Correlation Does Not Imply Causation

Why does correlation not imply causation? In other words, why would two things which very much appear to be related, have no connection whatsoever?

The correlation = cause logical fallacy is the claim that two events which occur together must have a cause-and-effect relationship. It is also known as the cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy (In Latin, “with this, therefore before this”).

Let us turn to television for a clear illustration of this principle.

In The Simpsons’ episode Much Apu About Nothing, Ned Flanders spots a bear on the street, which prompts the whole town to crusade against bears and to create a so-called Bear Patrol.

Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm.
Lisa: That’s specious reasoning, Dad.
Homer: Thank you, dear.
Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
Homer: Oh, how does it work?
Lisa: It doesn’t work.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: It’s just a stupid rock.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: But I don’t see any tigers around, do you?
[Homer thinks for a while, then pulls out some money]
Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.
[Lisa refuses at first, then gives up and takes the exchange]

Choose Your English (iii)

assure / ensure / insure
Although these three often show up at the same party, mostly while giving hugs, they are by no means the same: to assure is to tell someone everything is in order, to ensure is to make certain, and to insure is to protect financially.

bare / bear
Bare means naked, but to bear is to carry something. The noun bear is also a brown furry mammal of the Ursidae family.

capital / capitol
A capital is either a stash of money or the government headquarters of a state. A capitol on the other hand is simply a building.

climactic / climatic
Climactic describes the high point, the most intense part of a film, play, song, et cetera. Climatic refers to the climate, like the current climatic changes we can observe at the North Pole for instance.

complement / compliment
Both are very welcome on a first date — a complement means to complete something, but a compliment is flattering. If you feel you and your new friend complement each other, maybe it’s because he or she has been giving you so many compliments, like for instance when he or she says you look like Roger Waters or Anna Chlumsky.

See other: Choose Your English

On English

“Let’s face it – English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth beeth? One goose, two geese. So one moose, two meese? One index, two indices? Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which an alarm goes off by going on. English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race (which, of course, isn’t a race at all). That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

And finally, why doesn’t “buick” rhyme with “quick”?”

– Richard Lederer

28/viii mmxiv

Clyde (of Bonnie and Clyde) Barrow’s middle name was ‘Chestnut’.

On her eighth birthday in 1936, Shirley Temple got 135,000 birthday presents.

The US states of Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina and Maryland have legislation which forbids an atheist from holding public office.

In Danish, the word ‘forgive’ means ‘to poison’.

Because of his squeaky voice, Reinhard Heydrich was called ‘the goat’ at school. He became a heavy drinker and a sex-addict. While serving as an officer in the SS, he opened an exclusive brothel.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

Reflection and Occam’s Razor

‘Ned thought for a while. […] ‘Some – I don’t know – some conspiracy brought me here and I need to understand what it was.’
‘We are merely the starstennis balls, Ned, struck and banded which way please them.’
‘You don’t believe that. You believe in will. You told me so.’
‘Like anyone with a sliver of honesty in them I believe what I find I believe when I wake up each morning. Sometimes I can only think we are determined by the writing in our genes, sometimes it seems to me that we are made or unmade by our upbringings. On better days, it is true that I hope with some conviction that we and we alone make ourselves everything that we are.’
‘Nature, Nurture or Nietzsche in fact.’
‘Ha!’ Babe clapped Ned in the back. ‘It’s coming on, the creature is coming on,’ he boomed to the wide uncomprehending lawn. ‘Listen,’ he said, tucking has arm in Ned’s, ‘if you want to understand your own situation, can you not apply some of the logic it has cost me so much brain blood to teach you? Take out Occam’s Razor and cut away the irrelevant and the obfuscatory. Set down only what you know.’

– Fry. S. 2010. The Stars’ Tennis Balls London, Great Britain: Arrow Books (2014) p. 210-211

Problems with Occam’s Razor

‘Three axioms presupposed by the scientific method are realism (the existence of objective reality), the existence of observable natural laws, and the constancy of observable natural law. Rather than depend on provability of these axioms, science depends on the fact that they have not been objectively falsified.

Occam’s razor and related appeals to simplicity are epistemological preferences, not general principles of science. The general principle of science is that theories (or models) of natural law must be consistent with repeatable experimental observations. This principle rests upon the unproven axioms mentioned above. Occam’s razor supports, but does not prove, these axioms.’

– Courtney. A., Courtney. M. On the Nature of Science, Physics in Canada, Vol. 64, No. 3 (2008), p. 7-8

Wittgenstein on Occam’s Razor

As for Occam’s Razor, consider Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus:

3.328 If a sign is not necessary then it is meaningless. That is the meaning of Occam’s Razor. (If everything in the symbolism works as though a sign had meaning, then it has meaning.)

4.04 In the proposition there must be exactly as many things distinguishable as there are in the state of affairs which it represents. They must both possess the same logical (mathematical) multiplicity (cf. Hertz’s Mechanics, on Dynamic Models).

5.47321 Occam’s Razor is, of course, not an arbitrary rule nor one justified by its practical success. It simply says that unnecessary elements in a symbolism mean nothing. Signs which serve one purpose are logically equivalent, signs which serve no purpose are logically meaningless.

6.363 The procedure of induction consists in accepting as true the simplest law that can be reconciled with our experiences.

Occam’s Razor

Occam’s razor is a logical and philosophical principle stated by the medieval scholar William of Ockham (1285–1347/49). It gives precedence to simplicity; that is to say, of two or more competing theories, the simpler explanation of an entity is to be preferred. The principle is also expressed as “Entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity.”

In other words, Ockham used the principle to dispense with relations, which he held to be nothing distinct from their foundation in things. According to Ockham:

pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate
“Plurality should not be posited without necessity.”

Explanations can become needlessly complex. It could become coherent to add the involvement of say, leprechauns to any explanation, but Occam’s Razor would prevent such additions, unless they were causally necessary.

“The simplest hypothesis proposed as an explanation of phenomena is more likely to be the true one than is any other available hypothesis, that its predictions are more likely to be true than those of any other available hypothesis, and that it is an ultimate a priori epistemic principle that simplicity is evidence for truth.” – Richard Swinburne

Consider the following example: Two trees have fallen down during a windy night. There could be two possible explanations to account for the fallen trees:

  1. The wind has blown them down.
  2. Two meteorites have each taken one tree down, and after that hit each other and removed any trace of themselves – that, or those pesky leprechauns again.