People are superstitious: off topic
One of the ways to become isolated is to find amusing things that strike others as annoying or better yet, scary.  So the other day I tossed some rather arbitrary numbers around and found this:
By scripture, David ruled ancient Israel for 40 years; Solomon reigned 40 years.  Saul reigned over Israel for many years; in fact he put the scriptural nation together.  David usurped the throne, and after that the nation fell apart into Judea and Israel.  So it seems fair to say that the ancient lasted 80 years.

But there is already a problem.  According to Newton a reign averages 32 years.  Now a poor man’s statistical analysis would go like this: if you have a phenomenon that recurs with an average value, the standard deviation of any one measurement is the square root of that value.  There is any number of variants, but that’s where you start.  So if Newton is right, and he’s been right on other subjects, the standard deviation of 32 is 5.6.  David’s reign of 50 years is off the mean of 10 by 1.8.  So is Solomon’s.  Together they are off by 3.6 standard deviations.  That means that the chance that they are both actually random fluctuations off the mean is about one in one thousand.  If you take into account the finite human lifespan it only makes matters worse.

Anywhere past 3 standard deviations and you should reject the null hypothesis, in this case that the biblical account is true, and say, “No, it never happened.  At least you ought to look around for very strong supporting evidence for your null hypothesis.  That shouldn’t be hard in this case.  Israel and Judah were the most literate countries of their time.  They invented the alphabet, which makes it easier for the non professional to learn.  There are between 700 and 800 Egyptian hieroglyphics, and they were frequently carved into stone.  They weren’t optimized for handwriting.  An offshoot of the hieroglyphic script was the demotic script, which was easier to write with a pen but contained, if I read my reference aright, even more signs.  I have no idea how many symbols modern shorthand might include.  Text messaging of course uses abbreviations but not, to my knowledge, novel symbols. 

Hebrew has 22 letters, five of which are different at the end of a word, so that’s about 27 letters and they are optimized for pen.  So despite its intimidating appearance and lack of vowels, it’s not that hard to learn.  Lots of the population wrote Hebrew.  Yet for 80 years nobody saw fit to mention the king except in scripture.  Nobody has shown me a pebble from Solomon’s temple. 

But forget all that.  We’ll go with scripture but assume each reign lasted the usual 32 for a total or 64 years.  If the modern country was founded in 1948 and were to last as long as the ancient – and it’s hard to imagine things happen much more slowly now than they did then – then Israel should have fallen in 2012, or three years ago.  That’s too close to call with our crude analysis.  Plus or minus one standard deviation – a most plausible range – goes from 2006 to 2018, any day now. 

So what threat could there be?  Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordon and the Palestinian territories border Israel.  Egypt is dependent on the US, which is not going to permit anything being done to Israel.  Jordon is dominated by the US.  The Palestinian territories are dominated by Israel.  Neither Syria nor Lebanon is much of a threat to anybody.  Israel looks secure for the foreseeable. 

But there’s Iran.  The US does not have diplomatic relations with her.  We broke them off when some students there took some hostages and did not see fit to restore them when the hostages were released.  And that’s a problem.  By international law, if two countries do not have diplomatic relations, they are at war by default.  Suppose you had unlimited resources and found a bit of ocean that did not belong to anybody.  You built an island and declared you were an independent country.  But you would have diplomatic relations with nobody.  You could expect some small warship to drop by one day and simply take you over.  Nobody would lift a finger unless they saw some advantage for themselves in doing so.

In other words, it nauseates me to write it, international law makes it perfectly legal for us to bomb Iran.  We needn’t declare war.  That war already exists.  It would be immoral, would be utterly mad, but it would be legal.

Now let’s say we did.  What would Iran do?  They certainly wouldn’t strike back.  That might annoy us.  Besides it’s a long way.  But they might seek to pressure us by bombing our “ally” Israel.  Israel has their “Iron Dome” missile defense, courtesy of us-all, and a missile would be most unlikely to get through.  But the Iron Dome isn’t all that cheap.  A defensive missile has to be fast and nimble.  Given a limited threat, such as Israel had from Hamas in the Gaza Strip not so long ago, they could – and did – set out their lawn chairs and treat the barrage like a sporting event.  I don’t mean to say that Hamas did differently, but the outcome was very one-sided.  The gross domestic product of Gaza Strip is 6 billion dollars – really – after all they’ve been through.  For Israel it is 290 billion.  It wasn’t hard for Israel to outspend Gaza Strip.  Of course we promptly gave them enough money to replace what they’d used, again if I remember correctly, but they didn’t need that to deal with the immediate threat.  The GDP of Iran is 369 billion, even after the sanctions we’ve put on them and pressed others to put on them.  Iran just might be able to overwhelm the Iron Dome. 

Then they’d say to us, “Okay, we’ll stop.  You just stop bombing us.”  What could we do but accept?  We sure aren’t going to occupy the place; there are 77 million of them compared with 33 million in Iraq, where we fear to tread even though they are at each others throats while Iran is domestically at peace. 

Now any of those countries around Israel could overrun them at whim.  So there is really just one threat to Israel but it is an existential and immediate threat and we are it.  Our politicians already talk about bombing Iran.  It’s the worst thing that could happen to Israel. 

Now I don’t think you get to control the US without understanding that logic. 

So I corner some unsuspecting friend and say, “You know, ancient Israel didn’t last that long, and if modern Israel goes the same way by 2018 …”  My friend sees where the logic is going and hysterically changes the subject.  The thing is that it’s pure superstition.  The only thing modern Israel and ancient Israel share is a name.  Maybe if they had taken the name Judah they could have had three hundred years, which is about as long as any regime lasts, but again that’s pure superstition.  There is no reason to be annoyed by all this, much less worried.

Of course one thing not to forget about superstitions: people can believe in them even without knowing it.

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