The Calculus of Sin by Bob Wickizer

The Calculus of Sin
Rev. Bob Wickizer
Genesis 2:4b-9, 15-17, 25, 3:1-7; Psalm 51:1-13; Romans 5:12-19 [20-21]; Matthew 4:1-11

The trouble with computers these days is that engineers can design almost anything from an electronic component to a highway bridge using sophisticated software design tools. As long as the load and environment on the designed item stay within prescribed limits, the engineers can tell you exactly how long the thing will last before aging processes render it non-functional. Today's engineer adds a modest safety factor to all the parameters and voile the public or the consumer gets another least cost design guaranteed to fail in our lifetime.

Not so in days gone by. Even in my father's generation, the mathematical models were not as sophisticated and calculations were limited to a desktop adding machine. With those tools, the safety factors and margins for error were given much larger consideration. Going back to the Viking churches in Norway of the tenth century, the support columns and roof trusses were built to carry more than fifty times the actual maximum loads. While Viking engineers probably had at their disposal less sophisticated design tools than even my father had, the clear result of such conservative over design is that not only are many of these twelve hundred year old churches still standing today, they are still in use!

Today however we want drive in food, drive up banking, drive up dry cleaning and we even have drive by shootings. Time carries a premium so we must maximize our efficient use of time. Long gone are the designer's safety margins of 50% and 100% over-design. We must limit the costs of labor and materials to the bare minimum. Say hello to 5% safety margins even in aircraft design! All these calculations were made possible by Sir Isaac Newton's mathematics of calculus. With desktop PCs any engineer today can compute the cost and compute the risk.

This computational approach to designed thin ...


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