Terrorism Superstition
    By Josh Witten | May 22nd 2009 10:01 AM | 5 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    The argument on the side of "enhanced interrogation" techniques tends to come down to the practical: we need them because they work (i.e., they obtain information that could not be obtained in a usable time frame by other methods, which prevents attacks).  If the claim is true, that would be a legitimate argument ().  There are a number of ways to decided whether an interrogation method, whether enhanced or not, is valid and productive.  The Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) method is not one of them.  His method?  Noting that there have been no major terrorist attacks in the United States since 11 September, 2009.  While true, it does not establish a causative relationship between interrogation methods and prevention of terrorist attacks.

    This is exactly the same reasoning used in the development of superstitions.  I was wearing boxers nor briefs when I got my Western blot to work.  Therefore, I always wear boxers when doing Western blots.  Or, I wear pants and have never been struck by lightning.  Therefore, pants prevent lightning strikes. 

    Even if you favor using water boarding and the like, don't use McConnell's argument.  It just makes you look silly.  


    I wear pants and have never been struck by lightning.  Therefore, pants prevent lightning strikes.
    Unfortunately, that could only be consistently true for the same pair of lucky pants, but I would not wish to conduct a long-term experiment - that would require the genius of a Homer

    Do you mean this Homer?

    Homer Simpson: Well, there's not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol is sure doing its job.
    Lisa Simpson: That's specious reasoning, Dad.
    Homer Simpson: Thank you, sweetie.
    Lisa Simpson: Dad, what if I were to tell you that this rock keeps away tigers.
    Homer Simpson: Uh-huh, and how does it work?
    Lisa Simpson: It doesn't work. It's just a stupid rock.
    Homer Simpson: I see.
    Lisa Simpson: But you don't see any tigers around, do you?
    Homer Simpson: Lisa, I'd like to buy your rock. 
    homer simpson
    That's gold, I tell you.  :)

    Not to be too contrarian, but is not "no major events since they started doing this" the same argument as vaccines?   Namely, that if you stop, and thousands of people die, it seems like the kind of experiment people should go to jail for.

    I get your point, of course, but this is either logical or not.      The approach of 'enhanced interrogation' (really, is it torture or not?   I am not up on the latest framing) opponents is all wrong.    They allow it to be painted as 'get information by any means' or be blown up.     Uncle Tom's Cabin by Stowe did more to end support for slavery than all of the abolitionist rhetoric because it appealled to 'middle class Christian values' and that offset the boogeyman of free former slaves murdering white people.   In the more militant Civil rights movement that followed, that approach was lost and, in many ways, political opponents using this as a weapon are using tactics similar to the people they are protesting.
    No, because vaccines are actually tested for efficacy, either directly or epidemiologically, by comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated cohorts.