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Coincidence

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Title: Coincidence  
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Coincidence

A coincidence is a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances which have no apparent causal connection with each other. The perception of remarkable coincidences may lead to supernatural, occult, or paranormal claims. Or it may lead to belief in fatalism, which is a doctrine that events will happen in the exact manner of a predetermined plan.

From a statistical perspective, coincidences are inevitable and often less remarkable than they may appear intuitively. An example is the birthday problem, which shows that the probability of two persons having the same birthday already exceeds 50% in a group of only 23 persons.[1]

Contents

  • Etymology 1
  • Coincidence as synchronicity 2
  • Coincidence and causality 3
  • Computer simulation of alignments 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Bibliography 7
  • External links 8

Etymology

The word is derived from the Latin cum- ("with", "together") and incidere (a composed verb from "in" and "cadere": "to fall on", "to happen").

Coincidence as synchronicity

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung developed a theory which states that remarkable coincidences occur because of what he called "synchronicity," which he defined as an "acausal connecting principle."[2]

One of Kammerer's passions was collecting coincidences. He published a book titled Das Gesetz der Serie (The Law of Series), which has not been translated into English. In this book he recounted 100 or so anecdotes of coincidences that had led him to formulate his theory of seriality.

He postulated that all events are connected by waves of seriality. Kammerer was known to make notes in public parks of how many people were passing by, how many of them carried umbrellas, etc. Albert Einstein called the idea of seriality "interesting and by no means absurd." Carl Jung drew upon Kammerer's work in his book Synchronicity.[4]

A coincidence lacks an apparent causal connection. A coincidence may be synchronicity, that being the experience of events which are causally unrelated, and yet their occurrence together has meaning for the person who observes them. To be counted as synchronicity, the events should be unlikely to occur together by chance, but this is questioned because there is usually a chance, no matter how small.

Some skeptics (e.g., Henri Broch) perceive synchronicity as merely an instance of apophenia.[5] They say that probability and statistics theorems (such as Littlewood's law) suffice to explain remarkable coincidences.[6][7]

Charles Fort compiled hundreds of accounts of interesting coincidences and anomalous phenomena.

Coincidence and causality

Measuring the probability of a series of coincidences is the most common method of distinguishing a coincidence from causally connected events.

To establish cause and effect (i.e., causality) is notoriously difficult, as is expressed by the commonly heard statement that "correlation does not imply causation." In statistics, it is generally accepted that observational studies can give hints but can never establish cause and effect. But, considering the probability paradox (see Koestler's quote above), it appears that the larger the set of coincidences, the more certainty increases and the more it appears that there is some cause behind a remarkable coincidence.

Computer simulation of alignments

4-point alignments of 269 random points. Four or more points are seen to be aligned within 607 different straight lines.
4-point alignments of 269 random points. Four or more points are seen to be aligned within 607 different straight lines.

Alignments of random points, as shown by statistics, can be found when a large number of random points are marked on a bounded flat surface. This might be used to show that ley lines exist due to chance alone (as opposed to supernatural or anthropological explanations).

Computer simulations show that random points on a plane tend to form alignments similar to those found by ley hunters. This suggests that ley lines may have been generated by chance. This phenomenon occurs regardless of whether the points are generated pseudo-randomly by a computer or by mundane data sets derived from such things as the locations of pizza restaurants.

It is easy to find alignments of 4 to 8 points within rather small data sets.

The 1999 solar eclipse The moon has coincidentally occluded light from the sun.

See also

References

  1. ^ Mathis, Frank H. (June 1991). "A Generalized Birthday Problem". Carl Review ( 
  2. ^ Jung, Carl (1973). Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle (first Princeton/Bollingen paperback ed.). Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.  
  3. ^  
  4. ^  
  5. ^ Robert Todd Carroll, 2012, The Skeptic's Dictionary: synchronicity
  6. ^ Charpak, Georges; Henri Broch (2004). Debunked!: ESP, telekinesis, and other pseudoscience. Bart K. Holland (trans.). Baltimore u.a.9: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.  
  7. ^ David Lane & Andrea Diem Lane, 2010, DESULTORY DECUSSATION Where Littlewood’s Law of Miracles meets Jung’s Synchronicity, www.integralworld.net
  8. ^  

Bibliography

External links

  • Collection of Historical Coincidence, nephiliman.com (web.archive.org)
  • Unlikely Events and Coincidence, Austin Society to Oppose Pseudoscience
  • Why coincidences happen, UnderstandingUncertainty.org
  • The Cambridge Coincidences Collection, University of Cambridge Statslab
  • The mathematics of coincidental meetings
  • Strange coincidences
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