Correlation does not prove that there is causation

Let’s put on long pants so we can grow our legs (or so Mr. Barbour would have us believe).

There are several common errors in the commentary by Dean Barbour of Manuel Antonio, but this one paragraph of his sums up common pitfalls and misunderstandings about cause and effect and connecting the “dots” and events of history.

“Ten years on from 9/11, there is still no meaningful national conversation, let alone a debate, about why 3,000 people died that terrible day, although the reason couldn’t be more obvious if it were carved into the marble alongside the names of the fallen at the Ground Zero Memorial: The United States finally got paid back for half a century of clandestine meddling and overt mayhem in the Middle East.”

That is the equivalent of saying “People who wear long pants have long legs; therefore, wearing long pants has caused people’s legs to grow.” Just because there is a correlation between two events doesn’t mean there is necessarily a cause and effect relating two events.

He says there has been no conversation or debate about the why. Just because he chooses to disagree or close his ears to the cacophony of opinions, doesn’t mean it isn’t taking place. “Islamic extremism” or just “extremists” often bubbles to the surface as one plausible explanation as to the why. Not to say that explains it all, but extremists of whatever flavor use terrorism as a tactic to kill for their own selfish gains and don’t need a legitimate reason to commit violence. And, is there ever a legitimate reason to murder innocents? Islamic extremism is just the current fad of our times but there have been and will be others.

His error on the why is that he throws out some incomplete facts such as the United States was involved in bad wars and general meddling in the Middle East. That is the equivalent of the long pants. Then he jumps to the conclusion and would like us to believe that otherwise peaceful people were provoked into the attack on 9/11 by our own actions. That is the equivalent of the legs grew because of the long pants. In fact, the legs grew regardless of the length of the pants, and the U.S. was attacked regardless of former wars and meddling. Two correlated events in history, but not cause and effect.

His reasoning as he recounts the wars in Afghanistan against the Russians conveniently overlooks the fact that we were directly assisting Osama Bin Laden in his struggle. Osama should have been forever grateful. And, in fact, he was to his dying day; grateful for the “Great Satan” that is; He used “evil” superpowers as his stepping stone to greatness and world recognition. Perhaps as some argue he just despised our culture and believed he was doing his religious duty by trying to wipe us from the face of the earth. Maybe that’s why he viewed pornography; research I guess to gather more evidence against us.

So using Mr. Barbour’s twisted logic that we’ve meddled in the Middle East because we are against Muslims then, I guess we must be schizophrenic which explains why we went to war on the side of Bosnian Muslims.
Pat McCormick
Costa Rica

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