Pseudo Random

Posted: March 10, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Warning: this post is pretty geeky

Last week in computer programming class (hey, I warned you), we learned about how to produce random numbers. The professor began by showing us a program that would produce 10 random numbers, and the numbers ranged from 41 to 30000 something. He then had someone copy the program and run it on their computer. Oddly enough, that set of 10 “random” numbers happened to be the exact same numbers as the ones on the professors screen. He informed us that computers are actually incapable of producing random numbers. After saying this, he said “After all, this actually comes down to a deep philosophical question.” Puzzled looks were the manifestation of confusion; what does computer programming have to do with philosophy? “Well, what is random, actually? Is there really such a thing as random?” He asked us to name something we believed to be random. One person called out “unexpected weather catastrophes.” “Well,” the professor replied, “I could argue that if I knew all of the weather conditions (barometric pressures, humidity, atmosphere, etc.), I could predict these so-called random events.”

So the question persists. Just because we can’t predict something, does that make it random? After all, prediction is a byproduct of understanding. If you understand something entirely, you can predict things based on it. For example, if you understand that an object falls at 32 feet per second, you could predict that an object would take 2 seconds to fall 64 feet (I’m probably oversimplifying, not taking into account acceleration or wind resistance or anything, but you get the point). Because you understand why the result will be what it will be, you can predict the outcome of any arbitrary input (e.g. feet per second and time). Another person who has never learned any physics or math, might say that the length of time it takes an object to fall is entirely random and impossible to predict.

Back to the random number example, it turns out computers just take a seed number and use an algorithmic function called the linear congruential generator (try saying that 3 times fast) to twist it around into a “random” number. For the “random” number to put into the function, computers take a number from a seemingly random source (such as the seconds elapsed from some unknown year in 1970) and plug it into this function that outputs a “pseudo” random number, or, in other words, a number that seems random and is basically impossible for anyone to figure out.

“Ok, Steve, you’re rambling nerdily,” you say, “what does any of this have to do with God?” Well, if you try to wrap your mind around it, you’ll come to the realization that there really is no such thing as random. This is astounding if you REALLY ponder it for awhile instead of just accepting it as true. If there’s no such thing as random, that means there is One who completely understands how everything works. It means all those millions of cause and effect relationships that make our planet sustain life are understood. And if those relationships are understood, clearly the one who understands them is infinitely greater than us. Think about the fact that we don’t know of any boundaries to space. As far as we know, it is infinite. We know of nothing else in creation that is infinite, which makes this concept so mind-blowing. If space does have boundaries, what is on the other side? We cannot begin to understand these complexities, and yet scientists presume to develop theories about earth’s origin. They laugh at us Christians who believe on faith that there is one who created all of this order and that he revealed to us in His Book that he created it, all the while ignoring the fact that their minds are feeble and they are accepting on blind faith that there is no Creator.

If I’ve explained any of this with any degree of clarity, and if these thoughts that are exploding my brain are being in any way conveyed to you, I hope you are equally amazed by our Creator. “Intelligent” feels like such a weak and inadequate adjective to describe the glory of such humanly unimaginable design. We who are yet to discover all the cells in the human body and who still can barely grasp how our brains work ought to tremble and bow in dumbfounded humility before such a Creator. Add to this the fact that this same God sovereignly (not randomly) sent his only Son in love to this earth to suffer His wrath for us, and you have a condition that ought to stagger your mind. If we had reason to prostrate ourselves at the thought of God creating everything, we ought now with the tandem truth of the gospel to dig a hole so we can bow lower.

God, our creator, and Jesus, our Savior, we bow before you and praise you with our whole being! How majestic is your name!

“For by him (Jesus) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” Col. 1:16

“It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;” Isa. 40:22

“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.” Isa. 40:28

I like how the NLT translates that last line:
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.


  1. Laurie Lynn says:

    Yes, my head did a little swimming when you explained the computer stuff. I admit I can’t quite wrap my brain around how this computer thing works…but some humans obviously do! Someone made these great tools! Cool!
    But yes, computers are finite and incomparable to God!
    But infinite God? Who can “measure the depths of His understanding?”
    That God created, is Sovereign and that He purposefully chose me…and He didn’t do this randomly is a “love mystery” I cannot unravel, but I love this greatest mystery and the God who is!

    That God is the Creator (and all the mind staggering implication) causes me to want to “dig that hole so I can bow lower” Yes! And that God clearly reveals the mystery of His Son to us! Colossians 1:24-29 And purchased men with His blood! That “all things were created by Him and for Him”! Who can comprehend!

    Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God. PS 90:2

    Thanks for sharing the thoughts exploding in your brain! You said you were “rambling nerdily”. (I really like that adverb!) I’m so glad you did…and do (No, I’m not saying you’re a nerd!!!)!
    May God confirm the work of your hands and the thoughts of your heart and mind.

    Laurie Lynn

  2. zoanna says:

    I have been thinking about this every since you came home from class and told me about it. It really does make you stop and think and marvel at God. Once you know that there’s no such thing as “random” anything, then would a scientist be copping out to use the term? You’re right, “Intelligent” seems like such a weak adverb to describe God’s design.

    Very practically, and selfishly, if I enter a fellow blogger’s give-away, could you (as the comptuer nerd) show me how to be “x” number commenter so that I get picked at “random”?

  3. janet price says:

    Not that I didn’t believe you about the whole random thing but I just wanted to tell you that… I put a CD in my player that had 5 songs on it and I set it on random. It went throught the CD the exect same way both times through. Weird! hehe.

  4. zoanna says:

    Um, I just showed my lack of intelligence by calling “intelligent” an adverb. And I call myself a grammar teacher. Shoot me, please!

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