Author Topic: How do you demonstrate causality?  (Read 5801 times)

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Offline Shawn Fitzpatrick

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How do you demonstrate causality?
« on: September 27, 2008, 02:41:15 AM »
We all have intuitions about what constitutes a cause-effect relationship.  However, in the sciences, actually demonstrating a cause-effect relationship can get pretty sticky ( ???).  This becomes particularly relevant when teaching ESL/EFL students who plan on doing (or are already doing) some kind of research.

In general, demonstrating a causal relationship is much harder than demonstrating that there is no causal relationship.  This is because it's easier to find a hole in an argument than it is to construct an argument with no holes.

To demonstrate how tricky cause and effect can be, I put together a short Powerpoint.  The example I used in this Powerpoint was given to me by an irritatingly bright student of mine.  (By the way, he's not really irritating. ;))

If you ever use this in class, I'd recommend stopping on slide 13 for a discussion (in pairs, groups, or as a whole-class discussion), in order to see what ideas students already have.
"A witty saying proves nothing."
-Voltaire