Correlation, Causation – Whatever

To:  Dave Mindeman
From:  Mitch Berg, Non-Physicist
Re:  Elementary Logic

Mr. Mindeman,

I had yogurt, oatmeal and orange juice for breakfast this morning.  Then the sun rose.

Clearly, the yogurt, oatmeal and orange juice caused the sun to rise.

Thus, I owe it to humanity to have yogurt, oatmeal and orange juice tomorrow, lest the world be plunged into darkness.

You might respond “but Mitch, your breakfast didn’t cause the sun to rise!”.

To which I’d reply “No, it is a FACT!  I had my yogurt, oatmeal and orange juice.  And then the sun rose!”

You might reply “Mitch, that’s just stupid.  You’re taking a correlation between two factoids and claiming causation.  You’re ignoring the fact that the earth is rotating on its axis once a day, giving the sun the appearance of rising in the east…”

“Dave, Dave, Dave.  Bubbeleh.  You’re rationalizing.  And clearly afraid of something.  Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go play “Moby Dick” on the tabletop with pencils, to prevent the volcano from blowing up under Los Angeles.  Again”.

That is all.

Well, no.  It’s not “all”.  It’s just the beginning.

We’ve gone back and forth a couple of times now; you insisted that business does better with Democrats in charge; I showed you that there was a metric poo-ton of context that showed the claim was, let’s just say, overly broad.  You responded with a “blizzard of facts“; I showed you that the “facts” were, in fact, context-free non-sequiturs.

You’ve responded by saying I was “rationalizing”.  Well, you’re close.  ”Rationalizing” comes from the same Latin root as “reasoning”.  I’ll give you partial credit.

You’ve shown “facts” on the same level of detail as my yogurt and orange juice claim; I’ve called it out, twice.  And I could do it a third time…

…but you’ll find out soon enough.

UPDATE:  Not only is quoting stock market index numbers without context misleading, but the numbers themselves are no longer especially dispositive as indicators of economic health.

One thought on “Correlation, Causation – Whatever

  1. Republicans used to say that the Democrats were the War Party. Every 20th Century war had started under a Democrat administration — and it was true, until the First Gulf War.
    The Democrats of the time said that the Republicans were leaving out important context.

Leave a Reply