Wednesday, July 13, 2016

It only takes a little spit to spoil the soup

Barbara Kruger installation, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C.



     Being mathematically inclined is considered a good thing. But I'm not so sure. Spend time on Facebook and a ready grasp of numbers can be the bell clanging dully at train crossings. An annoying warning of limited practical use.
     I was scanning the posts of my Facebook friends, just seeing what is on people's minds for want of a better word. There was a photo of that $100 million Noah's Ark Ken Ham has built near his Creation Museum in Kentucky, along with the observation that the money could have been used to "buy a house and a car for every homeless person in Kentucky."
     The dull clang started up. I sighed and slid over to Google. There are an estimated 30,000 homeless people in Kentucky, a state of 4.4 million. About one in 150 persons. Sounds right.
Divide $100 million by 30,000 and you get $3,333. Not bad, but not enough to buy a house and a car — even in Kentucky.
     I shared that thought on Facebook and turned off the post's notifications, not wanting to be drawn into conversation about how many cars/houses one Ark replica could buy. Even to make the suggestion shows, not only innumeracy but a category error, a fundamental misunderstanding about why the Ark was built. It isn't as if Ham was rooting around for some way to help the people of Kentucky and thought, "Not low-income housing . . . an Ark! That's it! For when the Flood comes!" It's a profit-making tourist attraction — $40 a pop for adults, $28 for the kiddies. To suggest Ham should have done otherwise is like saying Walt Disney could have used the cash spent on "Dumbo" to support actual elephants instead. Yeah, sure, had his goal been helping elephants. But it wasn't. He was making a cartoon.

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16 comments:

  1. The worst thing about that absurd "ark" in Kentucky is that the taxpayers of that backwards state are financially supporting its construction.
    As for Disney, there wasn't any need to help the elephants in 1941, when Dumbo premiered. The Chinese had no money then & weren't causing the ultimate extinction of the world's elephants by their insane need for ivory.

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    1. "...there wasn't any need to help the elephants in 1941, when Dumbo premiered."

      Clark St. -- That was simply a rhetorical comparison to make the intended point.

      SandyK

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    2. Neil: I had no idea that you had a female pseudonym named "SandyK!"

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    3. I will just chuckle at that, Clark ....I'm not speaking for our blog host, but commenting on others' comments is part of the fun of a blog :)

      SandyK

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    4. Trust me here, Clark St., I've met Sandy K., and she's very real. I wouldn't have bothered pointing out your failure to grasp my metaphor.

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  2. I don't know. Maybe it's just me. But my takeaway was FORTY DOLLARS???

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    1. I went to the Creation Museum about eight years ago. It was actually quite lovely. Outdoor gardens, a petting zoo, etc. But it was pricey. I guess a lot of families in the area go as a destination vacation. You could certainly spend a couple of days there easily. I guess it's cheaper than Disneyland.

      I happen to be driving through the area, coming home early from a vacation. I saw the signs and thought what the heck. I would probably never have the chance or inclination again, so I went. Mine was one of the few cars in the parking lot that did not have a McCain Palin bumper sticker on it.

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  3. Well, numerical illiteracy is what gives a Chicago mayor his power. It's an energy field created by all Chicagoans living and dead. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the City of Chicago together. A classic example is the parking meter deal. Most normal municipalities have a nice revenue stream from city owned parking meters. Daley Jr. put his little pinky to the corner of his lip, and sold off 75 years of parking meter revenue for a biiiillion dollars! The city council thought, or what passes for thought in that chamber, what a wonderful idea. Last yea the parking meter revenue was 121 million dollars.

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    1. There is a math formula used in business to price acquisitions called net present benefit of future cash flows. I used it to put a price on the parking meter deal (when it was happening) and found the price to be seven times what Daley got. Then I watched the 50 aldermen go along with it without question. Showed me how ignorant and uneducated the aldermen were. And then I wondered why no one i n the media saod anything about this. Or why no business professor or student said anything about it. Then years later, we find out the value figure was way off.

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  4. The whole Ark project has got to be enlightening for the Creationist folk. No matter how big it might be, even a Dumbo should be struck with the question, "How the hell could Noah fit 2 of everything into that thing?" It might become apparent to them that when the Bible says one thing, it means another more profound, more difficult to understand, more meaningful, thing.

    john

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    1. I told a fundamentalist acquaintance how do you explain penquins? or polar bears? kangaroos? Did Noah go to the poles and Australia? The person stopped talking to me when they couldn't come up with an answer. That might be a good thing.

      Some people might be religious but at least know to take Genesis with a grain of salt. Same for the Torah, Koran, etc.

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  5. Very nicely argued Neil. If the newspaper goes under and you decide not to retire on the earnings from your new book you might earn big bucks teaching a course in logic.

    Tom Evans

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    1. I've always wanted to do that. But I would have to find a university, and they seem to all want to hire professors at $24,000 a year.

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    2. I would work for that, at this time.

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  6. I certainly agree with you about "what about black-on-black crime?" being an annoying red herring. But you lose me with:

    As much as I like Bill Nye, Science Guy, his poking holes in the dinosaurs-and-man Bible-based BS that Ham’s museum peddles is like Nye pointing out that the mass-to-surface ratio between an elephant and its ears means that Dumbo could never really fly. Thanks professor.

    No one over the age of about six believes that Dumbo could fly. On the other hand, too many adults--who vote and influence school curricula--believe the dinosaurs-and-man BS. That's why debunking it is more important than discussing the aerodynamics of elephants.

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  7. I'm inclined to agree that Bill Nye was on solid gground. That people are being encouraged to believe in fairy tales easily discredited by facts is not illegal, but taking the promoters of the scam to task publicly seems a worthy enterprise, particularly since the project is being afforded public subsidies in one of the poorest states in the nation. One is always right,as William James put the matter, in using any stigma to beat a dogma.

    Tom Evans

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