# Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/632

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

New York; and, second, the average number of teeth in the head of a New York child—then the product of these two numbers would give the average number of children's teeth in a New York family. But this mode of reckoning will only apply in general under two restrictions. In the first place, it would not be true if the same child could belong to different families, for in that case those children who belonged to several different families might have an exceptionally large or small number of teeth, which would affect the average number of children's teeth in a family more than it would affect the average number of teeth in a child's head. In the second place, the rule would not be true if different children could share the same teeth, the average number of children's teeth being in that case evidently something different from the average number of teeth belonging to a child.

In order to apply this rule to probabilities, we must proceed as follows: Suppose that we have given the probability that the conclusion B follows from the premise A, B and A representing as usual certain classes of propositions. Suppose that we also knew the probability of an inference in which B should be the premise, and a proposition of a third kind, C, the conclusion. Here, then, we have the materials for the application of this rule. We have, first, the relative number of B's per A. We next should have the relative number of C's per B following from A. But the classes of propositions being so selected that the probability of C following from any B in general is just the same as the probability of C's following from one of those B's which is deducible from an A, the two probabilities may be multiplied together, in order to give the probability of C following from A. The same restrictions exist as before. It might happen that the probability that B follows from A was affected by certain propositions of the class B following from several different propositions of the class A. But, practically speaking, all these restrictions are of very little consequence, and it is usually recognized as a principle universally true that the probability that, if A is true, B is, multiplied by the probability that, if B is true, C is, gives the probability that, if A is true, C is.

There is a rule supplementary to this, of which great use is made. It is not universally valid, and the greatest caution has to be exercised in making use of it—a double care, first, never to use it when it will involve serious error; and, second, never to fail to take advantage of it in cases in which it can be employed. This rule depends upon the fact that in very many cases the probability that C is true if B is, is substantially the same as the probability that C is true if A is. Suppose, for example, we have the average number of males among the children born in New York; suppose that we also have the average number of children born in the winter months among those born in New York. Now, we may assume without doubt, at least as a closely approximate proposition (and no very nice calculation would be in place in 