“Understanding the distinctions between probability and certainty is one of the keys to developing a sociological imagination (and becoming an educated citizen, for that matter). One of the fascinating aspects of social science is using research tools to test assumptions through collected data—typically through multiple studies in a variety of settings.”
This insightful post by Karen Sternheimer raises two critical points.
First, aside from death and taxes, there’s no such thing as a sure thing. Everything we do is based in probable outcomes. In the game of life, we are all gamblers.
But that’s as it should be. The difference between a gambler and an investor is largely semantic. We take a chance every time we cross the street, and success in any enterprise depends on weighing risk against reward, assessing the odds of winning against the odds of losing, calculating how much might be won and how much might be lost.
“Thinking about probabilities, rather than certainties, leads us to ask questions that help us understand sociological phenomena in much more depth than assumptions do.”
The problem is that most of us don’t want to do the hard work of making sure our facts are in order and our reasoning is sound. We’d rather listen to our gut, which is notoriously unreliable; after all, it’s a lot easier to take confidence in feelings and assumptions, than to deal with uncertainty.
The second point is the likelihood of children learning from their parents’ examples. If we gamble, chances are our children will, too. If we gamble recklessly, we are setting them up for disaster. But if we never take risks, our children may grow up timid and unaccomplished.
However, if we play the odds wisely, not waiting for the sure thing that will never come but neither betting the farm on long-shots… if we do our due diligence to make cautious bets when the probabilities are in our favor and the potential losses are manageable, then odds are our children will learn to be responsible gamblers themselves and will have the best chance for success in life that we can pass on to them.