Monday, June 18, 2012

Common Logical Fallacies part II

My apologies for not making a blog post in such a long time. Truth be told I've gotten somewhat lazy with it, plus I am always busy with work these days. But so long as I can keep this blog at least somewhat active, maybe it will be of benefit. In short, I've decided to post an addendum to my previous blog post on common logical fallacies. I won't describe various obvious ones such as Fallacy of Composition or Ad Hominem because I trust that even laymen can discern the obvious faultiness of those arguments. Sadly I only wish to outline one fallacy today, I will do more in the future. But let's not waste anymore time and continue to observe some of the fallacies that have peaked my attention over a few months.

6) Post hoc ergo propter hoc: Don't let the Latin fool you into thinking that this something very technical and formal. It translates to "after this, therefore, because of this" or simply put "correlation =/= causation." In an expression, it would be "A happened, then B occurred. Therefore A caused B." It simply means that because there is a correlation between A and B, does not mean that therefore A caused B. To prove this conclusion there needs to be solid evidence to support the sequence. But too often there is no such evidence present because it often looks like the correlation between two events are synonymous, therefore one HAD to have caused the other- meanwhile disregarding other factors that can potentially rule out the connection the two variables possess. An example that I come across way too often that shows the radical nature of this fallacy is as follows:
-Christianity legalized throughout the Roman empire around 313 A.D
-The fall of the Roman empire happened shortly after, thereby commencing the   Dark Ages
-Therefore Christianity caused the Dark Ages
Many historians and amateurs feel a great sense of frustration when they read something like this. This is because the people that are proclaiming this as clear reasoning, don't ever take into consideration the numerous factors that insinuated the cause of the Dark Ages. For example the Barbarian Invasion of Rome,
 the rule of Roman tyrants, plagues, poor economy, the loss of intellectual texts and manuscripts etc. Again, many feel tempted to say that Christianity started the Dark Ages because it happens to become legalized throughout the empire just before the Dark Ages swallows western Europe. But there clearly exists several inconsistencies with proof when attempting to convince others that the case is true.

On a more academic perspective, the theory of Christianity starting the Dark Ages is all too empty to even be considered a viable axiom in antiquity. Indeed many Christian or historical apologists would argue that Christianity did a lot in the field of science and thought throughout the middle-ages. As for all the universities a lot of clergymen have established- and the famous thinkers and philosophers and theologians that have contributed much to the realm of knowledge and science.

But In short, to spot someone trying to use this sort of arguments; it helps a lot to be knowledgeable about what the argument entails, but as well as to always spot a relationship between correlation and causation of two events. If there is no proof of A actually causing B, then the case is dismissed as committing the logical fallacy of Post hoc ergo propter hoc. It's not hard to spot this sort of lazy generalization in day to day activity, many forms and examples of this sort of none-sense is used a lot in politics and media today, so you won't ever get bored of discovering when this fallacy is used.

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