Is there a name for and research about the heuristic / fallacy that there is exactly one cause for things? How come we do not look for the conditions that cause but for a cause?
I see this almost as often as the correlation = causation fallacy. When it comes in the form of "risk factor" it is ok if the factor is selective. But when it comes in the form of a general assumption about the world I find it simplistic. A risk factor is only a vague hint that needs to be looked at more closely to establish causation.
There also is this notion that multi causality is additive as would be the case if the probability for something would depend on this OR that happening but not this AND that.
A correlation of less than one may be random, but there might also be a hidden more selective cause/factor.
In medical news I keep hearing of risk factors for a condition. They find that there is a correlation between A, B and the studied disease. But how do we know that it doesn't take A and B and C to make it almost certain to develop that disease? I would like to know. C might be a common gene that is not even known.
Say it takes A and B. I really enjoy A, but I never do B, then why lower my life quality just because a study including people who also do B found that A is a risk factor? Risk factor is only a positive correlation. Eating and breathing have positive correlation to all diseases and the joke is, they come out with news about bad diets every year.
I keep hearing that A is a risk factor, then a follow-up study finds that there is no conclusive data for A being the problem, so A is cool again. But what if A and B is the problem and each alone is not harmful?
In the end this means that you can only find what you are looking for. (Kind of the big problem with science.) Looking for 1:1 correlation you will only find the low hanging fruit and the singular cause.
Whenever we find that some but not all who do/have A get Y we should look for additional factors, but this is not always done. As soon as A feels restrictive/selective enough the finding gets blown out of proportion. The reality might be that all who have A and B get Y, which would be a lot more informative. Who cares to know that breathing causes respiratory problems? Now that might seem silly and far fetched but how often have you heard that some common behavior is a risk factor?
Right, one could expand the clause indefinitely, that is kind of what I meant by "can only find what you are looking for". But that only means it is hard, not that it is bad to think that way.
I do neither think of it as logic nor as causal diagrams nor Bayesian nor Markov diagrams but simply as sets of some member type that may have any number of features/properties/attributes that make them a member of some subset.
When I wrote "A AND B" I wanted you to understand it as a dual logic clause, but only for simplicity.
The way I really think... (read more)