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Running with the Bulls and a Common LSAT Fallacy


MSS welcomes Guest Blogger Jay Donnell.
Jay teaches LSAT classes for Blueprint in Irvine, was a skateboarder in a former life, and loves to travel (as you’ll see).

Hello Friends. In a brief respite between traipsing around the globe and pacing back and forth in my LSAT classroom I’ve decided to drop in. These past four years have been dedicated to teaching logic courses to Southern Californian college students for half the year, and spending the other half living as irrationally as possible. The latter involves a slew of first, third, and even the oft-neglected dirty, formerly Commy, second world nations. (Here’s lookin’ at you, Slovakia).

I have, however, found a unifying thread between my (formerly) disparate lifestyles. Just like the millions of 1991-1993 Buffalo Bills Super Bowl Champion hats and t-shirts floating around poor nations, logical fallacies can be found in all corners of the globe.

Our first fallacy stop: the sleepy Navarre region of northern Spain. In this area (Iruña to all you Basques), we find ourselves in Pamplona, a town whose population grows exponentially by over 500% every year for nine days in July. Why? To run with the bulls of course. There are many flaws and misconceptions in the general perception of this storied event—the first that comes to mind is the most common logical fallacy found on the LSAT: Correlation vs. Causation.

I have had the fortune to run with the bulls myself in 2006 and in 2008. Upon sharing this, the first question to arise is always “Holy hell Hasselhoff, just how drunk were you??” (depending on the wit of the inquiring friend, the cameo drunk celebrity reference can range from the Hoff, to this guy, or the frankly played out and borderline tragic. What happened to you Lohan? You were so fetch in Mean Girls. But I digress…

My response is strictly a logical one: Of course I was sh*tfaced, but that’s not what made me do it. You might even go as far as to say that for an amateur (read: tourist) runner, alcohol and the mad dash down Calle Estafeta may even be inextricably linked. I.e. Drunkenness is the cause of people running with the bulls.

However, like all good LSAT students know, causation is incredibly hard to prove. Though alcohol is clearly a very highly correlated factor in the decision to run from a handful of animals that weigh over 1400 pounds and have swords on their foreheads, I argue that several other factors hold an equally high correlation. The presence of these possible alternate causes could be used to weaken the causal argument against booze and its responsibility for this 90-second dash of death.

Possible alternative causes:

The festival of San Fermines is a non-stop, 228-hour party. Not only does the day start at 8 am with the running of the bulls (encierro to the locals), there are concerts, dances, bullfights, parades and fireworks that keep the city alive and vibrant 24 hours a day.

Couple that with the fact that there are just no places to sleep (these guys were playing what appears to be an In and Out Grouping game on a park bench. You don’t want to know what happened to the ‘out’ group…)

So it could be that simple exhaustion accounts for people lining up ahead of Dead Man’s Curve. For the record, other consequences of the widespread lack of sleep appear to be the prevalence of the ubiquitous “Dirty-Spanish-Hipster Mullet/Rat Tail Combo.

A little known fact about the festival is what the diet entails: hard bread, jamon (ham), chorizo (some different ham), and oh yeah, jamon Serrano (some more ham). Knowing what the sleeping accommodations are (read: none), imagine what your options are for the use of a toilet. I’d venture at least a handful of runners mistakenly join the lineup for the encierro while just hoping it was a line for a bathroom. After two-six days of eating nothing but bocadillos, running from the bulls becomes only your second scariest runs.

Ernest Hemingway:
Many runners every year attend because of the lure of the late, great Papa’s novel ‘The Sun Also Rises.’ Now this alternate cause works two ways. One: people who have read this novel run because they want to be like the manly Jake Barnes (minus the emasculation of course). Two: people who run do so because, like Hemingway, they are absolutely, 100% Anne Heche crazy. This is most likely the root cause for the entire festival, and could easily be introduced as an alternative explanation to weaken the causal argument against the booze.

The presence of these alternate causes is just one of the real world examples of how the knowledge of the ever-present causal fallacy can bail you out of insidious accusations. Keep in mind that it’s damn hard to truly prove causation, so keep your options open and be ready to call out your friends for jumping the accusatory gun and telling you that alcohol is the cause of your questionable decisions. I mean come on, I clearly spilled all mine down the front.