I was in a discussion forum and somebody asked me to explain The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy. I started typing when i remembered a video from several years ago that will explain it better than i can write it.
Enjoy, my friend 🙂
- You Are Not So Smart on the web.
- Read more about the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy here on iLLumiNuTTi.com
An old story claims a long list of astonishing similarities between the assassinations of Lincoln and Kennedy.
Anyone with email has probably received a chain letter revealing a startling series of similarities between the assassinations of U.S. Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. But even before the days of email, the story had been around, being printed and reprinted, quoted and requoted, and it all seems to go back to a book published the year after Kennedy died. Author Jim Bishop’s book A Day in the Life of President Kennedy, published in 1964 but written mostly while Kennedy was still in office, included an appendix listing a number of strange parallels between the two distinguished Presidents.
We’re going to examine these parallels to see if they hold up, but in doing so we should keep in mind the larger question. Are these similarities in any way meaningful? Do numbers and the spelling of names hold any consequential significance? Let’s find out. Today’s version of what’s become quite the urban legend will read something like this:
The Lincoln-Kennedy myths are really intriguing when you hear them, but perhaps equally captivating when you hear the counter arguments. If I drop six pairs of dice, chances are that one pair will match. Taken by itself, that match is pretty cool. Four U.S. Presidents have been assassinated in office, which results in six possible pairings; between those six, it shouldn’t be surprising that we’d find one pairing with interesting coincidences. But that’s just where the counter arguments start to get interesting.
A lot of the similarities are about dates that are exactly 100 years apart. This is no great shock; as U.S. Presidential elections happen every four years, so there are only 25 elections in a century, and every President has at least one other President elected exactly a century before and/or after. But this century-centric nature of the Lincoln-Kennedy legend starts to fall apart very quickly when you look at what should be the most important dates: Lincoln and Kennedy died 98 years apart, not a century; and they were elected to the terms in which they died 96 years apart, not a century. Conveniently omitted from the chain email. But let’s look deeper.
My favorite disassembly of the Lincoln-Kennedy legend is the one on Snopes.com. Barbara Mikkelson, who does most of the research and reporting on Snopes, has always been most astonishingly thorough with the way she tracks down every last scrap of an urban legend, but she also applies a very keen skeptical eye to popular claims. The Lincoln-Kennedy legend is primarily a list of coincidences; and when taken away from the context of all the many non-coincidences that also characterized the two men, it seems amazing. She writes:
We’re supposed to be amazed at minor happenstances such as the two men’s being elected exactly one hundred years apart, but we’re supposed to think nothing of the numerous non-coincidences: Lincoln was born in 1809; Kennedy was born in 1917. Lincoln died in 1865; Kennedy died in 1963. Lincoln was 56 years old at the time of his death; Kennedy was 46 years old at the time of his death. No striking coincidences or convenient hundred-year differences in any of those facts. Even when we consider that, absent all other factors, the two men had a one in twelve chance of dying in the same month, we find no coincidence there: Lincoln was killed in April; Kennedy was killed in November.
Even advice columnist Ann Landers took on this question in 1995, and aptly pointed out that there are far more differences between the men than similarities …
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.
Abraham 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.”
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.
- Did You Know That Abraham Lincoln And John F. Kennedy Had So Much In Common! (obnoxioustv.wordpress.com)
- Abraham Lincoln (amazfacts929.wordpress.com)
- The Lincoln-Kennedy Coincidences (chasepage.net)
- Titanic violin found in North Yorkshire attic (thetimes.co.uk)
- The famous editor who died on the Titanic (wheneditorsweregods.typepad.com)
- Violin played by bandleader while Titanic sank found by auction house (thestar.com)
via The Soap Box
Everyone knows that John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Lincoln, and that twelve days later on April 26, 1865 he himself was shot and killed by Union soldiers after he refused to leave the barn that he was in that the soldiers had set ablaze, but there are rumors that Booth was not killed that day, and that in fact a look alike had been shot and killed, and that Booth had actually lived even into the early 20th century.
There is of course no proof of this, but many authors and descendants of Booth have suggested that he did escape, and there have been several attempts by the family to exhume his body to be tested for DNA.
Probably one of the most famous outlaws of the Wild West, Jesse James and his gang robbed a number of banks, stagecoaches, and trains throughout his criminal career, until he was shot in the back of the head in his own house by fellow James Gang member Robert Ford on April 3, 1882 in and attempt to receive the reward on James’s head.
Now despite the fact that he was positively identified, there have been rumors going around even from back then that he faked his death, and that he may have lived under an assumed identity even into the 20th century.
On July 22, 1934 notorious American criminal John Dillinger was shot to death by FBI agents in an alley way in Chicago, but ever since then there have been rumors that he really wasn’t shot to death, and that who really was killed was just someone who just looked like him (perhaps even a payed body double).
The reason behind this is because many people said that he really didn’t look like he was suppose to. Of course there is a reason behind this: he had plastic surgery so that he wouldn’t look like himself (he even tried to get rid of the famous dimple in his chin). The most likely reason behind this is of course so that he could to live as a free man until he died (which in a ironic way is what happened).
Without a doubt the most evil person in history, on April 30, 1945 Adolf Hitler and his wife Eva Braun killed themselves in an underground bunker in Berlin, Germany. There bodies were removed by Nazi Party loyalist and set on fire so that the Soviet Army couldn’t use them as propaganda pieces.
Despite the fact that the remains were found and that dental records confirm that the remains are that of the mad man, there are many people who believe that he did not commit suicide, and that he actually faked his death, and that he may have even lived past 100.
While most people believe that he escaped to either Spain or Argentina, some of the crazier claims are that he either escaped to Antarctica, or to the Moon, or to the inside of the Earth (which some Hollow Earth believers claim), and even another dimension or time period.
- Hitler Home Movies: How Eva Braun Documented The Dictator’s Life (businessinsider.com)
- Texas Legends: John Wilkes Booth (nightcaptv.com)
- I saw John Wilkes Booth shoot Abraham Lincoln (eogn.com)