left biblioblography: Yes, Virginia, It WAS An Accident...Or Maybe Not - Making The Language Work In Our Favor

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Yes, Virginia, It WAS An Accident...Or Maybe Not - Making The Language Work In Our Favor

No doubt, if you travel the same information highway off-ramps that I have, you've run into (or run over) this tired old canard:

"Some random accident, and POOF! The universe came into being?"

The implications are staggering, as well as ridiculous. An accident, in the common vernacular, requires that it occurs to someone, a mistake has been made, an oopsie has plopped into someone's path.

Let's look at the word, 'accident'.

a. An unexpected and undesirable event, especially one resulting in damage or harm: car accidents on icy roads.

b. An unforeseen incident: A series of happy accidents led to his promotion.

c. An instance of involuntary urination or defecation in one's clothing.

2. Lack of intention; chance: ran into an old friend by accident.

3. Logic. A circumstance or attribute that is not essential to the nature of something.

I'm sure that definition 1.c will provide some hilarity for those readers who've not been put in that scenario (counting myself among them).

So 1.a defines it as an unexpected and undesirable event - I think we can all agree that it was unexpected, but far from undesirable.

#1.b lends itself to the definition the religious use. Or so it seems. There has to be someone extant in order to foresee something, no? Definition #2 is likewise: that the universe came about by lack of intention (there was no 'uncaused cause') implies that the opposite exists, that of actual intention.  Definition #3 can actually be used as an extension of logic - the theist would be hard put to define the universe as a 'circumstance or attribute that is not essential to the nature of something.'

Let's explore the thesaurus:

  1. An unexpected and usually undesirable event: casualty, contretemps, misadventure, mischance, misfortune, mishap. See help/harm/harmless, surprise/expect.
  2. An unexpected random event: chance, fluke, fortuity, hap, happenchance, happenstance, hazard. See certain/uncertain, surprise/expect.

Again, operative word: unexpected. This implies that there would be an expect-er, does it not?

The Philosophy Dictionary defines it thusly:

In Aristotelian metaphysics an accident is a property of a thing which is no part of the essence of the thing: something it could lose or have added without ceasing to be the same thing or the same substance. The accidents divide into categories: quantity, action (i.e. place in the causal order, or ability to affect things or be affected by them), quality, space, time, and relation.

Seeing as there was no time or space until the rather noisy birth of the Big Bounce, this hoary old chestnut is fast growing staler by the moment, yes? Where would the noisy birth of the universe be placed where it itself is 'no part of the essence' of itself? If separate from something else, what would that something else be?

Let's see what the Law Encyclopedia says about it, shall we?

The word accident is derived from the Latin verb accidere, signifying "fall upon, befall, happen, chance." In its most commonly accepted meaning, or in its ordinary or popular sense, the word may be defined as meaning: some sudden and unexpected event taking place without expectation, upon the instant, rather than something that continues, progresses or develops; something happening by chance; something unforeseen, unexpected, unusual, extraordinary, or phenomenal, taking place not according to the usual course of things or events, out of the range of ordinary calculations; that which exists or occurs abnormally, or an uncommon occurrence. The word may be employed as denoting a calamity, casualty, catastrophe, disaster, an undesirable or unfortunate happening; any unexpected personal injury resulting from any unlooked for mishap or occurrence; any unpleasant or unfortunate occurrence that causes injury, loss, suffering, or death; some untoward occurrence aside from the usual course of events. An event that takes place without one's foresight or expectation; an undesigned, sudden, and unexpected event.

I think the sharp-eyed reader can see the point quite clearly: the word implies that someone be the recipient of, or the observer of, or discoverer of, said 'accident'.

The Wiki entry says this:

An accident an event that occurs unexpectedly and unintentionally.

 No one expected the universe to be born, because there simply was no midwife there to help with the cataclysmic birth, and no one intended anything, because again, there was no one there. Literally.

I think I've belabored the point sufficiently. Any questions?

Till the next post, then.

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1 comment:

Arthur_Vandelay said...

"Some random accident, and POOF! The universe came into being?"

"We can't yet explain X, therefore POOF! Goddidit?"