Tag Archives: superstition

SCIENCE, NOT SILENCE

The March for Science is a celebration of our passion for science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community. Recent policy changes have caused heightened worry among scientists, and the incredible and immediate outpouring of support has made clear that these concerns are also shared by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. The mischaracterization of science as a partisan issue, which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence, is a critical and urgent matter. It is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted.

ON APRIL 22, 2017, WE WALK OUT OF THE LAB AND INTO THE STREETS.

We are scientists and science enthusiasts. We come from all races, all religions, all gender identities, all sexual orientations, all abilities, all socioeconomic backgrounds, all political perspectives, and all nationalities. Our diversity is our greatest strength: a wealth of opinions, perspectives, and ideas is critical for the scientific process. What unites us is a love of science, and an insatiable curiosity. We all recognize that science is everywhere and affects everyone.

Science is often an arduous process, but it is also thrilling. A universal human curiosity and dogged persistence is the greatest hope for the future. This movement cannot and will not end with a march. Our plans for policy change and community outreach will start with marches worldwide and a teach-in at the National Mall, but it is imperative that we continue to celebrate and defend science at all levels – from local schools to federal agencies – throughout the world.

MARCH WITH US

The March for Science is an international movement, led by organizers distributed around the globe. This movement is taking place because of the simultaneous realization by thousands of  scientists, and science enthusiasts that that staying silent is no longer an option.  There are marches being planned across the United States and internationally.

We encourage everyone to follow to local organizers to stay updated, and reach out if you want to help!

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Anti-vaccination is based on prejudice and superstition

Here is an excellent article by author and freelance journalist, Julie Szego in The Age, 17 December 2015. It begins:

“The movement reflects an underlying disease that makes us susceptible to the notion that truth is an ever-negotiable, relative concept.”

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/antivaccination-is-based-on-prejudice-and-superstition-20151215-glojrk.html#ixzz3uXNy6icW

 

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Confusing correlation with causation

Consider two events A and B.  Event B closely follows Event A in time.  Does this mean that Event A caused Event B?  Possibly, but not necessarily.  Both events could have been cause by a third event C, or more likely, the close timing of Events A and B is a coincidence.  So not only is causation not the only explanation, it is not even the best explanation.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc (Latin: ‘after this, therefore because of this’ – often shortened to post hoc) is a logical fallacy that states ‘Since Event B followed Event A, Event B must have been caused by Event A.’ It is subtly different from the fallacy cum hoc ergo propter hoc (‘with this, therefore because of this’), in which two things or events occur simultaneously or the chronological ordering is insignificant or unknown. These fallacies are also known as ‘False cause’.

Post hoc is a particularly tempting error because temporal sequence appears to be integral to causality.  Indeed, if Event A did cause Event B, Event B would probably occur soon after Event A in time.  But the reverse connection is not necessarily true – temporal correlation does not imply causality.  The fallacy lies in coming to a conclusion based solely on the order of events, rather than taking into account other factors that might rule out the connection.

The form of the post hoc fallacy can be expressed as follows:

Premise: A occurred, then B occurred.

Conclusion: Therefore, A caused B.

The following is a simple example: ‘The rooster crows immediately before sunrise, therefore the rooster causes the sun to rise’.  This conclusion is false, not just we happen to know that it is factually incorrect, but because the argument is fallacious.

When B is undesirable, this fallacy is often committed in reverse: Avoiding A will prevent B.  This is the basis of many superstitious beliefs, such as bad luck associated with Friday the 13th or walking under ladders.

An example of the cum hoc fallacy is as follows.  Sleeping with one’s shoes on (A) is strongly correlated with waking up with a headache (B). Therefore, sleeping with one’s shoes on causes headache.  A more plausible explanation is that both are caused by a third factor (C), in this case going to bed drunk, which thereby gives rise to a correlation between A and B.  So the conclusion is false.

Another example, is that ice-cream sales are correlated with the level of house burglaries during warmer weather when more people are on holidays (vacation). But ice-cream doesn’t cause burglaries, nor vice versa.

Correlation_vs_causation

Source: Wikimedia Commons

On the other hand, if A is often correlated with B, then although we still can’t logically conclude that A causes B (or vice versa), such a causal link may be a hypothesis worth testing via properly designed scientific experiments.

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