The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy

via You Are Not So Smart

The Misconception: You take randomness into account when determining cause and effect.

The Truth: You tend to ignore random chance when the results seem meaningful or when you want a random event to have a meaningful cause.

AL_JFK_300pxAbraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy were both presidents of the United States, elected 100 years apart. Both were shot and killed by assassins who were known by three names with 15 letters, John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald, and neither killer would make it to trial.

Spooky, huh? It gets better.

Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy, and Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln.

They were both killed on a Friday while sitting next to their wives, Lincoln in the Ford Theater, Kennedy in a Lincoln made by Ford.

Both men were succeeded by a man named Johnson – Andrew for Lincoln and Lyndon for Kennedy. Andrew was born in 1808. Lyndon in 1908.

What are the odds?

In 1898, Morgan Robertson wrote a novel titled “Futility.”

More than two miles down, the ghostly bow of the Titanic emerges from the darkness on a dive by explorer and filmmaker James Cameron in 2001.

More than two miles down, the ghostly bow of the Titanic emerges from the darkness on a dive by explorer and filmmaker James Cameron in 2001.
Source: National Geographic Magazine

Written 14 years before the Titanic sank, 11 years before construction on the vessel even began, the similarities between the book and the real event are eerie.

The novel describes a giant boat called the Titan which everyone considers unsinkable. It is the largest ever created, and inside it seems like a luxury hotel – just like the as yet unbuilt Titanic.

Titan had only 20 lifeboats, half than it needed should the great ship sink. The Titanic had 24, also half than it needed.

In the book, the Titan hits an iceberg in April 400 miles from Newfoundland. The Titanic, years later, would do the same in the same month in the same place.

The Titan sinks, and more than half of the passengers die, just as with the Titanic. The number of people on board who die in the book and the number in the future accident are nearly identical.

The similarities don’t stop there. The fictional Titan and the real Titanic both had three propellers and two masts. Both had a capacity of 3,000 people. Both hit the iceberg close to midnight.

Did Robertson have a premonition? I mean, what are the odds?

In the 1500s, Nostradamus wrote:

Bêtes farouches de faim fleuves tranner
Plus part du champ encore Hister sera,
En caige de fer le grand sera treisner,
Quand rien enfant de Germain observa.

This is often translated to:

Beasts wild with hunger will cross the rivers,
The greater part of the battle will be against Hister.
He will cause great men to be dragged in a cage of iron,
When the son of Germany obeys no law.

That’s rather creepy, considering this seems to describe a guy with a tiny mustache born about 400 years later. Here is another prophecy:

Out of the deepest part of the west of Europe,
From poor people a young child shall be born,
Who with his tongue shall seduce many people,
His fame shall increase in the Eastern Kingdom.

Wow. Hister certainly sounds like Hitler, and that second quatrain seems to drive it home. Actually, Many of Nostradamus’ predictions are about a guy from Germania who wages a great war and dies mysteriously.

What are the odds?

If any of this seems too amazing to be coincidence, too odd to be random, too similar to be chance, you are not so smart.

You see, in all three examples the barn was already peppered with holes. You just drew bullseyes around the spots where the holes clustered together.

Allow me to explain.

MORE . . . .

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