Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/633

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ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE LOGIC OF SCIENCE.

regard to probabilities), that the proportion of males among all the children born in New York is the same as the proportion of males born in summer in New York, and, therefore, if the names of all the children born during a year were put into an urn, we might multiply the probability that any name drawn would be the name of a male child by the probability that it would be the name of a child born in summer, in order to obtain the probability that it would be the name of a male child born in summer. The questions of probability, in the treatises upon the subject, have usually been such as relate to balls drawn from urns, and games of cards, and so on, in which the question of the independence of events, as it is called—that is to say, the question of whether the probability of C, under the hypothesis B, is the same as its probability under the hypothesis A, has been very simple; but, in the application of probabilities to the ordinary questions of life, it is often an exceedingly nice question whether two events may be considered as independent with sufficient accuracy or not. In all calculations about cards it is assumed that the cards are thoroughly shuffled, which makes one deal quite independent of another. In point of fact the cards seldom are, in practice, shuffled sufficiently to make this true; thus, in a game of whist, in which the cards have fallen in suits of four of the same suit, and are so gathered up, they will lie more or less in sets of four of the same suit, and this will be true even after they are shuffled. At least some traces of this arrangement will remain, in consequence of which the number of "short suits," as they are called—that is to say, the number of hands in which the cards are very unequally divided in regard to suits—is smaller than the calculation would make it to be; so that, when there is a misdeal, where the cards, being thrown about the table, get very thoroughly shuffled, it is a common saying that in the hands next dealt out there are generally short suits. A few years ago a friend of mine, who plays whist a great deal, was so good as to count the number of spades dealt to him in 165 hands, in which the cards had been, if anything, shuffled better than usual. According to calculation, there should have been 85 of these hands in which my friend held either three or four spades, but in point of fact there were 94, showing the influence of imperfect shuffling.

According to the view here taken, these are the only fundamental rules for the calculation of chances. An additional one, derived from a different conception of probability, is given in some treatises, which if it be sound might be made the basis of a theory of reasoning. Being, as I believe it is, absolutely absurd, the consideration of it serves to bring us to the true theory; and it is for the sake of this discussion, which must be postponed to the next number, that I have brought the doctrine of chances to the reader's attention at this early stage of our studies of the logic of science.