Knowledge and Wisdom, Fact and Truth

I have been really enjoying reading James Gleick’s THE INFORMATION: A HISTORY, A THEORY, A FLOOD.    I’ll comment more in a future blog, I’m sure.  It completely captivated me from the git-go by mentioning Claude Shannon’s 1948 monograph “A Mathematical Theory of Communication.”  (see my blog From Incarnation to Encryption which touches upon where I learned about this book)

Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef

The very notion of there being a mathematical theory of communication or information staggers the mind.  It is a collaboration between science, the arts and creativity which is not naturally intuited – it is human genius.    It is something that revolutionized the modern world and made this blog possible by being the theory that led to the creation of the technology needed.

More about all that on a later date.

One quote that I read that amused me (there are many in the book) because it combines different fields of knowledge and experience comes under the rubric of “Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit.  Wisdom is knowing not to put tomato in a fruit salad.”

Charles Babbage, a 19th Century inventor and genius, is sometimes credited with having invented the computer even though his “Difference Engine” as he called it never came to successful fruition.  But he was famous in his day, not only for his inventiveness, but also for his mathematical sense of humor.  Babbage, “tongue in cheek”,  wrote to poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson about a line in one of his poems which read:

“Every minute, dies a man,/ Every minute one is born.”

Babbage wrote an intentionally humorous correction of the poetic phrase:

“I need hardly point out to you that this calculation would tend to keep the sum total of the world’s population in a state of perpetual equipoise, whereas it is a well-known fact that the said sum total is constantly on the increase.  I would therefore take the liberty of suggesting that in the next edition of your excellent poem the erroneous calculation to which I refer should be corrected as follows: ‘Every moment dies a man / And one and a sixteenth is born.’  I may add that the exact figures are 1.167, but something must, of course, be conceded to the laws of metre.”

There is a difference between fact and truth, knowledge and wisdom.   Some are wise enough to express that fact humorously.

3 thoughts on “Knowledge and Wisdom, Fact and Truth

  1. Pingback: From Incarnation to Encryption | Fr. Ted's Blog

  2. Pingback: The Word, The Information, The Bit (IV) | Fr. Ted's Blog

  3. Pingback: The Word, The Information, and The Bit (PDF) | Fr. Ted's Blog

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