02 December 2011

The Great Tournament

What would you say if I told you that a football team was going to win its first million games? I'm guessing one of two things. Either you would say that it is impossible or that it could only happen with the help of god. Now, what would you say if I told you that the odds of some inanimate atoms coalescing together to form a living organism were even lower than a football team's chances of winning a million games? A billion? You'd probably say the same thing; that such an event was either impossible or that a god would have to be involved to help things along. So here we are, each a collection of inanimate atoms that have come together to form an immensely complex living organism. Just thinking about the odds is enough to make someone a believer. Now, what if I told you that a football team winning its first million games was inevitable?

Think about a college football single-elimination tournament with a million rounds. I'm not sure how many teams would have to start the tournament to make it that long, but bear with me for a moment. Let's fast forward to the end of the tournament, round #1,000,000. Both teams in this round are undefeated up to this point. (They have to be, or else they wouldn't be here.) That means their records are at 999,999 wins and 0 losses. Now, outside of this tournament perspective, you would say that it is impossible for any football team to win 999,999 games in a row. But here we are, with two of them. And the winner will reach a million. Guaranteed.

Nature is like an infinitely long tournament. In any given moment in time (round), in any given event (match), out of infinite possibilities (teams), only "one" thing can happen (winner). What determines what happens? Physics, quantum probabilities, starting positions, etc. (We can get into that in another post.) The end result is what we experience as our current reality. We look at all of the possibilities competing for the chance to continue and believe that, given the individual odds, it is impossible for any single one to occur, but the reality is that, due to the tournament nature of existence, there will always be a winner. We live in the winning scenario.

Now, when believers look at existence, they see a college football team with a record of 999,999 and declare that only a team with the guidance of god could accomplish such a feat. Rationalists, on the other hand, understand that a team with an undefeated record is 100% inevitable, given that nature works like a tournament of events. You could still argue that the specific team that wins the tournament was guided by god the entire time, but that would be unnecessary and misleading. If you were to look at the field of competitors at the beginning of the tournament (the big bang), you could not say which would be the winner. There would be too many competitors that each would have a minuscule chance of winning, and too many rounds where anything could happen. We can only comment on what we see before us now, the current results of The Great Tournament; both improbable and inevitable.