Searching for patterns is part of the “hard-wiring” of human beings, part of the original factory equipment so to speak. It’s among our earliest instincts. Even newborns look for patterns. Searching for patterns underpins learning language or learning to walk as well as more mature activities including dancing a waltz, discovering that the earth revolves around the sun rather than the other way around, painting the Mona Lisa, worshipping a god, or playing a sonata on the piano. Absent the search for patterns life would be extremely difficult and probably terrifying.
If someone tells you they believe that everything is random, they’re either lying, exaggerating, insane, confused, or just plain wrong. Other than at the quantum level, real randomness is quite rare; it’s hard to produce. True randomness would mean that when I stepped out of my house here in Chicago it would be just as likely that I would be mauled by a bear, attacked by a shark, or explode into pure energy as it would that I would reach the sidewalk.
Because seeking patterns is so natural to us, we sometimes see them where they don’t exist. I think that the widely-reported phenomenon of seeing ghosts is caused by just such pattern-seeking.
There are whole branches of learning focused on distinguishing between patterns that don’t exist and those that do. Understanding logical fallacies is one way of doing that.
Depending on their abilities and experiences different people will see different patterns in the same things. As one friend of mine put it many years ago, you and I can do the same things but have different experiences.
In a country of 320 million people all sorts of things that would appear to be highly unlikely are practically certain to happen. Distinguishing between the things that actually constitute a pattern and those that don’t can be difficult. The pattern may be in what’s being reported and how it’s being reported rather than in what’s happening.
This all may sound like a lot of irrelevant rambling but it’s highly relevant since I strongly suspect that the evidence supports the hypothesis that both black men being shot and killed by police officers and the rioting that has followed black men being shot and killed by police officers are responses to seeing patterns. Are the patterns real or not?
Here are several true statements (some from this source):
- In the city of Chicago an ordinary Chicagoan is more likely to be shot and killed than a Chicago police officer.
- Twice as many whites are shot and killed by police officers every year as blacks.
- As a proportion of homicides, more whites and Hispanics are killed by police than blacks.
- Black and Hispanic police officers are more likely to discharge their guns at black men than white police officers.
- Politics deals with perceptions not realities.
- Politically-motivated policies are not likely to alter the underlying facts and may not alter the perceptions.
I think it’s a reasonable inference that what moves police officers to shoot and kill black men is fear. Is that fear based on reason?