The Cost of Innumeracy

4 12 2011

“The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.” (Josef Stalin)

If you started a business the day Jesus was born and managed it so poorly that it lost $1,000,000.00 a day up until the present day, you would have just over 2 trillion dollars of loss (that’s 2,000,000,000,000).  That is 1/7 of our national debt, which is today over 15 trillion dollars.  (Thanks to Chuck Missler for the analogy.)

Innumeracy is to mathematics what illiteracy is to reading.  One of the most important humanitarian tasks in our world is reducing the illiteracy rate.  Lack of knowledge, through inability to read, paralyzes people.

But the same holds true for innumeracy.  It does not take a degree in applied math to understand that we as nation are in really deep doo-doo on Wall Street and on Main Street.  Why? Because we tend to toss about the phrases “millions, billions and trillions” as if they are all the same quantity—i.e. a lot.

But they are not.  Albert Einstein once said that if he went to heaven and had a housemate with a low IQ, say about 80, he’d teach him about compound interest–not the theory of relativity.

I was stunned years ago when I got a hold of John Allen Paulos’ fascinating book Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences.  Read it.  You’ll not only get a wakeup call about things like the national debt but you will find out why it hurts us when we don’t “do the math” for our life’s decisions, our political future and our beliefs.  You can also use its information and statistics for beneficial things. I used it to help cure my fear of flying, by far the safest way to travel.

Some numbers:

525,600           (number of minutes in a year)

52,000,000      (roughly the number of abortions performed in America since 1973)

6,000,000        (number of Jews who perished in the Holocaust)

1,250,000        (roughly the number of consonants in the Hebrew bible)

312,723,828    (US population today)

“So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

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2 responses

20 01 2012
PIPA Love SOPA | christopher hopper

[…] friend Christian Fahey pointed out an incredible statistic on his blog recently: If you started a business the day Jesus […]

20 01 2012
Christian Fahey

Thanks Christopher!!

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