I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.
Prime numbers follow an order that Christopher finds pleasing and satisfying. In fact, Christopher prefers prime numbers so much that he uses them to order the chapters of his book. As he explains here, logic and order equal the basis of life—he might not be able to work out all the “rules” of life, but he believes they exist. Christopher’s strong identification with logic colors the way he views life. He cannot accept the idea of life as chaotic and arbitrary.
And this shows that intuition can sometimes get things wrong. And intuition is what people use in life to make decisions. But logic can help you work out the right answer.
After Mrs. Alexander delivers the news about his mother, Christopher immediately digresses into an anecdote about the Monty Hall problem, a conceptual puzzle that reveals the error in human intuition. Sometimes human intuition can lead one to an incorrect conclusion. For Christopher, logic and numbers always trump human intuition. The fact that Christopher follows his discussion with Mrs. Alexander with this anecdote suggests that he might recognize that he himself has been a victim of his own intuition, since he was wrong about his mother.
For example, if people say things which don’t make sense, like, “See you later, alligator,” or “You’ll catch your death in that,” I do a Search and see if I have ever heard someone say this before.
Christopher’s logical mind can’t immediately interpret things that do not overtly make sense such as idioms. When people make colloquial statements that at first seem nonsensical, Christopher explains that he relies on “matching” to interpret them. If he’s heard a similar statement before, he maps the expression to the meaning he assigned the first statement. Here, we see how Christopher’s obsessive logic can fall short in some circumstances. Assigning meaning to things simply by arbitrarily imposing order on them can lead to misunderstandings and illogical conclusions.
I had to get out of the house. Father had murdered Wellington. That meant he could murder me …
Christopher explains why he chooses to leave his home. Logic never fails Christopher, but in this instance, deductive reasoning does fail him. Christopher makes an erroneous assumption that because his father murdered the dog Wellington, his father will murder him too. This error in judgment prompts a major turning point and climax in the book. Christopher no longer feels safe in his house with his father and makes a plan to escape. Logic leads Christopher to extraordinary mathematical insights and incredible academic opportunities, but it also handicaps him socially.
And it is funny because economists are not real scientists, and because logicians think more clearly, but mathematicians are best.
Christopher digresses into an explanation of a conceptual problem, something he continually demonstrates an immense facility in navigating. In this instance, the problem comes in the form of a joke. An economist, a logician, and a mathematician on a train all see a brown cow. Only the mathematician provides a precise statement about what they see. Christopher’s telling of the joke reveals a certain degree of superiority in his abilities as a mathematician, whom he sees as being the best type of scientists. Christopher has an almost religious faith in logic.