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The correlation phrase has become so common and so irritating that a minor backlash has now ensued against the rhetoric if not the concept. No, correlation does not imply causation, but it sure as hell provides a hint. Does email make a man depressed? Does sadness make a man send email? Or is something else again to blame for both? A correlation can't tell one from the other; in that sense it's inadequate. Still, if it can frame the question, then our observation sets us down the path toward thinking through the workings of reality, so we might learn new ways to tweak them. It helps us go from seeing things to changing them.
So how did a stats-class admonition become so misused and so widespread? What made this simple caveat—a warning not to fall too hard for correlation coefficients—into a coup de grace for second-rate debates? A survey shows the slogan to be a computer-age phenomenon, one that spread through print culture starting in the 1960s and then redoubled its frequency with the advent of the Internet. The graph below plots three common versions of the phrase going back to 1880 as they turn up in Google Books. It's that right-most rise that interests me—the explosion of correlations that don't imply causation in the 1990s and 2000s. Beware of spurious correlations, I know! But it is tempting to say the warning spread in the squall of data on the Web, as a means of warding off the cheap associations that ride a stormy sea of numbers. If now we're quick to say that correlation is not causation, it's because the correlations are all around us...
"Correlation does not imply causation" But... it may indicate a common sense link.
Originally posted by Hefficide
From my perspective, that is a phrase I don't see much - as I tend to spend my time in social and political forums but there are correlatives there. People who memorize the list of logical fallacies and then, ironically enough, use the term "straw man" as a straw man.
How to get people to turn off the reflexive and instinctive reactions and substitute a new dynamic? A proactive control of reflex? Well Pavlov had some ideas about that, as did Nietzsche. And I'm sure a lot of very smart people, even now, are sequestered in small labs trying to pick the combinations of this lock too.
No, correlation does not imply causation, but it sure as hell provides a hint.
"Correlation does not imply causation"