Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 19, 1962

Potent Potentials

P. J. Casebolt

Someone (in fact, about everyone) has said, "Figures don't lie, but liars do figure." Some liars have already consigned half of this statement to oblivion by just up and lying without doing one bit of figuring. And, I've about concluded that the other half of this Patagonian proverb should be given less credence than before. Figures are lying every day — or rather they are being distorted so as to convey false impressions.

Take, for instance, the "statistics" flying around. After a "survey" or a "test," practically every cigarette smokes better, every alcoholic beverage tastes better, every razor shaves better, and every automobile runs better than others in the same "class." When salesmen try to impress others with the advantages of their product or project, they will sometimes emphasize its "potential." A thing's potential exists only in possibilities, not in actualities. And, I hope that some things never realize their advertised potential, for if they do, some other things are "going to pot."

Those potential audiences especially amuse me. Some advertising medium will publish figures indicating that if you use that method of advertising you can have a "potential" audience of 100,000 in a community of 100,000. This community may be served by three radio stations, two newspapers, a TV station, fifty poster-filled buses, a hundred billboards and one sky-writing pilot. Granting that all of the population can see, read, and hear (including the babies, those asleep, and those working), then 100,000 people are simultaneously listening to three radio stations, watching TV, reading two newspapers, riding a bus driving their cars past an outdoor billboard, and looking up into the sky at mile-high letters saying, "Go to Joe's." Or, all 100,000 could decide to select one of these mediums and boycott all the rest, which would make all the others potential candidates for bankruptcy the next day.

Then, there's the preacher who told me (as he showed me through a new church building), that he had 1,000 members on the roll, with 800 of them active and the other 200 inactive. I viewed the smallish-looking auditorium and asked him: "What Is the seating capacity?" Without batting an eye, he told me it was about 500. Before I could ask what he did with the rest, he resolved the whole mystery by informing me that they generally had about 400 for "Sunday School" and about 300 of those remained for "worship." These attendance figures came from the 800 "active" members. I was afraid to ask where the 200 "inactive" ones were.

Maybe this explains the story I heard about a certain church that boasted more members than the county had population. They just hadn't bothered to remove the names of those who took a one way trip to the cemetery. But, everyone will have to admit that such "statistics" surely are impressive.

Then, there's rumor of a bomb that has the potential to blow this whole planet from here to everywhere (or nowhere). Now, any scientist will tell you that such an explosion would create energy with enough potential to... oh, skip it. By that time we wouldn't be here to see or hear about it anyway. Too bad, because station BIG-TV had a potential audience of about three billion (before the explosion).

I'm about to the place where figures don't impress me anymore, unless those figures contain the number of a chapter or verse from a book in the Bible. Not only has inflation caused the value of money to decrease, I think it has had some influence on figures, statistics, and potentialities as well. Lord, hasten the day when we can once again say: "Figures don't lie, but liars do figures." Then, we can at least tell a liar from a figure.

— 2245 - 9th St., S. W., Akron 14, Ohio