So, I was innocently reading yet another helpful blog post from our church’s Executive Pastor

on the topic of Honoring our Mothers which happily includes set theory. Obviously, as a former math major, I was pleased. Really, is there a topic in the world which couldn’t be made more informative with the use of a Venn diagram?

But then I noticed this:

“The set of all people with no mothers is zero. The set of all people with mothers is everyone. The two sets do not intersect.”

The soundtrack in my brain (which was either a fighter verse song or “In Christ Alone”, I can’t remember) came to screeching halt.

I’m sorry.* The two sets do not what now?*

Obviously, Sam has either mistyped or he has completely neglected to learn/remember basic mathematical axioms.

Pastor Sam, research is half of writing. And even a cursory glance at the appropriate wikipedia page yields this important gem:

*For any set A, the empty set is a subset of A!* <exclamation point added>

So not only does the set of ‘all people with no mothers’ intersect with the set of ‘all people with mothers’ the set of ‘all people with mothers’ intersects with *every set*.

What’s that you say? I’m missing the main point of the post? Some thing about “Honoring your mother is a way to honor the One who gives the command to honor your mother.”

No. The main point of any post with a Venn diagram is SET THEORY*.

Update: Sara (see below) made some cogent comments and as I relook at my post I see that there wasn’t actually anything wrong with Pastor Sam’s statement.

So, Pastor Sam, you didn’t really make an error. My bad!

*Yes, this would be a good place for a swear word in order to show how strongly I feel about this. Except (A) I don’t swear, and (B) an optimal place to start swearing is not an open letter to your executive pastor, quite frankly.

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May 5, 2010 at 2:25 pm

SaraOk, I’m actually frightened to comment because I’m a social worker by training and can’t remember any upper level math whatsoever. However, a poorly known fact is that Venn diagrams are very popular in so-called social science in which the Venn diagram is constantly used to discuss and categorize people, circumstances, etc and to display overlappying and/or disjoint sets, in which there is no overlap between the sets (such as Sam displayed).

I see an example of disjoint sets here on this page. Two circles not overlapping.

http://www.purplemath.com/modules/venndiag3.htm

Seriously, you need to explain this to me if it’s not possible. I thought I was a Venn diagram expert!

May 5, 2010 at 2:36 pm

SaraOk. Is the “intersection” empty (but does exist as an intersection), so the Venn diagram does not “overlap”? The problem is that we can’t say they don’t intersect, even though they don’t overlap?

Who expected these math people to be so picky about their words!

May 5, 2010 at 2:38 pm

SaraAnd by the way, I did find this funny. Hopefully I didn’t push you over the edge with the swearing issue. 🙂

May 5, 2010 at 2:53 pm

jamscoSara, you may be interested in this wiki page:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersection_%28set_theory%29

May 6, 2010 at 9:35 am

AndyI don’t understand ANY of this. It makes my head hurt. Amanda and I were just talking about college level math courses last night in bed. I wasn’t what you might call a “math all-star”.

July 3, 2012 at 10:36 am

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