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How probable "improbable" can be

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  • How probable "improbable" can be

    Certain posts on these forums have pushed the bound of believability. While a healthy dose of skepticism when reading them is warranted, there is precious little evidence to disprove them. Which brings up a point, how probable is it that something improbable can happen? Or another way of putting it is how small is 1%?

    To those with limited backgrounds and limited experience, "They did WHAT?!?" can easily come to mind, and justifiably so. Some things are so outlandish that if it hasn't happened to you or someone you know, the odds of you believing it when you hear about it are small.

    That said, there 300 million people in the USA. Most would agree that 1% is a small percentage. 1% of 300 million is 3 million. Hence a lifestyle choice can have a significant number of adherents and still face overwhelming opposition. One would think that 1% of 1% would be infinitessimal. Well, that proportion of the US population is still 30,000. The odds of it happening in your neighborhood and hearing about it are small. The odds that it's happening somewhere in the USA are fairly likely, and it will make headlines if it goes beyond the participants. That's why the irresponsible side of most risky behaviours is widely publicized, even though most drinkers, gun owners, and the sexually open are responsible people.

    So when reading about something borderline unbelievable, whether about juvenile hijinks or oppressive governments, it just might be true.

    Doug H.

  • #2
    Certain posts on these forums have pushed the bound of believability. While a healthy dose of skepticism when reading them is warranted, there is precious little evidence to disprove them. Which brings up a point, how probable is it that something improbable can happen? Or another way of putting it is how small is 1%?

    To those with limited backgrounds and limited experience, "They did WHAT?!?" can easily come to mind, and justifiably so. Some things are so outlandish that if it hasn't happened to you or someone you know, the odds of you believing it when you hear about it are small.

    That said, there 300 million people in the USA. Most would agree that 1% is a small percentage. 1% of 300 million is 3 million. Hence a lifestyle choice can have a significant number of adherents and still face overwhelming opposition. One would think that 1% of 1% would be infinitessimal. Well, that proportion of the US population is still 30,000. The odds of it happening in your neighborhood and hearing about it are small. The odds that it's happening somewhere in the USA are fairly likely, and it will make headlines if it goes beyond the participants. That's why the irresponsible side of most risky behaviours is widely publicized, even though most drinkers, gun owners, and the sexually open are responsible people.

    So when reading about something borderline unbelievable, whether about juvenile hijinks or oppressive governments, it just might be true.

    Doug H.

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