Just Don’t Think About It.

By Michael Reynolds | Related entries in In The News, News

On NPR a guy who missed the bridge collapse by a minute. He says, (my best recollection) “If I hadn’t brushed my teeth, if I hadn’t changed a Band-aid, I’d have been on that bridge.”

On MSNBC a girl who was in the car with her mother right behind the famous school bus. They pulled off because they had to pee.

In ancient times people believed in fate or the gods.

When I was growing up everything was upbringing, your environment in the broader sense of the word.

Nowadays Americans tend to believe in free will with quasi-religious reverence. Americans frequently go so far as to deny that any other force but free will can determine the path your life takes.

Of course now some Americans are finding a new, more scientific angle on old-fashioned fate: DNA.

The two cases cited above show that there’s another force, inextricably bound up with free will, environment and heredity: random chance.

The guy decides to brush his teeth. Free will. Maybe he had a genetic predisposition to tooth decay. So free will occasioned in part by DNA. Or maybe he’d just been raised well. In any case the effect of his decision to brush his teeth was determined by chance.

You mix together your heredity and your environment. You choose your path. Then you roll the dice to see what really happens.

Brush your teeth, forget to pee before you leave the house, you live. Equally tiny, insignificant factors put other people on that bridge at the wrong time.

Best not to dwell on it.


This entry was posted on Thursday, August 2nd, 2007 and is filed under In The News, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Just Don’t Think About It.”

  1. Joshua Says:

    Perhaps this is one reason why the religious right frowns upon legalized gambling – it’s a not-so-subtle reminder of how dramatically life can be changed, and faith cast into doubt, by pure dumb luck.

    The events in the city where I was born were, of course, a lot less subtle and a lot more tragic. I’ve driven on the I-35W bridge many times, the last time being about a month ago, as the road work was already underway. This was one of the older bridges in the city but I never thought it was anywhere near being ready to collapse. But from what I understand, the collapse apparently began in a single spot and then cascaded from there. You might say this bridge’s design was like a chain – only as strong as its weakest link. I wonder, might MnDOT have been able to avert the disaster had they known where the weak spots were, and to avoid putting too much load on those spots at any one time, even if they had to close the bridge for a few hours a day to do it?

    In any case, my heart goes out to my fellow Twin Cities residents, not just to the victims but those who were able to assist in the first few hours after the collapse. So far this is one of those trying times that’s brought out the best in people but not the worst. That’s a bright light in this dark moment.

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