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Causal Reasoning


because it is limited by our inability to

know (1) all of the relevant causes, and (2) the
ways in which these causes interact
We can address uncertainty by speaking not of
Main danger to avoid is the Post Hoc fallacy:
inferring that X caused Y because it happened
prior to Y. This creates a False Cause.

Mills Methods for Analyzing


of Agreement: look for common factor in

all cases where the effect is present
Method of Difference: look for factor that is
present when the effect occurs, and absent
when the effect does not occur
Joint Method: combination of Agreement and
Method of Concomitant Variation: used when
effect comes in degrees; look for a factor that
varies along with effect (correlation)

A correlation

is a (statistical) measurement of the

association of two variables.
Positive Correlation: As one variable increases,
the other increases. (Examples: cigarette
smoking and lung cancer; education and
income; unemployment and homelessness)
Negative Correlation: As one variable increases,
the other decreases. (Examples: caffeine intake
and sleep; age and working memory capacity;
stress and life expectancy)

Identifying and Assessing


Correlations are identified by: r=.

Correlations range between -1 and 1; positive numbers
identify positive correlation, negative numbers identify
negative correlation. r=0 is no correlation.
The further away from 0 the correlation is, the more
strongly the variables are related. Correlations above .5
or below -.5 are strong correlations; correlations between
.2 and .5 (or -.2 and -.5) are moderate correlations.
r2 will give us the percentage of difference in one variable
that is due to difference in the other. (Example: if the
correlation between smoking and lung cancer is .7, 49%
of differences in lung cancer rates are due to differences
in smoking levels.)

2 Basic Forms of Statistical


Syllogism: x% of A is B; p is an A;
therefore p is a B (to x% likelihood). (Example:
86% of college students are broke. Fred is a
college student, so its pretty likely that hes
Inductive Generalization: x% of known As are
Bs; therefore x% of As are Bs. (Example:
Almost all of the students in this logic class
hated the Deductive Reasoning assignment.
Thus, I should expect that almost all students in
any logic class would hate that assignment.)

Components of a Statistical Study

Target Population: This is the group about which you

want to make an overall judgment. It could be all people,
voters, college students, etc.
Sample (or Experimental) Group: This is the group
studied or experimented upon to get information used to
infer claims about the Target Population.
Control Group: Needed whenever one is looking for
differences between groups; this group serves as an
anchor against which to evaluate the Experimental
Group. The Control Group helps to weed out spurious
results. (Example: If you want to see if viewing
pornography alters perceptions about women, you need
a Control Group that takes the same questionnaire but
does not view pornography beforehand.)

Sample Size

by: N=. (Also sometimes ss=.)

Good statistical studies should tell you both (1)
how many subjects one has overall, and (2) how
many subjects are in each group.
Sample size gives us information about how well
results can be generalized from the Sample
Group to the Target Group. The larger, the
This is because in large samples, extreme and
otherwise unrepresentative cases are more
likely to be balanced off.

Hasty Generalization

or atypical sample sizes lead to the

fallacy of Hasty Generalization.
The Hasty Generalization involves
inferring claims about the Target Group
from the Sample Group that lack sufficient

Sample Diversity

Diversity is important because it (1)

helps to balance off extreme or unrepresentative
cases, and (2) reduces the likelihood that the
study reflects the researchers biases.
Representative Sample: sampling picked to
match, as closely as possible, the actual
distribution of traits in the Target Population.
Random Sample: sampling based on some
arbitrary and irrelevant criterion.

Statistical Significance

by: p= (< or >); this is a

measurement of how likely it is that the
results of the experiment are due to
chance factors.
This is NOT significant in the sense of
large, NOR in the sense of important.
Researchers usually declare a finding
statistically significant if p < .05.

Statistical Significance Continued


to attain a statistically significant result

should not necessarily be viewed as a failure.
The finding that two groups do NOT differ in a
reliable way (affirming the Null Hypothesis) can
be a highly important finding.
Statistical Significance is linked to the
importance of replication in scientific
experimentation. A study with p=.05 is still 5%
likely to have its results due to chance. Think of
Significance as a claim on the likelihood that
repetition will produce the same results, and
replication as a test of this contention.

Margin of Error

of Error: this is a measurement of

variability in the sample. A standard
margin of error for well-conducted surveys
and polls is +/- 2 to 3%. This will give us
the range of the study. (Example: if a
study shows that 51% of IVCC students
prefer Coke to Pepsi, with a margin of
error of 3%, this means that between 4854% of IVCC students prefer Coke to

Base-Rate Data

Data is information that tells you how

prevalent some trait is within the general
population, or how likely the occurrence of some
event is independently of what we do.
This is crucial when you are checking for causal
factors for ruling out spurious causes.
Example #1: Freuds It Works! Argument
Example #2: John Hinckleys brain
Example #3: Post-9/11 airport security

Other Guidelines for Evaluating

Statistical and Demographic Data

Date of Study: While older studies can still have cogent

results, in many cases new research (and new
methodologies) may have invalidated the previous
Author and Sponsor of Study: Is the study being
produced by (or funded by) someone with a stake in how
the results turn out? This can increase the likelihood that
biased research methods were used.
Publication Conditions: Studies published in peer
reviewed journals have their findings analyzed by other
experts in the field, some of whom disagree with the
author. Beware of studies that are neither peer reviewed
or reviewed only within an organization.


are prevalent in literature, philosophy,

religion and law
In literature and religion, they are often present
as comparisons, metaphors and parables.
In law, they are typically present as precedents
and hypothetical cases
In philosophy, they are typically present as
thought experiments (intuition pumps)
Analogies are even present in scienceesp. in
scientific discovery and in science education

Steps for Analyzing an Analogy


the terms of comparison

Identify the principle or characteristic that
is being applied
Identify relevant similarities (False
analogies rely on trivial similarities.)
Identify relevant differences
Weigh up relative strength of similarities
and differences to reach a final
assessment of strength


Iraq is the new Vietnam. In both cases, our enemy is

some nebulous, indefinable
entity (communism,
terrorism). In both cases we lost many American lives
from insurgency for which we were unprepared. Both
wars seem like futile endeavors with no hope for
success. In each case, we lacked support for the war,
both at home and abroad. Presidents Johnson and
Nixon both escalated the war in Vietnam in response to
popular dissent; President Bush has responded to
popular dissent by sending more troops. Mission creep
in Vietnam led us to invade Cambodia; the Bush
administration has been talking about expanding the Iraq
war into Iran or Jordan. Historys verdict on the Vietnam
War is clear: it was an unjustifiable act of aggression.
Shouldnt we view the Iraq war in the same way?