of our individual lives. "You can often tell" is more suited to the macro-world. My life is of little interest to society; it's just another set of probabilities that is added to the sum of all probabilities that create the Averaged World.

But the set of unlikely probabilities that is my life exists, in the same way a set of astonishing probabilities exists for every particle in the real quantum world. The same is true for your life. It's true for everybody.

This is dangerous news for a child to learn, if what you want is for people to live their lives neatly, precisely, predictably -- in complete accord with the Averaged World. It isn't just Evolution that threatens you, Mr. & Mrs. Fundy; it's everything we know about the nature of reality itself.


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Yah, it's going to crash around our heads before I get it together, too. $#!+

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