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Discussion of Logic and Reasoning

Posted by Ryan Nafe 
Discussion of Logic and Reasoning
August 09, 2018 08:17AM
Thought it might be interesting to have a thread about this. I heard a claim made the other day that I wanted to get some answers to:

Idea in question:

Correlation doesn’t imply causation.

Claim made about this idea:

Correlation does imply causation, it just doesn’t demonstrate it.

My current thoughts:

I see what the person means by the above statement, but I’m not sure if it’s right because I don’t really know what would be considered good justification for claiming that something implies something else. If mere correlation is considered good justification, then I suppose the statement is true, but again I just don’t know if correlation is enough on its own.
Re: Discussion of Logic and Reasoning
August 09, 2018 09:37AM
I don't thing the person you are having a discussion with is on the right track. Correlation is not causation. So just because there are things that correlate, it doesn't mean it is the cause. It could imply a few things, but you need further investigation. Saying something is implied by correlation but just doesn't demonstrate it is just saying that correlation is causation. It is a logical fallacy and intellectually lazy.

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Re: Discussion of Logic and Reasoning
August 09, 2018 10:29AM
I see what you mean Jason but the key part is the distinction between the words “imply” and “demonstrate.”

I made a mistake in that I italicized the wrong word in my post, which could have made it more confusing than it otherwise could have been. Basically what I’m trying to figure out is this:

What is necessary to claim that one fact implies another?

I’m not sure, but it does seem like a hard question to answer because whether or not something appears to imply something else seems (to me at least) to be very dependent on what the person wants to be able to know.
Re: Discussion of Logic and Reasoning
August 09, 2018 11:33AM
This seems to me more like a semantic trick than a real question. At best, what can be retrieved from that sentence is "humans look for patterns whenever possible, therefore correlation implies causation, even if it does not demonstrate it.". Many leaps in logic people take often come from intuiting relationships between subjects that aren't always obvious, sometimes this works out, others it does not.
The reason this is a semantic trick is by playing with the definition of "implication". If your neighbor gets a job at a fancy company and their new lover works at a high-level job there, their new employment can be reasonably implicated to their relationship, as these seem to be related matters. The global temperature rising along with the lowering number in total pirates has a correlation, but I don't think pirates where Eco Warriors.
Re: Discussion of Logic and Reasoning
August 10, 2018 08:31PM

There are entire books in Philosophy on what it means to know something, or on a reduced level, what justification for a claim should entail. On some level we all have a kind of instinct for that which allows us to reject absurd claims almost immediately :

"I see a hole in my lawn, therefore aliens exist which dug a hole in my lawn."

Most people reject that explanation even though it perfectly explains the observation, however why they reject it isn't trivial to actually rationalize out. If you ask people for why, you can usually come up with counter examples which they will accept that have the same problems.

Back to your question,

In general, very general, correlation implies causation if there is some kind of reasonable inference that it could actually be a causation. Notice how I got very foggy in the language there, that was intentional because on the absurd it is easy to spot, but not so much otherwise.

You can't take the hard line that there has to be a known way for it to be causal, because a lot of science is advanced precisely when this is false and we don't have any known mechanisms.

But on the other side, you don't want to say something like :

"Hey, if you plot the number of Ben's in the world, as it increases so does the number of people with cancer. Obviously we have to stop naming babies Ben!"
Re: Discussion of Logic and Reasoning
August 12, 2018 02:45AM
Correlation indicates possibilty of a causation to be present.
Not every correlation means causation however
there is no causation without correlation(s).
Pretty obvious.

Then its philosophy how many correlations and how deeply is it enough
to consider conclusion to be a fact proving the causation.

(Personally, I consider it enough when there are enough correlations
between the elements to describe behaviour of the system,
basically allowing to understand it)

Re: Discussion of Logic and Reasoning
August 12, 2018 05:33PM
In general, very general, correlation implies causation if there is some kind of reasonable inference that it could actually be a causation.

You can't take the hard line that there has to be a known way for it to be causal, because a lot of science is advanced precisely when this is false and we don't have any known mechanisms.

Right, so the foggy language is used specifically, because that actually is the most descriptive you can get for an answer to that question.

Let me know if I have this right:

If you leave it too open-ended and foggy then it’s basically a useless description because anything can fall into that category. If you’re too specific and rigid, then nothing can be in the category. But if you’re careful to note that you’re making a generalization and then go on to explain that with reasonable inferences and perhaps (if it’s available) some additional circumstantial evidence that is in agreement with everything else, you can at least claim that it appears to be very likely that there is a causal relationship there.

And yeah I totally blanked out and didn’t even think to start seeking answers from an epistemology book.
Re: Discussion of Logic and Reasoning
August 13, 2018 08:07PM

The reason I was foggy is because these questions are unsettled. If you want :


Is a free course on Coursera on inferences and it describes three main ways that you can make inferences statistically. They don't always give the same conclusions, and which ones to use when is still an open method of contention. This is why (one of the reasons) why there is so much contention in science about what the papers all mean. Statistics is the weakest area for most scientists ironically, most people don't even know what a p-value really is, or that it is only one of the types of errors you have to consider.
Re: Discussion of Logic and Reasoning
August 17, 2018 05:02AM
Cool, thanks Cliff. I took a look at that course and it does seem interesting and useful. The guy said that much of the course material is stuff he didn’t learn until well after he obtained his PhD, which is quite surprising and I wonder why that is.

My schedule and life in general is basically as full and busy as I can handle at the moment, but I bookmarked the page and I intend on taking the course as soon as I take care of a few important things in the next couple of months.

It would really be useful to understand those concepts in order to make it easier for me to make sure that I’m not making any major mistakes in how I interpret data.
Re: Discussion of Logic and Reasoning
August 21, 2018 06:06PM

That course is pretty dense, if you have any issues, want to discuss it, just hit me up.
Re: Discussion of Logic and Reasoning
August 22, 2018 05:38PM

That course is pretty dense, if you have any issues, want to discuss it, just hit me up.

Thanks man, I appreciate it. I’m confident that I can comprehend the content but I’m likely to face difficulty with the prerequisite material that the course is built upon, so when the time comes to take the course, I’ll probably need a little assistance in that area.

It really would be useful to know this stuff though because I try very hard to form my own views and tentative conclusions on various issues, so this will probably help me avoid going to an authority figure (though the only authority I ever recognize is based on competence alone) for an interpretation of the data.
Re: Discussion of Logic and Reasoning
August 25, 2018 08:54PM
This is something I just re-heard from Hitchens today, but I really think it’s an important statement to understand and keep in mind, given the current state of philosophical issues in the western world right now :

“Good for them. They had every right to have their feelings hurt by something they didn’t understand, hadn’t read, didn’t care about, and knew that they wouldn’t be punished by the authorities for acts of vandalism and cruelty and intimidation. We want this back, now? I thought we’d got over this. Now I have to face it all again. Arguments I’d forgotten having to have, I’m having to have again... I’m ready to do it until I draw my last breath, but I’m appalled at anyone making excuses for them. These people have no concept of truth, no concept of honesty at all.”

He made this comment in a context involving certain things that were happening at the time, mainly involving free speech/expression in the face of emotionally-based opposition to that freedom, and the statement can very easily be generalized across a wide range of ideas that are under philosophical (to put it charitably) attack by various individuals.

It’s probably because of some kind of naivety on my part or just a reluctance to accept the apparent fact that ideas are often adopted and rejected in a cyclical nature by people over the course of hundreds or thousands of years, but it really is both baffling and terrifying to me to realize how many people, in this year of 2018, are 100% in favor of governmentally-enforced restrictions on freedom of expression in America and other western countries. I really do think the same way as Hitch on these questions, in that I was operating under the assumption that these questions had been settled very long ago, decades at a minimum and (in certain places) centuries ago.

Why freedom of speech is treated as an open question instead of a long-settled one is really baffling to me. It’s almost as if people are operating under the impression that history started on the day they were born, rather than starting untold millennia ago.
Re: Discussion of Logic and Reasoning
August 26, 2018 07:44PM
Ryan: Technology, culture, and the rise (or surrender) to a multipolar international order.

All that has mucked things up. It's a quite a time to be alive.


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Re: Discussion of Logic and Reasoning
April 12, 2019 08:29PM
We are much beholden to Machiavelli and others, that write what men do, and not what they ought to do. —Francis Bacon
Re: Discussion of Logic and Reasoning
April 13, 2019 01:02AM
A vain attempt to purge nonsense from my house:

Re: Discussion of Logic and Reasoning
April 15, 2019 11:34AM
The Identity Trap is the assumption that someone else will react as you would. The Utopia Trap is that assumption carried to its ultimate conclusion —the expectation that you can make the rest of the world correspond to your dreams. You can’t. And when you try to do so, you only succeed in throwing away the very real opportunities for freedom that you already possess. The world is an exciting and beautiful place. It might not seem so if you’re bogged down with restrictions on every side. But those who have recognized their own powers and used them to be free see little need to change the world.

Edit to add: The above is a quote from a book I recommended a while back.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/15/2019 12:15PM by Ryan Nafe.
Re: Discussion of Logic and Reasoning
May 11, 2019 04:25PM
Another quote from “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World”:

You live in a world of your own, bounded by your own knowledge and experience. It’s a wonderful world—full of the power to do things to bring freedom and happiness.

Recognize your sovereign authority. You won’t ever be the totalitarian ruler of someone else’s life. But you do rule your own.

When you no longer count on other people to be “right,” to be certain, to be moral, to be intelligent, you’ll turn to the one source of genuine power that exists for you—yourself.
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