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Gurus, Dictators and Saints

Randomness has been associated closely with the notion of free will in a number of ways. If a person has free will (as defined by incompatibilists), then his actions will be unpredictable by other people and will contain an element of irreducible indeterminacy. By religious or supernatural conceptions of incompatibilist free will, such human actions may be the only source of randomness in the universe. (According to the naturalistic conception, by contrast, incompatibilist free will arises from pre-existing indeterminacy in physical laws and is not necessarily a unique feature of humans. According to the compatibilist conception, there is no randomness and humans are merely too complex to be easily predicted).

Some theologians have attempted to resolve the apparent contradiction between an omniscient deity, or a first cause, and free will using randomness. Discordians have a strong belief in randomness and unpredictability. Buddhist philosophy states that any event is the result of previous events (karma) and as such there is no such thing as a random event nor a 'first' event.

Martin Luther, the forefather of Protestantism, believed that there was nothing random based on his understanding of the Bible. As an outcome of his understanding of randomness he strongly felt that free will was limited to low level decision making by humans. Therefore, when someone sins against another, decision making is only limited to how one responds preferably through forgiveness and loving actions. He believed based on Biblical scripture that humans cannot will themselves, faith, salvation, sanctification, or other gifts from God. Additionally, the best people could do according to his understanding was not sin but they fall short and free will cannot achieve this objective. Thus, in his view absolute free will and unbounded randomness are severely limited to the point that behaviors may even be patterned or ordered and not random. This is a point emphasized by the field of behavioral psychology.

These notions and more in Christianity often lend to a highly deterministic worldview and that the concept of random events is not possible. Especially, if purpose is part of this universe then randomness, by definition, is not possible. This is also a foundation for Intelligent Design which is counter to Evolution that remarks the natural emerges based on random selection.

Donald Knuth, a Stanford computer scientist and Christian commentator, remarks that he finds pseudo-random numbers useful and applies them with purpose. He then extends this thought to God who may use randomness with purpose to allow free will to certain degrees. Knuth believes that God is interested in peoples decisions and limited free will allows a certain degree of decision making. Knuth, based on his understanding of quantum computing and entanglement, comments that God exerts dynamic control over the world without violating any laws of physics suggesting that what appears to be random to humans may not, in fact, be so random