October 06, 2005

It's like a reverse post hoc

The logical fallacy post hoc, ergo propter hoc is based on the difference between correlation and causation. For example, in the time since no-fault divorce became more readily available, the violent crime rate has gone down. But this, by itself, doesn't mean violent crime fell because more people were getting divorced. If someone was going to argue that, they'll need to show some link between the two.

On the other hand, we have this.

The major center of crazy is what I like to call the Shit Maxim. The shit maxim presumes that we are in a shit-filled bathroom. Shit on the walls, shit on the sink, shit on the ceiling. When the person invoking the Maxim entered the bathroom, there was only shit in the toilet. Their answer? "Shit's shit, ain't it?"

It's why Bush can invoke this argument with a straight face.

"Some have also argued that extremism has been strengthened by the actions of our coalition in Iraq, claiming that our presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals. I would remind them that we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001 -- and al Qaeda attacked us anyway."

See, there was shit prior to Iraq, and there's shit after Iraq! Ignore the fact that the post-Iraq shit is pooling up around your waist - shit happens.

The argument Jesse's criticizing here is just as stupid as the fallacy. In fact, it's worse: post hoc makes an unwarranted leap from correlation to causation, while the argument Bush here just pretends an obvious correlation doesn't exist. That's not just a logical fallacy; that's insanity.

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