What's the difference between causation and correlation?

Ultracrepidarian

Sat 27 Jun, 2009 12:37 am
@Satan phil,

(d) So I must be living in a period of lengthy chance regularities.

I agree with you ACB that that seems to be his general line of thinking, but I wouldn't ever get around to saying it is circular. What does (d) even mean? Aside from the fact that it is completely absurd. You step on a gas pedal. What are the possible outcomes? There are some. Many perhaps. Satan seems to be asserting that there are an infinite range of possibilities and that we happen to be living in a time in which everything happens to appear have order and identity. The idea is so absurd I cannot even wrap my mind around it. Besides, -and this is a comical objection (as is any) to offer to someone proclaiming that at any moment anything & everything we know about the world around us goes out the window, so to speak- hasn't he heard of the law of independent trials? Is "randomness", whatever mystical thing we wish to mean by that, the only thing that behaves according to its nature? We are living in a period of lengthy chance regularities. Gosh Gee Wilkiers, what a sentence. So, the world is random. It has been random in an orderly way for as long as we know, but it is random nevertheless and I'm not going to start behaving as if this appearance of order is random because I happen to believe that this random will persist - thats what random does when it goes on a streak! ( I meet a lot of people in Casinos who also think this) Watch out though, any day after the streak has ended (not in my lifetime?) sheer existential chaos? Do you have any predictions? What a joke. Sheer lunacy, but I am not knocking it. No, no, don't get me wrong. I appreciate it fully.

---------- Post added at 01:48 AM ---------- Previous post was at 01:37 AM ----------

Persisting chance regualries are the stuff of the future. I have found pragmatic utility in counting on my chance regularities because when randomness behaves as it has for this long, it's reasonable - according to the nature of randomness - to assume it will go on behaving regularly. Hello, pot. Meet Kettle. Oh, Kettle is sleeping. Best wait til his meds wear off.

Zetetic11235

Sat 27 Jun, 2009 01:32 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;72611 wrote:
Don't you really think there is a difference between logical impossibility and physical impossibility. Why? Do you really think that the only impossibility is logical impossibility? Actually, that is what the Rationalists like Spinoza held, and Hume attacked this view. He certainly did not believe it. In fact, he called it, Spinoza's "hideous hypothesis".

Then Wittgenstein reasserted it in a much more logically sound manner:

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus 6.3 (English)

This section will give that subsection context:

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus 6 (English)

The gist of the ideas presented boils down to this: Taking certain logical possibilities that preside in some set of objects, namely those that make themselves physically manifest, as axioms, we develop a logical network (e.g. physics) that predicts what physical consequences logically arise out of the given axioms (suitable a posteriori knowledge).

This logical network would not necessarily accurately correspond to what is really going on; e.g. Newtonian Mechanics made reasonable assertions and derived their logical consequences, but it had fundamental inaccuracies (which were made manifest by further observation of phenomena). We simply take as axioms what seems to be self evident (which is in fact what Satan happens to be questioning, there is no real logical basis for taking the axioms we do, just common sense).

So natural science is not logically necessary, but if it were it would tell us nothing that had to be given a posteriori, so any new observation would not matter. Thus the critique Satan makes is actually pointing out that science is dependent on observation, a point anyone would agree with, but which might leave Satan a bit disappointed, as it superficially appeared to be a deeper problem.

In reality, the percieved depth of the problem is rooted in the refusal of Satan to apply Ockham's razor, so that we only take into account that which is or has been manifest physically in our attempts to predict what might happen later.

To postualte to possibility of new evidence is to work apriori from given evidence to presuppose new evidence. If this could give us a complete picture of physical reality, new observation would not be necessary. So any result from this process is derived in the same way that any other result would be, certai axioms are taken, and logical results are then necessarily manifest. If these results match our experience of reality, they are kept, if not they are thrown away. To speculate that they might match some reality that might be possible, says nothing about how well they match reality as it is observed by us.

This is why it is necessary to apply Ockham's razor, because without it we hold wild speculation up with incidents that have actually been experienced. We ignore our ability to determine what is intuitively sensible, which is what all of our knowledge boils down to.

Ultracrepidarian

Sat 27 Jun, 2009 02:46 am
@Zetetic11235,
I like Occam's Razor too, but Satin is claiming that the world is random. That one moment's happenings are entirely unrelated to the next's, except in chronological sequence. That is quite different from questioning a simple, efficient belief system in favor of consideration of a more complex one. That is denying that any picture can reflect reality at all. Is there a reality? What there is is random events. Random events cannot be described in terms of principles, laws, models, or pictures. Random just happens. What can be said of "random" events like coin tosses is that they have a discrete number of possible outcomes, but to determine the number and kind of outcomes of say, jumping up( if what followed jumping up were random), one must be guided in one's answer by rules. Rules that happen to eliminate spontaneous combustion or reaching an altitude of 1000 ft. Satan is saying that no matter what I am doing, I might go 1000 ft high. There is no belief system in that, simple or complex. None that I can see. If I had to describe it as either simple or complex, I would say it is simple, as in simply insane.

kennethamy

Sat 27 Jun, 2009 03:05 am
@Satan phil,
Satan;72635 wrote:
More like:

1. Regularities can exist even within randomness.
2. Regularities are not evidence of causation.
3. There is no evidence of causation.

So, when medical researchers did double blind studies to determine whether taking aspirin would be effective in preventing heart attacks, and, having given aspirin to one very large group (of physicians) and a placebo to another large group, and nothing to a third large group, and stopped the study before completing it because it became obvious that the aspirin caused the diminishing of heart attacks, they had no evidence that aspirin helped to prevent heart attacks? And when upon investigation, they discovered that aspirin was effective in diminishing the coagulation of platelets in the blood so that clots could not form, they did not discover why aspirin worked to diminish the chance of heart attacks. Well, suppose you explain to me why this study was made, and what happened in the course of this study. I would like to hear your interpretation. By the way, at the present time millions of men (and women) are taking a baby aspirin every day. Would you advise them to stop because it is a waste of time and money, and also, aspirin can have bad side-effects (oops, I can't say "effects" because that would imply there are causes. Right?)

Ultracrepidarian

Sat 27 Jun, 2009 03:45 am
@kennethamy,
No, he'd say they should continue to take aspirin because aspirin has been shown to help prevent heart attacks. We are living in a time in which they can continue to count on aspirin because, even though aspirin does not really prevent heart attacks, it is randomly doing so. And when aspirin randomly prevents heart attacks time after time again, it is useful to believe that it will continue to do until the random streak is over.

kennethamy

Sat 27 Jun, 2009 07:09 am
@Ultracrepidarian,
Ultracrepidarian;72660 wrote:
No, he'd say they should continue to take aspirin because aspirin has been shown to help prevent heart attacks. We are living in a time in which they can continue to count on aspirin because, even though aspirin does not really prevent heart attacks, it is randomly doing so. And when aspirin randomly prevents heart attacks time after time again, it is useful to believe that it will continue to do until the random streak is over.

What about the research that shows that aspirin prevents the clumping together of platelets, and prevents blood clots? Do we ignore that?

If that is his view (and thanks for explaining it) why does he even find it plausible? There is no reason to suppose it is true, and every reason to suppose it is false? I suppose it all comes down to skepticism about induction. One last question: what does it mean to say that aspirin does not "really" prevent heart attacks, and in the next breath saying, it randomly does so? If it prevents heart attacks, even randomly, then why doesn't it "really" prevent heart attacks? All what you say seems to mean is that it does prevent heart attacks, but that we cannot know for certain whether it will in a particular case. And that is true since the study gives us statistical results. But so what? So the argument seems to come down to skepticism about certainty.

ACB

Sat 27 Jun, 2009 08:11 am
@Satan phil,
Satan;72635 wrote:
More like:

1. Regularities can exist even within randomness.
2. Regularities are not evidence of causation.
3. There is no evidence of causation.

There is a hidden premise in the above argument:

1a. All regularities are random.

Satan has not justified this hidden premise, and in my view it is false.

kennethamy

Sat 27 Jun, 2009 09:50 am
@ACB,
ACB;72704 wrote:
There is a hidden premise in the above argument:

1a. All regularities are random.

Satan has not justified this hidden premise, and in my view it is false.

At least, by his own lights, he cannot justify it, and he cannot know whether or not it is true or false. Of course, we have all the reason in the world to think that, e.g. aspirin helps to prevent heart attacks, for we know why it does. So we know that the correlation is not random.

Satan phil

Sat 27 Jun, 2009 11:14 am
@ACB,
ACB;72704 wrote:
There is a hidden premise in the above argument:

1a. All regularities are random.

No, there's not.

Regularities can be random or they can be caused (if there are causes) but regularities are not evidence of causation.

Try again:

Quote:
1. Regularities can exist even within randomness.
2. Regularities are not evidence of causation.
3. There is no evidence of causation.

Do you have an objection to this without inserting straw man premises?

---------- Post added at 12:19 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:14 PM ----------

Zetetic11235;72648 wrote:
In reality, the percieved depth of the problem is rooted in the refusal of Satan to apply Ockham's razor, so that we only take into account that which is or has been manifest physically in our attempts to predict what might happen later.

I literally laughed out loud. Causation is unobservable, untestable and superfluous yet you think I'm the one that needs to apply Ockham's Razor?

I think you will see my view is more parsimonious because it stops at the rock bottom way-the-world is without positing the existence of unobservable "causes".

---------- Post added at 12:25 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:14 PM ----------

kennethamy;72656 wrote:
So, when medical researchers did double blind studies to determine whether taking aspirin would be effective in preventing heart attacks, and, having given aspirin to one very large group (of physicians) and a placebo to another large group, and nothing to a third large group, and stopped the study before completing it because it became obvious that the aspirin caused the diminishing of heart attacks, they had no evidence that aspirin helped to prevent heart attacks? And when upon investigation, they discovered that aspirin was effective in diminishing the coagulation of platelets in the blood so that clots could not form, they did not discover why aspirin worked to diminish the chance of heart attacks. Well, suppose you explain to me why this study was made, and what happened in the course of this study. I would like to hear your interpretation. By the way, at the present time millions of men (and women) are taking a baby aspirin every day. Would you advise them to stop because it is a waste of time and money, and also, aspirin can have bad side-effects (oops, I can't say "effects" because that would imply there are causes. Right?)

Zetetic11235

Sat 27 Jun, 2009 11:56 am
@Satan phil,
Satan;72749 wrote:
No, there's not.

Regularities can be random or they can be caused (if there are causes) but regularities are not proof of causation.

I literally laughed out loud. Causation is unobservable, untestable and superfluous yet you think I'm the one that needs to apply Ockham's Razor?

I think you will see my view is more parsimonious because it stops at the rock bottom way-the-world is without positing the existence of unobservable "causes".

Your view is cumbersome and nonsensical without recognizing that the sort of causation you are talking about doesn't make sense in the context of how logic is applied to observations in a scientific way. We can test for regularities, but regularities in and of themselves are random patterns of occurrence.

The most parsimonious way to go about this is to assume the regularities will continue rather than suggesting other possible regularities, as such regularities do not relate to the world as is has been observed to be. If you introduce the possibility that things could be a different way that has not been observed, you violate parsimony.

The conclusion is to simply adopt the regularity as an axiom until a contradictory observation occurs. By taking the regularites of this sort as axioms to be amended, we develop a logical network to explain certain events. Just as we must take axioms in any application of logic, so too must we take them here. Observation provides the axioms, logic provides their connection. We continually ammend the axioms via observation to make the logical network better fit reality as we observe it.

So we are mindful of the possibility that axioms can shift, since they are not logical in nature, but based in observation, but the logical network that arises from the axioms is a necessary consequence of those axioms. The network shifts with the axioms. We are implicitly mindful of the possibility that the network could shift, but also aware that the conclusions are valid.

Causation is simply manifest AFTER axioms are taken rather than BEFORE. This uncertainty bothers you, but it is the case because we can only work with what we see as we see it. Observational reality is not logical, but logic can be applied to it. Causation is determined afer we pick a logical starting point, the axioms that come out of observation. It is a very simple concept, I would hope that you are not having too much trouble sorting it out.

You can, however, take solace in the fact that you are absolutely right about causation, it is apriori. The problem is that you are assuming it is applied where it is not. If you don't take certain axioms which are implicitly understood to be tentative (based on observation, which could change), then indeed, you do not have causation. Science doesn't deal this way, the (tentative)axioms are taken and logical conclusions are drawn. There is no better way to do this. The sort of causation you are talking about has nothing to do with science, since science is not apriori and thus cannot claim to know the totality of its objects of consideration, so the sort of logical necessity that might be implicit in the objects is not considered(or considerable) by science.

A logically necessary causation that precedes tentative axioms does not exist in science. Once again, to make sure my point is clear, causation is claimed only after certain observation regularities are taken as axioms, so your criticism is akin to pointing at a dog and asking why it argues with your neighbor in Spanish. The accusation does not apply.

Might I suggest that, next time, you make sure you fully grasp the argument at hand before slinging insults. It is more reasonable to assume you misunderstand what was said than to assume the other person does not have any valid point whatsoever. If you don't understand something, please ask and I will clarify.

Satan phil

Sat 27 Jun, 2009 12:05 pm
@Zetetic11235,
Zetetic11235;72757 wrote:
A logically necessary causation that precedes tentative axioms does not exist in science.

We aren't talking about logical necessity. Do you not understand the difference between logical and physical necessity?

1. Read this: Laws of Nature [Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

2. Pick a side, regularity or necessity.

EDIT: Let's not get offended and turn this into bickering over personalities. Rather, let's simply talk about the topic at hand in a calm and rational manner.

Ultracrepidarian

Sat 27 Jun, 2009 02:37 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;72694 wrote:
What about the research that shows that aspirin prevents the clumping together of platelets, and prevents blood clots? Do we ignore that?

If that is his view (and thanks for explaining it) why does he even find it plausible? There is no reason to suppose it is true, and every reason to suppose it is false? I suppose it all comes down to skepticism about induction. One last question: what does it mean to say that aspirin does not "really" prevent heart attacks, and in the next breath saying, it randomly does so? If it prevents heart attacks, even randomly, then why doesn't it "really" prevent heart attacks? All what you say seems to mean is that it does prevent heart attacks, but that we cannot know for certain whether it will in a particular case. And that is true since the study gives us statistical results. But so what? So the argument seems to come down to skepticism about certainty.

No, we don't ignore it. When asked about it, we say that aspirin does do whatever aspirin does, but it does not to so out of "necessity". Rather, it does so out chance. A pair of dice comes up snake eyes not out of necessity. The reason we haven't seen aspirin "cause" us to jump 1000 ft high yet, is because we have not rolled the die and been given that outcome. We will eventually, if given long enough. If given long enough, we will see many strange things. Aspirin does not really prevent heart attacks, because EVENT-A is totally unrelated to EVENT-B. Feeding one's goldfish might "do" all the same things that taking aspirin did. Eventually it will when it randomly does, at the least not until this aspirin-prevents-attacks streak is over.

I don't know. That is my best shot at imitation. I can't say everything I want without making the contradiction painfully obvious (I thought that perhaps I could). But what does that last sentence mean?

Satan, why do you apply pressure to your brake pedal again? Why do you believe in streaks? Why does pushing your break pedal have anything to do with the car stopping at all?

---------- Post added at 03:50 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:37 PM ----------

Satan, I'm trying to understand, I really am. If A & B are unrelated, why apply pressure to your breaks and hope for the desired result? Does it not make just as much sense to twiddle your thumbs and hope for B just the same?
Why prefer one A over another if both are equally unrelated to B?

and, why believe in streaks?

kennethamy

Sat 27 Jun, 2009 03:15 pm
@Ultracrepidarian,
Ultracrepidarian;72807 wrote:
No, we don't ignore it. When asked about it, we say that aspirin does do whatever aspirin does, but it does not to so out of "necessity". Rather, it does so out chance. A pair of dice comes up snake eyes not out of necessity. The reason we haven't seen aspirin "cause" us to jump 1000 ft high yet, is because we have not rolled the die and been given that outcome. We will eventually, if given long enough. If given long enough, we will see many strange things. Aspirin does not really prevent heart attacks, because EVENT-A is totally unrelated to EVENT-B. Feeding one's goldfish might "do" all the same things that taking aspirin did. Eventually it will when it randomly does, at the least not until this aspirin-prevents-attacks streak is over.

I don't know. That is my best shot at imitation. I can't say everything I want without making the contradiction painfully obvious (I thought that perhaps I could). But what does that last sentence mean?

Satan, why do you apply pressure to your brake pedal again? Why do you believe in streaks? Why does pushing your break pedal have anything to do with the car stopping at all?

---------- Post added at 03:50 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:37 PM ----------

Satan, I'm trying to understand, I really am. If A & B are unrelated, why apply pressure to your breaks and hope for the desired result? Does it not make just as much sense to twiddle your thumbs and hope for B just the same?
Why prefer one A over another if both are equally unrelated to B?

and, why believe in streaks?

What makes you think that the only possibilities are logical necessity or sheer chance? As I pointed out, there is physical necessity. When we say that snake eyes come up from chance, what is meant is that it was impossible to know that it would turn up snake eyes. Not that it did not our of physical necessity.

Pushing the brake pedal causes the car to stop because we know why pushing the pedal causes the car to stop. It is that simple.

Ultracrepidarian

Sat 27 Jun, 2009 03:39 pm
@kennethamy,
like you know why we go 1000 ft. high. In fact, all you have done is observe that the taking of aspirin has preceded a heart attack less than not - or that the taking of aspirin precedes blood clots less than not. Correlation we will give you, but causality?

This is the part I don't understand. Aspirin will just as soon kill you, make you spontaneously combust, make you grow taller, shorter, or learn something about French poetry. Aspirin is not doing any of these things. We simply observe event B is followed by event A. There is no reason to suppose that you cannot take aspirin and then learn something about French poetry. In fact, this is exactly what will happen given the random nature of the universe. One day, instead of preventing heart attacks, aspirin will seem to "cause" more knowledge of French poetry because there will be a very strong correlation between the two events. Or some such. That was the part I don't understand.

It has to do with "streaks". Like aspirin prevents heart attacks today because God is throwing the dice in such a way that makes that happen and he will continue to throw the dice that way until he feels it is time to switch things up. Yes, that makes things clearer to me.

Satan phil

Sat 27 Jun, 2009 03:55 pm
@Ultracrepidarian,
Ultracrepidarian;72807 wrote:
Why does pushing your break pedal have anything to do with the car stopping at all?

Beats me. It just does. It's contingent. There's no necessary reason that I can detect.

Ultracrepidarian;72807 wrote:
Does it not make just as much sense to twiddle your thumbs and hope for B just the same?

Pragmatically, no.

Ultracrepidarian

Sat 27 Jun, 2009 03:57 pm
@Ultracrepidarian,
"What makes you think that the only possibilities are logical necessity or sheer chance? As I pointed out, there is physical necessity. When we say that snake eyes come up from chance, what is meant is that it was impossible to know that it would turn up snake eyes. Not that it did not our of physical necessity."

Personally, I believe in "physical" necessity, but not "logical necessity". & I am interested in having that discussion.

I agree with you that by random we mean "your guess is as good as mine". Coin tosses are usually offered as an instance of something that we will never be able to predict about, "because, well, it is random" says the believer. I don't see why we should never be able to know & predict any particular thing, but I am open to evidence/arguments to the contrary.

But I suppose Satan disagrees with you and I about the meaning of the word random. By random, he means non-causality. Event B just happens. It is not that we could not predict. It had no physical necessity and so predictions have no basis.

Aside from all the obvious absurdity of that position, I'm wondering what amount of time qualifies as time enough for an event. Event A has to have some "coherence". How much time before Event A is followed by Event B which bears no relation to it? It really is silly.

EDIT: Instead of coherence, I meant to think of the word duration.

ACB

Sat 27 Jun, 2009 04:11 pm
@Satan phil,
Satan;72759 wrote:
1. Read this: Laws of Nature [Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

2. Pick a side, regularity or necessity.

Thank you. It certainly throws a lot more light on this discussion. Having read it, I still believe in (physical) necessity, as I do not think mere regularity gives any justification for making predictions. (As Ultracrepidarian points out, predictions in the abence of causation would have to rely on unexplained 'streaks'.) But I think it might be useful for the other contributors to this thread to read the article, so as to understand the philosophical background better. Then we can continue the discussion.

Ultracrepidarian

Sat 27 Jun, 2009 04:13 pm
@Satan phil,
Satan;72834 wrote:
Beats me. It just does. It's contingent. There's no necessary reason that I can detect.

Pragmatically, no.

Pragmatically. This is a philosophy forum, I'm interested in the theories. Does it make sense, according to theory about causality and correlation, to twiddle your thumbs and hope the car stops?

If it does, why? According to theory, do we have a reason to believe that applying pressure to the brakes will stop the car?

Satan phil

Sat 27 Jun, 2009 04:22 pm
@Ultracrepidarian,
Ultracrepidarian;72837 wrote:
According to theory, do we have a reason to believe that applying pressure to the brakes will stop the car?

No, I thought this was known for quite a while.

Problem of induction - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

---------- Post added at 05:28 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:22 PM ----------

ACB;72836 wrote:
As Ultracrepidarian points out, predictions in the abence of causation would have to rely on unexplained 'streaks'.

Then I think you skipped this paragraph in the article:

At some point explanations must come to an end. Regularists place that stopping point at the way-the-world-is. Necessitarians place it one, inaccessible, step beyond, at the way-the-world-must-be.

Both theories offer the exact same amount of explanation. The only difference is that "necessity" adds something hidden and unobservable. That's why it's unappealing to those of us that rely on observation for knowledge of reality.

Ultracrepidarian

Sat 27 Jun, 2009 04:49 pm
@Satan phil,
At some point explanations must come to end? Joke in 3,2,1...Why is that necessary?

---------- Post added at 05:54 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:49 PM ----------

Yes, the world is as it must be because the world is the way it is and not some other way. When a car brakes, it usually stops because cars and brakes are what they are and not poodles and firecrackers. People jump so high because they are people and not kangaroos on trampolines.

But why do you think explanations MUST come to an end? What does this mean for science? Is there some point at which we will know everything there is to know?