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March 29, 2008


Two or so years ago, someone wrote on a blog that "Correlation is not Causality." I thought it a succinct way of making a point. Since then I have come across it quite often, and have wondered at what point a phrase or idea loses its potency from frequent use. Variation, I suppose, is one way of extending its life.

Why wonder? You can look it up!

Boingboinged! http://www.boingboing.net/2008/03/29/cartoon-explains-the.html

:lol: I think you got a better statistics education from a degree in journalism than I did from one in physics. (And damn, they taught you Game Theory?! That's not fair!)

Anyway, you sent me on an odyssey looking up Post Hoc and Cum Hoc fallacies on the web. http://www.logicalfallacies.info/cumhoc.html lines up declines in piracy with rising temperatures. (You'd think higher sea levels would mean *more* piracy. ;-) http://www.fallacyfiles.org/cumhocfa.html has an oft cited example by David Hackett Fischer. But Epsen's and the toon are both good 'uns.

However in any debate on statistics shouldn't somebody provide the data which shows there is ‘a lot of bogus stuff which passes for causality’? (Otherwise I'm gonna shout ‘Confirmation bias’.) To be honest, humanity is soo hard wired to see causal connections (and then prove, or disprove them) that I suspect these fallacies retain a constant rate. But perhaps our more secular society is looking for less supernatural explanations, so we're more aware of these fallacies? Or perhaps, because of the internet, we can see things on a global scale that were always there locally?

Anyway, if in doubt, I just blame the Big Bang: it's the cause of everything... :D

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