Sunday, October 23, 2011

Marilyn vos Savant on Specified Complexity

My hometown newspaper, as so many other newspapers do, carries Parade Magazine on Sundays. Marilyn vos Savant, someone who scored higher on IQ tests than any other person, has a regular column in Parade known as Ask Marilyn.

Today's column was of particular interest to me and any other ID proponents who might read it:

"I’m a math instructor and I think you’re wrong about this question: “Say you plan to roll a die 20 times. Which result is more likely: (a) 11111111111111111111; or (b) 66234441536125563152?” You said they’re equally likely because both specify the number for each of the 20 tosses. I agree so far. However, you added, “But let’s say you rolled a die out of my view and then said the results were one of those series. Which is more likely? It’s (b) because the roll has already occurred. It was far more likely to have been that mix than a series of ones.” I disagree. Each of the results is equally likely—or unlikely. This is true even if you are not looking at the result. —George Alland, Woodbury, Minn.

My answer was correct. To convince doubting readers, I have, in fact, rolled a die 20 times and noted the result, digit by digit. It was either: (a) 11111111111111111111; or (b) 63335643331622221214.

Do you still believe that the two series are equally likely to be what I rolled? Probably not! One of them is handwritten on a slip of paper in front of me, and I’m sure readers know that (b) was the result.

The same goes for the first scenario: A person rolled a die out of my view and then informed me the result was one of these series: (a) 11111111111111111111; or (b) 66234441536125563152. It was far more likely to be (b), a jumble of numbers."

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