Monday, June 28, 2010

Math, Logic, and Reality

I'm not the guy to be teaching anybody math, but there is a simple if/then statement that I understand:

If A is > than B and B is > than C, then A is > than C.

You can insert positive numbers of your choice and it works that way every time.

Logic also does this using syllogisms: All crows are black; Joe is a crow; therefore, Joe is black. That's logical. (But be careful -- a thing might well be logical but untrue. In this instance there are albino crows which are white, thus the conclusion is false because the initial statement is false. For it to be both logical and true, both parts of the construction must be true.)


One sometimes makes leaps based on math and logic that don't apply, even though at first look, they seem to do so.

You see this in everything from sporting events to the weather.

If the Bulls always beat the Wolves, and the Wolves always beat the Nets, then the Bulls will always beat the Nets.

They might or might not, but the statement isn't mathematically, nor logically correct. Numerically-larger does not equate to "better," and as everybody who has followed any kind of sport knows, on a given day, the worst team in the league can stomp the best team, much to the delight of some high-risk gamblers who like long odds.

Because, sometimes the smart money is wrong.

It is not logical, as Spock would note, that if I step into a ring and always defeat John, and John always defeats Ted, that I can always defeat Ted; and yet, on some level, I tend to believe that. This is based on experience -- knowing what I know, and what John knows, I interpolate and extrapolate and come to that conclusion.

This lack of logic is the reason that so many people don't pick up and haul ass when the hurricane stomps ashore. I'm am guilty of that one myself: "Well, this house has been here for a hundred years. I personally rode out at least three major storms in it, and it didn't get knocked over, so I'm going with the notion that the one coming won't do it, either."

Nothing logical about that notion at all.

It doesn't always follow that because something has not happened before that it won't happen now. Because nobody ever ran that stop sign and broadsided your car before doesn't mean it won't happen next time you go through the intersection. (Then again, chances of the sun coming up in the west tomorrow are exceedingly small, so sometimes it does follow ...)

1 comment:

Michael Bourgon said...

Quoth the late great Richard Jeni: "It's called syllogistic reasoning, and you get high and proof stuff all day! Love is God. God is blind. Therefore.... Ray Charles is God."