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The Challenge of Chance

A Multidisciplinary Approach from Science and the Humanities

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  • © 2016

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  • Illuminates the diverse roles of, and attitudes to chance over the full spectrum of scholarly disciplines
  • Asks the fundamental question of when and whether chance is an unavoidable part of nature as opposed to a reflection of our ignorance
  • Will help researchers in many fields to recognize and deal with the effects of chance and randomness in their domain
  • Includes supplementary material:

Part of the book series: The Frontiers Collection (FRONTCOLL)

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About this book

This book presents a multidisciplinary perspective on chance, with contributions from distinguished researchers in the areas of biology, cognitive neuroscience, economics, genetics, general history, law, linguistics, logic, mathematical physics, statistics, theology and philosophy. The individual chapters are bound together by a general introduction followed by an opening chapter that surveys 2500 years of linguistic, philosophical, and scientific reflections on chance, coincidence, fortune, randomness, luck and related concepts.

A main conclusion that can be drawn is that, even after all this time, we still cannot be sure whether chance is a truly fundamental and irreducible phenomenon, in that certain events are simply uncaused and could have been otherwise, or whether it is always simply a reflection of our ignorance. Other challenges that emerge from this book include a better understanding of the contextuality and perspectival character of chance (including its scale-dependence), and the curious fact that, throughout history (including contemporary science), chance has been used both as an explanation and as a hallmark of the absence of explanation. As such, this book challenges the reader to think about chance in a new way and to come to grips with this endlessly fascinating phenomenon.

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Table of contents (14 chapters)


“This collection discusses the nature of chance, randomness, accident, and related concepts from a variety of scientific and humanistic perspectives. … Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above; researchers and faculty.” (J. D. Martin, Choice, Vol. 54 (5), January, 2017)

Editors and Affiliations

  • Faculty of Science, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

    Klaas Landsman

  • Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies, Radboud Universiteit, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

    Ellen van Wolde

About the editors

Klaas Landsman (1963) obtained his PhD in Theoretical High-Energy Physics from the University of Amsterdam in 1989 and was a research fellow at the University of Cambridge from 1989-1997. He has been a Full Professor of Mathematical Physics since 2001, currently holding this chair at Radboud University.

Ellen van Wolde (1954) studied in Nijmegen, Rome and Bologna. She was Full Professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Tilburg (1992-2008), and since 2009 she has held the chair of Textual Sources of Judaism and Christianity at Radboud University. She is a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), and is a member of its Executive Board.

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