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The Scientific Value of Correlation

correlation causation hypothesis

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#1 Dorian Grey

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Posted 28 December 2018 - 04:31 AM

“Correlation does not imply causation” (aka correlation does not equal causation) CDN=C


We hear this a lot in discussions on health & longevity issues, and this along with the mantra of “No Proof” is often used to dismissively discredit otherwise compelling hypothesis.  While scientific proof is certainly desirable, it is not always possible. A couple of examples might be the issues of smoking and health (in humans!), and the vaccine/autism issue.  


There have never been placebo controlled double-blind studies to "scientifically prove” the correlation between tobacco use and cancer in humans; or scientifically disprove the vaccine/autism connection, yet this is said to be “settled science”.  


The No Proof tobacco war regarding harm to humans went on for a quarter of a century before multiple correlations and a preponderance of evidence became settled science, and the vaccine/autism war still has yet to be scientifically proven to the negative (through placebo controlled double-blind studies).  


In these cases, it appears multiple correlations have generated a preponderance of evidence that effectively carries the same weight as scientific proof. As multiple correlations typically begin as a single correlation, we might wish to consider how casually we throw out the CDN=C to shoot down the hypothesis of scientifically curious minds who discover and point out these correlations.  


The discovery of correlations should be recognized as the Genesis of hypothesis which has resulted in much of today’s settled science. What we should be doing when we see correlation, is to look for connections to similar correlations that might be supportive to a consensus.


“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know”  (Einstein)


Let’s try to keep an open mind when we see correlations in science.  Correlation and causation may be occurring more often than we currently believe possible, and new hypothesis can not exist without them.  

Edited by Dorian Grey, 28 December 2018 - 05:11 AM.

Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: correlation, causation, hypothesis

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