Re: I disagree with Lee's answer

From: Mark Galecki (
Date: Sun May 13 2001 - 11:51:55 MDT

Lee wrote in response:

>The flaw in your argument (...)

>It may help to consider that from the mathematician's perspective
>there are actually three types of parents, not four. (...)

> But you have formatted the most substantial-
>sounding objection I've heard. Thanks for the critical thinking.

First, I realize that in my previous message (Re: I disagree with Lee's
answer), I was a bit disrespectful of Lee's views. I apologize.

However, Lee, instead of pointing it out (which is the best course of action
in such cases), responds in kind, which I quoted above.

Lee, your long argument in favour of your answer is not needed. I don't
need your "help". Of course I saw your argument immediately. If you read
my message carefully, you will see I said
>>The answer to this is of course 2/3

Anybody with common sense or probability training or intelligence, will
quickly arrive at this answer. This list is comprised of people who want to
preserve their thinking, therefore there must be something worth preserving,
and so questions such as these are not "fun" as you claim, but boring - in
my humble opinion.

Now, to the argument. Lee responds:

>The flaw in your argument is that the mathematician is obligated to
>entertain no hypotheses concerning the procedure by which the parent
>determined the truth or falsity of the statement "one of my children
>is a girl". The only thing that matters is whether the statement is
>true. It's not the case that the father is saying "I have picked...".

I agree of course that the mathematician is obligated to entertain no
hypotheses in addition to what the father said. But you are now quoting
only part of the father's statement. Let me quote the whole relevant
statement that you wrote:


and I responded
>Note the pair of phrases:>"one", and "the other".

Lee, did you carefully read your original message and this response?? Why
do I have to keep repeating them?


So, finally, I think this is a good question for the linguists. Are there
any linguists on the list? Or anybody knows good linguists??

The question is: take the statement:

>>"I have two children, sir", he says, "and one of them
>> is a girl. What is the probability that the other is
>> a boy?"

In this statement, does the person:

1. focus on one particular child and then on the other child? (in this case
the answer is 1/2)
2. does not focus on any particular child at any time (in this case the
answer is 2/3)
3. it is ambiguous and cannot be inferred whether he does or does not focus
(in this case the original question that Lee posed is ambigous)

So, linguists, please respond... Thank you.

Mark Galecki

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