Set theory, Christians, and parody

Last week, I wrote a piece for BoingBoing about fundamentalist Christian objections to the mathematical idea of set theory. Those objections are, apparently, real—sourced to math textbooks produced by publisher A Beka. And, if you understand the cultural mindset, it even makes a weird sort of sense. But it's also ripe for parody. Read the first comment to this story at The New York Times. At first, it looks like a real world example of the stuff we were talking about last week. But it's not. The commenter is Stephenson Billings, a pseudonymous contributor to the parody site Christwire. I fell for this myself. Thankfully, Twitter user UCSD_Nanomed pointed out what was really going on.


  1. Real Christians don’t support Set Theory.

    It leads to civil unions.

    (I’m here all week.)

    1. Real Christians don’t support Christ.

      They’re too busy selectively living as Ultra-Orthodox Jews, by randomly picking and choosing which ancient Levant tribal customs they’ll enforce to the death, while completely ignoring all the rest.

  2. It’s pretty easy to fall for parodies of the far right christians. The stuff they get up to in real life is so crazy that comedians have a hard time coming up with stuff that’s even more insane.

    1. You’ve unintentionally paraphrased Poe’s Law: “Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won’t mistake for the real thing.” 

  3. Oh wow, how did I miss your original article last week! (ah, I was caught up in the World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster is how) Set theory is one of the methods I consider that allows for polytheism, and now you say the fundies are already spooked by it?! Yes! Validation, baby.

    Yeah, the infinity thing is what they’re trying to get ahead of the curve on. You’d think Trinitarians would welcome a bit of proof for their being multiple infinite beings, but oh well.

    An infinite being isn’t a meaningful gauge for a human-scale morality. Christianity had a winning concept with that Incarnation-interface… but if there’s more than one way to build an interface… there could be… COMPETITION.

    Quick! Somebody patent a Christ and slap some DRM on it!

  4. I quite like the third response to that first comment, by Overthe River:

    “I fully agree with Dr. Billings as to the lack of instruction in set theory in Christian schools. While, as Mr. Kissack points out, the concepts union and intersection of sets, or subsets are important, Christians teach the broader concept of Set Faith.
    I shall explain. We all know dinosaurs roamed the earth, and we all can agree humans roamed the earth. If we apply the concept of unions, we can clearly believe humans (such as Jesus) rode dinosaurs as they roamed the earth.
    An example used to explain the concept of set intersection can also be easily explained to mini-Christians as such: If we take the set of male humans and intersect it with the set of female humans the intersection is humans who are married; because we all know the definition of marriage is between one man and one woman.”

    Not a Poe…just funny.

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