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Americans over-democratic?

I think Americans get over-excited about their right to vote on things.  This spirit of democracy floats around so strongly that sometimes it's quite scary.  (Interestingly enough, most people don't even know definitions well enough to realize that America is not a democracy, but that's not the point of this post.)

So, I just came across one of the many polls on Facebook concerning mathematics.  These always make me laugh because it seems as though people believe that the truth can actually be voted on.  So, if enough people vote that 1+1=3, then it can be true.  I think part of this is that people don't like math, part is that they don't understand it, and part is because they want it to be easier than it really is.

So, here was the question on the poll "5 + 5 + 5 - 5 + 5 + 5 - 5 + 5 x 0 = ?".  This is a very simple question.  Anyone with a third-grade education should be able to answer properly.  The order of operations states that multiplication is to be carried out prior to addition/subtraction.  Therefore, the correct answer 15.  What do the poll results show?  Here is a list of the answers given, together with the total number who have (thus far) responded with that answer.

AnswerNumber of votes
So, there were a total of 117,524 that have answered so far and less than 40% were able to answer correctly. Now, this is a simple arithmetic question. In fact, if one were to type this into just about any calculator, the calculator would yield the correct answer of 15. The one exception is the kind of calculators which act like adding machines, in which case, if the buttons were pressed in the order that appear in the expression, the answer would be 0 because it would actually be calculating (5+5+5-5+5+5-5+5)x0, which is very different from the expression given in the poll question.

As you might guess, to a math instructor this type of mathematical incompetence running so rampant in society is actually quite infuriating. It wouldn't bother me if it was a calculus question and no one could get it right, but when less than 2 fifths of the people who answer know the right answer to a simple arithmetic question, I find it difficult not to completely lose all faith in society. (As an aside, I wouldn't be surprised if I found a significant portion of those who answered the question didn't know what 2 fifths meant.)

But, the fact that people can't do math isn't the real issue here. The issue is that people think that they can just vote on what the truth should be. The correct answer is 15, even though a majority of people (over 55%) voted for 0. 0 is incorrect, and 55% of people voting that that should be the answer does not change the fact that it is incorrect. Truth is truth and can't be changed by ignorant people.

If enough people say that god exists, then he exists.  If people vote to say that gay marriage is immoral, then it is immoral.  If the enslavement of an entire race of people is voted into legality, then it is acceptable--and not only acceptable, but permissibile by the imaginary god that the people have invented. Call me crazy, call me whatever you like, but I think that truth is absolute and cannot be changed by democracy.

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