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Stargate, science

Arbitrary Numerical Subjectiveness

Posted on 2011.12.20 at 08:55
Current Location: 67114

We're watching Stargate: Atlantis (again) and we got to the part where the head of security turns into a bug. Due to this complication the leader of the expedition tentatively assigns a visiting colonel that position to oversee day-to-day security in the head's absence. Later in the show, she approaches him, angry that he made some rather substantial changes - not what she had in mind when she asked that he fill those shoes. "You could've at least waited a day," she said. I was surprised! I thought she was going to say a week. And that got me thinking about all the other times I've heard such arbitrary numbers being pulled out of orifices.

Had the colonel decided to play it safe and wait until the next day, would someone else then have responded a week would have been more acceptable? And had he waited that week on the outside chance he thought he would be judged, would someone have then suggested a month? Who ever knows what someone is going to think! Too many people out there running around with important opinions, and nothing to base them on.

We've all heard the gossip surrounding the recently remarried due to bereavement or divorce, and it seems everyone has a good idea of what is an acceptable amount of time passed - thing is, not everyone agrees on that timeline. What then? All of a sudden you're trying to please everyone - an impossible task. Some cultures wait a seemingly inordinate amount of time for grief. Scheduled grief? We're not all the same. And yet no matter what you do, someone is going to be offended. So what then do you do?

And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes: Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty's sake. And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake. And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake. And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.

If even God himself is subject to some dude's ever-changing arbitrary numerical subjectiveness (Fifty righteous? Really? From whereth did Abraham pulleth that number?) then I think there's a lesson here. Rather than do what may be best for ourselves in making decisions which others could interpret as their business, we should absolutely get a clear definition. If someone - anyone - makes a statement of numerical arbitrariness, we should be like Abraham, and start whittling it down. Get down to brass tacks to find out just exactly why these fictitious numbers are so important to the individual.

For a really good time, see if the suggestion that someone else may find a different number more or less acceptable is accepted or considered. Pretty soon, they'll either laugh at their own silliness (not been my experience) or...you know, not.

I was sitting at my desk at work several years ago and the phone rang. I lifted the receiver to my ear and said what I always say, "This is Eric." I was met with silence, so I hung up (as an aside, I'm NOT one of those people who repeats over and over into the phone, "Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello?"). The phone rang again. Again, I lifted it to my ear and said, "This is Eric." I was again met with silence, and yes, I hung up. The phone rang a third time. I lifted the receiver a third time. "This is Eric." It was my boss, and he was FURIOUS! "Why did you keep hanging up on me? I hadn't switched over to my headset and didn't think about it before you hung up on me!"

"Of course. In the future when I answer the phone and no one is on the line, how long would you like me to wait before I disengage?"

"Oh nevermind!" He nearly shouted, having seen the error of his line of thinking.

I've almost always had exceptional bosses.


michelle1963 at 2011-12-20 15:43 (UTC) (Link)
I saw this arbitrary number judgment in action when I worked at a hospital in a small town (12,000 people). The ER doctor's wife was killed in a car accident. He had three young children. He remarried. I do not recall the exact time frame between his wife's death and the new marriage, (somewhere in the 3-6 month range, IIRC). In any case it must have violated some arbitrary number rule, because it raised eyebrows and was the subject of gossip. The prevailing theory was that he and his new wife must have been having an affair before his wife died. All of that based on a number.

While I suppose that this was a possibility, I had a different view. The doctor worked full time, had three small children, and really needed someone to be there for them as he could not given his erratic hours. He was active in his church, which no doubt had already provided him many acquaintances ~ acquaintances that would be willing to step in and help in the wake of such a tragedy; an acquaintance that could blossom into love under such emotional circumstances.

Edited at 2011-12-20 03:44 pm (UTC)
ehowton at 2011-12-20 23:18 (UTC) (Link)
Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
pcofwildthings at 2011-12-21 00:19 (UTC) (Link)
Interesting observations. My great-great-grandpa married 4 times, with not much time in between. His dearly departed spouses always left him with young children at home, so we figure it was a matter of practicality. We'll never really know. Maybe he was a skirt chaser, or quite a catch.

Wouldn't God, being omniscient, know Abraham was going to whittle him down on the number? Therefore, did he not know whether or not there would be any righteous among the Sodomites, and also know what an arbitrary lot he had created? Always negotiating...which is why lawyers were invented.

Why 10 commandments? Do you think God give Jesus the heads up, before he sent him about distilling them to one all encompassing, "Love one another"? "Hey Son, you know those 10 commandments I gave them? For Yourssakes, they can't seem to keep them straight. Anyway, you think you could just give them the Cliff's notes, maybe condense it down to one? Thanks, I owe you."
michelle1963 at 2011-12-21 00:36 (UTC) (Link)
I LOVE it ~ the Cliff notes. *snicker*
pcofwildthings at 2011-12-21 02:43 (UTC) (Link)
That explains it! :D
michelle1963 at 2011-12-21 18:11 (UTC) (Link)
I remember this!
codekitten at 2011-12-24 02:54 (UTC) (Link)
what a great point! "fuck 'em" is easier said than done...but that would be my intended position if i ever encountered this situation.

For a really good time, see if the suggestion that someone else may find a different number more or less acceptable is accepted or considered.

hahaha! this is definitely the way to go! thanks for mapping out my road plan if i ever needed it...
ehowton at 2011-12-24 03:23 (UTC) (Link)
YOU KNOW IT WILL! This seems to be....I dunno, universal amongst those who pick-a-little; talk-a-little, pick-a-little; talk-a-little, pick-pick-pick, talk-talk-talk!
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