|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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