Cor­re­la­tion does NOT equal Cau­sa­tion

Public News (Houston) - - NEWS - by Bart Pearston

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”.

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