THE BLOG
01/08/2007 05:15 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

# Mathematics Extremists Must Become Tolerant

The religion of mathematics -- and, yes, it IS a religion -- and its hysterical defenders simply have to back off with their tiny-minded name-calling and embrace tolerance.

I don't do much math myself, but, like the majority of Americans and right-thinking people around the world, I support "moderate" mathematics. Evangelical mathematicians force their fringe ideas down our pants, but we will always cling steadfastly to our cafeteria approach to proofs. We're right; they're wrong; point proved.

Here's a story from my childhood which will put all this math nonsense to rest. I got pretty good at playing the intolerant, smelly-shoe mathies' "math game." One day I was handed a quiz by my math-pushing teacher (the mathy-headed liberals had taken over, so there was actually "math class," if you can believe that). I answered his "problems;" he went through the ritual "grading;" and he came up with an A... minus. I'd answered 19 of his 20 questions "right" -- that's 96% success -- yet he'd marked me DOWN for ONE MISTAKE! Like anybody is ever going to need to know what 7 times 7 is. You're never going to buy 7 seven-unit cases of anything. 51 is close enough, as I'm sure you'd agree. He wouldn't even compromise at 48, like any sane person would do. So I told the school board he licked my ear and he got fired. I guess the voices of moderation had the last laugh there!

None of the math ogres can understand the true grandeur of numbers that mean whatever I feel like they mean. In that 7 times 7 example, maybe I was thinking the first 7 was slightly larger than the second 7. Maybe they were both 8, so "7" times "7" would be 62. Feeling good and hopeful about your numbers is way more important than some arbitrary "correct" answer.

Our very culture depends on tolerant mathematics, not fringe lunatics with their slide rules and abacuses and Stonehenges. For example, we all play the lottery (which crazy extremists call "a tax on people who are bad at math"), supporting schools where the little children can learn stuff that will enable them to transcend math. The Illinois Lottery alone brought in \$619 million in 1995, which when you add it up is, like, \$620,994 million! Would you deny each of those schoolchildren their \$620,994 million just because some guy in a math coat says gambling is self-destructive, wasteful nonsense? No; effing; way.

The equal-sign contingent, who all have pimples, enthrones "economists," certain extremist sects of whom believe that if the government spends more than it takes in, deficits increase. That flies in the face of common sense, which says that we could cover the minimum payment on the government's MasterCard with, like, \$50 a month. I proposed this solution to one of those household-name economists (like the Paris Hilton of economists), and she didn't have an answer. So there. (Might have been Paris Hilton, now that I think about it. Weird party.)

And not to be, you know, jaw-droppingly condescending or anything, but what about all the trillions of poor and stupid people, particularly the foreigners? You can't tell me they'll ever be smart enough to grasp the idea that 7 times 7 is... whatever that's supposed to be. They rely on avoiding math to get through their miserable, hopeless lives. The marketplace of ideas simply has to make room at the big Math, Money, Weights and Measures table for those whose traditional, imaginative, or alternative mathematics make them feel accurate. Imposing privileged, Western, oppressive numerical orthodoxy on them would just make them kill more people. You know how you go all hyper-violent when the checkbook balance is a teensy bit off and they charge you twenty bucks for the "error?" Well imagine if your traditions precluded even THINKING ABOUT a provable answer! You'd be beheading people eight days a week!

So ditch your intolerance, you fringe lunatic name-calling jerkwad mathies, and join planet earth! De-fund the intellectual terrorists in their Ivy League math departments who demand that both sides of their equal signs are LITERALLY equal. I'm calling on each of the 300 million Americans -- minus the three dozen math monsters on the other side of the aisle -- to put just \$1 toward my math tolerance program: Inequality Now. My back-of-the-cocktail-napkin calculations say this will raise enough to launch a billion-dollar tolerance project. Maybe two!