There Are No Coincidences, Psychology Today

bernard hopkins diet

“There Are No Coinc > Posted Jul 06, 2016

When uttering the phrase, “there are no coincidences” the speaker feels fully confident in its truth. But, just like coincidences themselves, the meaning depends on the beliefs of the person involved.

Let’s start by looking closely at the word coincidence. Dictionaries usually define it as two or more events coming together in a surprising, unexpected way without an obvious causal explanation. Embedded in the definition is a hint that there might be an explanation.

This possibility of an explanation creates the opportunity for saying “there are no coincidences.” If a cause can be defined, then there is no coincidence.

Many believe that Fate or Mystery, or the Universe or God causes coincidences. Their faith in something Greater provides them with a cause. Since God causes them, the cause is known. Therefore, there are no coincidences.

Statistically-oriented people believe that coincidences can be explained by the Law of Truly Large Numbers, which states that in large populations any weird event is likely to happen. This is a long way of saying that coincidences are mostly random. Because statisticians “know” that randomness explains them, coincidences are nothing but strange yet expect-able events that we remember because they are surprising to us. They are not coincidences, just random events.

Those who believe in Mystery are more likely to believe that coincidences contain messages for them personally. “It was meant to be.” “Coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Some of those in the random camp can find some coincidences personally compelling and useful.

Randomness and God explanations Remove Personal Responsibility

Each of these two explanations take responsibility for coincidences away from you! Each suggests that you are powerless in the face of inexplicable forces. Randomness says you have nothing to do with creating coincidences—stuff just happens because we live in a random universe. You think coincidences may have something to do with you, but they don’t. When God is called in to explain coincidences, you are the recipient of divine grace. If you think you had something to do with it, you are deluding yourself.

Randomness and God are extreme positions in a coincidence dance that usually involves you, to varying degrees. Probability plays a necessary role. Some coincidences are more unlikely than others. Mystery plays a role because our minds cannot grasp the multiple stirrings hidden behind the veil of our ignorance. Here lies some of the beauty in the study of coincidences. They make us wonder. How much do we have to do with them, and how much is beyond our current concept of ourselves in the world?

It’s Your Choice

Coincidences exist. Coincidences are real. Saying that there are no coincidences stops inquiry. Challenging the statement forces us to make sense of its ambiguity and explore our potential involvement. You can choose the random perspective and with a wave of a mental hand, dismiss most coincidences as not worth further attention. Or you can seek out their possible personal implications and make life into an adventure of discovery both about yourself and the world around you. As you explore, you may uncover the latent abilities hidden within you.

Law of Truly Large Numbers

If we live in an infinite, ever-expanding universe, and at every spacetime quantum-frame there´s the miniscule chance of the existence of something remotely similar to Mystery or God, then aren´t we statistically bound to consider coincidence as something other than that?

Jokes aside, it was an interesting article!

Perhaps you jest in truth, sir

What about precognitive dreams?

That remarkably show an event before they happen?

Also chance? Can we affect matter with our minds? What is consciousness. We don’t know. Coincidence?

precognitive dreams

Thanks for your comments. It appears that the term coincidence is a cover for many things including psi events like precognitive dreams and picking up the thoughts of others. When there is a possible cause, there is no coincidence anymore.

The belief that coinc > Submitted by Carl Poppers on July 6, 2016 – 2:42pm

The belief that coincidence means two or more events coming together in a surprising, unexpected way without an obvious causal explanation comes from the writings of one man, Sir Thomas Browne in the 1680s.

Coincidence means happening at the same time. Coincidence is everywhere. Every time you go to the shopping mall, there are shoppers there, each with his own cause, shopping with every other shopper.

Even when something seems to be a shared cause, e.g., a forthcoming hurricane, each man shopping for water supplies has done so by his own long chain of cause to effect decisions.

History of the Word “Coinc > Submitted by Bernard D. Beitman M.D. on July 7, 2016 – 2:04am

Thanks for referring to the origin of the word “coincidence”. Perhaps you will find this article of interest:

The History of Coincide and Coincidence
Author(s): H. E. Shepherd
Source: The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 1, No. 3 (1880), pp. 271-280
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Coinc > Submitted by Mr C Hart on September 14, 2016 – 5:58pm

Does Bernard Beitman MD think that coincidences are similarities? Surely, to believe that coincidences are similarities suggests escape? Yes, reaction occurs at the same time as something that develops – but, in humanity, neither reaction or stimuli are necessarily natural events. There is, most likely, a source that preceded both events. If the reaction is real and the stimulus is true, then coincidences cannot be similarities.

Boiling it down to something someone can relate to

When I talk about how incredibly luck we are to be alive, all the billions (or more) things that just happened to happen for us to exist. People bring up God. As an Atheist, I debate them. And they bring up the fact that all those random things had to happen and to do so, is not possible. So I ask if they are a golfer, if they are, I say, what is the chance that that golf ball will land on any certain blade of grass. They say, very very remote. And I say exactly, but it has to land somewhere doesn’t it? As much as they hate to admit it, it makes sense. If you don’t have a way to convey randomness to someone, it normally goes right over their heads.

randomness

so I guess you are a fan of the multiverse explanation

There are multi event coinc > Submitted by Jay on March 28, 2017 – 11:57am

The entire question of why we live in a Universe that has certain laws of physics allowing life does require a science response. However that very response is itself metaphysical and can never be proven. That is, there are branching realities or multiverses.
I happen to believe we are a simulation of some kind, a drama.
Allen watts preferred to believe in the world being drama!
You are a tiny component of its expressions. The nature or full extent of nature’s expressions including consequences cannot, except in the most gross incidences, ever be perceived.

I liked your article. If people take you at your words than you are a giant. If they choose to take you at their interpretation of your words then they contort your views and misunderstand what you are trying to convey.

Thanks for writing it

there are no coinc > Submitted by Bernard D. Beitman M.D. on June 6, 2017 – 4:20pm

You ignored the third possibililty

You ignored the deterministic conception of coincidences. Everything that happens, including coincidences, ultimately happens because the initial conditions of the cosmos pre-determined them to happen. In other words, coincidences have nothing to do with you, because the cosmological constants guaranteed that they would happen.

ignored a 3rd possibility

Perhaps your third possibility is another way of saying God. The two ideas have in common being First Causes. Predetermined and Fate also are ways of describing how God and the Cosmological Constants resemble each other.

That depends on what you mean by God

If you are assuming a deistic conception of God, then the cosmological constants being the observable manifestation of God’s will acting on us and our universe makes perfect sense. If you are assuming a pantheistic God, then it makes more sense to say that the cosmological constants are themselves properties of God. However, a traditionally theistic God who acts on the world through miracles seems to make invoking the cosmological constants redundant, and vice versa.

now you are asking the hard question–what do we mean by God.

You can see conscious awareness as a machine, one thing creates yet another. I have always thought in one Universe all things in some way must be connected. The fact we are not able to trace the path doesn’t mean its all on the spot coincidence. The Universe may have had initial conditions. If they were any different than what you experience now might never be or the past could never have been.

Personality and Coinc > Submitted by Sherrie Hale on September 14, 2017 – 1:33pm

This was a very interesting read on coincidence. I never really looked at coincidence as being not really a coincidence. If God caused it to happen, therefore that being the known cause, it really was not a coincidence because of the “known” cause is a very interesting way to look at it. We discussed something similar in our class on Personality when discussing dreams. If one dreams of a goat then sees a goat the next day, that really is not a coincidence nor is it a sign related to dreaming of the goat. Some random occurrence was the cause of us seeing a goat. Great read.

coinc > Submitted by Jay on September 14, 2017 – 1:42pm

Sherri, I can say some of these things make my hair stand on end. Example, my mother now deceased, never used the phrase, ” carrying coal to Newport”
I a few days before had read this in a novel I was reading and it was rather stuck in my head.

I had a spontaneous conversation with her and she blurred out,
” and I’m not carrying coal to Newport.”
What, is this a dream I am in, Mom you didn’t say that did you?
But, she did.
Odd, maybe a bit creepy, but it happened. I have always felt realty is NOT what we think it is. It is something very strange indeed.

I’ve experienced that many times!

Yes, maybe it is not related to coincidences, maybe it is, but telepathy at least is for sure a thing, though hard to prove. Not only have I had people take the words out of my head, but I have also heard the guys next to me, having a totally different conversation, hook on to the words and concepts I was thinking about in mine and take them out into their own unrelated conversation . plus..

Probabilities

I came across this article while reflecting on considences and probabilities. My niece was recently killed in a tragic car accident and I started to reflect on some of the observations I made that spoke to me personally. I’m sure my sister and neohews have there own takeways about this trajedy. Mine are that my nice was killed by a DUI driver born in the same state of the foreign country I was born in, the driver was driving the same make of car I drive, and the accident happened in front of one of the national company stores that I work for. The accident happened 4 days before my birthday. And one of the most memorable things for me is that a few hours before the accident my 10 yr old son started crying for no reason and when I asked him why he was crying he said “ because I don’t want to die.” I at most have been an agnostic and sometimes atheist, but this has given me a knudge towards believing in something more than coincidence and randomness. If someone can calculate the probabilities of what I just mentioned I would love to know the figures. I took statistics in college but don’t know how to begin calculating for all those variables I mentioned.

probability calculations are challenging

Coincidence studies needs to develop ways to estimate the probability in this event. Your 10 yo son response is an example of simulpathity–experiencing the pain of another usually a loved one, at a distance. That would be separate from the other facts which require the statistical analysis. 4 days before your birthday may be an elusive part of the equation. same state, same car make and near one of your business connections makes it personal to you. What is your feeling about your involvement here?

I need to learn something

I feel like I should take some kind of lesson from this tragedy. That I am involved to the extent that I have to make some changes in my life to love more, love deeper, connect with my loved ones more often and do the things that my niece inspired me to do through some of her generous actions in her life . I’m sure this is all part of the early grieving process as this just happened 3 weeks ago. I prefer to remain non-religious and not tie this event to a “greater power” and would rather side with coincidences and randomness.

We like Probability as opposed to darma

It seems to me some things seem to just appear like a projection of cumulative thoughts we have. Of course science will reject that mind is that powerful or could create objective reality. I have to say, science is strung out on mathematics because its been so predictive and successful in describing physics. But, we know its hard to imagine a consciousness strung out of physical laws and nothing more.
There have been some very strange things that have happened to me. One took place on November 17 1994, the last day my Mother was well. I got a strange shiver when she had said a few days before she should see me. I had been busy at work. At noon I was just gold bricking at a store and suddenly a voice said, you are needed, go now to your mother. I was shocked, speeded out and she was well. I asked if she wanted to go to lunch. She did and she suddenly before drinking her coffee had a bleed in her brain. She was having a major stroke. If I had not been there, she would have died. You cannot tell me this was imagination or coincidence. No !

simulpathity

Your intuition is exactly right! Feeling the pain of a loved one at a distance is called simulpathity. The amazing addition of your story is that you somehow anticipated the bleed before it happened. this seeing the future is known as precognition. There are rare stories of precognitions that actually change the course of events.

thought you’d like to know

thought you’d like to know not all christians believe everything happens for a reason as i dont.

“How do we answer this question? First, from a literal standpoint, everything does happen for a reason. There is a cause and effect, clearly seen in natural law. The “reason” for happenings may be natural, willful, medical, accidental, or providential, though we must not jump to the conclusion that everything that happens has a providential reason orchestrated or micro-managed by God!

Sometimes it is pure chance, like when a person falls off a roof (accidental) or someone contracts an infectious disease (medical). While Islamic terrorists may claim beheading Christians is “willed by Allah,” we Christians do not believe God wills such atrocities. They arise out of evil impulses fed by such sins as out-of-control anger, arrogance, passion, pride, and prejudice.

To say “everything happens for a reason” is not Scriptural. It is not a quotation from the Bible, although some people think it is. Perhaps the closest text is Romans 8:28, where the Apostle Paul writes: “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” This does not say or mean everything that happens to everyone has a reason planned or controlled by God. God works within His people and their circumstances to bring good out of even evil.

John Murray writes: “Many of the things comprised are evil in themselves and it is the marvel of God’s wisdom and grace that they, when taken in concert with the whole, are made [by God] to work for the whole.”

John MacArthur explains: “It is God’s providential power and will, not a natural synergism of circumstances and events in our lives, that causes them to work together for good.”

There are many things that do happen by random chance, real unforeseen, and unplanned accidents or incidents! Although there may have been no purpose behind what happened, no theological reason for what happened, God works within those often “unreasoned” tragic events or illnesses to bring His people through them.

As I’ve said before when tackling tough questions and concerns we must be ever so careful not to tread where angels fear to tread, not to let our own pride lead us into the missteps of Job and his friends! Job felt he had a right to know the “reason” for his overwhelming pain and suffering while his friends seemed utterly sure of the “reason” he was suffering. Both attitudes were prideful rather than faithful pursuits! We will discuss this point a little more in a follow-up article.

I have come to believe that humility is the doorway to God, while arrogance or excessive pride is a trap door through which we fall away from God! As is often visualized, Satan fell from Heaven to Hell because of his innate pride.

“Everything happens for a reason,” I am often told. Though millions believe this, I do not think it is true. Trying to bring sense and order to random suffering and injustice is like expecting to see a Rembrandt or Monet in a pool of retch, another inevitable human byproduct. This primal urge to find meaning in everything is grounded in an ungodly appetite to control everything. However, God’s plan was not that he (or we) would control everything but that, through agency, most everything would become out of control. Consequently, accepting the randomness and injustice of life is part of accepting God.

“Accepting the randomness and injustice of life is part of accepting God”

I cringe nearly every time I hear someone say that “everything happens for a reason.” I cringe whenever I hear someone say God gives us trials so that we can learn from them. Do you know how that sounds to someone who hasn’t eaten a normal meal in three years and lives on a feeding tube? Do you know how that sounds to someone who has seen countless, innocent children dealing with the terrible fall out and aftermath of sexual abuse? It’s ridiculous to think that a good and just God would want any child to be sexually abused. It’s offensive for me to think that God intentionally deprived me of food for three years just so “I’d learn my lesson.”

That God is a false God. It’s not the God of love that I know. Stuff happens. People make bad choices that hurt others. The body does strange and random things that we don’t understand and can’t control. God is not pulling the switch on everything. He is not the master of circumstance.

“Saying that ‘everything happens for a reason’ makes as much sense to me as blaming the paramedics for the accident.”

Indeed, God’s role is not primarily to control or change your circumstances. It is to help you cope with them. His power is most strongly felt not in creating the massive crystal chandelier of our existence or even suspending it, but in restoring it when we or others have shattered it into a million pieces. He does not conduct the orchestra of life. He gives us earplugs to alleviate the noise and clatter of a symphony run amuck. God does not will life’s messes. He is the humble and helpful janitor, who faithfully arrives on the scene to help you clean them up. God does not cause or will suffering but uses it as a venue for communion with mortals. So saying that “everything happens for a reason” makes as much sense to me as blaming the paramedics for the accident.

Random, unwarranted suffering is simply part of mortality, an inevitable byproduct of agency. But that doesn’t mean suffering has to be completely senseless. Those who suffer often ask, “What am I supposed to learn from this?” I think the better question is, “What can I teach?”

“Those who suffer often ask, ‘What am I supposed to learn from this?’ I think the better question is, ‘What can I teach?’”

So if you are suffering, please don’t listen to the people who are telling you “everything happens for a reason.” Please ignore the people who are telling you that God must have something really important for you to learn. That’s nonsense. Yes, you can learn from suffering. In fact, you will learn from suffering. But that doesn’t mean God willed or wanted your suffering.

When people tell you that you have some important lesson to learn from your suffering, politely tell them, “No, I have something important to teach.” Teach people, through your grace and dignity in suffering, what it means to endure. Teach them what it means to persevere. Teach them what it really means to have hope. Teach them, by example, that you can be happy in suffering. Teach them how to love.

Teach them that you stand with Job, who said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” (Job 13:15.) Teach them and show them how to be like Paul—who was whipped, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, robbed, betrayed, starved, sick and imprisoned (2 Corinthians 11:23-33) but said, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:11-13.)

“Love your way out of the storm.”

Being grounded in Christ simply means living his mandate to love others. Love your way out of the storm. Love others. Stop thinking about yourself and your problems. Stop focusing on what you can’t do and just do what you can for others. Love your way out of the storm. As I have said repeatedly, if you live your life with love, you live your life with God, for God is love. This is how you walk with God daily. This is how you find his presence in his seeming absence. This walk with God is the stabilizing factor of life. It’s what brings order to a chaotic world that is spinning out of control.

No, not everything happens for a reason. But your suffering can give you reason to live, to keep trying, to teach others, and to be an instrument in the hands of God to help bring his presence back into the world … for you and for all those around you!

Have you ever found yourself, in the midst of unimaginable grief, pain, heartache or despair, wondering how you are going to make it through another day? Wondering where your next breath is going to come from? Your world has crumbled beneath you and you are left feeling shattered, empty and hopeless.

And then a well meaning friend or family member comes along and drops the infamous “Everything happens for a reason” bomb. You smile kindly and nod—that’s all you can do to keep yourself from punching them in the face.

You can’t possibly imagine a reason for what just happened.

The more you stew about a possible reason for your pain, the angrier you become. You try desperately to make sense of a situation that won’t ever make sense. You reach for answers but none come.

I spent years searching for answers, trying to find reasons that would bring an end to my pain. I thought that if I could find the cause, I could treat the condition. But what I found through years of searching, experiencing and living is that often there is no reason for why tragedy has occurred.

Sometimes bad things happen for no reason other than we are human beings having a human experience. Pain, heartache, grief, loss, disease and death are inevitable parts of the human experience.

We hear people say “Life dealt me a crappy hand” as if pain and hardships are not the norm. We assume that life is supposed to be easy and when things don’t go our way, we feel like we have been wronged. Human beings seem to have an innate sense of entitlement. We think that we are owed a pain-free existence.

But the truth is that human beings are not exempt from the human experience. And struggle is an innate part of the human experience. None of us are exceptions to this rule. We all struggle. We all suffer. We all experience pain, heartache and loss. And sometimes, there’s just no reason other than we are human and pain is a part of the process.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who was struggling to find peace with “God’s plan” for her life including the recent death of a loved one.

“How could this possibly be God’s will?” she asked.

Here’s what I’ve come to know about God’s will:

God’s plan is never for someone to have cancer. God’s will is not for an innocent child to be brutally murdered. God’s will is not for a teenage girl to be raped. God’s will is not chronic pain, illness, disability or death.

God’s will is not an event that happens to us, it’s how we respond to what happens.

God’s will for us is to walk with Him through the cancer. Through the abuse. Through the death. Through the illness. God’s will is for us to draw close to him in the midst of pain. God’s will is for us to use our painful life events to carry his message of hope, grace, forgiveness and mercy.

God’s plan was never for pain to be part of the human experience. His plan was for us to live in peace and harmony with Him. The human experience became painful when sin entered the world. Our own free will weaved threads of tragedy, loss, heartache and pain into the human experience.

God is not responsible for our pain. We are not responsible for our pain. What happened in the Garden of Eden is responsible for the human condition. And the human condition is hard wired for pain and suffering. God is not causing us to hurt. He is hurting with us. What we do with our hurt is what matters. How we handle tragedy is what brings purpose into our pain.

There’s hardly ever a justifiable reason for the bad things that happen in life. Tragic loss is not laced with inherent specs of good. I used to get so mad when people would say, “You can find good in every situation.” That’s just not true. There was nothing good about being raped. There is no good in murder or abuse. We have to create the good. We have to choose to respond in a way that brings good into an impossible situation. We have to choose to give purpose and meaning to our suffering.

Not everything happens for a reason. But in everything that happens, there can be a reason to bring hope and healing to others. God can use our pain for a greater good if we choose to let Him in. “

Hi. I really liked your article.

Forgive me for my rusty english, but I need to confess something:

I’m extremely afraid of getting blind and, ironicaly, I keep seeing posts about blindness on social media every now and then. I’m atheist and cethic, so I don’t believe in fate or revelations from god. Still, I started to believe that all theses things are a dark signs about my future. it ruins my days.

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