Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Is "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" always a fallacy?

Daniel Pipes has written an interesting piece "Islam and Democracy -  Much Hard Work Needed", National Post, 7 Feb.
I wrote a comment on his site:
Mr Pipes, you say that post hoc, ergo propter hoc is a fallacy (pace Wikipedia).  But of course it need not be, and in many cases when there is a correlation between A and B, it will be because A causes B.  Think smoking and cancer, drinking and car accidents, carbon dioxide and global warming (!).
I like to run the ruler of "common sense" over a correlation.  In other words, in this case, does it make sense that Islam should be the cause of "fewer political rights" and the common-sense answer -- buttressed by readings of the core documents of Islam -- is that "of course it does, because the core belief of Islam is that laws are of Allah and not of Man".  And, of course, rule of Man is the key to democracy.  You yourself indicate the difficulty of any Islamic “enlightenment” on this point. [And that even if there is, it could take as long as in the west, 700 years to wait...].
Similarly, it makes sense to me that Islam should hold back economic development not only because of the Rule of Allah mentioned above, but also because Islamic doctrines specifically inhibit innovation, encourage fatalism, discourage science and rule out the contributions of half of its population.  
I have done an analysis of the relationship between Freedom and Islam.  I note in the post the possibility that “correlation does not mean causation”, but I dismiss it.  For common sense – and substantial readings of Islamic texts –  tells me that there is indeed a causation.
In other words,  post Islam ergo propter Islam.