Just a Coincidence? Probably

 

Sooner or later, the right numbers come up.Regarding the uncanny circumstances of certain events people will often ask me, “You mean to tell me that was just a coincidence?” My answer in regard to any implied mystical significance usually is, “Well, yes.”

A coincidence is generally considered to be an extraordinary occurrence of two or more events at one time apparently by mere chance. Furthermore, a coincidence occurs when something accidental and unexpected happens under named conditions but not under a distinct relationship.

My reluctance to place a mysterious significance onto coincidences is not denying that things or events can converge with a curious synchronicity. However, generally the circumstances under which they occur are by random chance. We, as humans, have a tendency to be aware of patterns in the way we analyze data. If we consider the massive amount of information that is being processed by us at any given time, not finding a correlation somewhere would be more of an amazing, well, coincidence.

In relation to science the term coincidence is by and large used in a more literal context. One of my favorite scientific coincidences is the similar size of the Sun and the Moon from the perspective of the Earth. Although the distances from the Sun vary slightly because of the patterns of the Earth’s and the Moon’s orbits, the Sun is about 400 times farther away from the Earth than the Moon. This is noteworthy because the Sun is also about 400 times larger than the Moon, making the two objects about the same size in the Earth’s sky.

This is why a total solar eclipse is possible as the Moon completely obscures the intensely bright round central area of the Sun yet still allows the fainter solar corona just beyond the edges of the Sun to be visible. This is an amazing occurrence in our own solar system but the true odds of this are incalculable because we do not know how many planet and moon combinations there are in the universe or even how many solar systems exist. In this context of coincidence there is no implication that the alignment of these circumstances is significant beyond what the facts simply state.

Some religious doctrines and mystical teachings hold the view that there are no coincidences in the world. Everything that occurs can be related to a prior cause or association regardless of how vast or small the association seems to be. Everything is affected by something related to it. Pertaining to matters of belief, personal or otherwise, a coincidence carries some significance to the person observing the events.

We must be aware of finding patterns, or in some cases making an effort to find patterns, and then placing a mystical significance on them. I know many people who find meaning in the sequences of numbers. Consider how many numbers we process through the course of any day. We manage the events of our day with the numbers on the clock. We dial or text phone numbers all day long. We handle purchases and sales with credit card numbers and all of these transactions have totals and receipt numbers with the date on them. I could go on here but the point is that most of the time these numbers pass through our hands and are forgotten. However, the one time there is a similarity, a certain invoice number is the same as our birthday for example, and the tendency is to place a striking stamp on the occurrence.

The same phenomenon occurs with predictions or premonitions. If you have enough of them sooner or later something is bound to come true. We have a tendency to forget the countless dreams or gut feelings that we have about things that pass without any subsequent correlation. Most dreams or premonitions are also associated with actions or activities that we are likely to have experiences with in our lives. For example, it may be unlikely that someone who is not a professional football player is going to have a detailed dream about sustaining an injury while playing professional football. On the other hand, a professional football player has the experience of being on a stadium field to call upon in dreams and is really in situations where a pro football injury could actually happen at some point subsequently making the dream come true.

There are billions of bits of information all around us. Even with the aid of a really cool computer program, it would be difficult to determine how many bits of information have been amassed by human civilization regarding any and all of the subjects imaginable. Yet, the childhood game of twenty questions can usually narrow down any given point of fact in a minute or so. It is easy to draw an inference of some connection to these points of fact if we allow ourselves to do so; it is just a matter of how creative we wish to be.

The odds that a specified event or coincidence will occur is very unlikely. Simultaneously, the odds that some astonishing unspecified events will occur is certain. That is why remarkable, specific, and single coincidences are noted after they happen but are never predicted.

I always stress that we should never discount anything. Sometimes repeated evidential coincidences can signal a causal relationship and are worth investigation. Regarding supposed mystical coincidences, however, usually what is most likely turns out to be the case. Is it likely that there is an unknown force exerting influence on certain events in our world? Or could it just be that certain matters just coincide in the endless bit streams of information all around us? Maybe a coincidence is just a coincidence.

Published January 9, 2011