Sunday, November 15, 2015

Doubting Garen

One of the traits I acquired working with computers and for Accenture for 25 years was the ultimate skeptic - call me a Doubting Garen.

Several weeks ago I attended a fundraiser for UCAN where the Master of the Ceremonies (MC) passionately described their purpose: a world in which every cat and dog lives to find a loving home and every resident has access to affordable spay/neuter services

At the event the MC stated that "one female cat (that is not spayed) can produce over 425,000 kittens in seven years".  The crowd gasped.  Susan quickly helped me absorb this logic by saying it obviously included all the off spring.  But even with this quick logic check, I was disturbed by the number and unsettled (call it doubt) and wanted to test the underlying assumptions.

So off to the internet I went. 
First found a blog with a similar claim  and some simple assumptions:
3 Litters per year
12-18 Kittens per litter

So I constructed my own spreadsheet and added some assumptions (e.g. number of females in each litter – 50%) and calculated 1,346,832.   Hmmm  something seemed very wrong now!  At that rate it would be worse than the plagues of God against the Pharaoh.  There must be some bad assumptions or logic.

Another search brought me to SNOPES -  ah yes the urban legend site that tries to keep the internet honest.

 “How many kittens in 7 years”

The SNOPES  answer is:  100 – 400

 I suspect this is too low based on the residual SNOPE comments about the University of Washington Math Department’s assumptions.  But I decided not to research further.  The key sensitive variable is survival rate to reproductive age.
What's the lesson?   Before you accept statistics (numbers) that are dramatic - check your facts.
So to practice what I preach -  my next blog will put more facts on the table about the 1.08% growth rate of Christians cited in the Jesus (the Mathematician) blog.

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