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Monday, April 29, 2013

A Logical Fallacy In Three Acts

Act One, "Much Apu About Nothing"

Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm.
Lisa: That's specious reasoning, Dad.
Homer: Thank you, dear.
Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
Homer: Oh, how does it work?
Lisa: It doesn't work.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: It's just a stupid rock.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: But I don't see any tigers around, do you?
[Homer thinks of this, then pulls out some money]
Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.

Act Two, An Open Letter to the Kansas School Board

"You may be interested to know that global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of Pirates since the 1800s. For your interest, I have included a graph of the approximate number of pirates versus the average global temperature over the last 200 years. As you can see, there is a statistically significant inverse relationship between pirates and global temperature."

 

 

Act Three, "Gun Ownership at All-Time High, Nation's Murder Rate at Nearly All-Time Low" or "More Guns, Less Crime"

"The nation's total violent crime rate hit an all-time high in 1991. Thereafter, it declined 18 of the next 20 years, 49 percent overall, to a 41-year low in 2011. That included a 52 percent decrease in the nation's murder rate, to a 48-year low, nearly the lowest point in U.S. history. The FBI has preliminarily reported that in the first half of 2012, the murder rate dropped another 2.7 percent."

"Concurrently, gun ownership and the number of privately owned guns rose to all-time highs, the number of privately owned firearms in the U.S. rising by over 120 million, including about 55 million handguns, about 80 percent of which were semi-automatic. The 120 million new firearms included over 3.5 million AR-15 semi-automatic rifles and tens of millions of other firearms that gun control supporters call 'assault weapons', along with countless tens of millions of ammunition magazines that hold 11 or more rounds, which gun control supporters think are too 'large'. In the three months following President Barack Obama's reelection and his announcement that gun control would be a 'central issue' of his final term of office, the number of firearm-related background checks conducted through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System rose 53 percent, as compared to the same November-January period a year earlier."

Is there any relationship between Lisa's tiger-repelling rock and the number of tigers in Springfield? Not according to her. Is there any relationship between average global temperatures and the number of Pirates? No. Is there any relationship between the national murder rate and the number of privately owned guns in the U. S.? The NRA-ILA never establishes a relationship, trusting instead on a logical fallacy, post hoc ergo propter hoc, to do the job instead.

So, what about guns and crime? Is there a relationship? Maybe. Maybe not. Until better research can be conducted, it's a hard question to answer with any authority. But: there may be a link between gun violence and gun laws. States with lax gun laws have seen higher rates of gun violence than states with stricter laws: so says the report America Under The Gun from the Center for American Progress:

"Despite this complex web of factors that influence the rate of gun violence, this report finds a clear link between high levels of gun violence and weak state gun laws. Across the key indicators of gun violence that we analyzed, the 10 states with the weakest gun laws collectively have an aggregate level of gun violence that is more than twice as high—104 percent higher, in fact—than the 10 states with the strongest gun laws."

"While this report has demonstrated a correlation between the relative strength or weakness of a state's gun-related laws and the prevalence of various types of gun violence in the state, this alone does not prove a direct causal link between these two factors. As discussed above, numerous factors influence the rates of any type of violence or crime in a state, including gun violence. This report does not conclude that weak gun laws alone cause gun violence or that strong gun laws alone prevent gun violence but rather that the association suggests a potential causal relationship"

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