Correlations May Not Prove the Cause

Correlations May Not Prove the Cause - know something even...

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Correlations May Not Prove the Cause By the 1970s, more careful studies each incorporating tighter and tighter controls based on possible oversights of the previous studies had proven to the government's satisfaction the causal connection between smoking and lung cancer. By the 1980s other diverse corroborating factors had been identified-from the effects of secondhand smoke to chemical analysis of cigarette smoke revealing over 200 toxic substances, including radioactivity. Despite all of this study, we really cannot say that cigarette smoking has been proven to be the principal cause of lung cancer. A scientific proof is not known with absolute logical certainty. A controlled study can never be completely controlled-there are just too many possible variables. The link between smoking and lung cancer cannot be known in the sense of ``known beyond any logical or conceivable doubt.'' The point is, however, can we say we know that cigarette smoking is a principal cause of lung cancer beyond a ``reasonable doubt''? Is it rational if we claim to
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Unformatted text preview: know something even if we are not absolutely sure that we know something? Can we distinguish between what is ``conceivably'' true and what is ``reasonably'' true? A humorous example of the difference between a correlation and a cause-effect relationship is the Coalition to ban Dihydrogen Monoxide. To find out more about this ``dangerous'' chemical, select the links below (will display in another window): 1. Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide! 2. Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Division . Summary • A correlation between two things does NOT prove one thing causes the other. The second thing could cause the first or some other underlying factor could cause the correlation. • Scientists have to be very careful to rule out other possible underlying factors before concluding one thing causes something else. • Though scientific proofs are not known with absolute certainty, enough evidence can be accumulated to be reasonably certain....
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