via NeuroLogica Blog
In just about every disaster or event in which there are many deaths, such as a plane crash, there is likely to be, by random chance alone, individuals who survived due to an unlikely sequence of events. Passengers missing their flight by a few minutes can look back at all the small delays that added up to them seeing the doors close as they a jog up to their gate. If that plane were then to crash, killing everyone on board, those small delays might seem like destiny. The passenger who canceled their flight because of flying anxiety might feel as if they had a premonition.
This is nothing but the lottery fallacy – judging the odds of an event occurring after the fact. What are the odds of one specific person winning the lottery? Hundreds of millions to one against. What are the odds of someone winning the lottery? Very good.
Likewise, what are the chances that someone will miss or choose not to take any particular flight? Very high – therefore this is likely to be true about any flight that happens to crash. If you are that one person, however, it may be difficult to shake the sense that your improbable survival was more than just a lucky coincidence.
A similar story has emerged from the Sandy Hook tragedy. A mother of a kindergartener there, Karen Dryer claims that her 5 year old son was saved by his psychic powers. She reports that her son, after a few months at the school, started to cry and be unhappy at school. He was home schooled for a short time, during which the shooting occurred. Now, at the new elementary school that recently opened, he seems to be happy.
In retrospect it may seem like a compelling story – if one does not think about it too deeply. As Ben Radford points out in the article linked to above, the story as told is likely the product of confirmation bias. The mother is now remembering details that enhance the theme of the story (her son’s alleged psychic powers) and forgetting details that might be inconsistent.
By Nanci G. Hutson via Connecticut Post
NEWTOWN — They came and they spoke, but their words fell flat with a respectful but thoroughly disgusted audience.
A dozen or so self-described skeptics of official accounts of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting appeared Tuesday night at the Board of Education meeting, each taking the allotted three minutes to address pointed questions to board members.
Wolfgang Halbig, the most prominent member of the group, raised questions about everything from the scale of police response that day to their refusal to accept his expert help in analyzing the event. He suggested that his legitimate efforts to get answers have been thwarted, and accused board members of toeing an official line.
“Board members, these are your children,” Halbig said. “We want answers. We want truth.”
But board members refused to take the bait, remaining silent throughout presentations by Halbig and several of his supporters who followed him to the microphone. The audience, which included First Selectman Pat Llodra and several other town officials who had come to support the board, also stayed silent.
The only public response came from Newtown resident Jim Fitzpatrick, who was the last to speak. Unable to let this group have the last word, he said, “It’s a shame to see this circus come to town, and I’m offended by the people who have come, and these conspiracy theories. Newtown has conducted itself wonderfully.”
He was greeted with a round of light applause, quickly waved silent by board Chairwoman Debbie Leidlein.