June 2 – Yell “Fudge” at the Cobras in North America Day

Posted June 2, 2013

Did you know that there are no species of cobras native to North America?...And did you know why there aren't? 

Apparently, we North Americans owe our cobra-less-ness to the fact that every June 2 some few brave souls go outside precisely at 12 noon (local time—so several times during the day) and yell “Fudge!”

And you know how much cobras hate fudge!

It may seem silly to yell fudge at 12 noon, but, let's face it, it's been working, right? Still no wild cobras in North America!

Of course I am kidding. I mean, people claim that they really do shout fudge on June 2, and there really are no cobras running—excuse me, slithering—about in North America. But this is not a situation of cause and effect!

This silly holiday is supposed to bring a smile to your face and perhaps even a chuckle or two, but it does point out a really important logical fallacy:

Sometimes people believe that something affects or causes something else, but it doesn't.

This sort of magical thinking is evident in superstitions and pseudoscience. It is why we shouldn't jump to conclusions or read too much into coincidences. Here are some examples of this logical fallacy, sometimes called “false cause,” cum hoc ergo prompter hoc, or “correlation (two things happening at the same time, say, or to the same person) does not imply causation (one thing causing the other)”:

  • If a football player hangs up his “lucky” rabbit's foot in his locker the first three games of the season, and his team wins those three games—are the wins caused by the rabbit's foot?
Note: Most people “get” that the rabbit's foot had nothing to do with the victories, because they don't really believe in rabbit-foot-magic. However, they might believe that prayers to God influence football games. A better explanation may be that the winning football team is good or that there are too few games to draw any conclusions.

  • James Randi says that
    every psychic healer he
    has investigated is a fake.
    Not only do they NOT heal,
    they can cause harm!
    If a cancer patient goes to a psychic “healer” and several months later finds out from the doctor that her cancer has gone into remission—is the remission caused by the healer?

    Before you say, “yes, obviously!” – remember that many cancer patients go into remission even though they haven't gone to that particular psychic healer—or any psychic healer!

  • Many different studies showed that women who were getting hormone replacement therapy had a lower-than-average rate of heart disease. Does hormone therapy protect women, to some extent, from heart disease?

Many doctors assumed cause-and-effect and started recommending hormone replacement therapy partly for the heart-health benefits. However, a randomized, controlled experiment showed that hormone therapy actually causes a small increase in the risk of heart disease!

It turned out that the original studies showed hormone therapy and lower heart disease in the same women because women who had enough money for hormone replacement therapy also had enough money to purchase healthier foods and exercise equipment and gym memberships.

  • Two women find themselves sitting next to each other on a plane traveling from LA to New York City. After a bit of polite chit-chat, the two find out that they both came from the same town: Buffalo, New York. They are surprised and pleased to find this connection and end up talking the entire 5-hour trip. At hour 4, they realize that they both have collies, AND both of their fathers are medical doctors.
This can't be coincidence, they say. Some weird power made them sit together for some reason that they couldn't fathom. However, coincidences happen all the time. Scientists and mathematicians have proven that it would be very strange if there were no coincidences; it is to be completely expected that there are! Also, in this case, the two women were thinking only of the three similarities that they had discovered—not all the hundreds of differences that had turned up during their talk.

This example of faulty logic is perhaps a bit different than false cause, but thinking that there is a magical force called “fate” that causes things to happen feels to me similar to assuming that correlation implies causation.

Oh, no!

Wow! After writing ALL of this wonderful stuff about the serious side of a silly holiday, I just found out that there IS a cobra that lives in North America!! The species Micrurus fluvius is sometimes called “American cobra.” It lives in the southeast United States, and it is in the same snake family as the king cobra and other more familiar cobras, most of which live in southern Africa and Asia.

I suppose that the people who created this holiday (and the websites promoting it) didn't consider this snake to be a cobra. It is usually referred to as a coral snake, and it doesn't have that cobra-looking hooded head.

By the way...

If you are always looking for an excuse to eat chocolate, I thought I would mention that some people celebrate “Yell Fudge at Cobras in North America Day,” not by yelling “fudge,” but by buying or making—and then of course eating—delicious, rich, chocolatey fudge!

Also on this date:

Plan ahead:

Check out my Pinterest pages on June holidayshistorical anniversaries in June, and June birthdays.

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