Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Thinking about causality in Star Trek

So I was reading a short interview online with the writers of the new Star Trek movie, and I came across an interchange about coincidences:
Kurtzman: One of the things we're playing to is the theme of destiny ... the idea that it wasn't actually random chance. It seems like random chance if you run into Spock in that cave, but it wasn't. And in some way, the time stream is trying to mend itself.

MTV: And how about Scotty? Is it a coincidence that he happens to be on that moon as well?

Kurtzman: It goes back to the idea that the time stream is trying to mend itself. These characters are essentially destined to find each other in one way or another — and that fate is literally bringing them together.

Where exactly do we get this idea that the "time stream" desires to "mend itself"? It's the modern version of Aristotle's first cause. One of the writers even says that quantum mechanics give a mathematical basis for destiny. I'm not sure how this works, since quantum mechanics only demonstrate a mathematical basis for uncertainty and perhaps for free will. This isn't the same as destiny, quite the opposite.

I've been thinking how astonishingly easily we accommodate the unpredictability of the individual event with the predictability of aggregate events. We can even believe that single events are inherently unpredictable even if the aggregate is entirely predictable. This is a conceptually weird position.

“'Star Trek' Writers Answer Five Burning Questions - News Story | Music, Celebrity, Artist News | MTV News.” 13 May 2009 <http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1611247/20090512/story.jhtml>.