Christians: Instead of Swallowing – Chew First | Tea with a Pirate

My dear pirate! Good morning, my friend! (as my mid-east colleagues might say) Again with the theme changes! (as my Jewish friends might say) As you no doubt realise by now, I have little interest in politics, except for the case of certain matters of principal, which are far more abstract (hence far more important–at least to me) than those about which most people wish to engage their thoughts.

I am a tyrant in my own house, however. But only on one point. When I arrive home, the (ever depressing and bad) news goes off. To the credit of all, by the way, they have gotten very adept with the pause button such that I never have to listen to even a second of the awful stuff. Everything is DVRed these days in any case, and therefore can be watched when I am not around or in 5 to 10 minutes once I don my headphones and am happily working away listening to my custom made rainstorm (courtesy of Natura) And interesting it was, that once such allowances had to be made for thishere one-issue tyrant, that the watching of news in general, fell more out of favour than I at first thought it would.

So, for this reason, I am not able to contribute much to such discussions as the above. I am just not a political wonk. Fairly the opposite, in truth. I am, however a mathematician. And while I won’t bore you with any terms or concepts thereof, I should like to point out something regarding the graph above.

Take for example the twin statements:

Americans killed by Canadian rockets. and
Canadians, killed by US police action.

You might, by now, almost intuitively be aware that the above graph, or one very similar could be easily drawn to represent those two statements. And we, all of us, are generally aware that the number of Canadian rockets fired upon the northern part of the US, in any time frame, is a number which, at least to the statistical branch of mathematics, would be close enough to zero that zero would do nicely there in most calculations.

Now, if Canadians were firing several such rockets per day, perhaps, or even per week, it would be fairly alarming, I’m sure, but these unguided rockets, similar to those being lobed into Israel, would not kill many people. Even less, perhaps, than in Israel, because the population centres in the US are so very sparse. Even our biggest cities, with a few notable exceptions, are not so dense as older European style cities.

Now, I regret happening upon this post in particular, because this is exactly the kind of news I cannot stand; however a few very reluctant clicks on google tell me the “rocket count” in Israel is just short of 2000 rockets for the year, which is between 5 and 6 per day. Now I’ll be up front statistically here as well. Because such a number is also deceptive. I’m sure there are good days, wherein only 1 or 2 rockets fall–or perhaps even none. Those are the kind of days we all would like in our own towns and cities, I am sure. Though, unfortunately, that also means that there are some days wherein perhaps 10 rockets fall from the sky, or perhaps occasionally, many more.

On a side note, Israel is quite a rather small country, I am not an expert in the field of acoustics–it is a very exacting and specialised discipline, however it strikes me that someone centrally located within the area might just be able to hear every rocket hit. I wonder how that might have affected me had I been a child there. I do deplore loud noises, even as an adult, which is why I wear headphones with rainstorm sounds playing out of them when I work.

In any case, even if the Canadian rocket count were somewhere in the vicinity of 5 or 6 per day as in Israel, rather than the 0 per day most of us would generally accept it to be, we would see very little change on the graph, although, naturally the other line on the graph might go up a bit more. Still, I think some of us here would take pause. “Rockets?” we would ask, “From Canada?” “Yes sir; rockets from Canada,” I might answer. Then the two of us would be aware–regardless of the issues involved that 5 or 6 rockets were being launched at us from Canada. Per day. This would make me happy I live (as I do) quite far from the Canadian border.

But regardless of any of that, the above graph–the similar one regarding Canada, I mean–wouldn’t “say it all,” as someone up above me so claimed. Would it? No graph ever can. Even when we try to construct it to be as nonobfuscatory as possible.

Some of you reading this will accuse me of having some kind of bias in all of this. I assure you I do not. I have no problem or issue in telling all concerned that I do not understand the dynamics involved in such a conflict. I am only marginally acquainted with its history. However… Bayes Theorem tells the mathematician in me that the reason I might be perceived to have a bias is because I am countering the obvious bias of the above. I do not think it was posted here to be deceptive. I do however suspect that it may have been created by someone with a particular bias in order that it might innocently, and with the best possible intentions be posted about on people’s sites. Neither do I consider Our Dear Pirate to have such an intent. I have always had the strong sense that he is far too open and honest in “calling ‘em like he sees ‘em,” so to speak, for that to be the case. I do mean that most emphatically. I would truly be dismayed if he or anyone else here thought otherwise.

As an atheist, I do find myself in a peculiar position in all this. I find myself wishing more people would believe in God rather than any old thing they hear, and in any old order in which they happen to hear it. There is a part of ones brain that specialises in believing in things for which there is no proof–this, by the way would be true whether there were some kind of deity or other watching the whole show down here, or not. I think, sometimes it would be best if it were most generally occupied by that for which it is clearly optimised. Or, at the very least, that people would take greater care to fill it with a belief that will do no harm if it turns out to be incorrect. Because another function of this part of the brain is that it is incredibly resistant to evidence, or lack of it. I have to ask myself every day–I am not exaggerating here, I truly am not–if there is anything in my belief in individual men and their ability to solve all the riddles of the human condition and the universe at large; something I believe without question; something with which I choose to fill that part of my brain… I have to ask myself is there anything about that belief that would be harmful to myself or my loved ones, or the rest of the world, if it were false. Because I cannot be dissuaded from this belief no matter what evidence is presented to me. That is the way that part of our brain works. Just as my most brilliant friend believes in God and cannot be dissuaded. And he is a finer mathematician then am I–and i only work on certain types of problems in the course of my work, and a few others, just for fun.
Curiously, most mathematicians are deeply religious, and I wonder if occupying that part of their brains (which is so useful for believing in that which cannot be proved and sticking to that belief) with that for which it is optimised results in a better application of logic elsewhere in ones life and work. I have long suspected this. Although I have no proof.

via Christians: Instead of Swallowing – Look First | Tea with a Pirate.