Monday, September 24, 2007

Debunking fallacies

(The hinged inner covers – part 1)
Over the course of the past year we have revealed a number of serious failings in the conduct and conclusions drawn by the 2004 Gaul RFI panel. Throughout this time, the DfT has, nonetheless, persistently avoided re-opening the debate on this subject and doggedly stuck to the RFI official line.
As the fallacies in their final report were being dismantled, they continued to fend off any controversy by wielding what they thought was their ‘biggest’ argument:
[Regardless of any failings in the investigative process, on the day of the loss, the crew could have closed and secured the inner covers of the duff and offal chutes and this action in itself would have saved the vessel.]
Thus, the officials argue, regardless of any failures of the RFI, the over-riding outcome of the formal investigation (that crew error had been instrumental in the vessel’s loss) is still valid and, therefore, a miscarriage of justice did not occur.
As we are going to demonstrate in our future posts, this argument, also, is fallacious in that it, too, relies on misinterpretations of known facts and on conclusions that have been drawn from incorrect or unsound premises. For instance:
  1. The panel concluded that the crew had left the inner covers of the chutes open. Using images from the underwater survey of wreck, they tried to show that one of the inner covers had been tied back in the open position.
    The ligature that supposedly performed this function was clearly just an item of post-casualty debris.
    Moreover, there was evidence indicating quite the opposite –i.e. that both covers might have been closed and secured before the incident happened.
  2. The panel stated that the construction of the inner covers was satisfactory, that they were watertight and that, had they been closed, the safety of the vessel would have been assured.
    This is not at all correct: the inner covers were neither weathertight nor watertight, they were not even supposed to be so, and, if closed, they could not have been relied upon to maintain the watertight integrity of the vessel.
The chutes had two means of protection against the ingress of water from outside: the outer non-return flaps and the inner covers.
Making a simplistic, although very befitting, analogy we can compare the system for closing the chutes to that used to seal a plastic milk bottle: the threaded plastic cap at the outside, providing the strength barrier against spillage, and the tin foil seal on the inside, meant only to stop leakage.
The Gaul RFI, in their desire to obscure the obvious design flaws of the outer flaps, concluded that, no matter the state of the flaps, had the inner covers been closed and secured, the loss of vessel would have been prevented.
This, going back to our comparison, is like saying that, no matter whether your milk bottle has its plastic cap securely screwed on or not, the tin foil underneath should be enough to prevent the milk from spilling, whatever the circumstances and however roughly you handle the bottle.

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