(FIRST PUBLISHED ON 10/5/2014.)
Since Logic now how has its own page and category, I thought it might be appropriate if we took an example of a Logical Fallacy from "THE BIG BANG THEORY." This one is called POST HOC, ERGO PROPTER HOC.
Also, this article will expand this example to include the Fallacy of TRUTH BY ASSOCIATION.
The first episode of the third season, entitled "THE ELECTRICAL CAN OPENER FLUCTUATION", Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj return from their trip to the Magnetic North Pole. As he is walking through the door into the apartment, Sheldon has the following exchange with his mother while on the phone:
"No mother, I could not feel your church group praying for my safety. The fact that
I'm home safe does not prove that it worked. That logic is Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc."
Translated from Latin, it means, "After this, therefore because of this." It is the Logical Fallacy of assuming a causal relationship between two events, and excluding everything else without justification.
To make this easier to understand here is the breakdown;
Sheldon goes on his trip,
Sheldons mom, and her church group pray
for his safety,
Sheldon returns home safely,
The prayer ensured his safety.
What Sheldon could have pointed out, to his mother, is that his safe return could be the result of one, or more of the following:
1) Proper planning.
2) Safety procedures that were followed while en route, or on the way home.
3) Adequate Water, Food, Clothes etc, to amply supply their needs.
4) Communications that allowed access to emergency aid from the outside world.
5) The mental discipline and knowledge to meet any difficulty calmly and intellectually.
In other words, Sheldons mom concluded that the prayer was the reason for a safe
return, when in fact there may have been other reasons.
Before any of my readers, who believe in the power of prayer, say that I can't rule out Divine Intervention, my reply is simple;
I AM NOT TRYING TO.
END PT 1.