post hoc ergo propter hoc

One of the most common, and sometimes grievously costly, logic errors goes by the latin name post hoc ergo propter hoc — after this, therefore because of this.

The famous, humorous example is the farmer who supposes that his rooster’s crowing causes the sun to rise.

A prominent recent, real-life example concerns the development of blood clots in some people soon after they received the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. Millions of people have received the vaccine without consequence — but it’s use was briefly discontinued throughout Europe when a handful of recent vaccine recipients experienced blood clots. There’s nothing wrong with prudence, and I’m not here to disrespect the medical officials who decided to hit the pause button. BUT! … that was promptly investigated and it was determined that the vaccination was not the cause of the clots; they were merely the statistical expectation.

And so much for that — right?

No. The anti-vaxxers and far-right “hoax” nutjobs are exploiting it to promote anxiety and discourage vaccination — prolonging the pandemic, prolonging the economic disruption, increasing the deaths.

Professional people occasionally err, just like everybody else, but the generality of engineers, lawyers, doctors, on and on, really do know more about their specialty than Ma and Pa Kettle, and genuinely care about their clients’ well-being. Trust the people who have added years of experience to years of study and built a career of it — not some noisy anonymity on Facebook.

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