Thursday 22 May 2008

learning and logical fallacies

The scene ; the Pugin room , House of Lords . Its the annual bash for Learning at Work day run by the Campaign for Learning ( acevo member ). And it is THAT wallpaper ; yes , the thousand pound a roll wallpaper that dear Lord Irvine , the then Lord Chancellor installed to match his ego. It is rather splendid though and great to see so many acevo members attending in such magnificence.. Strangely , the host Lord Dhokalia is not there .He is in Taiwan , they inexplicably announce ." Learning "no doubt , rather than a mere parliamentary junket . The wine was disgraceful . Bring back Lord Irvine I cry.

The Campaign for Learning is a rather important organisation ; battling on behalf of learning - and not just " education ".I meet an old pal from the days when I was the Research Officer for the Transport and General Workers Union. We are talking the 70s here I might point out. He now works in UnionLearn at the TUC where they run a big multi million pound training programme for union members . This is one aspect of union work that is not often heard about . The strident tones of the trots tend to drown out the incredible work that goes on by unions in supporting their members in learning , health and welfare and support in times of trouble at work .

Post hoc , ergo propter hoc ......well Boris is making the use of Latin fashionable again and I am so old that I am one of the declining race of people that studied Latin at school.Indeed in those days you needed Latin to get into Oxford ! Anyway the tag sums up the logical fallacy that because b follows a , therefore b is caused by a . An obvious nonsense but that does not stop politicians using this illogicality to justify their prejudices.

A classic example was trotted out by Ian Duncan Smith ( the former Tory leader ) in the Commons recently in the debate on abortion etc . He had put down the amendment on the need for a father in decisions on fertilisation of embryos. He argued that because there is evidence that children in families without a father do less well than those with a father , therefore it is the absence of a father that has caused the problem . No evidence to support this assertion . He also made use of this classic logic fallacy when arguing for marriage when he produced his Breakdown Britain Report. So because in areas of severe social problem there are , statistically, less people in marriage , therefore social breakdown is caused by the decline in marriage.

But I'm just being picky .Why would you want evidence based policy making when glorying in your prejudice is so much more fun. I could go on ....unemployment is rising . There are many more migrants so they are stealing "our " jobs. A little more learning for our politicians might be a good thing . And IDS needs a crash course in logic.

We should feel for the people of Burma . Now that the Chinese are suffering from the effects of the terrible earthquake and are not now afraid of media coverage , people are forgetting the still massive problem of the cyclone ravaged Burma delta. My family have now had 2 emails from Rangoon . The first from the Bishop of Tanguo , who was about to go into Rangoon to help with the relief effort with other church members , and another from the Archbishop of Burma. I was at his enthronemnet a number of years back , and it was the last time I visited. It is clear there is terrible suffering , but it was also clear that his email had been vetted by the Junta. The evil and depravitiy of the generals appears to know no bounds . Will there be an end to this evil ? One must always believe that this can be so .

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