[The following is a transcript for a speech to be given at Toastmasters. This is my entry for the third assignment: Get to the Point.]
As some of you know, I have some slight interest in the philosophy of science. I like to experiment, to learn and to understand the world around me. Sometimes, this means that I can be a tad unorthodox in my approach. My friend, Conformity, here, was once part of a test I did over the course of a particularly dreadful evening class at Western. Her purpose? I wanted to see if she could prevent the class lycanthropes from breaking out their alter egos, and ululating at the moon. As you can imagine, it would have been quite disruptive to the learning process should they have done so. I simply thought it best see that they remained in their more comatose-evening-student phase instead.
After months spent collecting my data, I determined that Conformity is, indeed, highly effective at deterring the loathsome beasts. Naturally, my scientific bent prohibits me from stating it with with absolute certainty, but I *can* say that she’s pretty damned good at what she does.
Sure, some of you may be skeptical, but it should still give you pause that I recorded not a single elongated tooth, upturned nostril or wagging appendage. The only sign of shaggy countenance was that of our dear Professor Fenris, but his hirsute visage was present throughout the day as well, and I detected not a whisker out of place even given the presence of a full moon.
At this time, I will point out that I performed this test some short time before fully embracing the world of philosophy, and the rhetoric of logic in particular. A big part of logical argument requires an understanding of logical fallacies, most of which are listed in Wikipedia, or on websites like yourlogicalfallacyis.com. While they list at least thirty major fallacies, the one I’d like to address today is called the “post hoc, ergo propter hoc” fallacy – or “it happened after, therefore it was caused by”. I’ll refer to it as the False Cause Fallacy.
I have a graph here that shows two plots that follow each other quite nicely. These were measured over the first decade of this century, covering 2000 to 2009, and they seem to rise and fall together not unlike a pair of lovebirds. A nifty calculation finds that the lines are over 90% correlated. Impressive, no?
A simple look at this graph might lead us to say “these two parameters must of course be linked! One of them obviously controls the other!” … and it may, indeed, be so. Now, would it help if I told you that the first line represents American spending on Science, Space and Technology, and the second is the Total Revenue of American Ski Facilities?
A False Cause Fallacy tends to take place when one ignores or neglects influences outside of those recorded. Examples abound of False Cause Fallacies: while I would never condemn dancing, for example, I will not hesitate to say that it doesn’t make the rains fall; toss as many virgins as you want into that volcano, if it’s gonna blow, it’s gonna blow; and despite the assurances of the Pat Robertsons of the world, the cultural acceptance of biological norms is not bringing about divine retribution in the form of earthquakes, flooding and hurricanes.
I know, I know; what does any of this have to do with little Conformity? Well, after my course came to its end, I chanced to meet a fellow student of the class, and asked her about a small medallion she liked to wear. Imagine my surprise when I found out that it has the exact same purpose: to keep the werewolves at bay! Given this new information, my test with Conformity was at best inconclusive, and my new friend said her pendant had worked for a good five years already. So, the very next day, I went out and bought my own tiny pendant, the same one you see around my neck right now (imagine the convenience of not needing to carry a stuffed bear with me all the time!), and now, even three years later, I have yet to encounter a werewolf on campus.