Thursday, 27 December 2012


Abuse of causality arguments irks me. Media do it often through lazy reporting. Special interest groups do it often to promote their causes to less critical thinkers.

"Marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to x, y, and z harder drug use". Ok sure, sounds plausible. And in a select set of survivor bias cases, it's true.

But it doesn't make the progression true. Scientifically, I'd say there's an solid gazillion Mexican labourers, hippies gone baby boomers (or just boomers in general, regardless if they were hippies), and the people of BC, who haven't gone that A to B route, just the A. X percent of people had whatever in them where they were going to be in pursuit of mind altering substances, and they didn't start with heroin...

It's like saying breast milk and apple juice sippy cups get people started on a path to alcoholism (it's true that alcoholics start as infants and need nourishment of course...), but dumb to think that's causal.

1. Pick precursor you want to harp on.
2. Pick "undesirable" circumstance.
3. Wield poor argument.

French fries. Obesity. People who eat carbohydrates like potatoes will be fat. Sure, if dozens of other conditions are met. Or go check those Belgian cyclists/models dipping their fries in mayonnaise for a counter argument...

Just like we know that pedestrians who get hit by cars all know how to put their own socks on in the morning didn't cause their injury by pedestrianism, we need to know the remedy is adding percent correlation and frequency of occurance statements to a false (implicit 100% correlation) argument.

The trick for perpetrators is to say repeat such statements enough, quick enough, with other facts nearby (perhaps not even associated), such that the causality is swallowed whole. Don't fall for false causality arguments. And call those out who use them - ask if they are actually trying to be deceitfully manipulative or are just simple in the head (perhaps use tact though). And review in your mind what portion of those who complete the precursor don't join the speakers unfortunate ending condition.

Rant over.

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