Co­in­ci­dence or fate?

Tampa Bay Times - - Opinion -

In Aeon Mag­a­zine, Cody Delis­traty writes that “just be­cause we might ‘know’ that mean­ing­ful co­in­ci­dences don’t re­ally ex­ist doesn’t mean that they don’t still move us.” Read “On Co­in­ci­dence” in full at Here’s an ex­cerpt.

To­day, nearly all sci­en­tists say that co­in­ci­dences are just that: co­in­ci­dences — void of greater mean­ing. Yet, they’re something we all ex­pe­ri­ence, and with a fre­quency that is uni­form across age, sex, coun­try, job, even ed­u­ca­tion level. Those who be­lieve that they’ve had a “mean­ing­ful co­in­ci­dence” in their lives ex­pe­ri­ence a col­li­sion of events so re­mark­able and un­likely that they chose to as­cribe a form of grander mean­ing to the oc­cur­rence, via fate or di­vin­ity or ex­is­ten­tial im­por­tance. One of the most com­monly ex­pe­ri­enced “mean­ing­ful co­in­ci­dences” is to think of your friend for the first time in a long while only to have her tele­phone you that in­stant. Any self-re­spect­ing statis­ti­cian would say that if you tracked the num­ber of times you thought of any friend, and the num­ber of times you had that friend im­me­di­ately ring you, you’d find the link to be sta­tis­ti­cally in­signif­i­cant. But it is not nec­es­sar­ily ir­ra­tional to at­tribute grander sig­nif­i­cance to this oc­cur­rence. To those who be­lieve in mean­ing­ful co­in­ci­dences, sta­tis­ti­cal in­signif­i­cance does not un­der­mine an event’s causal­ity or im­por­tance. To them, just be­cause something could hap­pen doesn’t mean it wasn’t also fated to hap­pen.

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