The Institute For Living

Tag: numbers


The Story of Numbers

by on Feb.04, 2011, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics, Spirituality

We all think of numbers as the basis of truth. Often, in arguments about big issues one side will say, “Well, show me the numbers.” In fact, one of the biggest splits in public policy are those areas that are supported by numbers vs. those areas that are only buttressed by feelings.

The “soft” sciences — the social sciences — and religion are often cast aside because they cannot be supported with rigor or mathematical precision. We all know that 2+2=4. It always does and always will. There is no room for judgment, feelings or opinion. It’s just the facts, thank you very much!

In fact, corporations and large institutions have moved toward the appearance of great fairness and equity by proclaiming “data-driven decision making” as their mantra.  Of course, there’s an old joke that says, “my mind’s made up; don’t confuse me with the facts.” Perhaps that joke betrays the story behind the story.

There’s another old saying, “Statistics don’t lie, but men lie with statistics.” In fact, statistics is all about storytelling. It is grounded in the algorithm: “Tell me what I want to hear; not what I need to hear.”

The reality of the story of numbers is that it is a story of power. The story is written by those with power and told by those without the power.  But under whose authority are the numbers generated? Hebrews 4:12, 13 suggests that someone knows the real numbers.

Columnist Eugene Robinson reportedly said, “Bargains with the devil never end well.” Perhaps he only told a part of the story. Perhaps the difference in power and authority is that power tells a story with numbers, while authority lets the numbers tell the story. According to Jeremiah 8, the arbiter of the universe grades with justice and equity for all.

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