Does probability defy causality?

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Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 11:29 pm
Think about it for a minute, or two.
 
Deckard
 
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 11:37 pm
@Diogenes phil,
Not that I've read it all but here's one place to look for answers.

Probabilistic Causation (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
 
sometime sun
 
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 01:33 am
@Deckard,
(Is this right?)
By leaving the taps on in the bathroom is it you who floods the bathroom or the water?
 
prothero
 
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 08:30 am
@Diogenes phil,
Only if one conflates the notion of causality with determinism (a common error).
Quantum events is the most common example.
The outcome of a quantum observation is indeterministic, the outcomes of several such events are distributed in a stochastic probablity pattern.
Are we then to say quantum events are not caused because they are probablistic not deterministic? I think not.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 08:42 am
@prothero,
prothero;167684 wrote:
Only if one conflates the notion of causality with determinism (a common error).
Quantum events is the most common example.
The outcome of a quantum observation is indeterministic, the outcomes of several such events are distributed in a stochastic probablity pattern.
Are we then to say quantum events are not caused because they are probablistic not deterministic? I think not.


Well, not because they are probablistic, But physicists believe that they are probablistic because they are undetermined. I think you have things turned around.
 
Alan Masterman
 
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 09:33 am
@kennethamy,
I hesitate to repeat a point which I have already made in another thread, but part of the confusion arises from the fact that we instinctively like to think in terms like 'cause' and 'effect' (and 'determinism') which are borrowed from classical metaphysics and, except as a kind of conversational shorthand, have no meaning or application in modern science (least of all quantum mechanics).

It was David Hume in the 18th Century who first pointed out, I think, that no-one has ever seen a 'cause'. When we say that 'A causes B', we really mean that in every case where we observe A, we observe that B follows. We rationalise it by saying that A 'causes' B.

To go further and postulate 'cause' as some kind of mysterious third entity, perhaps a kind of logical necessity, perhaps a physical 'action at a distance', not immediately perceptible, is unwarranted; an Aristotelian hangover. It is merely a question of correlation. In science there are NO 'causes', only probabilities ranging between 0 and 1.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 01:14 pm
@Alan Masterman,
Alan Masterman;167701 wrote:


It was David Hume in the 18th Century who first pointed out, I think, that no-one has ever seen a 'cause'. When we say that 'A causes B', we really mean that in every case where we observe A, we observe that B follows. We rationalise it by saying that A 'causes' B.

.


There are lots of things we don't and cannot see, but for which we have very good reason. We don't see electrons, or neutrinos, or quarks, but scientists believe they are there because they do observe their effects, and they postulate those entities as the best explanation of those effects. For a long time germs were not observed, but Pasteur and others postulated their existence to explain disease and its spread, which we did observe. And later, when more powerful instruments were invented, we did see germs. But we pretty much knew there were germs even before we actually saw them under electron microscopes. So actually seeing germs was really an additional confirmation of what we already believed on excellent evidence. The same kind of logic led to the discovery of the planet Neptune. The effects of Neptune were detected, and the existence of the planet was postulated before, after much searching, Neptune was finally sighted. So the fact that we do not actually see causes is not a particularly good reason to think there are no causes. Indeed, we do observe very strong correlations between two kinds of events, for example, between the lowering of the temperature of water to 0 centigrade, and its turning to ice. It would be logical to suppose that there is a causal connection between the two kinds of events even if we don't see it. Don't you think? Hume was a very "astute man" as Kant called him, but I am afraid that Hume had a strong prejudice in favor of the directly observable. I don't know whether Hume would have believed there really were neutrinos or, for that matter, would have believed, along with Pasteur that there were germs. What do you think?
 
manored
 
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 03:16 pm
@Diogenes phil,
Diogenes;167564 wrote:
Think about it for a minute, or two.
I dont see how they could be incompatible concepts.
 
prothero
 
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 06:09 pm
@manored,
manored;167779 wrote:
I dont see how they could be incompatible concepts.
although these are human mental concepts.
I submit that probability does not defy causality only determinism.
Smoking remains a causal factor in lung cancer.
However smoking only increases your probablity of getting lung cancer.
Admittedly the relationship between smoking and lung cancer is a complex one with many other factors.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 06:18 pm
@prothero,
prothero;167828 wrote:
although these are human mental concepts.
I submit that probability does not defy causality only determinism.
Smoking remains a causal factor in lung cancer.
However smoking only increases your probablity of getting lung cancer.
Admittedly the relationship between smoking and lung cancer is a complex one with many other factors.



That there are those who smoke who do not contract lung cancer does not show that smoking does not cause lung cancer. And neither does it show that lung cancer is uncaused or not determined. Why should it? Determinism simply says that lung cancer has a cause. What difference does it make that all lung cancer is not caused by smoking?
 
prothero
 
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 06:26 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;167831 wrote:
That there are those who smoke who do not contract lung cancer does not show that smoking does not cause lung cancer. And neither does it show that lung cancer is uncaused or not determined. Why should it? Determinism simply says that lung cancer has a cause. What difference does it make that all lung cancer is not caused by smoking?
well I do not want to go through the dispute about the difference between causality and determinism with you again.
Except to say that it is the conflation of the two terms which is leading to the confusion and the question in the first place.
Determinism is not implied by causality and probablistic events are still causal. It is precisely this problem which has led several modern writers in this area to separate notions of causality from notions of determinism.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 06:30 pm
@prothero,
prothero;167836 wrote:
well I do not want to go through the dispute about the difference between causality and determinism with you again.
Except to say that it is the conflation of the two terms which is leading to the confusion and the question in the first place.
Determinism is not implied by causality and probablistic events are still causal. It is precisely this problem which has led several modern writers in this area to separate notions of causality from notions of determinism.


I don't think I am confused? What do you think I am confused about that distinguishing between determinism and causation will put to right?
 
prothero
 
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 06:54 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;167839 wrote:
I don't think I am confused? What do you think I am confused about that distinguishing between determinism and causation will put to right?
I did not say you were confused. I said the way the terms are used is confusing for:
Most people associated a determined event with probability of 1
and
a probablistic event with a probability between 0 and 1
yet
both types of events are causal??
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 07:02 pm
@prothero,
prothero;167845 wrote:
I did not say you were confused. I said the way the terms are used is confusing for:
Most people associated a determined event with probability of 1
and
a probablistic event with a probability between 0 and 1
yet
both types of events are causal??


Why the "yet"? .....................
 
manored
 
Reply Mon 24 May, 2010 05:08 pm
@Diogenes phil,
I dont get what is being discussed here. Cause and probability are compatible, and both are compatible with determinism.
 
prothero
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 03:30 pm
@manored,
manored;168265 wrote:
I dont get what is being discussed here. Cause and probability are compatible, and both are compatible with determinism.
The problem is something like this:
When you say the world is determined, people interpret you to mean the future is fixed and entirely predictable at least in metaphysical terms.

Whe you say the world is indeterminate or probablistic people think you mean the future is not fixed and thus unpredicatble in its particulars.

So a probablistic universe and a deterministic universe are not compatible views.

If you then define determinism as the notion that all events have causes (i.e. conflate the notion of determinism and causality) then a probablistic event with causes becomes problematic.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 05:01 pm
@prothero,
prothero;169227 wrote:
The problem is something like this:
When you say the world is determined, people interpret you to mean the future is fixed and entirely predictable at least in metaphysical terms.

Whe you say the world is indeterminate or probablistic people think you mean the future is not fixed and thus unpredicatble in its particulars.

So a probablistic universe and a deterministic universe are not compatible views.

If you then define determinism as the notion that all events have causes (i.e. conflate the notion of determinism and causality) then a probablistic event with causes becomes problematic.


What is a probabilistic event? One which might or might not occur? Well then, so far as I know, there are such events on the micro-level, and whether there are such events on the macro-level, I do not know. But determinism is certainly incompatible with probabilistic events.
 
manored
 
Reply Thu 27 May, 2010 08:27 am
@prothero,
prothero;169227 wrote:
The problem is something like this:
When you say the world is determined, people interpret you to mean the future is fixed and entirely predictable at least in metaphysical terms.

Whe you say the world is indeterminate or probablistic people think you mean the future is not fixed and thus unpredicatble in its particulars.

So a probablistic universe and a deterministic universe are not compatible views.

If you then define determinism as the notion that all events have causes (i.e. conflate the notion of determinism and causality) then a probablistic event with causes becomes problematic.
Hum, I think I understand your point now, witch would be that determinism and causality shouldnt be made into one.

But, as I see it, whenever an event is determined or probabilistic depends only of how much information you have. That is, if you have all the variables that affect the result of a probabilistic event and are able to process then properly, then that event becomes deterministic, that is, you are able to be certain of what the result will be.

We probally cant determine anything with such certainty in our universe though, since "there is always a smaller particle". So I guess the universe is probabilistic.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 27 May, 2010 09:34 am
@manored,
manored;169535 wrote:
Hum, I think I understand your point now, witch would be that determinism and causality shouldnt be made into one.

But, as I see it, whenever an event is determined or probabilistic depends only of how much information you have. That is, if you have all the variables that affect the result of a probabilistic event and are able to process then properly, then that event becomes deterministic, that is, you are able to be certain of what the result will be.

We probally cant determine anything with such certainty in our universe though, since "there is always a smaller particle". So I guess the universe is probabilistic.


Determinism and causation have never been "made into one", whatever that may mean. But as I have pointed out many times, what philosophers mean by "determinism" is that every event is subsumable under causal laws of nature so that the occurrence of the event follows from the applicable laws of nature together with the initial conditions. Look it up. Now, I have no idea whether that constitutes determinism and causation being "made into one" or not. But what does that matter? That is how determinism is understood by professional philosophers. It is either true, or it is false. The question is, what are the arguments, up or down?
 
prothero
 
Reply Thu 27 May, 2010 03:49 pm
@kennethamy,
[QUOTE=kennethamy;169554]Determinism and causation have never been "made into one", whatever that may mean. But as I have pointed out many times, what philosophers mean by "determinism" is that every event is subsumable under causal laws of nature so that the occurrence of the event follows from the applicable laws of nature together with the initial conditions. Look it up. Now, I have no idea whether that constitutes determinism and causation being "made into one" or not. But what does that matter? That is how determinism is understood by professional philosophers. It is either true, or it is false. The question is, what are the arguments, up or down?[/QUOTE]

[QUOTE=kennethamy;169256]What is a probabilistic event? One which might or might not occur? Well then, so far as I know, there are such events on the micro-level, and whether there are such events on the macro-level, I do not know. But determinism is certainly incompatible with probabilistic events.[/QUOTE]Perhaps this illustrates the problem as well.
 
 

 
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