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Causalation (a portmanteau of the words "causation" and "correlation") is a logical fallacy that occurs when a debater claims a cause and effect relationship when the evidence does not support such a claim.


[edit] Alternate names

  • causal fallacy
  • fallacy of cause
  • false cause(s)
  • faulty causal generalization
  • faulty causation
  • non causa pro causa
  • phantom cause
  • questionable cause

[edit] Examples

[edit] Ice cream & crime

One excellent example is the positive correlation between ice cream sales and violent crime (i.e. violent crime increases as ice cream sales increase). The fallacy of causalation would claim that ice cream sales cause violent crime (or vice versa). However, such a claim ignores lurking variables such as heat (which would drive up both crime and ice cream sales).

[edit] Homosexuality

Causalation is often used to skew statistics in favor of a particular argument. For instance, one might observe a supposed correlation between homosexuality and mental illness and claim that being gay leads to psychiatric disorders (not that anyone makes that claim... oh, wait). What this ignores is the effect of social stigma and the oppressive nature of many societies concerning LGBT persons — which, let's face it, is not very fun, and may lead to the kind of stress that sometimes causes mental illness.

[edit] Proper method

Frequently, a causal relationship can only be established after careful experimentation following the scientific method. Even then, it may be very difficult to determine the true relationship between two variables, due to the effects of lurking confounding variables or other complicating matters. That the statistical literature doesn't even contain a definition of 'causation' that the layperson stands a chance of understanding [1] reflects how deep a problem it is.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Not because statisticians are smarter than laypeople (although we are) but because definitions of causation are replete with technical terms and formulae that even pure mathematicians would be unfamiliar with.

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