We all remember, and we're all still shocked and amazed that the late, lamentable Jerry Falwell proclaimed that the 9/11 attacks on the US were caused by "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays, and the lesbians." How to understand either the logic or the brain of such a thinker? We moderns tend to reason in terms of cause and effect, and cause and effect just doesn't cut it with Falwell. Was he thinking something like, feminists cause sin (a debatable proposition) and Al-Qaeda wants to cleanse us, so they run the airplanes into the towers. That would be unbelievable nonsense, even for Falwell. Here's another attempt to divine his mind: feminists are dangerous and evil and therefore the good old US of A has become Sodom/ Gomorrah/ Ephesus and the Big Guy in the Sky is offended and therefore he engaged Al-Qaeda to punish the US for its sins by enabling or permitting those young Saudi jerks to fly planes into the towers in order to persuade us to repudiate the feminists. Yes, that makes sense. Sort of.
Similarly, Pat Robertson deduced that Hurricane Katrina was all about abortion. In this case, the Ancient of Days didn't even bother to enlist human agents. Noticing that there were abortions being performed in the US, he let loose the winds from the caves in which he had kept them confined and instructed them to bust up the New Orleans dikes and drown a lot of people.
Jerry and Pat are a pair of idiots, not because they lack intelligence, because their view of the world is five hundred or a thousand years behind the times. They'd be mainstream in dark/medieval Europe when Attila the Hun and Timur (or Tamburlaine) the Great competed for the title of Scourge of God --the flagelllum dei. They pillaged and burned and raped over vast areas of the world not because they were imperialists and conquerors but because they were instruments of god. They wreaked vengeance on our sins. It was orthodoxy. Cause and effect? Sorry, not part of the picture.
The fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc -- "after this therefore because of this" -- means that just because B comes after A doesn't mean that A causes B. Just because an abortion is followed by a hurricane doesn't mean that the abortion caused the hurricane. Just because someone prays to one or another god and recovers from illness doesn't mean that the prayer caused the cure. The volcano isn't quiescent because we sacrificed the maiden. No religion, not a single one, can bear the light of post hoc. Fully honored, it puts them all out of business. Along with all the other varieties of magical thinking.
All this hardly bears mentioning except that a couple of days ago, a 'senior Iranian cleric" Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, pronounced that very soon a massive earthquake will devastate the city of Teheran and that the earthquake will be caused by "women who do not dress modestly. [Such women] lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes." There's a chain of logic for you. A guy catches a glimpse of a lock of hair, or, god forbid, a bit of bosom, and boom --earthquake. But it's not his fault -- it's that his natural chastity has been compromised by them there female blandishments. Delilah all over again. Forget the movement of tectonic plates. The energy released in earthquakes isn't caused by subduction. It's ankles. The senior Iranian cleric has not correctly grasped the meaning of the demotic phrase, "the earth moved."
Sedighi is a boob and is even more presumptuous and illogical than Pat and Jerry. The earthquake hasn't even occurred and he's already blaming it on the outfits. He's launched a pre-emptive strike on post hoc. His is a fallacy so monumentally illogical that hasn't yet earned a name.
It's instructive that Shakespeare, writing before the age of reason and before the scientific revolution, offered a full debate on the subject. In King Lear, Gloucester takes the traditional view. Eclipses, like hurricanes, are filled with meaning. Gloucester does not hold with reason or with the logic that he calls "the wisdom of nature."
"These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us: though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself scourged by the sequent effects: love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide. In cities, mutinies; in countries, discord; in palaces, treason, and the bond cracked 'twixt son and father... We have seen the best of our time: machinations, hollowness, treachery and all ruinous disorders, follow us disquietly to our graves."
Gloucester's bastard son Edmund dismisses tradition and argues scientifically and rationally.
"This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune -- often the surfeit of our own behavior -- we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as if we were villains by necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers, by spherical predominance, drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence, and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. And admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star. My father compounded with my mother under the dragon's tail, and my nativity was under Ursa Major; so that it follows, I am rough and lecherous. Tut, I should have been that I am, had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing."
Gloucester is, in our terms, superstitious and simple, but he's also orthodox and reverent. Edmund is realistic and rational, but he is also as loathsome a villain as Shakespeare ever created. Shakespeare is a late medieval writer, which is why he should not necessarily be looked to for moral advice but rather for great poetry, great stories, and aesthetic bliss.
Meanwhile, the "excellent foppery of the world" has become the province of fundamentalists of all stripes.