Karma and Probability

Probability and randomness are tough things to wrap your head around. We are used to logic and order in the physical world. If you throw a stone from some height, the only direction it is going is down (unless you are in a Zero-G chamber or really really drunk). That’s order in the universe for you-things are predictable like that. We don’t have to worry about probability with things like this-because we assume it will always happen.

It will always happen-until it doesn’t. The black swan is a case in point. But that is a topic for another day. We can more or less assume the predictability of the physical world that we live in for all practical purposes.

When everything seems to make sense in the physical world, we try to extend the same to our actions and the things that happen to us as a result. But it gets really dicey there. You do good. Because of your inherent love for symmetry and what you have been taught all your life, the only thing you expect to happen to you in return is “good”.  The theory of Karma.

But wait. How can you expect immediate returns from the universe? So, you believe it will come back to you. You do good, the universe will reward you for it. You do bad, and the universe will get you for it. If not now,in the future. So far, so good. Nice enough theory. But then you ask:what about the people who are born with deformities. People who are born into poverty. How does your theory explain this. Bad happened out of nothing. What now? Hmmmmm. We have to get this to work somehow. We can’t leave our lives unexplained. All right, they didn’t do bad in this life, they did bad in their previous birth. Enter reincarnation. Awesome. It’s not enough to be born with a disability. You also now have to carry guilt from some other life.

Does this really make sense? But it happens. This is because the philosophy that most people follow in their day to day life is in most cases derived from religion. The problem is that religion thrives on uncertainty. If you take the unknown out of the equation, religion ceases to exist. Religion takes advantage of this uncertainty and wields its power over people by giving them answers – something to hold on to. The problem is that those answers do not have a shred of logic in them- yet most of the population falls for them. In trying to tie up all the loose ends in our life, we delve into theories that rely on faith and mysticism as opposed to logic. The only reason why people believe in karma is because it is comforting-it is comforting to feel that there is some sense-some order. That the forces of the universe are not random but respond to your actions.

It’s comforting-but it’s also complete bullshit. When we believe in Karma, we are essentially questioning the very lives we are living.

The only thing that is true is the way things happen is randomness. The only defense that one has against what happens is to play the probability of things happening- to minimize the probability of bad happening and to maximize your exposure to good things happening by serendipity.

Objective reality should guide a person’s beliefs about life and the universe. That is not to say that one should not do good , thinking that if the theory of Karma is not true, doing good is pointless. Whatever action one takes should be a product of the values that one believes in, and the principles of the fundamental philosophy which one follows in their life. Do good because it is what you believe in and it is what is right by your beliefs and principles- not because of things what the thoroughly corrupting “The Secret” and “The Alchemist” teach you.

Only accept the cause-effect that is rational and logical and thus real.

Randomness is real.Enjoy it.

8 thoughts on “Karma and Probability

  1. I agree 100%. I’ve actually been meaning to put the same point into words myself, but it probably would have taken me twice the length to do it, so kudos.

    Especially like the way you put this:
    “It’s comforting-but it’s also complete bullshit. When we believe in Karma, we are essentially questioning the very lives we are living.”

    Very few people fully grasp the importance of this point. Seems easier to shrug it off as inconsequential – but it’s actually incredibly crucial, since the conclusion drawn here bleeds over into every other aspect of our lives and the meanings we derive from them. As Ayn Rand put it, “all of life is a unity” – you can’t put a quarantine on the fallout from an evasion.

    Nice work. Glad I stumbled onto this.


  2. excellent post! I have considered the “born with deformities” argument against the benevolent universe premise. How can one born with a deformity, psychological illness, sexual deviations, etc, behave normally? What about being struck by a tsunami and killed for no moral reason on the part of he who was thus killed? Yes, the creation of the tsunami happened according to immutable natural law that no human or supernatural consciousness caused. But the comprehensible objectivity of the laws of nature does not lead to a conclusion that it is benevolent. Benevolent to WHOM? What you call randomness I call absurdity. The universe is both causal AND absurd. Two jet streams WILL cause a tropical storm (causality is observed), but the resultant winds that tear apart a shelter in Florida is not morally caused by the owner of the home (and thus we observe absurdity). That is why I praise Sartre and Camus for trying to answer how people living abnormal lives can live. 20th century existentialism is the sick man’s Objectivism, and I see myself as a follower in one degree or another of both movements.

    1. Agree with you. Randomness is real. Religion is a crutch for weak people. However, I believe doing good as a motto should be followed to promote a better society and that has nothing to do with religion. As far as probability is concerned, the only probality that we should believe in is that which we entrust because of watching trends overa certain time period. Expectation of the occurence of an event can be judged on the probability of the occurence of similar results on past trends. That is more logical. We can say 95% of the time there is a probability of event e occuring as a result of events a, b, c and d in the past 5 months and this has recurred thrice!…Kasturi

  3. I am a Forex trader and I firmly believe in randomness. However, I also believe in the ability to predict outcomes from probabilities, otherwise it would be pointless to attempt to trade any market.

  4. Allow me to try shedding some light: You all seem to have misunderstood the concept of “Karma” almost entirely. You have fallen into the same trap of misunderstanding as did the believers of Karma to whom you refer in this post. I definitely get your points, and they are convincing if and only if you are interpreting the notion of “Karma” as referring to some very literal physical force or independent entity that somehow moves about the physical Universe undetected, putting people in their place like the traditional Christian God might do. In contrast, I propose you try to instead understand “Karma” as referring to the cumulative effects of one’s actions on one’s psyche and the psyche of others. With this understanding, its actually quite logical to believe in “good” or “bad” Karma. The more “bad” things one does, the greater the chance that one will create enemies, and the more enemies one has, the greater the chance that one of said enemies will take appropriate measures to make SURE that bad person cashes in on all that bad Karma. Or, let’s suppose one does bad things yet somehow manages to be so slick as to avoid the creation of enemies… in this case, the more “bad”/”immoral” activities one does, the greater the chance of carrying around those nasty things called guilt or fear, or otherwise permanently damaging the psyche — there’s your bad Karma once again. Try a little thought experiment and imagine this same idea with the notion of good Karma and you’ll see that good people have good Karma — e.g. a truly “good” person is one who both experiences the self as being good due to the perception that one’s own actions are good and moral, AND also this person is experienced as good by others for the same reasons and is universally well-liked. Anyway, I wrote this up pretty quickly and may have left out some key points in my logic, but the basic point is that there’s a correlation between “bad behavior” and negative repercussions and, at the end of the day, what you call probability and what others call Karma isn’t so different. Meditate on it for a while if you still don’t see my point. If you meditate on it and STILL think its BS, I recommend you tread lightly because if you’re running around doing bad things with no remorse and a belief that there’s no Karma nor God thus you’re off the hook, then I can guarantee you you’ve got a few enemies SOMEwhere who just cannot wait to help you out with that Karma account you believe you haven’t got, lol. I definitely do agree that the hand-wavey version you guys are discussing is comforting, though. Personally, I believe in Karma in both the practical way as I discussed above as well as spiritually (not religious), but I have the same tendency as you all to over-analyze even those concepts I have innate faith in.

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