Saturday, October 19, 2013

One Equals Zero

To my son Tommy,

During this latest debacle in our legislative branch of government, all sides had plenty of "facts" to point at in support of their positions.  The problem is these facts were at best biased opinionated facts and at worse bold faced lies that they were parading out as fact.  From what I can tell, people have real difficulty distinguishing between fact and fiction.  I blame the entertainment media that is masquerading as news outlets.  We have lost our subjective hard hitting investigative reporters that people can actually trust in exchange for loud mouth shock jocks who bring in better ratings or more twitter followers whether they tell the truth or not.  I am not sure what is worse, a bought Congress or a bought news media.  Perhaps the existence of the latter allows the former to exist.  

It thus falls on the average Joe to figure out the truth for himself.  You would think telling the difference between fact and opinion is pretty easy, but I have seen some very smart people fall into this trap.  They hear a persuasive opinion filled with tons of biased facts and a pseudo logical transgression and get caught up in the emotion rather than relying on their own understanding and intelligence.  Before you disparage anyone for this error, let me give you an example of how this can happen with one of the most verifiable fields of knowledge, mathematics.  Here is a "proof" much the same that many news media outlets give you "facts"
We start with x = y where y is not zero. 
Then multiply both sides by x to get x2 = xy. 
Subtract the same thing (y2)from both sides to get x2 - y2 = xy - y2
Then dividing by (x-y), we obtain x + y = y. 
Since x = y, we substitute y for every x and see that 2 y = y. 
We now divide both sides by y and thus 2 = 1, since we started with y nonzero. 
Subtracting 1 from both sides, we "prove" 1 = 0.
Seems pretty logical right and a good mathematical proof is an axiom.  However this is not a good mathematical proof.  It has a big hidden flaw when you divide by (x-y) which since x = y means (x - y) = 0 and, according to the rules of math, you can't divide by zero.

That is how these opinion people on TV (I refuse to call them news reporters) pass off fiction as fact.  They throw in a flaw and make it sound like it is perfectly acceptable and hope you don't question or catch it. Politicians do the same.  So do confidence men and other such scam artists.  Each are in search of the same ultimate goal which is money.  The TV "news" guy gets more money because he can get better ratings because his channel can sell more toothpaste.  The politician gets more money from "supporters" with "donations" to their campaigns and super pacts.  At least confidence men will admit what they are after, sadly making them the most honest in the bunch?  It is a difficult world you are living in my son filled with pitfalls and traps masquerading as fact and logic and truth.  One might not equal zero in math, but one bought news media system equals zero accountability for our government and that is something that we should strive to change my son.


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