Correlation does NOT equal Causation
One year ago, in my column was a famous quote from Mark Twain that “Statistics don’t lie, but liars use statistics”. It seems that the importance of a knowledgeable, informed electorate that was deemed a necessity by our founding fathers must be married to being informed CORRECTLY.. No longer do our politicians expect that their prewritten speeches will be the basis of voters’ choices. The Information Age has meant a competition to use figures and statistics to support an agenda has reached a crescendo. This in and of itself is fine. The danger comes when only one side’s numbers or polls are ever examined. Examples like the Brexit, House and Senate, or Trump’s election make 2016 a case in point. Will we learn in this, this new year?
Nobel Prize winning economist Thomas Sowell, in one of his final columns before announcing his retirement at 86, “Football and Fallacy”, noted that in the Houston Texans wild card playoff game against the Oakland (soon to be Las Vegas) Raiders this doesn’t seem to be the case. Starting a 3rd string rookie quarterback against the league’s #1 defense, they were forced to repeatedly trot out an African-American kicker (punter) who was very good. As I write this article on MLK day, the reason this is noteworthy is that the NFL has almost NO African-American kickers out of 100 on the league’s rosters, and even fewer in years past. A fan yelled out, “FAKE”, and Sowell was unsure wondering if the fan was unsure thinking they were going to “fake the punt” in an attempt ignite their offense, or that a non-white kicker was playing at all. Rest assured, when watching this league, race isn’t factor. Yesterday’s game between the Chiefs and Steelers had every defensive starter on both teams from the race that makes up 13% of the population. The question is: Does this prove “racial discrimination”? Does the absence of “non-white kickers”?
The questions are obviously absurd, but are the arguments in today’s political discourse any less so? The range stretches from racial criminal justice figures to gender income disparity, but be careful when an isolated correlated factor is submitted as “the cause” or “proof”. Whenever you are dealing with human populations, there are multitudinous factors involved. Sadly, this nascent year shows signs of this politically increasing rather than decreasing so far. Suspected Russian hacking and faked dossiers are still being touted as “proof” that the election, over three months ago, was illegitimate and the “cause” of Trump’s election in spite of the Constitution in Article 2 and Section 4 requiring impeachment only be enacted should a sitting President be “convicted of treason, high crimes, or misdemeanors” already there are some on the other side of the aisle calling for it. Expecting even more of the same tactic throughout this administration, the best thing we can do is to laugh at the attempts to label correlation with causation as a means of proving anything. You have to laugh sometimes to expose how silly this type of argument can be. It also may be necessary just to “keep from crying”.