Lard Will Keep Us Together; or Proof that Autism is Caused by Vatican II

Lard Will Keep Us Together; or Proof that Autism is Caused by Vatican II May 11, 2014

We all know that marriage rates are dropping, even here in New Hampshire. But do we know why?

Science says . . . it’s because of margarine. The less we eat, the less we stick together. Don’t argue with me! It’s science, with a chart and everything!

Proof.

If that’s not enough sciencing for you for one day, feast your peepers on this science, which shows a clear correlation between the consumption of high fructose corn syrup and the amount of crude oil the US imports from Norway:

This one is particularly shocking: the less Norwegian crude oil we imported, the less high fructose corn syrup we imbibed.  In the face of science like this, can we go on doubting that high fructose corn syrup is, in fact, Norwegian crude?  The numbers don’t lie, man. The correlation is there.

These charts, and many others that you can generate yourself at Spurious Correlations, all of which are made up of at least 100% pure science, are excellent reminds of something we all used to know. All together now . . .

CORRELATION IS NOT CAUSATION.

Just because two things happen at the same time or at the same rate doesn’t mean that one causes the other, or that one has anything whatsoever to do with the other.  Sometimes two things happen at the same time, and it doesn’t mean anything at all. A very handy truth to keep in your back pocket next time someone shows you a chart proving that, for instance, the popularity of dubstep is caused by DTaP, or austism was caused by Vatican II, because look at those numbers.

Here’s a great book I need to re-read: How to Lie With Statistics, by Darrell Huff.

Americans are so willing to believe anything is true as long as it has a number, a chart, or a graph attached to it. It’s kind of endearing, but kind of not. This copiously illustrated, lively book picks apart the malicious and ignorant ways that statistics can mislead us into believing all kinds of ridiculous nonsense. Should be required reading for high school students.

And now on to some field research, in which I suss out whether or  not staying up late to drink wine and eat half a pound of sesame sticks has anything — anything at all — to do with how crappy I’m going to feel in the morning.

 

"Can The Jerk have this space now that you're done with it? I mean, it's ..."

I’m moving!
"Wonderful Ideas for newborn baby and their parents also, its good to give them handmade ..."

Welcome, baby! 12 gifts that new ..."

Browse Our Archives

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Catholic
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Wow. An entire website called Spurious Correlations! I can’t tell you how much I love that.

  • Melissa Pomicter Barreca

    Love this! Wit and wisdom. Now if we could just teach the world to think and filter info…

  • TheReluctantWidow

    It’s truly eye-opening when you look at the actual sample size of a poll or for a research project. When I took statistics in college, I learned how easy it is to manipulate data based upon who you choose as your survey pool. Also, we studied all of those cosmetic claims that we see in ads about “seeing a 20% improvement, for 75% of women, 67% of the time.” Basically, a lot of the “research studies” we see are simply marketing ploys. But hey, if consuming more margarine means that someday I will find love again and get re-married, I PROMISE to consume more.

    • Howard

      There’s also the dependence on exactly how the question is phrased. Many of the polls seem to work backward from the result they wish to find.

  • TheReluctantWidow

    BTW – I thought margarine was made from Norwegian crude oil.

  • richard

    Need to check out that web site. Actually I don’t understand charts. Is everything cause and effect or is a lot of it just coincidence?

    • Igotfreshmilk

      The point is that you can’t really tell from the charts. There might in some cases be related causality and there might not. Putting the charts together like that has nothing to do with the truth of the causal relationship.

      • Howard

        My favorite is the fact that Al Gore was born 9 months after the Roswell Crash.

  • kiwords

    Actually, the popularity of dubstep is caused by Satan himself. Truth.

  • Guest

    As a scientist, the point of these charts is that this is bad science! Science separates spurious correlations from causation.

    • And the best science realizes that all we can see is effects- any cause is just a guess at best.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        “Science” does not realize that at all, since it is a metaphysical pre-supposition in certain philosophical schools. Hume or al-Ghazali notwithstanding, fire really does cause the cloth to burn. Of course, the farther from its physical-chemical heartland science gets, the more guessing comes into play.

        • Does fire cause the cloth to burn, or does the oxidization of the chemical makeup of the cloth cause the appearance of the fire?

          Just an example of where cause and effect aren’t as clear cut as some would have us believe.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            That’s a bit like saying that the carpenter does not drive the screw, the screwdriver does.

          • Yes, the carpenter drives the screwdriver, which in turn drives the screw, at least in one model of reality.

            We can have moral certainty, but never absolute certainty.

      • Howard

        If you really believe that, you should live in a cave, shaking with fear, because you all you see are effects with no known causes. Maybe the effect that cars with gas in their tanks go better than cars with water in their tanks was just a weird coincidence. Maybe the fact that people who hold their breath for more than an hour tend to hold it forever after is just a coincidence. Maybe the fact that you were not Superman yesterday doesn’t mean that you can’t fly and aren’t bulletproof today, but then maybe the whole planet is made of kryptonite. It’s all just a guess at best, right?

        • This is a Catholic blog after all, and we know the ultimate cause.

          History is important, but causes *are* just a guess based on connecting chains of events.

          • Howard

            Is it really a Catholic position to say that it is just a “guess” that Jesus breaking the bread and the fishes had something to do with there being more than enough food? Do Catholics really “guess” that the Phoenician woman touching Jesus’s robe had something to do with her suddenly being healed? How many more examples do you need? Catholicism is not based on the radical skepticism you seem to advocate.

            Yes, yes, our reasoning is imperfect, as are our senses. If both are really as untrustworthy as you imply, though, the claims of the Church are just “guesses”. That’s not very Catholic.

          • “Is it really a Catholic position to say that it is just a “guess” that Jesus breaking the bread and the fishes had something to do with there being more than enough food? ”

            Uh, it is. That’s why it is called a miracle.

            I think you don’t understand the limits of human reason- or the fact that the stories we make up, the models of cause and effect, are still just a story. We see reality as through a mirror, darkly, said St. Paul; and while there’s been a lot of polish on that mirror since he wrote those words, the mirror still exists. We are not an objective species- there is an objective reality that it is *beyond* our perceptions and reason.

            Our internal models of cause and effect may be correct, or they may not be correct, or they may be just correct enough for the use cases we put them to, and incorrect in other use cases.

          • Howard

            Uh, “miracle” does not mean “something we have to guess about”, unless you’re using one or both words sloppily (which seems to be the case).

          • Yes, I am, on purpose.

            Limits of human reason, remember? My main point is humility.

          • Anna

            But why be sloppy? Catholicism does agree that human reason is clouded, but not that it’s totally unreliable; that’s Luther et al.

          • I never said it was totally unreliable, just that it can’t lead to infinite knowledge of God without faith.

            And one reason for that is because casual links are really models of what we think happened, not actually what happened.

            Thus the possibility of being fooled by mere correlation, to link this back to the article at the top (because I had gotten lost on how we got here). To put it in the language of the Church- one can be morally certain, but never, ever be absolutely certain, about anything. That’s beyond our species.

  • anna lisa

    Autism is caused by Vatican II–perfect.

    I’m sure there are more than 100 people on this earth who not only would believe this, but would make you suffer through a power point presentation to help you see the light. (Older parents who fornicated because of Vatican II…!)

    Someone just passed this little article on to me: “The Sinister History of communion in the Hand”.
    Passing on an article like this tells me: “If I’m going to roll around in fear and self loathing, I need to pass it along. Passing my fear to you mediates my own guilt…”

    –As if we don’t already have enough zealots telling us that human beings dirty the earth with their dirty, unworthy bodies.

    • Howard

      I wonder what the over/under would be for finding 100 people on the Internet who believe this? I think I could do it in 3 hours, but someone going straight to the right blogs and online magazine could probably do it in 30 minutes.

  • Ken

    Always enjoy this blog especially funny and intelligent postings like this one.

  • Anna

    You too can contribute to completely spurious statistics at http://www.correlated.org/ Though I still think that the one where people who didn’t like “The Princess Bride” were less likely to have a best friend may have actually been on to something.

  • Howard

    Thank you. So, so much of the nonsense from both the “left” and the “right” is based on this, combined with an attention span of 20 seconds. Now what was I talking about?

    • anna lisa

      Guilty as charged. The internet is crack. Me. responding to you, while yelling over my shoulder to my kids:
      “Get off your freaking screens!”

      • Howard

        What I want to know is this: Why do I feel compelled to argue with comments on the Internet when I would never consider writing replies to the same comments if I read them on the wall of a Interstate rest room? I think I have an argument from causation, not just correlation, that Bill Gates has eroded my sanity.

        • anna lisa

          Hmmm. Those of us who argue would have plenty of things to say if there was a sharpie pen ready and available and hanging from the stall wall.
          But you’re right about Bill Gates. I was much calmer when I obsessed over throw pillows in my living room. Nobody could have prepared me for what a discussion about fertility –with an intersex man named Zoe–would do to my brain. I’m not sure who my beef is with. It could quite possibly be with the one who has more clout than Bill Gates.