OK, friends and pals of MormonMatters…let’s play a game. (You just can’t get this at any of the other blogs, btw.)
Some of you may have played this game before…or understand how it is played. If you do, then think back to the first time you played the game (when it was as unknown to you as it is to many), and don’t spoil it for the rest.
There will be prizes. Although, they will be the nonphysical kind.
OK. So, here’s the game.
There are three doors in front of you. What I can tell you is that one of the door contains within a fabulous, yet utterly nonphysical prize. The other doors contain cureloms (…which I think is a goat. Maybe). Your job is to pick the door with the fabulous prize in order to win it.
But I’ll tell you what I’ll do. When you’ve picked a door (but before you’ve opened it!), I will open another door that has one of the cureloms in it. I will then give you the chance to stay with your door, or switch to the final, still unopened door.
…ok…so, before we get started with the game, I’ll ask you a question. After I have revealed one of the curelom-containing doors, do you think you should stay with your door, switch to the other door, or do you think it doesn’t matter?[poll id=”176″]
More after the break, folks! (Including spoilers)
If you truly haven’t heard of this scenario, then please acquaint yourself with the Monty Hall Problem. Or, as some call it, the Monty Hall Paradox.
Why should this ever be considered a paradox? The truth…it is just so simple! It is so easy to comprehend! If I — the guy running the show — picks one of doors with the cureloms in it, then I have done you a tremendous favor. I have changed the odds from 1 in 3 to 1 in 2!
Of course…now that it is 50/50…it really doesn’t matter if you stay or if you switch your door. Each has an equal likelihood of containing the prize, and each has an equal likelihood of containing curelom-goat.
Statistically, if you switch doors, your probability of winning everything doubles from 1/3 to 2/3.
…did you see that coming? (To those of you who already saw this before, did you see the answer coming the first time you saw it?) Can you make sense of this truth? If you mosey back to the wikipedia page I linked you, you can see an explanation — several, actually — of the probabilities. In fact, there are freakin’ proofs.
I see the Monty Hall Problem as one clear instance where what is true isn’t what is immediately intuitive or easy to comprehend (for most.) Other examples? 0.999~ = 1. The plane will take off of the treadmill. All of quantum physics. (I imagine that when I’m old and dying and science has come up with new physics paradigms, I’ll be eating that last one…)
So, that brings me to my topical question: should truth be expected to be simple or easy to comprehend?
Especially in Mormonism (and especially if we’ve lost or doubted or questioned our faith), we often have a nascent belief that truth should be simple. Perhaps even easy to comprehend. At the very least, when we understand true concepts and principles, it should enlighten. Make everything understood. Make sense. Our doubts often come in the situations when we find an incongruency in these expectations — we either found out that what was easy to swallow, easy to comprehend is seeming more and more unlikely to be true, or that what we have found to definitely be true is nevertheless complex, nuanced, and extremely difficult to grasp.
And we may know people (perhaps even ourselves) who deal with such incongruencies in different ways. We have talked endlessly of “putting things on the shelf” (or, if you will, establishing cold cases.) And when we discuss such things, different sides often respond in different ways.
Why should we shelve things? Don’t our doubts say meaningful things to us? Why should we continue to believe things that seem unintuitive, unlikely, incredible (in the more mundane sense of lacking credibility), or, well, unbelievable? Shouldn’t we follow our noses?
…or is it the case that we never ought to have expected truth to be simple and easy to comprehend? And rather than live lives where our assumptions and understood storylines seem all to work without problem, we were supposed to live with — as many people have also begun discussing — with tension, paradox, uncertainty, and mystery?
…nevertheless, this also produces bad business advice. I think it is one thing to say that the truth may, in fact, not be simple or easy to comprehend. However, this does not necessarily mean we should accept things that seem to us unlikely…just because we are throwing out a sense of intuition for the likeliness of truthful things (…or the truthfulness of likely things..?). But then, how do we decide which unlikelies are keepers, despite their complexity or elusiveness to grasp?