DS Syndrome

From: Reed Konsler (rkonsler@hotmail.com)
Date: Tue 20 May 2003 - 04:17:19 GMT

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    Scott Says:
    "If a person dogmatically insists that 2 + 2 = 5, it is a duty of knowledgeable others, not a fault of theirs, to point out that they really = 4, lest the mathematically deficient believe and spread the fallacious meme. That's the way selection works. "

    That's not a duty, it's an option.

    One kind of selection happens when someone assumes that two gallons of gas plus two gallons of gas will let them drive two and a half times as far as two gallons of gas. Until the car stops running unexpextedly, there is no reason to assume you've made an error.

    A more interesting kind of selection is about the numerals (symbols), not numbers. The numeral "5" is just a squiggle that is generally accepted to represnt the number of digits on most human hands while the numeral "4" is accepted as a representation for the number of limbs posesses by most people. We could reverse what the numerals represent, since they are just symbols and have only an arbitrary relationship with the number they signifiy: "1,2,3,5,4,6,7..." Similarly the symbol "=" could represent the string of words in English: "is one less than".

    I have the option of pointing out that "2 + 2 = 4" is the commonly accepted way of representing a certian mathematical definition. If the another person says "I understand what you are using 4 to signify, I just don't agree with you. I think 4 should signifiy this other thing..." then I'm not in the position of being more "mathematically knowledgable". We are discussing about what signifers should represent.

    That is a more interesting kind of cultural selection, and one in which there is no priveliged "high-ground" or correctness.



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