# CDZ Correlation does not equal causation and the whys and wherefores.

Discussion in 'Clean Debate Zone' started by RandomPoster, Feb 16, 2019.

1. Offline

### RandomPosterGold Member

Joined:
May 22, 2017
Messages:
1,151
189
Trophy Points:
140
Ratings:
+1,235
I seem to be hearing with increasing frequency the catchphrase of causation "does not imply causation" being used as a cop out to dodge ANY argument based on a relationship between variables. There are couple of things I have noticed. The first is that many, though not all of the examples often used to demonstrate that correlation does not necessarily equal causation tend to involve correlations over time. Those particular types of correlation introduce yet another issue in my opinion.

"Post hoc ergo propter hoc (Latin: "after this, therefore because of this") is a logical fallacy that states "Since event Y followed event X, event Y must have been caused by event X." It is often shortened simply to post hoc fallacy."

Post hoc ergo propter hoc - Wikipedia

For example, the world's population has increased over the last 2,000 years. Additionally, the world has become more democratic during that time. Conclusion: Small countries with low populations can't govern themselves in a free and democratic manner because they don't have enough people.

The second thing I have noticed is that it sometimes seems to blur the line between necessity and sufficiency. For example, someone claims that drinking lemonade causes cancer. When someone else shows them data that demonstrates no statistical correlation between drinking lemonade and likelihood of getting cancer, they respond with "correlation does not imply causation". In my opinion, this runs dangerously close to confusing sufficiency with necessity. It could be argued that some type of correlation is necessary, except may not be sufficient. Even at that, I believe there are times when a correlation is sufficient. For example, people started avoiding rattlesnakes long before we knew WHY their venom is dangerous. All they had was a correlation between people getting bit by a rattlesnake and getting very sick, possibly dying. Anyone stupid enough to respond with "correlation does not imply causation" was quickly removed from the gene pool.

In my opinion, people who are overly fond of that phrase tend to be people that prefer to abuse the practice of arguing the "whys and the wherefores" as a safe refuge whenever the facts contradict their claims.

2. Offline

### DGS49Gold Member

Joined:
Apr 12, 2012
Messages:
7,252
1,594
Trophy Points:
290
Location:
Pittsburgh
Ratings:
+7,027
Engineers in the field of water and wastewater treatment all subscribe to a secret maxim: Everything is poison; everything is safe. Dosage is everything.

Hysterical journalists often like to create headlines like, "LEAD discovered in City Water!" "Arsenic found in Army FOOD!!!" "Radioactive material found in soil around local Grade School!" "Rat Feces found in cafeteria food!"

All true, and all meaningless (without information on DOSAGE and HUMAN TOLERANCE). In all cases, the dosage is likely to be well within human tolerance, and totally harmless. In fact, trace amounts may be beneficial, even though "large" dosages can be fatal.

Good to know. Unfortunately, often public policy ends up being based on ignorance about dosage and human tolerance.

• Funny and Agree!! x 1
• Informative x 1
3. Offline

### C_Clayton_JonesDiamond Member

Joined:
Apr 28, 2011
Messages:
51,168
10,787
Trophy Points:
2,030
Location:
In a Republic, actually
Ratings:
+35,945
Or not.

For example, a popular canard concerned the fallacy that the playing of violent video games resulted in a propensity for violence and anti-social behavior – when in fact research has determined that not be the case.

A confusion of correlation and causation fallacy is appropriately identified when objective evidence documents it to indeed be a fallacy.

4. Offline

### RandomPosterGold Member

Joined:
May 22, 2017
Messages:
1,151
189
Trophy Points:
140
Ratings:
+1,235
If I recall correctly, the people arguing that video games cause violence were not providing actual evidence. They were simply arguing with a reason why they think it "makes sense" that it hypothetically would, instead of actual evidence. In other words, they didn't have a correlation, simply "reasons".

5. Online

### jwoodieGold MemberSupporting Member

Joined:
Aug 15, 2012
Messages:
11,834
1,798
Trophy Points:
280
Ratings:
+6,994
Cite?

Title
Replies Views
Last Message

Replies:
139
Views:
613

Replies:
10,863
Views:
221,589

Replies:
20
Views:
97

Replies:
162
Views:
1,195

Replies:
273
Views:
2,088