Saturday, June 28, 2008

Correlation does not imply causation

Ever heard that expression? I believe it comes from the world of science where it is used to caution against jumping to the wrong conclusion. Which is why it seems odd that a team of scientists from Kings college London have come to the conclusion that gun crime is caused by poverty and inequality.

[The team] said ministers should instead address a "direct correlation" between economic inequalities and violent crime.

How can this be? How can scientists well versed in the above phrase suddenly abandon this scientific standard?

Because they are not real scientists - they are social scientists. Criminologists to be exact - but they are all the same. Social scientists are the very opposite of real scientists in that they don't rely on empirical evidence or observation to come to a conclusion. Instead they rely entirely on the belief that correlation is proof of their hypothesis.

But hang on, aren't we missing one small point here? We've always had poverty and inequality - far worse than we do now - and we've had guns for hundreds of years. There is far less poverty and inequality now than there was 50 years ago so how come there is so much more gun crime now?

It's also quite odd that people who are so poor can afford to go and buy a gun. It would be a lot lot cheaper to pop down to their local ASDA and buy an interview suit - but for some reason that doesn't occur to them.

It seems their theory has failed at the first hurdle - it doesn't even pass the correlation test. However, I do believe they are on the right lines - but for the wrong reasons. The "economic inequalities" they cite are real - but they are the economic inequalities of the underworld - particularly drugs.

A lot of people see their peers swanning around in their BMWs and Mercs, living the life of Riley with multiple homes, lots of "bling" and surrounded by pretty women and they know that they got that through dealing in drugs (and, often, prostitution). They see that these people have "respect" from their peers because if anyone disrespects them they will shoot them and they want what they have. So they go and buy a gun and start to deal in drugs.

In that way, these young gun thugs are much like social scientists - they also believe that correlation is causation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice one Stan!