EppsNet Archive: Causality

Climate Change is Making People More Stupid

11 Jul 2014 /

(HealthDay News) — Add another possible woe to the growing list of consequences of climate change: Kidney stones.

A new study of American cities suggests that rising temperatures may increase the number of people who develop the painful urinary obstructions.

You have to read all the way down to the second-to-last sentence of the article to find this:

The study uncovered a connection between higher temperatures and risk of kidney stones, but didn’t prove cause-and-effect.

The article implies cause and effect only to fess up right at the end and admit that there is no cause and effect. In the absence of cause and effect, what exactly is the point?

In the epilogue of War and Peace, a peasant notices a “connection” between smoke and locomotives and infers cause and effect: the smoke causes the locomotive to move. The point being that it’s easy to infer causality from “connections” in ways that have no grounding in reality.

In other climate news, the Wall Street Journal reports that researchers have, for the first time, counted all the world’s Adélie penguins — a sprightly seabird considered a bellwether of climate change — and discovered that millions of them are thriving in and around Antarctica.

Rather than declining as feared due to warming temperatures that altered their habitats in some areas, the Adélie population generally is on the rise.

Adelie penguins


Fundamental Principles of Analytical Design

19 Feb 2010 /
Edward Tufte 'Presenting Data and Information Lecture'

Looking over my notes from an Edward Tufte course . . .

  1. Show comparisons, contrasts, differences.
  2. Show causality, mechanism, explanation, systematic structure.
  3. Show multivariate data; that is, show more than 1 or 2 variables.
  4. Completely integrate words, numbers, images, diagrams.
  5. Thoroughly describe the evidence. Provide a detailed title, indicate the authors and sponsors, document the data sources, show complete measurement scales, point out relevant issues.
  6. Analytical presentations ultimately stand or fall depending on the quality, relevance, and integrity of their content.