Monday, March 08, 2010

Math is Magic... Really

You didn't know this? All you have to do is watch read/watch the news to figure it out.

For example, did you know that Avatar is the "highest grossing film of all time"? Really - of course, that means you don't take inflation into account... or currency fluctuation... or the premium charge that most theaters levy for watching films in 3-D and/or IMAX. Nah, math is magic, remember? If you can add up the numbers, it's A-OK.

Or another example, this one a bit more serious. Did you know that the current war in Iraq (which, on March 20th of this year, will have lasted 7 years) is longer than World War Two? Granted, that depends on when you count WW2 as starting.

See, if you date it by American involvement, it's not quite 3 years & 9 months from the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 to the surrender of Japan in August 1945. The traditional start of the war, however, is September 1, 1939, with the Nazi invasion of Poland (which makes the war almost 6 years long)... and I would suggest that you could make a case for the starting date being the Japanese invasion of Manchuria (September 13, 1931) which means the war lasted 14 years.

But what really cheesed me off about NBC's comparison of the Iraq War last week was the length comparison to WWII followed by a list of Americans killed & wounded in Iraq. In nearly 7 years of fighting & occupation,
4380 American soldiers have been killed and approximately 30,000 troops have been wounded. Those are tough numbers - no one wants to see that kind of grief & pain visited on families & friends.

However, NBC failed to provide context to those numbers... particularly since they had JUST made the length comparison to the Second World War. Over
400,000 US soldiers were killed during our involvement in WWII. 670,000 plus were wounded. In fact, over 19,000 US troops were killed during the Battle of the Bulge, which lasted just over 6 weeks.

Look, I'm not arguing for or against the Iraq War... or the success of a 3D movie, for that matter. What drives me crazy is that by refusing to set our pronouncements in historical context, we make decisions based on our visceral reaction rather than on good sense... and that is exacerbated when we imply false comparisons of data.

OK, I'll climb down off my soapbox & start working on my sermon for this week now...


SusanRoz said...

Actually, it sounds like you might have a good start if you can tie that all in to something more appropriate for a sermon.

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

I've written about the whole "doomed to repeat it" thing & how it applies to faith some time back... (though I can't find the link right now) and I've even posted about the "when did WW2 start?" debate before -

Of course, I'm preaching about spiritual gifts on Sunday, so this doesn't exactly fit. :-)