Eating at McDonald’s Gives you Acne

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That is a libelous statement, but it is fairly obviously true, I was in McDonald’s with my children only last weekend and it was jam-packed full of spotty teenagers.

It is a slam-dunk case of cause and effect. All those burgers will make you spotty.

Really? What else could be going on?

If you are a McDonald’s in-house lawyer, please don’t sue, clearly I am talking rubbish. It isn’t the Big Mac that’s causing the spots, it is simply that the youthful clientele at McDonald’s are more likely to have spots than people of my advancing years.

I am jumping to conclusions. Correlation is not the same as causation.

Now a trickier, more controversial statement…

Single sex schools provide a better education

This is a topic close to my heart. I send my daughters to a girls only school. The grades are great. Now obviously that is because a single sex education is the best education.

Really? What else could be going on?

Is there anything else that could be causing the good grades?

The school I send my children to is selective, they only accept clever children (now is not the time to start debating their paternity).

The school I send my children to is also a fee paying school. You have to earn a reasonable amount to foot the bill. Rightly or wrongly clever people tend to earn more, and clever people have clever children.

So what is the real cause of the better grades?

  • The selection of children?
  • The brighter parents?
  • The single sex education?

Correlation is not the same as causation.

Now for something shockingly controversial…

The MMR vaccination causes autism

Fortunately that belief has now been conclusively debunked, but not until thousands of people had put their children at risk of catching measles, mumps or rubella.

Correlation isn’t the same as causation

Unfortunately the more plausible a theory sounds and the less we know about a subject the more likely we are to believe the relationship.

So before you jump to conclusions and solutions ask yourself…

Really? What else could be going on?

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Correlation isn't causation

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Images by DennisSylvesterHurd and Svadilfari

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