All your math are belong to Jesus


I don’t know what to make of “this”:http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/weblog/327.html. Read the entry and the links.

This professor took time out of his life to look up _Bible_ verses that only marginally mention or relate to different mathematical concepts. Let’s break one of these down. In relation to the concept of probability (which he oversimplifies, by the way), our good professor says:

bq. God is able to beat the odds, however. He proved to Gideon that this is the case by systematically eliminating a large portion of his fighting men, selecting only 300 out of 32,000 to fight the Midianites. Jesus also used probabilities to teach his disciples. He says in Matthew 19:24 that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” [Note: some Biblical scholars take the eye of the needle to be a small but busy gate into the city of Jerusalem.] So, the probability of salvation for a rich man is given as very small. He comforts his disciples in verse 26 of the same chapter by letting them know that God is more powerful than probabilities—“with God all things are possible.”

Let’s think about this. If something has a non-zero probability, then *it can happen*. If something has a 1/1000000 probability, then you can expect that it will happen one in a million times. If you are playing hands of poker, then you may never see the event in your life because playing a million hands takes a long time. However, if we are talking about conditions that occur a million times per second (maybe some quantum phenomenon you are studying), then you can expect to see the event once per second. Another example: if you are in the top 2.5% of the population in intelligence in this country, then there are about 7.5 million people smarter than you.

In advanced probability courses, you learn that events that have a probability of zero might still happen. But we won’t go into that for now.

I hope that I don’t have to work with a statistician whose only training comes from Prof. Sharon K. Robbert, or it’s going to be a very long day.

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