Causation, correlation, politics, science, journalism and conspiracy theories.
Now .. if there isn’t something in there that interests you, then you need to get out more. Wait, if you don’t get out then conspiracy theories are right up your alley …
Ok, moving on …
This is about what the sale of margarine has to do with divorce.
What this will be about is simple. How people often connect two different issues that are not related but follow some simple pattern to convince others of “cause and effect” which is referred to as causation. Causation is as simple as cause and effect. But in this context it is more about understanding when things DO cause an effect rather than appearing to.
Correlation is two things that when graphed indicating change over time, change similarly or VERY similarly. Notice I did not say that they were related. Cause if they are corollary, they change at similar rates but NOT related.
How do we know the difference when one is used incorrectly? Do our own research. Use common sense. Find other sources. This is the age of the internet if you haven’t noticed, which means you can log into other nations news. Read information from uninvolved sources.
The simplest is this, don’t assume that since CNN and Fox news both run it, it must be true. Those two cousins don’t just kiss, they make out. Try NBC, NPR, BBC and two news agencies in the area of the world where these events are taking place. If the events are in the US, try CBC and BBC. If you consult only one source, you are their product, not the consumer. YOU are part of the problem.
This brings me to an issue that is near and dear to me. We don’t pay for our news. We can see it on the free airwaves. Hear it on the free airwaves. We can read it on many free news sites. Advertisers pay to pitch their wares while the news is broadcast. THEY are the consumer. We are the PRODUCT. Does CNN ask the Simpsons what they should broadcast? No. But when the news is contrary to the advertisers interests they pull ads, we have seen this often with hot button issues.
This means the advertisers are the consumer of the news. Usually the news plays on. But sometimes, the story changes just enough they others don’t leave. In other words, the “truth” changed to suit the consumer. So the truth changed … that does happen, often, if not all the time.
Go to 9-11. A favorite topic for people who wanna make points so we will use it as well. When first reported, a plane had crashed into the WTC. Later, some reports said they were not sure it was an accident. Then a second plane hit. Now the story changed to high jacking and deliberate flying into the WTCs. The change in story was a reflection of a change in truth. The known information changed and all was accurate based on what was available.
This is the nature of journalism, especially TV and radio where we expect it to be timely. Print journalism has more time. Newspapers have a little more time, magazines have significantly more time, journals have a lot more time.
Now, when flight 93 went down in Pennsylvania there were later reports of a white plane flying low over the crash site. This plane was reported as “aggressive” in design. Many conspiracy theorists see this as a war plane or a secret CIA plane that was quickly fitted with missiles to shoot down flight 93.
This is a loose example of correlation. Flight 93 went down and a private jet did fly over the wreck site shortly after. The leap to cause and effect requires the plane to be CIA and to have air to air offensive capabilities and to have shot down flight 93. In reality, it was a private jet the FAA asked to exactly locate the site of the crash so they could tell first responders exactly where to go.
These are leaps that have no backing but presented as circular fact. What I mean is that in in order to prove the plane was CIA, was armed and shot down flight 93, they point out that is was there shortly after the plan crash flying low. Therefore, it must have caused it. There is no logic much less cause and effect. Politics uses the same logic.
If a person is bad, they must do bad things right? Since they must do bad things, we know they are bad. We knew Saddam Hussain was a bad guy. He oppressed his people but was also very popular with his people. He was not democratically elected. But that’s doesn’t mean he was bad, unless we want it to.
Since he fought with Iran, he must be bad. Suddenly we were siding with Iran, a long time adversary, to justify Iraq as bad. Then he invaded Kuwait and we knew he was bad. He was vanquished. He was sanctioned and largely controlled by the US. The UN was all over his country looking for signs of bio, chemical and nuclear weapons.
He is bad so he must have them. Since he has them he must be bad. The UN found none. But it is undeniable he is bad. So he must have them. If he has them, he must be bad. We cannot let bad persist in the world. All bad must be vanquished. We know bad. He is bad. He must have weapons of mass destruction. He must be vanquished.
We know were that led. A war that killed 4,491 Americans. It also killed around 115,000 Iraqi civilians. And NO weapons of mass destruction. But he was still bad, right? Yes he was. But him being bad was not cause and effect of him having WMDs. It was barely corollary. But it was effective for gaining support of the American people for a war. People still today believe he had WMDs even though none were ever found, even by us. Bush later admitted this. Tony Blair recently admitted knowing this but going to war anyhow. He is likely going on trial for it.
Here is causation: If I work longer hours at an hourly job, with the same pay, I make more money. If I push the door the right way, it closes. If I turn the oven up, it gets hotter …. You get the idea.
Here is NOT cause and effect: For every 5 billion dollars more we spend on space development per year, there are 2,000 more suicides by some form of suffocation in the US in the same year. They ARE corollary, since their rates can be graphed with almost the same graph, but NOT causation.
Or in the words of Rush Limbaugh, “Is it any fluke that every time we elect a liberal president, we become more vulnerable to terrorism?” Well ….. where do I start.
Liberal compared to what? I am liberal compared to Limbaugh, but I am not that liberal. Define vulnerable in this context. And define terrorism. In journalism and politics which he is both, terrorism is supposed to mean aggressive acts against the US or its citizens by foreign entities. In reality, by far most terrorism against Americans is by Americans.
Does he mean we experience more terrorism under Democratic presidents? That is likely what he wants you to hear, but not what he said. He is trying to make a cause and effect relationship between who we elect and acts of terror against Americans. In other words, using false causation to instill fear in voters. His advertisers are his consumers, his product is scared Americans.
It works, cause people don’t listen, only hear. Listen to the statement and it is too vague to mean anything and more importantly, he can defend it since he can redefine it any way he wants if he must.
We have had three major acts of mass shooting and dozens of others thus far in 2016. We have a Democrat in the White House. Rush said after the Orlando shooting, the above statement. He is trying to imply that he predicted this, we have had more terrorism under a liberal president. But he did not define what kind of terrorism he was implying, nor are mass shooting in the US unusual. So he made a vague enough statement that he can show he was right by redefining the statement more specifically after something specific happened. In other words, he was implying cause and effect then defining it with specific events after they happened, and wrong in both cases.
This is the basis of conspiracy theories. Conspiracy Theories depend on correlation being taken as causation. In the state of Maine, the rate of divorce goes up and down with the average consumption of Margarine in the state of Maine per year. So, margarine directly impacts marriage quality. So why do we not legislate out margarine? Well, we have seen arguments like this before. Breakfast makes for better students.
No, it is not cause and effect. It is corollary. But breakfast does not improve learning, directly. It can encourage a child to wake up for school if the food is being provided at home. Or go to school if it is being provided there but this does not mean they are suddenly better students.
Does it mean that they are likely more healthy, possibly. Do healthy children learn more? Likely. But there is no strong cause and effect. We have bad students in wealthy schools. We have great ones in orphanages. As a rule though, they are the exception. Breakfast is very good. But it is not a silver bullet like it is often sold.
They are more related then margarine and divorce though, although the rates of margarine consumption and divorce are closer on a graph. See how correlation can look like causation when in fact it may be unrelated?
Science and education are very connected. So it is not surprising that the average amount of money earned every year in arcades is directly corollary with computer science PhDs issued each year, right? No. Are they Corollary? Yes. Related? No.
My point here is that when we stop thinking for ourselves and do not use our common sense, we let the emotional corollaries define our world view. In so much of discussion I have heard use of corollaries as facts. I’m sorry but we sound stupid using these. We cannot know all, that’s impossible, but to willingly know so little is sad.
This is a year of politics in the US. You will hear much of these used. I am going to issue a challenge to all of us. Listen more critically to our own political side and when the press is trashing the other side. How much is logical, and how much is emotional?
Remember, when it comes to the news, we are NOT the consumer. We are the product being manufactured. So listen to broad news sources so you are no longer looking only one direction when you drive.